(from The New Yorker)

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The company I work for occupies 3 floors, each one the size of a football field, more or less. So not exactly a tiny office. The joke going around my floor shared by, shall we say, the more industrious employees is:

“50% of the staff works hard — and the other 50% hardly works.”

Mary Mary Miss Contrary (aka, MMAC), has mastered the art of hardly working. She has worked there FOREVER, is never leaving so everyone has to deal with it.

MMAC — why? Because if you say “clouds,” she says, “sunshine.” You say “cold,” she says, “hot.” She initiates the conversation just so she can disagree with you.

This past Thursday, I made notes of her comings and goings during the workday.

The perverse pleasure I derived from this little exercise helped me get through another awful day…

What follows is a typical day at the office for MMAC (her supposed hours are 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM):

 – Arrival time: anywhere between (9:20 to 9:30 A.M., sometimes later than that — she blames the commute and see herself as its victim);

– Breakfast preparation commences at 9:45 A.M. This requires retrieving from a dedicated file drawer her breakfast bowl  – the size of which is comparable to the family style pasta bowl at the Macaroni Grill (which is to say: large). Next, a trip to the kitchen carrying an armful of fruit and muesli. Cuts up the fruit and co-mingles it with muesli and milk in bowl;

9:45 A.M. – 10:00 A.M. – gossips about everyone in the office with the kitchen staff; disseminates sage advice about everything to anyone who will listen;

10:15 A.M., returns to her desk and begins eating. Clink clinking spoon against bowl, chewing, talking with mouth full. Opens Outlook, checks her e-mail. Prints out letters from client and gives to boss. Many rises and descents out of and into her swivel chair, fostering the appearance of busyness; so much so that it takes her 45 minutes to eat her increasingly soggy bowl of mush. It’s gross.

* * *

* * *

11:00 A.M. – Shopping time! Browsing for shoes, handbags, patio furniture in Explorer while finishing bowl of mush. Abandons dirty bowl on her desk. Because her desk faces the entrance to our area, she can quickly quit out of Explorer if the boss happens to saunter in. Little does she know that everyone on the planet is on to this trick.

11:30 A.M. – Returns to kitchen to wash bowl, knife and spoon.

11:45 A.M. – Returns to desk. Enters a few items into the docket. Telephones her financial planner. Whispers into the receiver.

12:00 P.M. – Officially, it’s my lunch time. But I throw a wrench in her do-as-little-as-possible scam by not going out for lunch. This forces her to pretend to work for another half hour.

12:30 P.M. – She drops the guise. It’s crossword puzzle time!

1:00 P.M. – My lunch time is now over. I get back to work. She catches up on her reading.

1:30 P.M. – She leaves the premises to pick up lunch.

1:45 P.M. – Returns with take-out fish and announces: sorry if this smells, and eats it at her desk anyway. It stinks.

2:00 P.M. – Leaves the office to go shopping.

2:30 P.M. – Returns to the office. Processes a few files; shuffles some papers.

3:00 P.M. – Sneaks out for a therapeutic massage (bad back, she says, in a “poor me” tone of voice). 

3:30 P.M. – Returns to work. Snack time! Consumes purchase from the street vendor.

* * *

* * *

4:00 P.M. – Sudoku time!

4:30 P.M. – Leaves early.

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