Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Step Into My Office

To begin with, what's the deal with this Taipei 101? For those of you who don't know--and I didn't until recently--Taipei 101 is the name of a nearly 1700 foot office building in the Taiwanese capital. Since its completion in 2004, it holds the official title of the world's tallest building and I, for one, object to this. It's not because the building isn't legitimately taller than Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur or the Sears Tower in Chicago, because it is, but if you thought those two looked a bit on the odd side, wait until you catch a glimpse of Taipei 101! This structure is not terribly attractive and in certain photographs looks downright hideous. It's also quite jarring because, unlike New York City, Hong Kong and Chicago, Taipei does not offer a titanic skyline, so Taipei 101 comes off like a behemoth among a bunch of runts (granted, the runts are probably 30 stories high). In fact, since the name they've given it sounds like an introductory college course, I think its official moniker should be "the Steroid Building."

The good news is no fewer than three world cities--Chicago, Dubai and New York--have already approved plans or begun construction on monstrosities even taller than Taipei 101 and they all promise to be less visually confounding. Even the one in Dubai, surrounded itself by relative midgets, appears far more intrinsically elegant.

Elsewhere in the world of office buildings, while riding in an elevator recently, I overheard one well-dressed man in his 30s explaining to another similar looking gentleman the ins and outs of Einstein's Laws of Motion. The second listened attentively and seemed interested and, I'll have to admit, the first did appear to have a rudimentary grasp of how the laws worked. The problem, however, was that the first man was actually explaining Newton's Laws of Motion, not Einstein's. Einstein, so far as I know, never conceived any Laws of Motion, or at least, he didn't call them that, even though his description of the photoelectric effect and his Special and General Theories of Relativity did a lot to explain how light traveled. I'm no authority either on Einstein's theories or Newton's Laws, but I at least know whose idea was whose. I didn't have the heart to tell Man #1 or Man #2; they both seemed much too impressed with themselves.

Office buildings are intriguing places because they often contain large numbers of people who work closely together but have nothing in common. In general, though not always, these people attempt to be friendly toward one another, with varying degrees of strain. That strain is either amusing or disheartening or both, depending on one's mood and worldview. I've heard black people asked why they never wash their hair and it was neither a joke nor an attack, but an innocent--albeit pathetically ignorant--question. Anyone with the last name "Lopez" or "Martinez" is presumed Mexican, and when a female co-worker said she was from Nicaragua and not Mexico, someone asked her "what's the difference?" Seriously. And again, it wasn't intended as a slight, an insult or a lame attempt at levity. Some folks is just that dumb!

And interracial misunderstandings aren't the only anecdotal features that make the workplace so interesting. Differences in age, upbringing, religion or politics can lead to simultaneously sidesplitting and heartbreaking exchanges among people trying desperately to make friends, to share an experience, to know each other. The good news is, this misguided repartee doesn't always lead to lasting acrimony. Or maybe that's the bad news. After all, based on my recent output, I could sure use more to write about.


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