Monday, December 13, 2010


There was once a long corridor in my life not so long ago.  I have walked through it thousands of times, maybe even tens of thousands, back and forth, sometimes due to need, other times deliberately.  I remember I always walked a little slower in that corridor, to savor a moment, which by design, as absurd that it is if you really think about it, has served as a sanctuary for me.  

The corridor was built to permit a walkway between two separate buildings, which in the beginning were two distinct companies, but through natural corporate evolution it is now one massive complex after the dominant company swallowed the other.  Over the years, as the company grew, various extensions blocks were added throughout, they popped out from corners and stacked on top of each other; giving the whole structure a Tetris like appearance.     

When you drive into the car park, at first you'd see enormous columns where huge puffy clouds of hot gas puffs into the air, which makes you wonder exactly what goes on within despite the clean futuristic exterior of the building.  Then at the far end of the other side stands the main lobby, and above the door, the bland company name is prominently displayed in block letters.  The name itself invokes a certain feeling, something along the lines of say Initech or Intrude a la the movie Office Space.  

But amidst this utilitarian nightmare there is the corridor, which takes away a little bit of the coldness I think.  It is the only section fully glassed from the front, which gives the look of an exposed vein; it reassures you a little that real people are indeed inside.  And a couple of years ago, a true genius from human resource hung paintings done by employees all along the back wall of the corridor, which strengthened that feeling from both within and out.

When I close my eyes today and think back to all my years in the company, the physical location I remember most is indeed the corridor where the sun is literally allowed to shine.  Within that tight temperature controlled environment, sunlight was almost a luxury.  I remember during those long hours at work, when seasons didn't matter, when I carried a pager 24 hours a day, when nauseating tasks were no end in view; I was always uplifted by the sight of that little plot of grass just outside, even when as far as nature goes it was in fact very meagre.

My mind was always occupied back then, and as far as I remember, my thoughts were mostly tinged with bitterness.  Most of it was likely my own fault, since I was ambitious as hell and I wanted more out of my career than I was entitled.  Towards the end, I frequented the corridor for no apparent reason.  My Harry and I sometimes exchanged cryptic pages during work hours like "holy meeting" or "Let's leave the Smurfs" of "big dogs", all code words to meet up.  It sounds silly now, but it was just the thing to keep both of us sane.

One day, big yellow cones were placed on both ends of the corridor with an unmistakable message: "Caution, Wet floor" along with the picture of a stick figure falling on his ass.  As I approached, I could see the floor was indeed gleaming wet under the morning light.   A cleaning lady, of whom I know did not speak a word of English was mindfully mopping.  And as I gestured to seek permission to pass, she pointed to something at the window; it was a grey squirrel sitting right up against the glass.  He had the a lovely playful expression on his face, and he was hugging a pine cone in his chest like it was his only possession in the whole wide world.  The lady and I were both delighted, we spent some minutes oohing and aahing together, a common language it would seem.

Moments later, I noticed the lady's wet mop was leaning against the rail, and behind it was the outstretched floor of the corridor.  And suddenly, out of nowhere it seemed, from some physical depths of me, I had an overwhelming desire to pick up the mop.  I thought to myself, here is a job that makes sense, a clean floor is a goal that is attainable.  The lady stared at me and my awkward expression; she looked a little worried, but there was no way for us to communicate.  It took me a few seconds to eventually come to my senses, and when I did, I spoke a few cheerful words in English and hurriedly went away.



1 comment:

  1. I felt the same way with a job I had a few summers ago, where I was placed in an office with no windows and a huge ceiling tile light that constantly buzzed. I would get so many cups of coffee and water during the day- not because I was thirsty or to waste time, but to get the chance to look out of the window. It made all the difference.