Wednesday, August 08, 2007


My Role in the Workplace

What will you be remembered for at work when you are no longer on the payroll? A person's personality will always shape what kind of employee they will be, as they always bring a certain set of characteristics with them whenever they take a job.

At the Papa Johns store where I held one of my very first jobs making pizzas, I will probably be remembered distinctly by the delivery drivers. They used a computer screen to tell them which runs they were supposed to make. This screen told them the name of the person making the order, along with their address and a phone number in case they had any questions.

Coinciding with the time in which I worked for Papa Johns in the late 1990s, drivers would frequently find themselves called upon to deliver a single can of Coke. The particulars of the order changed from time to time, but frequently the name was "That Guy," the address was "Behind you," and if they didn't understand these directions, they were instructed to call the number 123-4567 for further information.

After awhile, the drivers got used to my antics. In fact, in time they would embrace them, because that was 60 cents more that would showed up on their toll for the night, even if I wasn't a particularly good tipper.

It's been eight years since my days as the blithe producer of pizza came to an end. These days, I live in, editing textbooks for a school that teaches English as a second language in Korea. Since taking the job, I have attempted to stand out through my prior experience as a journalist. As I'm sure many of you do, I hold very strong views on comma use, and how the misapplication of it can make sentences less "conversational" and inhibit readability.

However, very rarely am I called upon to share my painstakingly processed views on punctuation. Never let it be said that I don't stand out; I am, after all, the one who changes the water cooler and kills the bugs in the downstairs bathroom.

I am uniquely qualified for these tasks for all the following reasons:

1) I'm the only male in our office.

Therefore, once every two days or so, either my supervisor or my coworkers will call upon me to share the talents that I, as a man, call my birthright: namely, the strength to lift a 10-pound water jug and a general indifference to the effect that flattened insects will have on the bottoms of my shoes.

"Robot-uh," they call to me in Korean accents, pointing at the jug that sits, drained of its usefulness atop the dispenser. Most of my co-workers are foreigners and our supervisor studied in the UK for so long that she says "schedule" beginning with an "sh" sound. However, pronouncing my name the way the locals do is but the latest way women have found a way to make me a source of amusement.

At once, I whip out MacGuyver-esque pocket knife and proceed to hack the plastic covering of the bottle. Once this is accomplished, I swing it upright, grunting for effort, and place it atop the dispenser so that my colleagues might begin emptying it of its substance.

However, though I have the ability to lift moderately heavy things, being a man apparently makes me somewhat less perceptive of certain trends, such as whether or not there are insects in our bathroom, and whether or not those bugs look scary. My coworker Vanessa, uninhibited by sensory-dulling presence of the Y-chromosome, catches on much quicker.

"Rob," she says, not using a Korean accent, but instead stressing and stretching the vowel sound of my name to produce a pitiable pitch. "Did you see the bugs downstairs?"

I assure her that I did not, and surely, surely if they are as menacing as she has described I'd have noticed.

She leaves our third floor and walks to the bottom of the building. In mere minutes, she's back, which is in and of itself a sign that the restroom is not usable for women.

"Rob," she says again, with even more emphasis. "They're there. Behind the toilet."

I know now what I must do. The proofreading of ESL pedagogical materials will have to wait. Much as a lifeguard has a duty to save any person who may be drowning, it is my solemn task to go downstairs and confront the crickets.

You may scoff, but they are much bigger and meaner-looking than the crickets we're used to in US; in their pupal stages the Asian crickets probably beat up the North America variety and stuff them in tiny insect lockers all the time. Nonetheless, I wear a size 13 shoe and the most hostile-looking of insects in the Ensifera family fits conveniently beneath it.

Triumphantly, I return to my workplace and announce: "I have found their weakness. If you step on them, they're powerless."

Vanessa mutters something about not wanting to step on them with her shoes, but it only gives more credence to my point. Men may no longer be needed in management, the executive branch of the federal government, or possibly even in human reproduction. Even so, I've proven that my gender will always be useful, at least in this office.

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