As I sat at my desk this morning, trying to keep still from the excitement of knowing that tomorrow is my last day at the office job, a strange realization hit me: I am a lucky girl to have lived the endless source of hilarity, frustration, and reward that is the Trini office life.
Don’t get me wrong. Office life is office life and certain things always stay the same, whether it’s in an office here, there, or on Mars. But the Trini office is rife with particularities, and I’m sure that my year and a half of office tenure has enabled me to barely scratch the surface of this bizarre anthropological phenomenon.
Scientific much? Oh, indeed.
So, for your edification, I present you with some key findings, thoroughly researched and vetted (ok, observed through my own very particular perspective).
Entering the office. All offices are locked. Get ready to knock and be buzzed in. And get ready for every single door to have its own particular way of opening, such as the oh-so-common “push the handle then lift then shift to the left then pull.” No wonder the usual reaction when a person needs to be let in is a look of bemusement at the workings of the door–take it from me, I was a key office buzzer-presser.
After entering the office, should you be let in, you’ll immediately think you stepped into a chilly London fall day, as if by magic. You didn’t. The AC is set to 16-17 C (or 60-65 F). You best walk with a sweater, a pashmina, a set of gloves, and your coat or be ready to freeze.
If you are an important enough person to have been let in, you may even be important enough to be asked if you want tea. If so, said cup of tea will be made by an office attendant whose sole job is to clean the office and make tea. As in, that is their full-time job and there’s one per office. It boggles the mind, but try doing a dish in the office kitchen and you’ll see.
The next thing you’ll see is that most of the ladies will be wearing suits. The vast majority will be made of polyester, unlined, high-necked, and worn without a blouse underneath. They’ll also be every color of the rainbow, plus half of the colors in the 96-crayon-plus-16-bonus crayola box. I’ve said everything that bears saying on the suits before. It’s a local thing.
As for being one of the people working in said office? You will not wash your plate, lest you are the cleaner/office attendant. You will not make a photocopy unless you are the clerical office attendant. Should you need to do either, you may request the secretary to tell either what you need. Unless there’s an administrative assistant in between your role and the secretary, in which case you may need to ask the administrative assistant to delegate to the secretary the task of asking the office attendant to make your cup of tea. And if there are clerical assistants, or research assistants? You may need to pull out the office flowchart to to see who you ask for anything.
And, like everywhere else, there will be meetings, and gossip, and plenty of ceremony, except you’ll also have cultural differences to suss out. Things like language, and reacting to people’s requests, and telephone etiquette, and every other single thing that you take for granted. You’ll also hear the news dissected in detail, political issues discussed with great personal investment, and gossip beyond what you thought was discoverable about anyone worth gossiping about–all told in the most expressive, hilarious, and memorable way.
And office food? Don’t get me started. Work in an office for a week and see the results on your hips for a month. Never have office eats tasted so good.
In all seriousness, I’m very glad to have worked in an office here in Trinidad. There’s no better cultural immersion than landing in an office environment with people of all responsibility levels and from all walks of life. I might have a couple of battle scars from these experiences, but I also have stories–and good memories–for the ages.
I hope the Husband and dog prove themselves good officemates. They have a LOT to live up to.
In my second-t0-last day of office life (a day of full rest from exercise, an office lunch, and some tasty but ugly-looking leftovers for dinner) I brought out what may be my favorite office dress ever:
I love this dress beyond all reason. It’s the best-sewn and finished dress I’ve ever made. My mom wants to steal it. I might have to let her borrow it or she’s liable to book a flight to Trinidad, get a cab from the airport, steal it in the middle of the night, and hightail it back to stateside, where she’ll wear it with greater aplomb than me, as always–the woman is a glamazon. I can but aspire…