There’s a reason why we have supervisors

Okay, so I’m back.

I’m sure you’d like me to elaborate on that, seeing as how you enjoy living vicariously through me, but my life over the past month has been filled with nothing more exciting than four classes, two jobs, and drinking more hot chocolate this quarter than I must have in the past two years combined. Oh yeah, and I’m currently sick, and my tastebuds are down. There’s no worse way to torture me than to ensure I can’t taste my food. Yeah, life is grand, what can I say.

What else have I been doing? I spend my days jaywalking through downtown Sacramento, and my nights…*gasp!*…sleeping, for the most part. I’ve also been grudgingly learning to (kinda sorta maybe, but not really) like shoes. I’ve even worn socks with shoes a few times. This is a big step, as I’m sure you realize.

Don’t worry, all is not lost. I’m still as crackheaded as ever. I’d still rather cut through the muddy grass rather than walk all the way around, “because the only useful thing I ever learned in calculus was about minimizing distance.” [The fact that I was a calculus tutor for two years in college is beside the point.] I had french fries for lunch yesterday. Other than that, I’ve been surviving mainly on chips and candy. And I still gobble down my food faster than anyone in my vicinity. I’m not sure this is quite a good thing.

Why am I trying to justify myself anyway? You know I’m a strange child. We’ve established this numerous times already, because I like being repetitive.

And my lack of updates doesn’t mean I’ve been neglecting Blogistan. I’ve been reading weblogs just as much as usual, but in my lurker mode, that’s all. Also, the vacuum cleaner completely ate the cord off my headphones a few weeks ago, so all you people who’ve been posting audioblogs over the past month, I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to them, so STOP IT ALREADY. The end.

Speaking of jaywalking and Sacramento and crackheaded people, let me tell you stories about the people I work with. Please excuse me if I’m not as funny as I think I am. Happens sometimes.

Let’s begin the rundown on some of my crazy co-workers –

H#3 [This is H#1 and this is H#2, for your information] stops by my desk close to lunchtime one day and mutters a question. After asking him to repeat his request twice, I throw up my hands. “Why are you such a mumbler?”
He asks one more time, louder: “Do you have any ketchup and/or mustard around here?”
I roll my eyes. “Dude, what would I be doing with random packets of ketchup and mustard? What do you think, I keep it in my desk drawer?”
And who uses the term “and/or” in real-life conversations, anyway?

AZ thinks Persians are the best and everyone else is the worst. He periodically threatens to leave the company because “he doesn’t want to work with India and its neighboring countries.”
“India” would be G, whom I’ll get to in a second; “neighboring countries” is a reference to the three of us who are Pakistani.
AZ also likes warning, “I’ll do a hit-and-run on you with my Persian rug.”
“I’ll stab you first,” I respond, which is AZ’s cue to saunter around the office, showing off his biceps. This is his favorite activity in the whole wide world, second only to talking about how great Persians are.

H#3 IMed me early one morning: “Please come to work today!”
“I know,” I responded, “life is just so empty and sad when I’m not there, huh?”
H#3: “I need you here to donate to my orange juice fund.”

G is Indian, with the accent to go along with it. Somayya and I recently spent over an hour trying to explain to him the plotline of The Princess Bride which happens to be Somayya’s favorite film. We are the perfect audience for it, since we’re so easily amused.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?”
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Now, offer me money.”

[I love the quotes from this movie, okay. It’s that entertaining.]

It’s the cheesiest movie in the whole world!” Somayya explained.
“What’s ‘cheesy’ mean?” asked G.
“Bollywood films,” I deadpanned.
At the end of it all, he nodded in mock understanding and asked, “Oh, okay. So she is a princess, and she has a bride?”

ZA stopped by my cubicle one morning to gasp, “Have you heard about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston breaking up?”
G, standing nearby, rolled his eyes and feigned pulling out his hair in a paroxysm of grief, as I watched, laughing.

G refuses to speak English with me. He addresses me in Punjabi and pretends not to understand me when I respond in English, so I have no choice but to reply in my Pakistani dialect, Hindku. So at work, I’m either speaking to G with my usual unaccented fluent English, or in Hindku, or in English with a fobby desi accent. I think the new temporary workers at the office probably think I have multiple personalities, what with my switching between languages and dialects and accents all day long. G once admitted that Hindku is a meetthi [sweet] language, whereas Punjabi sounds more like a siray vich vattha [a rock to the head]. Needless to say, I gloatingly remind him about this every chance I get. But it’s difficult to gloat when he agrees so readily and good-humoredly.

Then there’s B, who showed up to work one day with a whole red bell pepper. I don’t like uncooked red bell peppers, and find the thought of scrubbing one and presenting it at work with a flourish before digging into it with a stainless steel fork slightly disturbing. I mean, there’s VEIRD and then there’s weird, and weird just doesn’t cut it, buddy.

Another day, B wandered by when a few of us were standing around talking about hair. B laughed. “That’s funny,” he said to me, “I’ve never even thought about how long your hair is.”
“Oh, good,” I said, dryly, “I guess that’s the point, isn’t it, buddy.”

