Readjusting to rat race surprisingly invigorating


POSTED: Sunday, April 26, 2009

What should have been a simple leaving of the office the other night turned out to be a challenging operation that took three comings-and-goings.

First, I forgot my lunch bag. Then, as I was about to push out the door, I realized I had misplaced my parking ticket. No tickee, no leavee the parking garage.

After searching wallet, purse compartments and pockets, I went back to my desk. There it was, tucked under the koa paper clip box, exactly where I'd put it so I wouldn't miss it.

Again at the door, I panicked. Where was the little plastic-card thingie that electronically releases the elevator? Oops, it was in my hand.

When the elevator arrived, I stepped in, pushed the button and waved the key card wildly across the control panel, unsure which was the magic spot for liberation.

Finally, the doors closed, reopened one floor down and I was free — at last.

If all of this seems remarkably futless, I beg understanding. You see, for the past eight years, I'd been a “;homeworker,”; a condition of employment variously known as telecommuting or e-work.

I was out of office practice.

Time was, getting ready for work involved brushing my teeth, tying back my hair and putting on a boro-boro T-shirt and plaid men's boxer shorts. The commute took seven seconds, one tick of the clock for each step from kitchen table to desk.

But things have changed. Though eliminating e-work runs counter to a trend, the news biz is struggling as much as other businesses these days. So it's all hands on deck, or in the newsroom, to be exact.

However, rejoining the rat race does take some getting used to.

For one thing, I have to drive on weekdays where as a homeworker, getting behind the wheel was a once a week run on a Saturday or Sunday. The good part is that my shift has me driving non-rush hours. The bad part is roads are still jammed with lunatic other-drivers, yapping on cell phones, running lights and refusing turn-signal usage.

Before, my work environment was quiet, except when the yard-cleaning service invaded the neighborhood with howling leaf-blowers, clattering mowers and whining weed-whackers.

Now, I sit among colleagues, who are usually quiet, but who are known to howl and whine once in awhile and whose keyboards clatter frantically toward deadline.

I'd almost forgotten the camaraderie of a newsroom, the swell of esprit de corps that can permeate an organization, even as it tries to beat the odds of an economy gone sour.

There are downsides, like having to use public restrooms and the constant supply of cookies and chips that mystically appear on the snack table every newsroom seems to have.

So far, I've been able to resist the nibbles, as well as most of the infighting every office environment seems to develop. Over time, things may change yet again, but for now the rat race has been invigorating.

If I could just find the flight of stairs to the parking garage and avoid the elevator, all will be fine.


Cynthia Oi can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)