Scenes from a Hallway

The Setting

The interior of  an old, crumbling federal government building – not old enough to be a heritage building – just old enough to be falling apart; old enough that no one wants to spend any money on it. In fact, it has been awaiting demolition seemingly forever, but there is no place to shunt the hundreds of people that flock to this building every day.

While no big money is being spent on this near-ruin, a great deal of little money must be  spent on it regularly to keep it habitable.

The band-aiding is ongoing. Office workers intermingle daily with maintenance staff, electricians, carpenters, painters, plumbers, floor guys, ceiling guys, wall and window guys and a variety of duct tape experts.

Scene I

As the scene opens,  a melancholy, not-insubstantial Work Man is on his hands and knees in a hallway. A strip of carpeting about 6 inches wide and 4 feet long has been taken up and the floor laid bare. It has clearly just been slathered with glue. The glue glistens wetly.  The Work Man is surrounded by debris — boxes, cardboard, plastic, bits of carpet, a miscellany of tools. His hand clenches a knife. It seems to be having difficulty cutting a piece of carpeting.

Scene II

From stage left, an Office Minion walks down the hallway toward the Work Man.  She is bemused. It seems as if she has walked this hallway and encountered this carpet repair dozens of times before — as if rehearsing over and over and over for a play that is never produced.

As the Office Minion approaches the Work Man, he raises his head slightly.  He seems to tense like a wild animal sensing danger. Without looking back at her he frowns and says, very loudly and clearly:

Work Man: STEP OVER PLEASE

Scene III

The Office Minion looks puzzled. She had had every intention of stepping over the gluey floor. She checks to see if others before her had perhaps stepped in the glue and left sticky tracks. She doesn’t see any.

Office Minion:  Why do you have to tell people to step over? Do people step on the glue?

Work Man: Yes. They step on the glue. They step on my tools. They step on my fingers.

Office Minion: (horrified) People step on your fingers?

Work Man: Yes, they step on my fingers all the time. They don’t see me.

Work Man guy shakes his head resignedly.

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28 responses to “Scenes from a Hallway

  1. Isn’t that always the way — get down to a job of work and someone will step on your fingers.
    I love this, I really do. You sure can write.

  2. Yikes. I bet he is not a very fulfilled individual. Can you imagine???
    Someone should buy him a coffee or something to show they see him.

  3. My guess is that the fumes from the glue are temporarily blinding the Office Minions – resulting in unintended injuries to the Workman.
    But those same VOCs are likely pushing the Workman to the edge of sanity. The Office Minions should be wary of the Workman’s knives…

  4. Glue stepping is the committee meeting of actual labourers.
    Finger stepping is the manager.
    Both are painful and actually inhibiting production.

  5. I work in a building just like that one. We have bottled water coolers because the pipes that bring water into the building are corroded and the water is unsafe (which was discovered *after* I drank the water through both my pregnancies. Nice.) The office I’m in now was painted and the old carpeting replaced by tiles 2 years ago, after water pipes burst in the exterior wall and 4 offices were flooded. I two windows in my office. They overlook the loading bay, but I can open one of them for fresh air. That’s a really nice perk. The other one has a window unit air conditioner in it. Again, it’s nice to be able to use it on the days that just an open window won’t suffice. Other floors have sealed windows and central air conditioning. Considering that I work for the Department that oversees the Government of Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, it’s a bit ironic that we have an extremely inefficient building, energy-wise.

  6. Hannah – He actually wasn’t cranky at all, just kind of resigned to his sad lot in life.

    Mary G – I find the whole thing mind-boggling. How do you not see a guy and all his stuff in the middle of a hall?

    Meanie – It sure was an odd situation. He should have had a CCTV trained on him so he could capture these moments.

    Trashee – Thanks for coming out from under your cloak of anonymity. But, come on – you’re a government employee; there’s no way they’d be allowed to use glue with toxic fumes. We’ll have to come up with a better explanation. I suggest forming a committee to meet to look into the situation and prepare a report or a presentation or both.

    Bandobras – This is way too deep for me.

    Alison – Ironic indeed. We live for irony. It’s the only thing that makes the federal public service fun. I wouldn’t talk too much about that window that opens though or someone will be along to put an end to that perk.

  7. Dude is one finger-step away from disgruntlement. And we all know what happens then.

    He should get his revenge by slathering glue on a floor and leaving, allowing it to become a human version of that stuff that traps mice.

  8. In the office I used to work in, that area would have been flagged with safety tape and the worker would have had to warn everyone to “step over” for THEIR safety and his. They might slip and fall.

