Friday, October 31, 2008

Office casual

There's nothing better than an office with a door that shuts (and locks).

I suppose most people consider their office workspace an outpost of their home, but for me this means that my office must allow me to get really, really comfortable. Yesterday, for example, I came back from three manic hours of teaching, spent another 20 minutes consoling and encouraging a good but very stressed out student, and then (with two hours until my night class) closed the door, took off all my jewelry, my boots, and my lipstick, loosened my skirt, and lay down flat on the floor to read.

I didn't have office hours and I did have to finish that night's text (and write a quiz and a lesson plan!), so the closed door made sense. But I tend to collapse after periods of being "on" for too long, and when I'm overwhelmed, I need to shut down as many systems as possible; I also have this vaguely OCD thing where, when I'm fixated on or frustrated by a task, certain physical sensations drive me TOTALLY NUTS. Normally, it takes me more than an hour of sitting semi-blankly at my desk to recover from my first two classes and start thinking about my night one, but yesterday I didn't have that time. Lying down helped hasten the process.

It usually doesn't come quite to that, but even on an ordinary day I'm likely to wander around barefoot, sit with my legs flung entirely across my desk, inhale my lunch like a savage, and do stretching exercises on my floor. I mean, it's my office, right? And stuff's gotta get done.

My office-casual habits may be native, or they may be partly learned: when I was a paralegal, everyone in the firm kept ridiculous hours. Two young attorneys I worked for routinely napped under their desks--their secretary being instructed to hold their calls--and my own officemates and I played our small stereo all day long, shot rubber bands at one another, smuggled in the occasional bottle of wine, and now and again barricaded ourselves under our desks (hidden behind file boxes) to sleep, avoid one of our attorneys, or just calm the fuck down. Our next-door neighbors had a pet fish, two pillows, and an entire magazine-stand's worth of reading material. Almost all of us had extra clothes stashed in drawers.

I don't spend nearly the amount of time at the office now that I did then--I'm usually only on campus three days a week, for maybe 25 hours--but the small drugstore and kitchen that I keep in my desk drawer and my readiness to sprawl on the floor show I've learned certain lessons well.

What do you do in the privacy of your office?

18 comments:

Fifi Bluestocking said...

I sleep! I have two armchairs that I can pull together to lie on and sometimes even 20 minutes of shut-eye makes a big difference. I also wander around shoeless quite a lot. So I'm with you on the delights of having your own office.

Sisyphus said...

Yes to the whole post. I especially love that you have to wipe off your lipstick to get comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Oh man I have to share this story. I also nap and go shoeless, and I have a full-sized futon (folded up in couch-mode, but still) in my office that makes napping easy. But even with the door closed, students still have a tendency to knock, and if they do so during daylight hours, I often feel compelled to answer. One such knock came at around 1:30pm on a workday, when I was about 10 min. into a nice post lunch snooze. I quickly righted myself, said something official sounding, fixed my hair, slipped on my shoes, and closed a few desk drawers to make things sound business-like inside. Then I opened the door with a big, official smile on my face. I thought I'd covered, and recovered, well.

My back is towards my futon as I move to my desk, and my student is looking toward my desk and then, as I sit in my desk chair, more directly toward me. Neither of us look at my futon, but once I'm seated I sneak a quick, guilty look at my former resting-place. No wrinkles, no obvious evidence of my nap...but there is something...is it a pen? a highlighter? what IS it? something that must have been in my all-too-shallow hip pocket, and that fell out while I was reclined...ah HA! I have it.

a TAMPON. And it is lying right where my student, a young woman, is about to sit.

In some frantic, instinctual act of self-preservation, my lightening-fast reflexes now take over. Spiderman-style, I decide that I can grab the tampon before the student will notice anything. This decision is a bad one. In fact, my grabbing-reflexes coordinate perfectly with her sitting reflexes, so the student (still without noticing the tampon) now jumps up, thinking that her professor has just attempted to grab her ass. I make some kind of strangled chuckle, as if this is just what professors DO (not the grab ass part...more the odd twitching and eccentric behavior). She smiles strangely at me. And sits again.

Beat.

The rest is, as they say, silence. Well no not really. Explanations of some kind follow. And I suppose it could have been more awkward, say, if my visitor had been a young man. Imagine trying to make conversation after that faux pas (faux sit...whatever).

Cheers!

Thoroughly Educated said...

