I really and truly hope that you've enjoyed this experience as much as I have. I needed a mental diversion, and you all have provided it. But alas, we are out of movies to watch and witty reviews to draft. So it is time for us to move on.
If you enjoyed my ramblings, I invite you to join us at next year's blog, cleverly titled "Now THAT'S An Improvement." It promises to be an adventure; harrowing, at that. I'm pretty sure there's a link to it on my profile page.
I thought about writing up a summary of what I learned this year, but when I tried, it came across as a "What I did on my summer vacation"-type post. So, instead, I decided to write a fable. It is my parting gift to you. And yes, it's sorta long. Geesh, gimme a break - it's my swan song.
Until we meet again - Tina
Once upon a time, in a far-away land, there lived a woman named Cubicle Girl. She had dark hair, blue eyes, and lived a quiet life in The Office. Cubicle Girl spent her days in a nondescript little area, surrounded on three sides by walls that were just high enough so that she couldn’t see over them, even when she stood up on her tiptoes. These three walls were pushed up against a brick wall, as high as the sky, with an opening between them just large enough that she could slip out of her box every once and a while if she needed to-which she never did.
You might think Cubicle Girl was lonely, all tucked away as she was in The Office, but really she wasn’t. The Boss allowed her to have some precious tokens on her desk, which she cherished with all her heart. Cubicle Girl had four prized sterling picture frames, each holding a photograph of her four children. Every morning Cubicle Girl polished those frames and lined them up on her desk, handling them with such tenderness that a passerby would think that perhaps they contained the most precious works of art in the world. There was also a small marble plaque, engraved with the names of her dearest friends who served The Boss with her. Every afternoon Cubicle Girl would read those names to herself, her fingers tracing the etched surface, and she would thank The Boss for bringing these people into her life. And there was a gold ring on Cubicle Girl’s finger; not everyone in The Office had a gold ring, so Cubicle Girl told herself that she should be grateful for it. Day in and day out, this was Cubicle Girl’s life, and she accepted the fact that she was meant for nothing more than to live her days within the four walls with the little opening.
One day, quite unexpectedly, The Boss came to Cubicle Girl’s little box. You see, Cubicle Girl frequently spoke with The Boss over The Office intercom, but never had He sought her out like this. As you can imagine, Cubicle Girl was surprised and felt very fortunate to receive such a visit. That is, until The Boss started to speak.
The Boss was a massive being, bright as the whitest light, and His presence completely filled the little space between the cubicle wall and the brick wall. His voice, while actually just a whisper on the wind, seemed to Cubicle Girl as the roar of a hurricane. He looked upon her, smiled a small, sad smile, and said:
“I’ve been watching you, Cubicle Girl. I’ve seen how you work here in my Office, day after day. I’ve noticed your picture frames, your marble plaque, and the gold ring on your finger.”
“I’ve come here, to your cubicle, to tell you something that may disturb you. Your cubicle is going to be attacked by rats. They will come at you at all hours and in all ways. You will be unable to do anything about them; you have no power to stop them. To keep the rats from destroying the rest of The Office, I will seal up your little doorway until they have passed. You still have a job to do here at The Office, and I know you will continue to work for Me, just as you always have. If you survive this invasion, a great reward will await you.”
Well, Cubicle Girl was aghast. Rats? In her cubicle? And her little doorway, sealed off from the rest of The Office? How could she bear it? What would become of her and her precious tokens? She knew that one isn’t supposed to question The Boss, but Cubicle Girl just could not remain silent.
“Sir, please. I won’t be able to stand it! Rats are filthy creatures, they will ruin everything I have! And to seal off my doorway?? All I will think about are the rats, how they chew and dig and destroy. Have I done something to deserve such a punishment?”