    And he wouldn’t have been holding a knife. That’s too dangerous. He would have to use some other tool less likely to result in a personal injury.

  9. So many people are so unaware of their surroundings (especially if they’re on their cellphones or plugged into their iPod). However, it truly boggles the mind to think that people in an office building might not notice a worker and his tools spread out over the floor in the process of fixing something! I tell you, as a species, we really have no right to continue to exist if we are that stupid that often.

  10. Bob – See Bob, there are worse things than being temporarily unemployed.

    Laura – Stupid AND sleepwalking

    Kimberly – Ya, this takes thankless to a whole new level.

    Skedaddle – You must have worked in a provincial government office? We’re pretty much left to fend for ourselves in the feds

    Violetsky – I can’t imagine what’s going on with these people. I was tempted to stand and watch to see how many people stepped in the glue or on the tools or fingers — just to see what people like that look like.

    Pinklea – I can’t figure it out either. I do see a lot of totally oblivious people wandering the halls though. People who stand outside my cubicle and have long drawn-out LOUD conversations with each other about highly personal stuff as if the little 5 foot divider blocks out all sound or something.

    Jobthingy – I know. He had a very Eeyore attitude about it all, too, which made it even more poignant.

  11. I inevitably meet the floor cleaner guy on my way out. He looked positively shocked the first time I said hello.

  12. Poor work man. Imagine how awful it must be to be unseen.

    It’s like these people don’t exist. I find that horrific actually.

  13. Nat’s story about shocking the floor cleaner by saying hello reminds me of my days in Timmins.
    This was this little old guy who always wore a straw hat and stood silently against a building day in and day out, holding up religious literature.
    One day I decided to say “Good morning” as I walked past. I thought the poor guy was going to have a heart attack. He sputtered out a return “Good morning”, obviously shocked to have been acknowledged for the first time in who knows how long.

  14. This is so lovely and so sad. And it reminds me that while many people are good, SO MANY ALSO SUCK. No one is more or less important than anyone else. The person who empties the trash deserves the same amount of respect for working hard as any CEO does. Everyone wants to count for something, everyone deserves to have pride in what they do. That’s what matters. The jobs themselves are secondary.

  15. Noha – Yup. It’s a regular duct-tape-arama around here.

    Helen – No, just a regular guy. I guess maybe they should send big buff hawt guys only. That way the women notice him and the men wouldn’t dare step on him.

    Nat – Was he floored when you said hi? H aha haah hahha I get the same reaction from the cleaning staff. They don’t seem to like chatting – maybe it’s against their rules or something. The plant guy is fun though.

    Jazz- It really is horrible. Originally I had a whole post planned around this about invisible people, but it got really long and winding, so I thought I’d just make the point like this instead. There are often times when I feel invisible, too. It seems to be an older woman affliction. No one’s ever stepped on me though.

    Bob – There are a lot of people in our lives that become part of the scenery after a while. On the one hand you can’t have deep relationships with everyone you meet, but you should be able to exchange a “hello” or a “good morning” with all those people – the newspaper guy, the bus driver, the barista at your coffee shop, the commissionaire in your building, the cafeteria staff, the cleaners, the maintenance people, the guy you see every morning panhandling.

    Lesley – True. I think these finger-stepping people are just a little stupid and oblivious – I don’t think they consider themselves all that – they’re federal public servants after all. Really, I find it amazing sometimes how truly stupid people can be.

  16. (I was logged into wordpress.com under my old user name, so that’s where the skeddadle tag came from)

    No, I didn’t work in a government office. I worked at a nuclear power plant, which is highly regulated by the federal government. My office was at the training center.

    However, the bureaucratic requirements of the company over time went far beyond any requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or any state agency. The company safety requirements bordered on the ridiculous.

    (On the other hand, when I retired, the plant had exceeded 15 million man hours without a lost time accident.)

  17. Here’s what he should do. He should have a pylon with a flashy amber light (the kind that rotates–you know, tow trucks and road servicing vehicles have them on the top). But don’t put it out at the outset.

    When the first ignoramus walks through the glue, or steps on the hand, the worker should angrily ask the person’s name, and then grumble as he puts up the pylon, attached to which is a sign that says “This light and pylon are here because ______ wasn’t paying attention.” The blank is then filled with the ignoramus’ name in very large block letters.

    – RG>

  18. my god that’s ridiculous. especially in canada, aren’t you’ns friendly and polite folk?

    i can only imagine what the guys in the states have to endure. stabbing? dousing them in lighter fluid and watching them burn? or actually knocking the guy into the glue and then carpeting over him?

    he should at least wear gloves.