Friday, September 16, 2011

The Silence of Friday

I came to the office at the usual time today. I found someone else already here and the coffee made. So I was at my desk, lunch in the fridge and coffee in my mug, at 06:50. I read the Bible and prayed, started my computer then pulled up the three Word files I work with in my pre-work hours, and continued my routine. I printed my daily log to the printer not too far outside my office, and nothing happened. The icon said it went to the printer, but nothing came out. The printer was turned on, but nothing came out. Figuring it was the network printer server that was down, I ignored it.

As other people began to arrive for their work day, I couldn't help but notice how quiet it was outside the office door. Normally I would hear pages being emitted from that printer/copier. Normally I would hear the plotters just a little farther down the hall whirring and drawing. Normally I heard conversations begin. But today, nothing. I checked my desk clock and computer clock and cell phone clock to make sure I wasn't an hour early, but no, it was just a very quiet morning. The department head who occupies the office right next to mine was gone, so the conversations he usually has, which I can't help but overhear, were also contributing to the silence.

A few minutes ago I found out the printer server isn't down, only that one printer, lacking a part that won't arrive until Tuesday. Since we have flex time, and some people work four 10-hour days, we have a few less people here on a Friday. Why no one is using the plotters I don't know, but presumably those will begin their whirring before the day is out.

The quietness, though, is unnerving. How can I get any work done in such total silence? Even the downspout that's on the exterior of the building, just four feet from where my ears are, which was conveying some water as I arrived at work, has gone silent. I've got to edit and add to an important floodplain report that has to go out next week. Where is the background noise that fills in the gaps when my eyes reach the end of a line and my brain must tell my head to shift, my eyes to move, and begin reading the next line? I have a radio I could turn on, but the reception is lousy with this receiver in this building.

It's strange how much we don't notice ambient noise. I suppose that's true everywhere we go, not just at the office. It's probably true with all our senses, not just hearing. There's background seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. Take away that background, and how noticeable is the missing!

I'm trying to think up a clever analogy-ish closing for this, but one escapes me for now. I've typed over an hour, with numerous breaks in between. The ambient noise has crept up a little. I hear footsteps behind me in an amongst the cubicles. There's someones computer beeping, a voice being cleared, a door being closed. All very faint, but still audible, still welcome.

I suppose I could train myself to work without the background stimuli, but suspect it would be a difficult retraining.

So, I have made a useless blog post on a difficult Friday, when I should be working but can't due to the extreme quietness. Let the retraining begin.

1 comment:

Gary said...

I wonder how much our brains work filtering the basically useless input (like ambient noise) waiting for the danger signals that alert us to RUN!