Tales from the Cubicle – Part 9

Salsa Shark

I don’t like onions. Hate them, in fact. However, the rest of the world doesn’t understand this, so there are many, many, many opportunities to eat them if you’d like at various resturants. Salsa being a big one. In the Atlanta area, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a Mexican resturant, which means I’m going to have a big bowl of chips sitting in front of me. Now, while others use those chips to scoop up as much of the salsa as they possibly can, I take a slightly different tactic.

I dip the chip in, allowing it to get a little damp, and then make sure to effectively wipe any of the bad stuff on the side of the bowl.

I’ve done this for as long as I can remember. Which also means when I first started working, I would do the same thing in front of my co-workers.

Now, I’m sure people thought this was odd, but they also realized they had more of the “good” stuff for themselves. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Flash forward nearly twenty years at the company Christmas party. One of our remote employees was walking around, introducing her husband to people when suddenly he immediately recognizes me. It takes me half a second and I recognize him from that first job, having worked with him for maybe a year or so. Truly, it is a small world.

And then he says to his wife, “John always dipped his chips in the salsa just barely enough to get some juice on them and that was it.” Twenty years later and he still remembered the random way I eat chips. Talk about making an impression on someone.


You Knew What You Were Getting Into

As an engineer, there are long periods of work where you need to get really focused and avoid any distractions you can. There are tasks which can be very repetetive, so over the years I started bringing headphones to work to listen to music and later podcasts. I was certainly not the first at this particular company to do it. I personally found that the focus allowed me to be much faster and efficient with those tasks. A win-win.

However, flash back to a moment where during one of our staffing meetings it was brought up that the budgets on some of the projects were getting stretched thin. An one of the bosses made a point about how headphones and listening to music was likely at the cause of this issue. That because we (and I mean multiple people) were doing it, we were completing tasks slower than we would have if we weren’t covering our ears up.

Not what I was doing at the office.

Now, I’m normally not a person who seeks out confrontation, but this infuriated me. So I asked whether it was possible that the projects were running low on money because they hadn’t originally had enough money in the contract. His response was, “There are tasks that you have to do which are not always fun. But they have to be done without distractions. And hey, you chose your profession… you knew what you were getting into.”

Which, to this day, I still don’t understand what the hell that meant.

We still continued to have our headphones. Maybe the other project managers explained to him how dumb his thinking was (or at least how poor his people managing skills appeared to be).


You Don’t Have To Turn On The Red Light

Back in the days of being a younger engineer and living the true cubicle life, your immediate neighbors were the ones you were likely to have the most conversations with. My three closest neighbors would sometimes just have random chats about life, music, whatever you could think of… while sitting at our desks and doing our work. The cubicle walls doing little to damper our talks.

And it is during these times when you really get to the root of things. About how much you don’t know about someone or how much they may not know.

So it was that we all began talking about music. Lloyd was more into hip-hop and was attempting to educate me on those artists. Somehow we got to Puff Daddy, and I said “well, I’m a little indifferent to him after he took the Police song.”

Lloyd was silent for a beat, and then said “Who are the Police?”

After which I was silent for more than a beat. “Every breath you take… that’s the Police. Roxanne? Message in a Bottle? King of Pain? Everything She Does Is Magic?”

“Nope. Nope. Nope. I don’t think I know them.”

My world cracked completely open.

My other neighbor at least tried to save me. “Lloyd, don’t be stupid. You know who the Police are. You’ve heard of Sting.”

And at that point, it clicked into place for him. “Oh, yeah…”

As the years have gone by, I understand more that everyone has their own tastes and blind spots. But in that moment, I couldn’t have imagined not even having heard of the Police.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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