Hooked On Ergonomics

I can tell exactly how a person is feeling just by reading their facial expressions.

Back when I still worked downtown, I sat next to a British woman named Susan. Susan was four feet tall (and wide) and had a sporadic British accent and would say things like “I’m not being funny” even if nobody was laughing. She also had no eyebrows.

Her pasty skin and dyed black hair made this anomaly even more prominent.

Every five minutes she would come to my desk to complain about how unproductive the other employees were. Call it ennui-triggered delirium, but I couldn’t even look at her without imagining myself propping her up on a table at the Bingo hall, occasionally rubbing her hair for good luck.

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“I’m not being funny,” she’d say.

The truth was I had no way of knowing if she was being funny. She didn’t have eyebrows.

She did, however, have a husband, a passive, obsequious man named Peter who apparently couldn’t even empty his bowels without Susan’s approval.

Susan: “Hello?…Yes, dear, it’s me. What time did you wake up? …I see….Did you eat all your breakfast? …And use the toilet? Number one or number two? …No, I’m not being funny….”

At first I assumed she was talking to a small child. A grandson, perhaps, or an inbred poodle.

It was only after eavesdropping on one particular conversation that I finally put two and two together.

“I’m not being funny,” she said, glaring at me as she held her hand over the mouth of the receiver.

One day I handed her a Sharpie and said it would make things easier for both of us if she drew in some facial expressions.

After that, we didn’t really talk much.

When Susan started complaining about carpal tunnel syndrome, the boss invited an ergonomics specialist come in to assess our working environment.

“I’d like you to meet Ron,” he said. “He’s going to be observing you at your work station.”

Because of my shiny hair and the fact that I was the only female in the office who wasn’t planning my upcoming retirement party, I knew he wanted to get with me.

I reached out my hand. “Nice to meet you, Ronathan,” I said, fluttering my long, mascara-clumped from the night before eyelashes.

“It’s just Ron,” he said.

“That’s what they all say,” I replied, tickling his palm with my finger.

He told me to go about my business like I normally would.

Because I didn’t want him tattling to my boss, I made my best impression. I (tried) not to use vulgar language while on personal calls. I waited until he was out of sight before clicking NSFW links. Every half hour I crawled under my desk to rest my weary eyes.

By 10:00am I was exhausted.

“Do you always sit like that?” he asked.

“Not always, I said, and I proceeded to show him my various sitting positions.

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Talking with potential clients.

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Brainstorming.

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Reviewing financial reports with Xavier in Accounting.

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Management meetings.

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Answering my email.

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“You have bad posture,” he said.

“You mean bad as in naughty?” I said, tossing my hair over my hunched shoulders.

“No, I mean bad as in incorrect. Do you suffer from lower back pain?”

“Even lower,” I said, grabbing his hand and placing it on my spine. “I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Here, let me show you something.” He pulled his hand away and sat down in my chair. I could see his hair plugs. Normally this would turn me off, but I was bored.

“So, does the carpet match the carpet?” I asked, casually pointing to his groin area.

He didn’t answer. Instead he lifted up his shoulders and arched his back like a peacock. “By sitting up straight,” he said, “You give your lungs and diaphragm room to expand, making breathing easier.”

I laughed.  “Oh, don’t worry about that,” I said. “I only wear my diaphragm after work hours. And on casual Fridays.”

He stood behind me and took notes. I made small talk. “So, did you watch last nights’ episode of “Little People, Big World?”

“I don’t watch television,” he said.

“What do you mean you don’t watch television? What do you do from 6:00pm-1:00am every night?”

“I spend time with my wife and kids.”

“You have kids?” I couldn’t believe he was just telling me this now. “Do they live with your ex, at least?”

I was going to need some time to adjust to the idea of being a weekend mom.

“No. They live with me. And my wife.”

I felt like he was giving me mixed signals. So I decided to try a different approach.

“So, Ronathan, what do you do for a living?” Thanks to my extensive yet brief dating history (I’m a firm believer in quantity over quality), I know that guys really like talking about their work.

“It’s Ron. And I’m an Ergonomics Specialist.”

“Oh, right. I’m assuming this career was inspired by that Hunchback of Notre Dame movie?”

“Actually, ergonomic practices date back as far as Ancient Egypt.”

“That would explain the song ‘Walk like an Egyptian’.”

“Not really.”

Despite my objections, Ronathan gave me some ergonomic-friendly tips.

He talked about proper mouse placement. I talked about my debilitating fear of mice.  He said that wearing restrictive clothing impedes breathing. I asked him if that was his way of asking me to have sex with him. He shook his head no. I nodded mine yes.  It was fate.

Before I left, I slipped him my number. “Just ask for the girl who gets around more than a swivel chair,” I whispered. “My boyfriend will know who you’re talking about.”

Sadly, he never called.

Still, I knew I’d made a lasting impression on him when I arrived at my cubicle on Monday morning and found this:

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Me, in my new ergonomically-correct workspace.

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