We all have that one coworker that drives us batty, don’t we?
Title: Uncommon Sense
Word Count: approximately 1,300 words
Genre: Slice of Life
It was like the squeak of a rusty ceiling fan, spinning lazily on a summer’s day. Annoying but well able to be ignored.
Rebecca kept typing. The only outward sign of her irritation was the slight jiggle of one foot under her desk.
Or maybe it was more like the thump of a basketball against the driveway when you’re trying to nap.
She changed an errant comma splice in the summary report and changed the accidental capitalization of the ‘m’ in ‘temporary’.
Or just a particularly vexing coworker that you hope might topple backwards out of their ergonomically pillowed chair.
Email sent; she saved and minimized her work. The file was shuffled back into its folder.
“Whatever it is, I am not Google.” Rebecca said. Papers in order, the file folder was dropped into the bin labeled ‘Done’.
Her three syllable name was stretched to a droning half minute of obnoxious whine.
Rebecca hesitated on picking up the next file. She heard the telltale squeak of a chair spinning round and round in the next cubicle over.
“Becky, why are you ignoring me?”
Instead of answering, Rebecca picked up the mug that had been sitting neglected on the coaster at the back corner of her desk. She took a sip of her lukewarm tea, hiding a smile as a squawk of surprise cut off the next repetition of her name.
“You’re going to fall over if you keep leaning back like that, Caroline,” Rebecca chided. The squeak of a chair spring straightening rapidly made her eyes roll.
“Be careful, Caroline,” a reedy, wavering voice warned. “A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure! And the cure isn’t just being amorous on the week’s end.”
Toby waggled a trio of file folders. He stopped in between Caroline and Rebecca’s cubicles.
Caroline was kneeling backwards in her chair, now wheeled out of her cubicle enough to be just inside Rebecca’s cubicle.
It made Rebecca want to lob a crumpled up Post It note and bean Caroline with it.
“Yes, Toby. Thank goodness it’s Friday,” Rebecca said. She turned her chair around to face the two invaders of her space. One was quite welcome, the other she continued to try to ignore.
“Good morning, my friend,” Rebecca greeted him with her tea mug still clasped in her hands.
“Morning, for another ninety three minutes,” Toby said. He knocked his glasses back up his nose with the back of one large hand. “And Friday it is indeed.”
“How odd.” Rebecca finished the last sip of her tea and blindly set the empty mug back on the desktop behind her.She was focused on Toby. “You always wear green on Friday, Toby.”
“I do,” Toby agreed. He tucked his arms behind his back and rocked back and forth from ball to heel. He hummed a little tune under his breath as he waited. Owlish eyes glittered behind the thick lenses, laughter not vocalized.
“But your shirt is blue. And your trousers black,” Rebecca tilted her head to one side, amused by the puckish smile stretching across Tony’s face. ‘The shirt’s a polo, so no cufflinks,’ Rebecca thought. “So where’s the green?”
He didn’t answer, just continued to smile and rock back and forth.
Toby’s glee in simple jokes and quirky turns of phrase often belied the graying, receding hairline and the growing belly that went hand in hand with his five plus decades. He was wicked sharp with facts, figures, and remembering zip codes; but he had a wholly unique perspective on certain things.
Another beat of relative silence passed as Caroline gave her chair a spin. And then another.
Somewhere nearby, a printer sprang to life and began spitting out a few dozen pages. The cubicle wall, mostly fabric over a frame, wobbled a bit each time Caroline grabbed at it to spin. The photo of Rebecca with her sister shook a bit with the disturbance.
Caroline also often acted much younger than her age; but that was more her barely post-adolescent nature than anything.
She was quieter on days that she was hung over, but today was not one of those days.
“Your socks!” Rebecca said finally puzzling it out.
Toby grinned and nodded. One hand crept out from behind his back and pulled up a trouser leg to reveal a lime green sock, massive fabric frog eyes peering up over the tongue of his leather shoes.
“Those are bright as hell,” Caroline stopped her spinning long enough to stare at Toby’s frog socks. “Kinda a weird choice for socks.”
Toby’s smile fell, a bit and he let his pant leg go. He knocked his glasses back up his nose again. This time, he left a smudge across the bottom of one glass lens.
“Well, guess what, Toby?” Rebecca mentally shot flaming arrows over the cubicle partition as Caroline rolled back into her own workspace. “We coordinate today.”
Rebecca toed off her ballet flats and wiggles her painted toenails in front of her for Toby to see. They were ten spots of bright green nail polish glinting in the overhead lighting.
Toby’s smile inched back up. His wide shoulders wobbled with his chuckle.
“Indeed we do! You are, yet again, the sinister to my dexter.”
He toddled off at that proclamation, a peek of bright green showing at his ankle as he walked away.
“He’s weird,” Caroline announced. “Not, like, a bad weird, but-”
“Did you need something, Caroline?” Rebecca interrupted her coworker without qualm.
“Oh yeah!” Caroline’s head popped into view over the cubicle partition. “What’s as nauseam mean?”
“Ask a search engine,” Rebecca slipped her flats back on and spun around.
“Why would I do that?” Both of her arms rested atop the cubicle divider, her chin atop them.
“Because my job is not human dictionary. It is data entry clerk. And you are perfectly capable of looking something up yourself.” Rebecca moved her empty teacup farther back from the edge of the desk, lest an errant elbow send it to the floor by accident.
“But you’re good at explaining stuff,” Caroline persisted even as Rebecca brought up the next blank form and pulled a file from her ‘To Do’ bin.
“So is the Internet,” Rebecca replied.
She flipped open the file and swallowed a sigh at the mess inside. Handwritten logs were always a mess and the handwriting could be awful. Never mind the mystery stains of coffee, ketchup, or god knows what else the drivers spilled on them.
Caroline heard the elevator ding and disappeared from view.
There was a blessed three whole minutes of silence before Caroline spoke again.
“Okay, so what does ‘pontificate’ mean?”
Rebecca pinched the bridge of her nose, mentally bashing her head against the desk regardless of the papers before her.
“Being a pompous jerk when speaking, essentially,” Rebecca answered in spite of knowing what was coming next.
“Oh,” came the reply.
‘Wait for it… wait for it.‘ Rebecca made it almost all the way to the mental count of ten before:
“Are you sure?” Caroline asked.
‘And I knew it,‘ Rebecca thought.
More than a little annoyed, she looked upwards to the fluorescent lighting and ugly ceiling tiles above, as if some fantastic deity of office drudgery might appear. With a toner bar in one hand, a cup of pens and paper clips in the other, their corporate causal clad form would bestow wisdom on those who had once stapled their own finger to a post it note by accident.
“I am fairly certain, yes,” Rebecca said. She tried to smother the irritation in her voice.
“I’m going to Google it,” Caroline said, cheerfully.
This time, Rebecca did rest her forehead on the desk top. “Of course you are.”