On Coworkers

On Coworkers

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Written by Dick Laurent, Illustrated by Matt Espantman

In examining the many complex relationships that the human being can build, few are as peculiar as the relationship one has with their coworkers. Unlike most relationships, some of which we may categorize as highly rewarding or indispensable, proximate closeness to others through space and time happens automatically and out of necessity when working for some company or organization, often in spite of our personal wishes or choices. Despite the “shared air” of the work environment, we so rarely get to know these people we spend two-thirds of our day with. Despite the passing time, we hardly ever end up liking these people. Still, we experience their lives and the many parts of who they are and the natural consequence of these interactions is contemplation.

The story goes something like this: A person finds a job they’re probably pretty excited about and then reports to work and immediately begins to size-up the people they will be working with. Typical thoughts range from, “I think I can have a few beers with this guy,” to, “I might actually bang this girl after the Christmas Party,” or, “I will never have a meaningful interaction with this person no matter what fluids we set into motion.” Initial reactions may vary, but the end results tend to converge on the latter.

Socialization then takes place and our hiree is usually satisfied by the ease at which they are able to assimilate, like any other honey bee buzzing around the beehive. They think, “I will talk about coffee on Monday, how we’ve all got the ‘Mondays’, maybe I will even try that joke about cocaine instead of caffeine in a few weeks. I can talk about the weather on Wednesday and praise the weekend come Friday.” This begs the first big question, however, which is, what about the other two days? Try as we might, we never get an adequate answer to this question.

Soon after, our hiree finds him or herself seeing these people on a daily basis, week after week, month after month, and with every passing day, things take a further turn for the worst. The preoccupation moves from who these coworkers are as people to questions about why it is such a miserable experience to collaborate on a project with them or even share a microwave. One asks oneself, “Why is this guy’s mailbox always full?” or, “Why does this woman wear so much perfume to work?” More questions pile up, to which we are only left at our desk stuck thinking about.

Eventually, the lesser, but infinitely more stimulating musings leave the mind and the way we think about our coworkers takes on a nearly metaphysical character. We find ourselves asking questions suited for a college freshman level philosophy class, only with the word “coworker” fitted in. These go something like, “Who are my coworkers, really?”, or, “If there is a God, would he really have created my coworkers?”

Of course, we never get adequate answers to these questions.

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