In my old office, which was tiny but truly private, I kept a napping mat rolled up under my desk, and I definitely used it. Now I have a comfy chair that's dozable-in, but it's not the same: makes the ol' spine worse rather than better. Also, usually the first thing I have to do when I'm settling into my office for a session of work is take off my shoes. In my old, all-carpeted office, I used to pad the hallway in my stocking feet until it was pointed out to me that my offices previous inhabitant had gone insane and the first sign of his decline was his shoelessness. Now I have an office that doesn't truly feel private and is kind of cold, huge, echoey, and dusty, so I feel less comfortable with my old routines, even when I'm notionally unobserved.

Theodora said...

We have a totally open-door culture in my office. So, I can't do anything really private. Definitely not nap, which at the down time of the day, I'd sure love sometimes! :-(

Ianqui said...

I pump breastmilk in the privacy of my office, but I'm not sure that's what you had in mind when you asked :)

RageyOne said...

I play the radio all day, and I rarely have my shoes on when I am in the office.

Renaissance Girl said...

shoes off, sometimes shirt off (maintaining camisole--it can get hot with a south-facing window). definitely some reading on the floor, some shut-eye. i've been considering getting some kind of comfy chair or futon...

my one interesting office story. when i was 7-9 months pregnant with Thing 2, i had these charlie horses in my abdomen, called round ligament cramps, which were really mind-stoppingly painful. the only thing i could do was lie on the floor and elevate my legs and try to breathe regularly and wait for them to pass. one hit me during office hours. i hit the floor, feet up on my desk chair, skirt sliding up around my hips, breathing like i'm in labor. someone knocks at the door. it's an adorable male student of mine, who feels comfortable enough to enter after he's knocked. my head's on the floor between his feet as he enters. "give me a couple of minutes, will you?" i smile serenely up at him...

Anonymous said...

Our offices were renovated a couple of years ago & now they all have glass walls overlooking a central area. I work in a fish bowl. Consequently, I'm in the office as seldom as possible. . . These stories are making me sad. (My home office is divine, however, with French doors opening onto a long verandah & sheltered by a jacaranda.)

Cleo

What Now? said...

One of the biggest changes I've had to make in moving from higher ed to secondary ed is that I no longer exactly have an office but rather now have a classroom, which means that I've got a lot more space and light comfort but much less privacy. I do still pad around without shoes, and I keep food and such in my desk, but no napping on the floor for me now. However, it is perfectly kosher, I'm happy to say, for one to go up to the faculty room and sleep on one of the loveseats there; a little more public, yes, but actually much comfier than anything I could do in my old office.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Sleep. Yoga. Make hot tea with my electric kettle. Change into funky t-shirts from Geoffrey Chaucer's blog, to surprise my students. (I dream of someday having a whole class who get the one that says "Chaucer. Because Shakespeare was too easy." Just a fantasy.) Eat chocolate. Eat dinner. Put my feet up.

meg said...

Everything I do at home except pet the cat and the spousal equivalent.

Pamphilia said...

Eat messily and with gusto. Blog. Go shopping on the internet. Take off shoes. Make tea. Do yoga on the floor. Generally when students knock and I'm there, I answer with my mouth full- "Mmmmph? Just a mmmmphte!"

phd me said...

What I would give for a comfy piece of furniture that would allow a midday nap; it's not the same when you have to put your head down on the desk (and one does tend to drool in that position).

I've got a file cabinet full of food, small fridge full of diet coke (with lime), tea kettle and mugs. I keep bedroom slippers in a drawer, since I don't have a rug in my office and the shoes must come off.

Once I get a mini sofa and a rug, all will be right with the world!

Julep said...

I can't do anything to chillax besdies take my shoes off under my desk. Even post-PhD, I am STILL in a cubicle. :(

Flavia said...

Ha! Great stories, esp. Anon's and RG's; I have nothing yet equivalent, but will work at it tirelessly.

Shimmy said...

Meditate. Stare out the window. Nap (sometimes on the floor; sometimes in my chair with my feet on my desk).

JaneB said...

take my shoes off, take my tights off, do Tai Chi, swear, eat, shop on the internet, read blogs, take my contact lenses out, have conversations out loud with my computer...

A colleague of mine, new father in his late 40s to an unexpected addition to the existing family, fell asleep at his desk after a disrupted night, face down on some papers (he says it was comfortable enough). Student knocks, opens the door, sees the sprawled prof, and runs off downstairs to get help, assuming he'd had a heart attack... being woken up by the porter and two enthusiastic first aiders, with an audience of every person along the corridor who'd seen the drama, was not exactly the highlight of his career... but it sure was funny!

A colleague who has a bad back (damaged discs) often leads seminars whilst lying flat on his back on the carpet in the middle of the group. He says it certainly helps students feel less observed... but that he wishes some of the girls wore longer skirts...