Friday, February 10, 2012

The windowless room where I work sits apart from the main space, through a door off the foyer, opposite the hallway most everyone else takes to their cubicle or office. One morning a few weeks ago, a man entered and sat at one of the open desks. Ordinary, clean-cut. He brought with him a stinging waft of cologne. He was an accounts freelancer, he said. Jim.

An IT guy soon arrived with a handful of cables to set him up. There was some discussion regarding his preferred desktop, Mac or PC. His flatscreen was connected and properly adjusted. There seemed to be some problem getting his e-mail up and running. The IT guy did all he could do and left. Soon Jim got on the phone with someone who appeared to be his boss.

“Larry, Jim. Listen, I just want to let you know. I’m set up on 16. ... Yes, I’m sitting here on 16. I’m not getting any mail right now so if you have anything for me, please give me a call. Any meetings, anything. I don’t know if you already tr... I don’t know. I don’t know, better loop me in by phone. I’m here on 16. … What? Let me have a look. 8027. 8027.”

Jim hung up and scrutinized his screen, occasionally tip-tapping on his keyboard. Adopting the posture and gestures of an office man at work.

I saw him every day for a few days. Just another worker at a nearby desk. Ostensibly working. Doing.

We arrived at around the same time one morning and had small talk between the elevator and the door.

“Cold, right?” he said.

“Yup, we’re finally getting some cold.”


“It’s gonna get worse before it gets any better,” I offered.

“Really?” he asked, incredulous.

“I think so. It’s January.”

“So February’s pretty cold?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “February’s cold.”

I saw him a couple more days after that and then he never appeared again.