Wednesday, October 8

Happy Ant People

I'm working in a room with 90 other (quiet, pleasant) people, scoring reading comprehension and writing tests which are required for graduation from State "X." It's a crowd of word people, ranging from introverted to extremely introverted. People really do look at their shoes when you say hello. I feel right at home!

I can't think of the last time I worked in a job that was so intensely focused. We work individually on writing samples we pull up on our computers. We're, apparently, the sort of folks who are easily sucked in by the screen. We arrive on time, get right to work, and keep at it. It's not draconian--we certainly can chat, or get up and walk around, or get coffee, but there tends to be more coffee-getting than chatting.

There are six rooms of about 90 people working on this project, so breaks are necessarily scheduled. Our room breaks from 10:00 to 10:15, lunches from 11:30-12:00, and breaks again from 2:00-2:15.

We get caught up in the writing samples and have to be told, "It's break time!" Then 90 people burst out of the room (in a quiet, orderly fashion, naturally) and line up at the coffee urn, the bathroom, the microwave. The walkers scurry outside and scatter in every direction. The break room fills up from the corners in; people prefer to take a single tables along the wall for quieter reading. Newspapers and novels come out; people make phone calls; there is quiet conversation. At 10:14, 11:59, and 2:14, the ants scurry home to Room 3 and the next group of ants bursts out of the next room to walk, get coffee, file into the bathroom, and read.

Most of us choose to start at 7:30, so at 4:00 there is a mass departure. This one is equally polite but more hurried: half of us form a line a block long as we wait to make a left turn onto a busy street, and all of us would prefer to be at the head, rather than the tail, of the line. Nevertheless, as we wend toward the one parking lot exit, people scrupulously take turns merging from several aisles and calm order is preserved.

People bring candy to share and anything chocolate is gone by lunchtime.

It's a congenial group of ants and I enjoy their company.

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