G has recently picked up this habit of copying Somayya by calling me “Apaji,” which is ludicrous, considering he’s several years older than me. And then there’s his Master’s thesis, due in mid-February, which is supposed to be about 300 pages total. He took two weeks off from work to tackle the project, and only completed two pages. “I will start it two weeks before the due date,” he always reassures me, waving his hand in that quintessentially unperturbed South Asian gesture of nonchalance. “It’s just a matter of cutting and pasting.”

Conversations between G and me usually always involve sarcasm on my part, so his favorite activity these days is to poke his head over my cubicle during his rounds through the office, fix me with a glare, and mutter darkly, “I don’t like you. You are mean.” If you repeat this in an Indian accent, you’ll understand why I laugh every time. This is especially funny if you think about the fact that I’m 5’1″ compared to his 6’5″, that he towers over me (and everyone else at the office), and that a companionable slap on the back from him is enough to send one practically flying across the room. One morning, he kindly explained the intricacies of turban-wrapping to me, remaining patient even when I sputtered in my ignorant non-metric-system American-ness, “So exactly how long is five meters of fabric again?”

Last week, the company ordered in pizza, so we all lazily at around in the conference room and took a two-hour lunch break. G downed seven pieces of pizza, two slices of cake, and two sodas. I sat next to him and made fun of his eating habits. G tried to stare me down. “How about we finish eating first, then we fight.”
“Okay, fine,” I said grudgingly, trying not to laugh.
A few minutes later, he said reflectively, “You know, usually I am always pissed off. But lately, I don’t know why, I have been in a good mood.”
I smirked knowingly. “When’s your wife coming to the U.S. again?”
“Eleven and a half days,” he said proudly.
“I knew it, that’s why!”

K – who is Persian, like almost every other person there – is one of my favorite co-workers, even though I keep thinking he’s about 12 years old. He’s like one of those annoying little brothers, although K and I get along better than my own little brother and I ever did as kids. When I first started working at this place, K was going through a phase where his favorite activity was to go around and slash his pen across the back of every girl’s hand. I don’t appreciate juvenile activities that involve people scribbling on my hands, so once he annoyed me so much that I picked up my stapler and brandished it threateningly at him, all the while doing my trademark Evil Death Glare with the one raised eyebrow. And, in case he didn’t get it, I tried stabbing him with my own pen (there’s a reason why I consistently invest in 0.2mm micro-point pens; they come in handy as weapons, ya know), but he moved out of harm’s way just in time. Ever since then he’s backed off with the pen marking.

Overall, he’s a good kid, even though his favorite nickname for me is “Troublemaker.”
I IMed him one afternoon after he had left work to go home with the desperate question, “K, where’s the white paper for the printer?!” and he’s graciously forgotten all about the incident, even though I bring it up myself whenever I want to remind people about what a crackhead I am.

K is always sporting headphones, so I have to repeat every question to him twice. Lately, the new extension cord he attached to his beloved headphones allows him to step across the hallway to the communal printer without abandoning his music for a single second. He once recommended I check out the website for some Persian dude called DJ Aligator, which I did, only after grumbling for ten minutes about people who don’t know how to spell “alligator” with two Ls. And after that, I spent another ten minutes grumbling about why the hell the guy had to go and wear freaky contact lenses like that.

I have a sneaking suspicion that K is obsessive-compulsive. A while back, he went on some major desk-cleaning frenzies. Once, he dusted and sprayed off the top of his desk, printed and pinned black-and-white photos of himself and his friends all over the cubicle, arranged every pen and post-it pad just so, and then tackled the desk drawers. He unearthed old, moldy candy; smelly, sweat-stained t-shirts; dozens of ballpoint pens; at least three staple removers [“Dammit, so that’s where they all were!” I exclaimed]; an extra pair of headphones; an empty cookie tin; and endless other odds and ends. I sat as spectator and commenter extraordinaire, laughing nonstop.

I remember the day K chowed down a huge burger for lunch. The rest of the day, he walked around clutching his chest and moaning. Me, being the “heartless bastard” I am, all I did was laugh. “Is it okay if I’m finding this whole thing amusing?”
K: “What’s amusing?”
Me: “Your whole situation.”
K: “What whole situation?”
Me: “Your heart-attack-at-age-20 situation.”
Being a good sport, he burst into laughter, which only aggravated his chest pains further. He clutched his chest and moaned some more. “If I die,” he hasped, “you get my desk.”
“Thanks, buddy,” I said, “but what I really want is your staple remover.”
H#2 was passing by, and I called out, “H, you’re my witness. K is giving me his desk and staple remover when he dies.”
Staple removers are hella difficult to find at our office, and thus in terribly high demand, you see. Anything related to staple removers is fighting words. We are so ready to inflict physical harm on one another, merely for the purpose of safeguarding or salvaging our precious staple removers.

And then there’s the tall, skinny guy in the perpetual showercap, who plays basketball in the courts at the downtown park all day every day and likes pointing out potential parking spots to me whenever I walk past to move my car out of one 2hour zone to another: “There’s a spot right there! If you park there, you can leave your car there all day!” I have no idea what he’s talking about, because all the parking spots in that downtown area are either 45minute metered parking or 2hour zones. But hey, if having the showercap guy save you parking spaces isn’t the height of first-class, preferential treatment, then I don’t know what is. I’m sure you’ll agree.

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