THE ONLY BLACK GUY IN THE OFFICE

The 9 Things I Definitely Don’t Miss About Office Life

I may be stir-crazy, but these annoyances have me rethinking the end of WFH status

After you’ve been stuck inside quarantining long enough, getting your work done anywhere sounds better than your home setup. A coffee shop. A fancy hotel lobby. Even the office.

I love my apartment, but ever since Washington state officials enacted a statewide stay-at-home order — almost two solid months ago — I’ve longed for a regular change of scenery. Spending virtually every waking moment here makes my 600 square feet feel like half that.

I consider myself lucky to be able to clock in from my couch, especially amid reports of America’s workforce dwindling by the day. But I’m ready for a return to the office — barring the prying co-workers, overbearing bosses, and overall minutiae of cubicle life. As much as I want WFH to RIP, I definitely don’t miss the following nine agonizing aspects of the office.

1. Awkward elevator rides

In an office building, there tends to be a silent pressure to fill a silent elevator with just enough light banter and (un)pleasantries to slice through 22 seconds of awkwardness. And in that small talk, you’d be surprised (or maybe not) how often I’m greeted with a fresh intro and question of whether I’m here for an interview or to start an internship. My guy, we did this exact dance three months ago. I’m better off avoiding it altogether and taking the stairs. According to my Fitbit, I need the steps anyway.

2. Deskside drive-bys

You know the vibes. You’re in the zone, knocking shit off your to-do list, when you hear a voice from over the top of your double monitors: “Hey, do you have a second to chat?” You stifle a grumble toward this colleague who is clearly allergic to protocol and paper trails, because they just have to stop by your desk with a request that could’ve been emailed.

“I’m thinking we can collaborate on something,” they continue, before proceeding to basically dump their workload onto your already hearty plate. If it’s not a “sure thing, Larry!” you have to figure out how to butter up a corporate-friendly no when you really want to tell them to fuck off for five seconds so you can get your own shit done.

3. Headphone interruptions

There’s a special place in hell for people who don’t respect the sanctity of headphones. Regarding the aforementioned deskside chats, I’d often be locked in — the explosive hook of Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker the Berry” blasting in my AirPods — when someone would tap on my arm for a “check-in” that could’ve taken place on Slack. Certainly, my status reads “available,” but said colleague walked all the way down from the fourth floor, so dammit, a convo will be had.

4. Lunch break guilt

While I have a few work buddies who I spend lunch breaks with, some days I prefer to head out to dine solo dolo: a little mental recharge and catching up to group texts over a sandwich. But some co-workers misinterpret my antisocial bliss for alienation, as if I think I’m too cool to sit with them in the cafeteria. Last time I checked, how I choose to spend my hour-long break is my business. It’s already weird when I ditch the group invite, then bump into the same folks at the counter of my lunch spot 20 minutes later. Can a brother get a minute to himself?

5. Office kitchen chronicles

Growing up in a Black household, two things are understood: if you eat my food, we’re fighting; and no one’s cleaning up after you. The first has yet to happen to me at work — hence my continued employment status — but I’ve seen the passive-aggressive sticky notes aimed at fridge food swipers and those who don’t know how to wring out a sponge. Miss me with all of that. Additionally, microwave small talk is the worst (it’s just noodles, bro).

6. Healthy snacks

Who the fuck eats rice cakes, anyway? What is this, 1985?

7. Three-part goodbyes

There aren’t many moments more awkward than being ready to “Yabba Dabba Doo!” your ass out of the office and then getting caught up in multiple goodbyes with the same person. You chuck the deuces to your desk neighbor Fred, then bump into him in the bathroom. And then at the elevator. And then — oh, lord, please no — walking down the block in the same direction.

I never know whether I should take off my headphones for some meaningless small talk, or just be Ray Charles with it. There’s only so long I can pretend to look for my wallet while waiting at the crosswalk.

8. Meeting set-up migraines

Zoom has become a way of life, but there’s a different level of annoyance that plays into coordinating IRL syncs. One time, after a large meeting, a co-worker who wasn’t clear on everything discussed asked me to schedule an off-site powwow for a smaller team to talk. Sure, no problem. I went back and forth with folks, playing iCal Tetris to find a half-hour slot that fit everyone’s schedule. Once the invites were sent and accepted, the person who initially requested the meeting backed out altogether. What was the point of it all? Who knows. But here’s to hoping that needless meetings — and their complicated scheduling — is left in pre-pandemic times.

9. Racism

Look, no matter the category — subtle, overt, snide, reactive, intentional, accidental — the fact that I’ve been able to largely steer clear of racist slip ups thanks to social distancing and audio-only Zoom calls has been divine. Maybe we should keep WFH going a bit longer after all.

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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