Coworker Biodiversity

Renowned wildlife behaviorist expert Jordan Barber journeys to the heart of the world’s most barren, desolate environments: the office.

It’s summer now, so school is out and all the students are looking for work. I’ve managed to secure an internship at an office in downtown Seattle. When I called my mom about the internship, she said that I’d finally realize why she found The Office so hilarious. She’s worked in a big insurance firm for most of her career, so the jokes about the office ecosystem always reflect back on her.

My first day on the job was Tuesday, and I’ve already noticed a couple interesting things as well. In the first day, I was able to identify the token “weird guy” (bizarrus dudus) who, for whatever reason, draws the silent scorn of the entire office. There’s no particular rhyme or reason–one girl mentioned that he was creepy, while another said he talked funny. I don’t think I’m in danger of becoming the weird guy, but I’ll have to remember to enunciate clearly or I risk drawing the critical eye of fellow coworkers.

I’m sure other stereotypical office members will become more apparent. I think I just spotted “burned-out old guy” (dying internalus), but there are other rare species that might be unique to this office. There’s the “woman who never leaves her office and only uses an intercom for communication” (agoraphobius reclusius), as well as “Republican sound-bite man” (conservatus ignoramus), who is only capable of ending a conversation by quoting John McCain or Ronald Reagan.

This is my new habitat. I feel at home already.

As an intern, I do a lot of grunt work. While I do get to work on some independent projects, most of my time is spent pasting stickers on folders, sorting papers, or using glitter glue on thank-you notes (not really). But it’s quickly become apparent that the typical office workers don’t do anything much more glamorous. People who work downtown are lured into a false sense of superiority about their career. Maybe it’s the tall towers and the nice view or the morning grande lattes, but in reality, their jobs aren’t that fascinating. TV shows like Law & Order or The West Wing imagine the thrills of suits rushing around the office, papers flailing as they storm through the halls jumping from crisis to crisis. Instead, everyone at the office gets bored, checks Facebook, and idles in the break room (I’m writing this as I work).

The other day, there was a car accident right out our window (two, actually). Only then did I see people moving at a pace that could beat Bruce Vilanch after a buffet dinner. We stared at the accident for about fifteen minutes, and then continued gabbing about it for another fifteen. I wasn’t immune, and I must admit that it was the most interesting part of the day.

Most people work in an environment that isn’t particularly inspiring or exciting every day. It is work, after all. But it isn’t always the soul-crushing lifestyle we like to poke fun at. Then again, I’ve been working for under a week. When the accident happened outside our window, the weird guy went to the lobby to see if anyone needed help. The burned-out old guy did too, but he came back two hours later. I think he went home and took a nap.

Jordan Barber is proud that the internet allows him to criticize, admonish, and irritate people from his own living room. And though this immense power only comes to the few, he promises to wield his hammer of judgment with a standoffish, thoughtful outlook.