Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the latest Work Stew writing contest. This was the prompt: Describe a moment on the job, real or imagined, when you knew you had to make a change.
From a diverse set of submissions (poems! fiction! non-fiction! non-fiction poems!), I chose as the winner this entry by Tanya Ward Goodman. Over on Facebook, I’ll explain what I liked most, but first have a read yourself.
By Tanya Ward Goodman
The best thing about my job is that the restroom is a single hole operation with a locking door. That level of privacy means that whenever my eyeballs are about to roll right out of my head, I can entrust my phone to my fellow assistant and pop off to the loo. Sometimes I pee. Sometimes I masturbate. Either way, I’m back to my desk in five minutes.
My desk faces a wall painted industrial beige. Just above eye level is a lighted green exit sign. On most days, the wall is my central metaphor. The sign, when I see it, taunts me with the simplicity of its message. “Exit,” it says. “As if.” I’m stuck. I’ve hit that wall. This job is the latest gig where I answer phones and file papers for someone big and important. These big, important people often tell me I’m smart. They often ask if I have a “plan.” If I had a “plan,” I wouldn’t be here.
“Here” is the offices of a reality television production company. “Reality” is what they are putting on the T.V. The reality of the office is that Tuesdays are always “Taco Tuesdays,” the pretty blonde assistant speaks without irony about “getting her MRS. Degree” and I’m one of two members on the “support team” who believes in evolution. “You’re not telling me you think we came from monkeys?” the pretty blonde asks. Her eyes are wide. Her floral perfume mixes with the aroma of packaged taco spice.
I am here because there is a steady wage, a 401k and health insurance. These things seem like the trappings of an adult “reality” that, at thirty, I have yet to achieve. I want these things. I should want these things?
I work for two executives. We’ll call them Joe and Maxine. Maxine is often in a state of emergency. An “Emergency” is finding out that her credit card is over the limit or waiting too long for the delivery of rented cocktail tables. Joe is about ten feet tall. For him, “Emergency” might be a cold egg white omelet. He is mostly kind. He tells me I can write at my desk when I don’t have anything better to do. He never asks me to take in his dry cleaning or wash his car. This is good because in the past, I’ve spilled a full Venti latte on the cream colored floor of a brand new Ford Explorer and piloted a Jaguar into a cement post. I’m a little wary of driving.
One day, Maxine says, “I need you to do something really important.” I grab my notepad and pen. I am trying to be ready. “I need a better parking space,” she says. She tells me it’s hard to make the turn into her current space. She drives an SUV the size of an Airstream trailer. “Fix it,” she says. I dutifully call the Parking Office and they tell me they can’t change out her space because the guy next to her also drives a huge SUV and if they move one huge SUV they are going to have to move them all. I relay this to Maxine. And she says, “Jesus, can you get a spine?” And I say, “I’m happy to get a spine for something that fucking matters.” I walk back to my desk and the Exit sign is glowing so green, it’s all I can see. The wall has disappeared and I’m running free, emerald grass under my feet, the world a fragrant reality of my own making.