Thursday, December 24, 2015

Erasing a Presence

"Your stuff is all over the place!" my immediate supervisor is always complaining to me.

I have been taking her word for it, making sure that I don't remove my scrub jacket and place it over the chair I'm sitting in.  I hide my water bottle at my side because she said that I'm not allowed to have a drink at my desk.  "If you want to drink water or coffee, that is fine on your break in the breakroom.  But you can't have any food or drink in the office," she has told me many times.  I disagree with this.  It's an office, not a patient care area.  Maybe if she hydrated herself she would be in better physical shape.  Maybe even better psychosocial shape.

I hide my jacket, bag, and car keys in a remote closet because she used to knock them over and trip on them every day.  No matter where my bag was, she managed to find it, collide into it, knock it to the floor, spill the contents through the zippered opening, and then proceed to trip and fall as she tried to retrieve the bag and contents.  After this happened multiple days in a row, I was convinced that this was no accident and that the behavior would continue as long as she could find my bag.  For the record, it's a small canvas bag from LL Bean to hold pens, paper, toothbrush stuff, and makeup.  It's not a large, clumsy duffle bag that I leave on the floor.  I would leave the stuff in a desk drawer, but none are allocated to me.

In the office and surrounding area her personal stuff abounds:  outdoor jackets, lab coats, scrub attire, walking sneakers, boots, slippers, pictures of her family, prayer cards, bottles of holy water, rosary beads, prayer books, drawings of Jesus, newspaper articles taped to the walls, a collection of rubber duckies, and so forth.

There is literally no sign of me in that office.

Finally I figured out what she means by "your stuff is all over."  Office supplies.  The hospital does not supply us with pens, markers, paper, and such.  We bring them in from home.  When I worked the floors, I carried my own pens and notebooks at all times or they would be gone.

So when I transferred into this office, I happily added pens to the cup of pens on the desk.  I also would bring in small notepads that I received in the mail from charities.  I was happy that I did not have to carry my house on my back to work each day.  My supplies would be waiting for me every morning at the desk, just where I left them.

I noticed that she never uses these pens or papers that I have brought in.  Sometimes she'll grab a pen and start writing, then suddenly stop, throw the pen, blurting, "Oh my God!  That's not my pen," and grab another one.

She has a box of name-brand tissues on the desk.  One day I had really bad allergies and used the whole box.  The next day I brought in an identical replacement box of tissues.  She also brought in another box.  So now there are two boxes of tissues on the desk.  One time she grabbed a tissue from the box I brought in.  Midway through blowing her nose, she said, "Oh no!  These are your tissues!" and grabbed a tissue from her box to complete the task.  She then took another tissue from her box and put it into my box.  "It's okay for you to use these tissues," I chirped, hoping that my intonation would make everything right.

"No, I have my own," she hissed.

As I write this, I'm remembering what she does with the magazines I bring in for the waiting room.  She puts them in a pile by themselves.  Other people donate magazines, which she combines into an eye-catching spread, while mine sit in a separate pile.  When people mix them, she comes through and segregates the magazines that I contributed.  Sometimes someone will ask why there is a separate pile of magazines.  The supervisor will say, "Oh, those are Enid's."  This is why people seek me out and ask if they can look at my magazines, as if I'm still exerting ownership.

I'm also remembering the wall calendars.  I received them in the mail and don't need so many, so I hung them in the little cubicles.  Every few days, another page was torn out of each calendar, until they disappeared entirely.  I replaced them, only to have the same thing happen again.  It was her I now realize.

I'm so glad that I thought of this now at the end of the year.  I am storing a bunch of calendars for the new year in a cabinet, planning to hang them soon.  I better remove them.  I really had no idea that such things were setting her off.

Ultimately, it's not about my personal stuff/office supplies.  She doesn't want ME there.  When she tells me to remove my personal items from my work area, she means me.  Myself.

This makes working here really difficult.

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