The Boss then reached in his pocket and pulled out a chisel. He turned to the brick wall and began to pry a single brick from it, at just the correct height for Cubicle Girl’s eye. The wall was solid and thick, but for The Boss, the brick popped out instantly. A rush of fresh air came through the newly christened opening, and suddenly Cubicle Girl could see the outside world, complete with its range of noises, colors and smells. She rolled her chair forward to press her face against the hole in the wall.
She had been isolated for so long in her little cubicle, she had quite forgotten that her particular corner of The Office was on a busy street, bustling at this time of day with traffic and passers-by. Cubicle Girl could have just sat there for hours, watching the activity and wondering where all those people were going and what they were doing; but after all, The Boss was there, and so she slowly pulled her attention away.
“I’ve given you a little window to the world, Cubicle Girl. Something to distract you when the rats attack. A project, if you will. Look across the street and tell me what you see.”
Cubicle Girl peered through the little hole again. Through the people and the cars, on the other side of the street , she noticed a brand-new building with the largest picture window she had ever seen in her life. The single pane of glass was rimmed in gold, and was so massive that it must have taken 6 men just to lift it into place. The window was placed at just the right height from the street so that when Cubicle Girl rolled her chair to the newly-formed hole in the brick wall, she could see straight into it. A green and gold sign adorned the new building, just above the beautiful window, and announced that this building was a delicatessen. While there did not appear to be anyone in the building yet, Cubicle Girl could see gleaming new countertops of the purest marble; scales and slicers, immaculate in shining silver; knives encased in an enormous block of wood and massive rolls of butcher paper.
As enthralling as the new delicatessen was to her, Cubicle Girl really wasn’t quite sure what The Boss was getting at. A “project” at a deli? While it was beautiful to look at, she certainly could never cross the thoroughfare to get there…she would be killed instantly, of course, by the onslaught of traffic. That is what she had always been told, anyway. Still gazing out the little hole, a quizzical line furrowing her brow, she said, “I don’t understand what You mean. What kind of ‘project’ is this?”
Her question was met with silence. When she looked up, she saw that The Boss no longer filled her little doorway. In His place was a set of freshly-laid bricks, sealing off her only way out of the cubicle. This only slightly disturbed Cubicle Girl, for after all, she didn’t really ever leave her little box anyway, and she had a job to do; not to mention, a new project involving a delicatessen. So Cubicle Girl rolled her chair back to her desk, straightened the frames and plaque, and went back to work.
The edges of the days that followed began to blur, one following another with little variation. Cubicle Girl could no longer leave her little box, because her doorway had been bricked over; so she did a little rearranging and slept in a little nook under her desk. Each morning, she polished her picture frames, read her plaque, and admired her ring as she always had. Over the course of her day, she would take an occasional break from her work, wheel herself back over to the hole in the brick wall, and ponder what was happening across the street at the deli. Workmen came and went, bearing paint cans and brushes, black and white squares of linoleum and all sorts of tools that Cubicle Girl had never really seen before. While it was all very diverting to watch, well, she just couldn’t make it into any sort of project. Even more puzzling – it had been days since the visit from The Boss, and not a single rat had shown up.
Then late one day, as Cubicle Girl was settling into her little nook for a night’s rest, she thought she heard the faintest little sound…a sort of ‘squeak’. For a moment, all was silent, and as she listened intently for more, there was nothing to hear. Just as Cubicle Girl began to relax, convinced that she was hearing imaginary noises, there was another ‘squeak.’ That squeak was followed by another squeak, then another, then another, until there was no longer any question in her mind – the rats had arrived.
The squeaking made it a little difficult for Cubicle Girl to get to sleep, and in the morning, she noticed that one of her precious frames had been knocked over. But all in all, it wasn’t as bad as she had anticipated. She could handle this for a while; then the rats would be gone, her doorway would re-open, and she would receive her great reward. So Cubicle Girl went through her morning routine, polishing frames and reading names, gliding her chair to the hole in the brick wall. It was as she pressed her face against the cool bricks, breathing in the fresh morning air, that she noticed something amazing – the deli was open for business.
