This Random Review was initially written several years ago, before I was a full-time freelancer, rocking it at home with my cats. (One of them breathes kind of loud – does he count?) I pulled it at the last minute so as not to anger my then-coworkers and turn them against me. Some facts have been altered to protect the noisy.

Phone Fight with Spouse/Family Member
3.5 stars out of 4

I read somewhere that the human brain finds it more distracting to hear just one side of a conversation, because we automatically tend to fill in the other half of the argument. Maybe that is why I couldn’t help but listen as the man who worked in the next cubicle broke up with his girlfriend over the phone, called her back two days later to beg her to come back, and then started fighting again. I also was intrigued when someone who worked in a nearby office started yelling at an unknown person who seemed to be unfamiliar with his household (visiting brother? new girlfriend? teenage child he didn’t have custody of?) that using a gun was illegal in their subdivision and then segued into a lecture about the evils of gun use. (WHAT SUBDIVISION IS THIS, BTW? IS THAT EVEN LEGAL? ALSO, PROPS ON YOUR ANTI-GUN STANCE, LOUD GUY.)

Although mentally intrusive and productivity draining, overheard fights are also enlivening and exciting. They create a shared bond — the people who work near the fighter can take the opportunity to send instant messages to each other and this type of gossiping brings everyone closer.

The best phone fighter I ever worked with was the super shy, usually very quiet guy from New Jersey, who would get into heated, East-coast style fights with members of his entire extended family but then wrap up the calls with many words of love. Although he spoke to me rarely and in a quiet voice that differed markedly from his animated phone conversations, my other co-worker and I used to send each other IMs about how much we loved him on the regular. “He’s fighting with his brother again! OMG, did you hear that?” “GOD, he’s the BEST.”

Also: When he sneezed and you said “bless you,” he would say “thank you” so quietly that it took me months to realize he was even saying anything in response.

Eating Crunchy Things
2.5 stars out of 4

Eating crunchy things at your desk. It’s a way of life for many, including myself. But there is something about the mastication of apples, carrots, chips, and popcorn that sometimes makes me slightly crazy. Even worse: Stuff from the vending machine that also carries with it the heard sound of crackling bags. Can’t the potato chip people create silent bags? At times, I would boil with rage as I listened to a co-worker chomping away.

I had to have an intervention with myself after someone emailed a friend of mine and asked her to stop eating carrots at her desk, because that is the lamest thing anyone has ever done. It woke me up. I knew I could not become that person. I spent several months responding to my rage with soothing thoughts as cube mates devoured the huge apples that seemed to take them hours to consume. Crunch: Breathe deeply. Crunch: You cannot control whether Donna eats a large apple or two bags of chips. Crunch: Everyone deserves to eat what they want even if they are selfish assholes who should probably eat bananas all the time.

I’m glad to report limited success with my crunch rage. I’m even gladder to report that my cats eat pretty far away from my desk.

*I have learned since I initially wrote this about a condition known as misophonia, which basically means you get mad when people eat. Even though I have this condition, I think it just means you’re a control freak/bitch.

Speaker Phone
0 Stars out of 4

If you have an office and you put your phone into speaker mode (as the kids call it), please do all the rest of us a favor and shut the fucking door. Especially if you’re a sales person and are going to have a schmoozy discussion about the client’s local sports team. We all know you just looked them up on the Internet because no one really cares about the Florida A&M (and yes, I just did an Internet search for “Worst team in college basketball”). And if you’re planning to get on the horn with your cousin’s parole officer that is also a good time to shut your office door. Thanks.

Reading
4 stars out of 4

Not to blow my own horn, but I spent/spend most of my work days reading and writing quietly at my desk. Why? Because I’m an editor/writer. That’s why. Sure, there are occasions where I mutter explosively under my breath because someone has altered something previously correct to be wrong, but those are few and far between. Mostly, it’s just quiet up in here, y’all.

Gossiping Angrily in the Hall about the Organization That Has Just Laid You Off
0 stars out of 4/4 stars out of 4

This is an activity that depends completely on your status and perspective.

If you’re desperately pretending that an organization that’s going through massive, multiple rounds of seemingly random layoffs is going to continue to be a source of ongoing employment for you, the sound of gossiping co-workers can be painful and frightening. The last thing you want to do in this situation is acknowledge that there is a problem. In fact, you may actually feel that the sound/sight of such co-workers is something of an affliction. You may wish that they would go away, in part because they represent the possible “ghost of cubicle future,” but also because you feel guilty every time you see them. Plus, you don’t really know what to say.

If you have recently been laid off from an organization, it may well be that the sound of others gossiping boosts your spirits in the particular way that the spirits of the extremely bitter can be raised. Sort of the opposite of joie de vivre. Is there a German word for this? Anyway, you’re not happy to hear about others’ pain. But you do enjoy the camaraderie and the freedom to bitch without repercussion. Plus, there’s the fact that other people where you work don’t seem to know how to talk to you anymore and in fact seem to panic when they see you, even when you’ve never complained to them about your situation.

My advice to make this transaction easier for everyone: If you haven’t been laid off, don’t be afraid to acknowledge the loss of other peoples’ jobs. In fact be really nice to them, because when you eventually get laid off (haha, not saying you will!), you’ll be kind of bummed out that you didn’t realize how it felt. You’ll wish you’d been nicer!

If you have been laid off, complain only to those you know to be sympathetic. These folks who still have jobs are just trying to keep a roof over their heads in trying times.

Wait, what did this last review turn into? I’m not sure because I’ve definitely never been laid off by a large organization undergoing a series of seemingly random layoffs conducted largely by senior management who were recently brought into their positions and who were advised by a team of consultants who know little about the industry. That did not happen!

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Jen Bingham is an editor and writer who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can find her online at jenbingham.com and on twitter @jen_fu.

“Banana in hand” image by ProjectManhattan (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons