Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Shawshank Reality

by benjamin (writer), springfield, nj, February 08, 2008

It took a room full of cubicles to help me relate to a prison yard in Maine.

I could tell it was a Friday by the headache I had from Thursday night’s drinking and the denim on my lower body. I was in my normal Monday through Friday surrounding, three-and-a-half short walls in big room. My cubicle lacks personality, yet is mine. My stuff is laid out a certain way every day, my computer doesn’t move and various papers are on my wall. I am not completely sure what my coworkers do while they are in theirs but I am sure it is roughly the same as what I do in mine. Email, web-sites, some work here and there, and the rest of the time just alone to our thoughts.

What is most important to this story, is the silence. For some reason we do not have any music. In my days before I had this job I would laugh to myself about all the cliches that must drive "office people" crazy. I was working at a record store and playing in a band, and was convinced that I would never end up in a cubicle, and I would certainly never be excited about someone letting me wear jeans on the last day of the week. Number one on my cliché list was always a slew of speakers playing some smoothed voiced woman talking about weather and traffic in between Matchbox Twenty and Hall & Oates songs. That is not the case in this office. There are several speakers in the building, but only one in our room. It is at such a low volume that it is impossible for us to hear it from our desks. I get it for a minute or two near the filing cabinets in the corner, and, much like my ability to wear jeans, I enjoy every second of it. That little speaker acts as my aural window on the stranded submarine I call work. Wow that was ridiculous.

There was something different about this particular dungaree Friday. My coworkers and I were sitting in silence as usual. I have no idea what they were doing but I was probably thinking of something stupid, like who put the alphabet in alphabetical order and why he or she was not more famous. My cubicle neighbor left to get coffee from downstairs. The reason I know where she was going is that she tells me before she does anything. It is as though she cannot drink a cup with out me knowing. She is about sixty and a wonderful woman, just full of information. It must have been within seconds of her leaving earshot, that her cell phone starts ringing. Her ring was not a standard sounding traditional telephone ring, a recognizable song, nor a famous novelty ring tone. It sounded more like a horn driven circus theme song, and it was loud. The strange thing was that it was sort of refreshing. For a moment there was no clicking on keyboards, phone calls were quiet and Xerox machines relaxed. Like a group of prairie dogs in separate cages my coworkers and I rose and looked toward the abandoned desk in the corner where the music was coming from. Office etiquette said that we could never touch someone else’s phone. God forbid we got that close to someone’s cell. So we all just watched, and waited for voicemail to pick up.

It was the closest I have ever come to feeling like a prisoner in the film "The Shawshank Redemption". This phone ringing felt the same, and brought out the same reaction, as Tim Robbins playing Italian Opera to a yard full of violent criminals. I could so clearly hear Morgan Freeman narrating that moment in my office. He was saying something along the lines of, "I’m not sure what that trumpet was blaring for that day, and I telly ‘ya I don’t wanna know. I just wanna think it was something so beautiful that no words could express it."

Inevitably, voicemail did pick up, and we were all alone again plugging away in silence.

About the Writer

benjamin is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on My Shawshank Reality

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By V on February 09, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I love this! Great piece. One time (literally) I was a temp. My first and only assignment saw me in some kind of computer/ information technology - I really have no fucking clue actually - company as some kind of administrator. To this day I have no idea what my job role was but  I did nothing in an environment exactly as you described. Weirdly, I was asked to stay on permanently at the end of the week and offered a nice salary. I never took it, wisely realizing that I could never do more than a week in that environment and there's no way on God's earth that I could wear chick suits wtih pantyhose and court heeled shoes every day. But anyway, I digress. What I wanted to say is that the thing that spooked me the most was the fact that there was no music. When I asked about playing a radio at my desk, I was told that they felt that that wasn't 'corporate.' No music allowed. Jesus fucking Christ. Anyway ... great article!

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By 'Mean' Mike Duffau on February 12, 2008 at 03:16 pm

i couldn't work in one of those office cubes. great story, champ!

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By Glenn T on February 18, 2008 at 02:20 pm

Great piece... I had almost forgotten about that great scene in Shawshank... I think I'm going to watch that again tonight!  Seriously, though... great work - I try to save my 5-star ratings for the pieces that REALLY move/inspire me, make me laugh out loud, etc...  and yours was definitely there.  KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! 

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By crystal on February 28, 2008 at 05:35 pm

what are you talking about Ben?

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