A line had formed out the door and all the way down the sidewalk, almost to the crosswalk painted at the corner. While Cubicle Girl fully acknowledged the beauty of the new building, and the majesty of that colossal window, she still found it a little strange that so very many people would wait in line just for the chance to buy a little pastrami, or perhaps some thin-sliced roast beef. And this is when she noticed him, and understood the reason for the lines. There, through the spotless window and behind that gleaming marble counter, stood Deli Counter Boy.
Deli Counter Boy didn’t just slice cold cuts and blocks of cheddar. Deli Counter Boy performed. Cubicle Girl watched in wonder as he twirled knives, slicing and dicing with such a precision and flair that she was just positive he must have been practicing for hours before the deli opened. The customers in the store were enraptured as well, laughing and applauding his antics. Deli Counter Boy always delivered each order to the awaiting customer with a wink and a smile, and he usually received a wink and a smile in return.
And so Cubicle Girl’s days progressed. Each morning, she would line her frames back up – did the rats knock over a second one last night? – and lovingly read the names on her plaque. Then it was right back over to the hole in the wall, to delight in the daily antics of Deli Counter Boy. Of course, he could not see her, with her hole in the wall being so very small, and his picture window being so very large. Plus, he was constantly surrounded by adoring customers who flocked to his deli every day, wanting nothing more than to see what he would do next. But in the quiet of her little box, Cubicle Girl would pretend like each performance was just for her entertainment, and it made her happy. She even began to write a little journal of what she saw through that little hole in the brick wall. Nobody really ever read it, but when she felt lonely, she would look over its pages and remember - “DCB did a pirouette today when he finished helping Mrs. R. I give it a 9!” – and it would bring a smile to her face. If this was to be her Project, then it was quite agreeable to her.
Then one night, as Cubicle Girl was settling into her sleeping nook (she had quite grown accustomed to the squeaking noises by now), she felt a slight brush against her ankle. Then another, and still another. She soon realized that the rats had lost their fear and were overrunning her sleeping nook. The dark Office was suddenly filled with a hundred loud squeaks, each seeming to compete with the other for supremacy, until they merged together into a black cloud of noise. Furry bodies with long, naked tails ran back and forth across Cubicle Girl’s legs, which she tried in vain to tuck up under her body. She felt a strange tugging at her hand, and soon her gold ring was gone, stripped away from her hand in the dark. She called out to The Boss for help, but there was no answer; nobody came to rescue her. All that Cubicle Girl could do was cover her ears with her hands and pray for the morning to come sooner than nature intended.
Morning did eventually come, as all mornings do. Cubicle Girl slowly crawled out from under her desk and could not stifle the gasp that escaped her lips when she saw the condition of her little box. Her desk, her papers, everything that she used for her job in The Office had been maimed, chewed, scratched and mutilated. All the work that she had done for The Boss lay in tatters at her feet. Oh, but this shock, this disappointment, it was nothing compared to her biggest loss – three of her four precious frames were gone. The rats had carried them off, along with her gold ring, in the night. Tears flowed freely as Cubicle Girl sat among the ruins and cradled her one last picture of her youngest child, polishing away the tarnish that resulted from the previous night’s destruction. She cleared away a pile of shredded paper and replaced the frame in its traditional spot, and did manage to find her marble plaque under an overturned telephone. Plaque in hand, fingers absently tracing the engraved names, Cubicle Girl found herself wheeling back over to her little hole in the brick wall, pressing her face to the opening, and again watching the Deli Counter Boy. Again his performance distracted her from the mess, from the carnage of the rats. And again, she wrote all she observed in her journal.
As difficult as it was to focus, Cubicle Girl still had a job to do for The Boss, and she tried to go back to work. She spun her chair around, away from the brick wall and back to her papers. As she sorted and stacked, voices began to float from the other side of her cubicle walls.
