The circle of life… and snacks

One may think that once college is over and graduate school is not on the horizon that all of the odd rituals and anachronisms of institutionalized learning would disappear. But, in my experience, this assumption is wrong. Even though the workplace may have some new unwritten rules (like only the person in the cubicle next to yours is allowed to say “bless you” when you sneeze), overall, many of the oddities found at the office are simply extensions of those at school.

I found it odd at first that my coworkers would telephone others sitting on the other side of the cubicle or down the hall in order to communicate. One time I found myself listening in on both sides of a conversation because one end was the person next to me and the other was around the corner. At first, I thought I was hearing two different conversations. But when the lines of dialogue starting lining up and making sense with each other, I got wise to what was going on. I wonder if the two ladies could have heard each other without the phones. Does it matter? I suppose it’s rude to be conversing without seeing one another, but if a medium like a telephone is involved, then it’s acceptable even if one maintains the same volume level.

I began to think how silly this was, but then realized I do the exact same thing at school. I won’t even begin to calculate the hours I’ve spent on Instant Messenger talking to the person living in the room next to mine all because I was too lazy to get up and move ten feet.

While at school and at the office I spend a significant amount of time staring at a computer screen. And in both environs I attempt to kill time while still accomplishing what’s been asked of me. But there is a difference in methods of time wasting. At school I spend hours on Facebook seeing who added a new favorite movie or posted another embarrassing picture of themselves. In the office I employ an activity I like to call “constructive procrastination” where I engage in tasks not directly related to my Public Relations duties, but that still need finishing (like writing this column).

There is still a ghost of school, past and present, in the office. Edelman offers a series of classes called “Edelman University” that we can all sign up for. These classes are almost like a “diet school” because they offer useful lessons but are one-shot deals with no homework.

And then there’s the snack cart.

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, an unsuspecting Edelman employee may hear a “ding ding” down the hall and witness his or her coworkers go scurrying in the direction of the sound, coins in hand, eagerly waiting to purchase tasty morsels. The tradition is one that really brings me back to grade school, and I have to admit, it’s a happy reminiscence. Who doesn’t like taking five minutes out of a day to partake in a sugary treat or healthy fruit?

The illusion of privacy is a phenomenon that pervades both school and the office as well. At college, I have my tiny bunker of a room where I imagine I’m free from the stresses of life. But, stepping out of my door, I’m reminded there are about a dozen people living within a stone’s throw from me. At least there’s a door and some walls separating me from them. In the office, the walls of my cubicle mask me from others’ prying eyes. Actually, the walls between each work station are only waist-high, so my nose-picking has undoubtedly been spotted by now.

So the lesson here? There is a pattern to life that’s laid early and continues to evolve until we adults are ready to enter the real world. No matter how much we want to admit that we’ve grown out of this pattern and have become mature adults, there are still ritualized behaviors that we’ll never let go of. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear a bell dinging. The snack cart is on the way!

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