When I moved all my stuff out of my cubicle the one thing I was most worried about, most protective of, the one thing that made me beg my boss–who’d offered to clear out everything and box it up and leave it in the hall to save me the trouble–to let me do all the packing myself was a simple small glass bowl. It doesn’t look like much but I painted it myself during my second round of chemotherapy, at the Nashville Gilda’s Club, which offered, among other things, a weekly art therapy class. I was really lucky to meet people there who’d had cancer, in some cases decades earlier, and who were doing fine. It was nice to get together and make stuff.
So the bowl has a lot of personal significance for me, and it also became significant at work a couple of years later. A new person had just been hired and she came to my cubicle for some training. She saw the bowl on the shelf next to my monitor and asked what it was.
“It’s a goldfish bowl,” I said.
“You’re really into dad jokes, aren’t you?”
I’m not sure if that was a compliment but it helped break some of the tension that’s always present when work brings strangers together.
So this week I was involved in training another new person. We all went around introducing ourselves and talking about what we do. I’ve held a lot of different jobs in the library but I explained that what we’d be focusing on was something that I’d been doing almost from the beginning and that I kept coming back to in spite of my efforts to move on to something else. And then it hit me that I had a perfect opportunity, so I did my best to deliver a classic line.
It was a great way to break some of the tension, although I worry that I might have sounded more like George Costanza than Al Pacino, which could be a little too much insight into my personality.