“Rats! Did you hear? Cubicle Girl has RATS! The Boss has even sealed her off. What if someone hears that we work with a person who has RATS in their cubicle???”
And then the strangest thing happened. A little saw broke through one of her cubicle walls, just above her desk. Back and forth, back and forth, until a little opening formed, just large enough for a hand to slip through – and that is exactly what happened. The saw disappeared, a hand shot through the hole, and grabbed Cubicle Girl’s prized marble plaque. Before Cubicle Girl had even a moment to process this – she didn’t even have time to cry out to The Boss – the marble plaque was tossed back through the hole, where it roughly bounced upon her desk and came to rest on its side. Fresh tears sprung anew as she reached a shaky hand to retrieve it. As she righted it, she saw that the names of her precious friends had crudely been scratched away, as if by an old nail. Her little marble plaque was ruined, and now she nothing by which to remember her friends. And so she went back to the brick wall, to watch Deli Counter Boy, to forget all which she had lost, and to remember The Boss’s promise to her; that if she survived, she would receive a great reward.
So started a sad, new phase of Cubicle Girl’s life. The edges of the days again blurred, and again, there was little variation. At night the rats would come, and she would cry out to The Boss for help, convinced that this would be the final night, the night that she couldn’t possibly survive. They would chew and maim and destroy until the dawn, when Cubicle Girl would again crawl out of her nook and survey the damage, because she always survived the night. She would polish the one remaining precious picture frame; she would shed a tear over her ruined marble plaque; she would look at her naked hand. And she would watch Deli Counter Boy and write in her little book.
Months passed and passed this way, and then one unremarkable evening, Cubicle Girl noticed that there weren’t nearly as many rats. Evenings came and went, and the number of rats just kept going down, down, down. Of course, the damage they did at night also decreased, and it at one point it even occurred to her that she hadn’t shed a single tear that day. Her trips to the brick wall seemed to be less frequent, and when she did go, she noticed that Deli Counter Boy wasn’t always working anymore. It seems that he had decided to take a bit of a vacation, which he had certainly earned. It did make her trips to the hole in the brick wall a little lonelier; but she had her journal to remember all his wonderful performances. And one night, at the end of the year, as Cubicle Girl settled into her sleeping nook, there was not a single squeak to be heard. The rats had vanished.
A bright and early morning arrived, and with it – The Boss. One moment, her little doorway was bricked over; in the next instant, the bricks had disappeared, and the opening was filled with the glory of The Boss. He smiled at her as He had during his last visit, but this time, there was no sadness to it.
“Cubicle Girl, you have survived the invasion of the rats. All is well.”
Poor Cubicle Girl could take no more. She stood as tall as she could, chest heaving, arms waving. “All is well? All is WELL? How can all be well? My life is shattered. Almost everything I have ever treasured is gone. I have only one picture frame left; three have been carried off in the night. My beautiful gold ring has disappeared. And look at this – look at my marble plaque! It’s been ruined! “
The Boss showed no reaction to her outburst; while to her, this was a scene of dynamic proportions, He had seen far worse in His days at The Office. So He again gave her that same smile, put His calloused hands on her shoulders, and turned her around to face her little box.
“Now, Cubicle Girl. I don’t see that you’ve lost anything. To Me, all seems to be well. Look at your desk and tell Me what you see.”
Her eyes darted about, and her fury dissipated immediately as her gaze landed upon four of the most exquisite picture frames she had ever, or would ever, see. Gleaming in platinum, encrusted in the most precious jewels, there they sat, on the other side of her desk from her one remaining prized frame. How is it that she could have missed them for all these months?
“See now, My child. The rats didn’t steal your frames. You never lost them. They were simply moved from one part of your desk to another. They have always been, and will always be, your precious children. Just because I move something to a new spot in your little box does not mean that it’s gone forever. As you can see, it’s even better than before.”
