By Wendy Hodge
NOTE: If you are an Office fan, you’ll get the one-liners and catch phrases But if you’re not an Office fan, well… As Michael Scott would say, “It’s not a pity party. It’s not a party at all. It’s just sad.”
Michael Scott. Jim and Pam. Dwight. Angela. Phyllis. Kevin. Oscar. Stanley. Toby. If these names instantly conjure up images of conference room meetings, fake fire drills that lead to heart attacks, sideways looks at the camera, a wedding in Niagra, Michael’s loathing of Toby and “Pretzel Day,” then you might be a fan of the legendary TV show The Office.
But I doubt you’re as big a fan as I am. For more than ten years now, I have not just watched The Office – I have absorbed it. My kids and I own the entire series on DVD, and it has become our background soundtrack of the past decade. It loops on my TV while I cook or clean; it plays on my laptop while I write; and when I log in to Netflix in search of something new to watch, 95 percent of the time I return to the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin where Michael Scott is the regional manager and Dwight Schrute is the Assistant to the Regional Manager and the camera crew who films their every move for a documentary on ordinary workplaces.
It takes an advanced sense of humor. I don’t expect everybody to understand.
Speaking of offices, I work in one myself. It is a busy doctor’s office with a handful of coworkers, and until just recently I was the sole Office fan in the entire place. I felt so sorry for them all. But over time I introduced them to the show’s catch phrase of “That’s what she said.” I suggested a pretzel day, which did not catch on with management. I have even been caught trying what I thought was a classic Jim face as if a camera crew were actually filming me and my coworkers.
That’s the day someone asked me if I needed the number for a counselor. My response of “I hate everything about the way you choose to be” was met with a blank stare and an offer of prayers for my well being. I guess they couldn’t hear Michael spitting those words at Toby through clenched teeth. But I could.
When my son was younger, he once said, “I want to grow up and work in an office just like that one. They all have so much fun.” And I distinctly remember telling him, “Offices like that don’t exist.” But I was wrong. Of all the office jobs I’ve had in my life, I can honestly say that the one I’ve had for more than two years now is unique. There have been changes made to the staff – lazy workers transferred or let go, and others who have quit. The end result is a team of hard- working people who are good at what they do. And more than that, we are friends who have each other’s back and know how to work together to get the job done.
Our physician’s assistant is Kristen. She is in the national guard and loves her horses more than anything else. She gets the job done every day, and her patients love her. She’s also NOT a morning person and gets cranky when she’s hungry. She complains about being fat, which is a characteristic I detest in anyone who is a size 6 and looks like a model. But she is sweet and intelligent and slightly goofy. I would trust her with my health under any circumstances.
Her brother, Keith, is our medical assistant. He’s a part-time student and full-time Game of Thrones fan. His beard is his pride and joy, as it should be. Keith is quick to laugh and has a sense of humor on par with Michael Scott’s. He’s a video game connoisseur and knows way more about me than most people on this planet because he’s easy to talk to and makes me laugh until I cry. I am listed in his contacts on his phone as “White Milk Poochie-Poo” and sometimes as “Mom.” Don’t ask.
And then there’s Misty. Her title is medical receptionist, but really she is the heart and soul of the team. Misty has a way of speaking quickly with a heavy dose of southern twang. When she gets really animated and starts talking 90 miles an hour, the sound resembles that of a banjo being played. If you close your eyes and listen to her, you can feel yourself in that movie ‘Deliverance’… but in a good way. We’ve labeled her dialect ‘Banjonese.’ And we all speak it fluently now.
Misty, like me, is a morning person. She is already there when I arrive. Every day. And she’s smiling and has a cheerful “Good morning” waiting for me. Misty is calm and collected with patients, even when they are rude or even threatening. She does her job so well that the office runs more smoothly than ever before. And all day long, little gems will fall from her lips. Like this one: “That food was so nasty. I can’t believe I ate it to my mouth!”Or this one: “That can’t be true! Is that for real life?” I have a collection of her little sayings taped to my computer monitor. They are pure gold.
For Halloween last year, Misty dressed up as Eeyore. She has an adult size onesie that is blue and has big donkey ears and a tail with a pink ribbon. My desk is positioned so that I sit facing her back and the front window where patients sign in. That day, with her Eeyore ears flopping in two different directions, I tried to control my laughter as she told a patient they had a large balance that they needed to pay. She said, “I’m sorry, sir. You owe $324.” And I swear it was Eeyore’s voice I heard… and her donkey ears twitched a bit all by themselves. I took a picture.
Above all else, Misty is genuinely kind. She is generous and open-hearted. Recently, when I was between apartments waiting for a new lease to start, she insisted I stay with her and her family in their home. She knew I was reluctant because I don’t want to impose. I knew exactly what to do, but in a much more real sense I had no idea what to do. But her offer was sincere, and I accepted. The day I took my clothes and a few things to her house, her family met me at the door and led me to the room where I would be staying. And there were her two sweet daughters waiting with a hand-made poster that said, “Be our guest, Wendy!” They handed me a basket full of goodies and hugged me. I cried.
“They get their hearts from you, Misty,” I told her. And it’s true.
Misty’s son, William, recently joined our staff. And he’s an Office fan! At last, there is someone who gets it when I say, “We need to have a Branch War with the Columbus office!” or “Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.” William is tall and soft-spoken. His wit is sharp, and his gift of sarcasm is strong. He’s not superstitious, but he’s a little stitious. And his heart is warm like his mother’s. He has fit in just perfectly here at our office.
My coworkers and I have found something unique…. a workplace that is another home, office mates that are true, dear friends. At the end of day, when we punch our time cards and leave, we have a way of saying goodbye that sounds a bit like a goat braying… “Baaayyyy!” it echoes through the office as we shout it to each other. I love that sound.
And when we are not at the office, we are group texting and sending pictures of our meals and our kids and our lives. We all go out together and we gather at Misty’s home. We share our worries and our victories. We give each other a hard time, but we’d also give each other a kidney if one of us needed it.
Andy Bernard once said, in the series finale of The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
Well, Andy, there is. And I am.