I work in a government building. It’s not famous or particularly noteworthy, but we who serve this country by being employed by the government toil away in its halls.
Due to my prestigious part-time status, my office is in an isolated area of the building. Unless someone says hello to me in the elevator, it’s possible I could go home without seeing or speaking to anyone all day long. Naturally, there are pros and cons to this arrangement.
Pros: The pros include not having to worry about a bad hair day or a hole in my tights. Also, should I hit a crying jag during the workday, I can let it all out without disturbing coworkers. Burnt popcorn? Go for it. Fish for lunch? Done and done. Controlling the thermostat? It’s me all me.
Cons: My cocoon has a few dark sides. First, there is the effects of such extreme isolation on an extrovert. The most prominent effect is that I get capital W weird at the end of a workday where I have spent 8.25 hours all by my lonesome. It’s hard to form sentences and interact with my family when I get home because I’ve lost all my juice from being alone. Also? If I need help with the work, I can’t just swivel my chair around and ask a cubicle mate. I have to get up, open a door, walk down a hall, swipe a security badge, walk down another hall and then open another door. Who has that kind of time?
But I am not a victim.
So I made a plan to branch out a little bit. See people in real life during my work days. It was a two-pronged plan: (1) get lunch in the government cafeteria and (2) work out in the government gym.
This was the first week I executed my plan. And here’s my message of hope to you: Your tax dollars are NOT being spent on the gym or the cafeteria in my office.
The cafeteria is full of oily “Chinese” food on a buffet that always includes something really random, and decidedly unChinese, like berry cobbler or steak quesadillas. Ah, the smell of Chinese food under a hot lamp. Makes your mouth water, huh? My favorite dish is labeled as Tofu & Mushrooms. I think to myself not bad…I’m willing to try it. Then, I lean over the sneeze guard to get me a scoop-ful and see, written in 8-point font: With Beef. WTF, Uncle Sam? Why are you hiding the beef like that? Also, why do you put beef in a tofu dish?
I always feel adventurous when I come out of the cafeteria with some lukewarm goodness that forced me to speak to the cashier and a few other salad-bar mates.
“That’ll be $11.50,” says the cashier, as I stare in disbelief at the high cost for a cheese wedge and some tofu-beef stuff. Then, I smile thinking how proud I am that this meal is in no way subsidized by my employer.
And the gym? Well, there are some vintage issues of an American Airlines in-flight magazine to read while walking on a treadmill that looked better suited for the Smithsonian exhibit titled “The Very First Exercise Equipment Ever Invented.” Burly government employees nearing retirement sweat profusely next to me. “Army issued,” one guy said as he winked at me and pointed at his shirt. He seemed confused when I pointed at my shirt and said, “Costco.”
It’s the most no frills gym I’ve seen outside the set of The Fighter or Million Dollar Baby. There’s a broken water fountain, a tiny TV blaring CNN, and fans from 1955. I searched for evidence that your tax dollars were being squandered. But I can assure you no one has spent a penny on that “facility” since the Ford Administration.
So, I am branching out, making friends, eating beef-fu dishes and making some damn fine lemonade with the lemony aspects of my job, because I am a fighter and now I have a gym to prove it.