10/03/2008
Brown bag lunch

Kris copied what Miss Abi said to her elsewhere, just to let the rest of the team know. "Ma'am would like to have a brown bag lunch with the writers today," she typed in. "Conference room."

I didn't have a clue. "Brown bag lunch," I merely said.

That conference was quiet. There was just Glenn and Valerie discussing whether they can beg out or now. Neobie was tight-lipped. I returned to typing my news articles, which has been my saving grace on a surprisingly light day, thanks to the vice presidential debates.

"Anong meron sa office n'yo at aalis sa [conference] si Neobs?" Carmel suddenly asked.

"Wait," I answered. "What?"

"[Nagco-conference] kami sa YM," she explained. "Aalis daw si Neobs. Just found out. 'Mandatory socialization.'"

"Whatever a brown bag lunch means," I replied. "The team with the big boss. As in the biiig boss."

It's been a few minutes since I uploaded my ditty about Mike Myers, and I've been unsure whether something is actually going to happen. The veterans - as I loosely call the other three writers, although Glenn would later mention that he's been here for only six months - are out on the usual stride, leaving the two 105s in usual headphone-induced silence.

I returned from the comfort room with a bigger idea. "May sumulpot na Pizza Hut," I said.

"Pahingi," Carmel replied, already very bored from her surprisingly lighter load, if it existed.

"Di ako sure, ah," I clarified. "It never happens. Biglang may Pizza Hut delivery boy dito sa office. May dalawang bag... so apat na pizza?"

"Pahingi!" Carmel insisted.

Twenty minutes later, Miss Abi finally called us to the conference room. We aren't the only writers in the office; of course there are other accounts, each doing a different niche, or whatever the clients want them to do. At least we found ourselves seated in the good seats in the conference room, close to the shiny wooden table, with three boxes of pizza and the works. Two more came later, when the big boss, Miss Yoshiko, realized that there are many writers and it wouldn't be enough.

Since the bottles of Pepsi, the bucket of ice and the plastic cups were beside me, I ended up reliving my college years while wondering what everybody meant about the "brown bag" bit.

The teleconference system was turned on, and on the television screen was her husband, Sir Roj. He was the English-speaking guy who was here in my first weeks of work and put all these digital clocks showing four time zones. He's back in their offices in New Jersey, and back in Manila, the webcam was trying to accommodate around sixteen writers, plus the bosses.

"You guys are so reserved!" Miss Yoshiko later said, when all we could do was spill some nervous laughter.

Back in New Jersey, Sir Roj was talking about an upcoming GK event, what else was going on back where he is, and his plans for an Internet-based television station - television is no longer television anymore, it seems. I was whispering to myself, taking care not to be noticed by any of my teammates. "That's so Communication Arts," I mumbled to myself. "Yeah."

We ended up introducing each other, round-robin style, much like high school. Slices of pizza in hand, and the softdrink bottles going around, each of us were somehow obligated to mention where we were and what we're doing.

"I've been doing trivia quiz questions," Neobie said in her usual bumbling demeanor. She was asked to give bits of trivia. She didn't.

"Yes, I like Japanese horror movies," Joy from another team said. The discussion shifted to the first scenes of some film with "suicide" in the title. Something with ten-year-olds jumping together to the path of a speeding Subway train.

"Airsoft, yes," Kris said, and at that moment I discovered how much of a grizzled veteran she is. Apparently she was one of the company's first employees - something I should've figured out when I deduced that she's been here for two years and the company, in less that time. Or maybe my logic was wrong.

Perhaps thankfully, Miss Yoshiko realized that we were so "reserved," and decided to end the teleconference. We weren't exactly shy, I think. For me, at least, it was the usual newbie jitters when you're talking to the big boss. Among the sixteen, I think only Kris had any idea what was going on. I was trying to contain my laughter when I felt like laughing, all for appearances' sake. When it was over, I grabbed my third pizza slice in comfort.

If anything came out of that hour, it was a sense of actually being part of a family. I remember seeing one of the company's promotional tarpaulins, describing the work environment as "being surrounded by your second family" or something like it. The closest I got to it today was Kris looking at me as if I was being recognized. Yes, that felt good - finally, at least for four seconds, I was part of the team! Outside that, I was really quiet. I can only do a few quips, most of which made me look like I was talking to myself anyway. One went to Valerie, who's graduating tomorrow. The other went to Neobie, who had the misfortune of sitting beside me. (Or was it the other way around?)

The veterans finally left, and somehow Neobie took the cue and left too. I stood up poised to leave and return to my desk, but it was the best time for me to finally talk. There were only three people left in the conference room, and it felt much more comfortable.

"That felt awkward," I told Miss Abi, and by then I knew I wasn't saying everything I wanted to say. I concealed it with a supposedly good-natured grin, before going, "balik na ako sa desk ko at mag-u-upload pa ako ng pictures."

I got back to my desk, and the usually empty row when the three are out joking about smoking (perhaps).

"That was the most awkward thing, ever!" I typed in the window. It would be three hours before Carmel and I would resume a conversation, and by then, everything has been left unsaid.

And your responses...

Post a Comment