Eyes misting over with tears of happiness, Cubicle Girl ran her fingers across the tops of the jeweled treasure frames. In her gratitude, she felt that she dare not question The Boss about anything else; but the funny thing about The Boss is, He already knows what you are going to say before you can say it. So He gave her another smile and said, “Your marble plaque. Look at it.”
She tore her eyes away from her picture frames to the place where her ruined plaque lay. With a gasp, she snatched it up and held it close to her face, because certainly her eyes must be deceiving her! The scratched-away names had disappeared, and in their place, were just a few names, emblazoned in the purest gold, in a script so fine it looked as if it were written by the angels. She recognized those names as the people in her life who she truly loved. Cubicle Girl looked to The Boss in wonderment, and He, of course, had a response for her:
“Your prized marble plaque is restored. Your false friends are scratched away, and your true friends, whose love is as pure and precious as gold, are here for you to see. My child, you lost nothing when those people left your life. They have no character and no honor. These who remain are strong and full of integrity. You are truly blessed to have such people.”
Almost as if against her will, Cubicle Girl’s eyes strayed down to her empty hand, and her missing gold ring. The Boss had restored so much to her already – would her beautiful gold ring be next?
“Cubicle Girl, did that ring ever bring you any happiness?”
She straightened her neck at the sound of The Boss’s voice and responded, as all good employees do. “No, Father. It was actually painful to wear. But everyone told me that it was a good thing to have.”
“Everyone, Cubicle Girl? Did I tell you that it was good for you to have?”
Cubicle Girl remembered when she had put that ring on many years before, and hung her head in shame as she recalled how The Boss told her that she was not to wear the ring, and that it would bring her unhappiness. “No, Father. Not everyone. You told me not to wear it, and I did it anyway. Forgive me.” And she knew, in that moment, that she would never see that ring again; but instead of feeling sad over its loss, she felt as if a monumental weight had been lifted from her soul. Her face broke out into a wide smile as she embraced The Boss. What an amazing reward He had given her! It exceeded her wildest dreams and fervent expectations! The rats seemed as only a dim memory now.
“Now, My child – it is time for your reward.”
Cubicle Girl was so shocked, so completely surprised, that she laughed aloud at The Boss. “What? MORE?”
“Yes, child, more. You have served Me here in this little box, just as I have asked. You have been tested and did not lose faith. You have even acknowledged your disobedience. Now it is your time to fly. I’m freeing you from this Office. It is time for you to receive your reward and live as I have always intended for you to."
In the blink of an eye, Cubicle Girl found herself standing on the opposite side of her brick wall, on that busy sidewalk, with a small, velvet-lined box in her shaking hands. It held her four frames, her little marble plaque, and her journal of the Deli Counter Boy. The Boss spoke again.
“Look to your left and right. Everything you see belongs to Me. All of this is part of My Office. Even the deli across the street, which you’ve watched for so many months – that’s Mine too. So you can go anywhere, and do anything, and be secure in the knowledge that I have not left you, nor have you left Me. I will always be right beside you, just as I always have been, even when the rats came.”
Amidst the stammering and stuttering, and over the roar of her pounding heart, Cubicle Girl managed to form a few words. “But I’ve always been told that the street is dangerous. That if I leave my little box, and try to cross this road, that I would certainly die. How is this possible?” It was then that she recalled those words from her Training Manual, which told her that with The Boss’s help, all things are possible.
The Boss had vanished again, of course. After all, He was quite a busy man. Cars zipped by, darting amongst the pedestrians that pushed against her. Cubicle Girl noticed that there was a different Deli Counter Boy today working behind that huge picture window. All was strange, new, and terrifying. Perhaps she could run back into the building and get her cubicle back. After all, there was work to do in that part of The Office. Surely she didn’t HAVE to leave, did she? Perhaps she could give this reward to someone else, and return to her life as she had always known it? Just as she had always known it.
With that thought, Cubicle Girl took her frames, her plaque, her journal, and little else; squared her shoulders, raised her chin, and stepped out into the crosswalk.