Hello Office, My Old Friend

By Robert Goldman

May 20, 2021 5 min read

The ability to travel back in time may be a long way off.

Until Elon Musk figures it out, you can pretty much enjoy the same "Back to the Future" experience by simply going back to your office.

But do make sure to wear your seat belt.

Walking past the dead ficus in the reception area and sitting down at your dusty desk can be a mind-bending experience. You may have left a year ago to work from home, but consider who you left behind — the person you used to be.

Maura Judkis knows all about this disruption in the office-space-time continuum. "Who were we and what were we thinking? A return to offices frozen in time." is the title of her recent column in The Washington Post.

"Frozen" describes the situation perfectly. As the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic washed over our professional lives, we were forced to run for the higher ground of home, leaving our workplaces frozen in time. It's just like what happened when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and covered Pompei with flaming lava, leaving the ancient city and its citizens entombed.

Which is exactly why you shouldn't accept that transfer to the Pompei office.

One intrepid time traveler is Ellery Frahm. Identifying prehistoric shards is no problem for the Yale archeologist, but when it came to identifying the phone number he found scribbled on a Post-it note, Frahm was stumped.

"I suppose I could call it and ask, and say who I was, and what did they want?" he mused. "But that would be a bit awkward, wouldn't it? More than a year later? Who we were then what we wanted — it was different."

Or maybe not.

What if the phone number was from a radio station that had called to tell Frahm that his entry of "Kiber the Cruel Cruller" won $5 million in the Krispy Kreme "Name That Donut" Sweepstakes? What if was Uncle Sam telling the intrepid archeologist that he owed $6 million in unpaid taxes from winning the Krispy Kreme "Name That Donut" Sweepstakes?

Not even Indiana Jones could get out of that one.

"Dusty tchotchkes. Expired Snacks. Unwashed coffee mugs."

These are some of Judkis' favorite things that returnees can expect to find.

Of course, a "You Belong To Me" Hummel figurine covered in dust is even more cutesy-wootsy, if such a thing is possible. And, as everyone knows, the toxic microbes in an unwashed coffee mug offer significant antibody protection against the health risks of office coffee. And there is certainly nothing wrong with aging snacks. Like fine wine, Cheetos gain complexity as they age, though it may be a bad sign if they have turned a green and glow in the dark.

Speaking of turning green, meteorologist Tim Halbach returned to his office to find the turkey sandwich he left in the break room fridge five months earlier "did not show any signs of mold or decay." While the article did not reveal whether Halbach actually ate the ancient sandwich, I'm sure it triggered wonderful memories of the good old days when you couldn't leave a sandwich in the fridge without it being pilfered by some hungry nerd from the IT department.

Which explains why IT people turn green and glow in the dark.

Before you return to your own personal Pompeii, do prepare yourself for what you might find.

That memo to your boss outlining all their failures as a manager and a human being might deserve a quick review before you send it off. Working from home, alone, you have no doubt discovered how difficult it is to manage someone like you. This should give you a skosh more empathy when considering the harsh steps your manager has had to take to keep you in line.

The same reasoning applies to your request for a raise. After 12 months of seeing your face on a 55-inch 4K UHD screen in countless Zoom meetings, you have blown the anonymity that has served you so well in your career. Better wait six months until you, once again, drop below your manager's line of sight and thus have a reasonable chance of nabbing that raise.

Finally, you should definitely reconsider your request to work from home. Hopefully, HR has forgotten about the matter, and you won't have to worry about being made to work from home, even one day a week.

Let's face it: After a lonely year of bouncing off the walls, being back in the office feels really good.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay

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