“I’m Back…(for now)”  

Issue 55

By:  Ron Brounes  

December  2001


I got shooshed at work the other day (and actually it was quite nice).  You see, I hadn’t been shooshed or had much other human interaction at my workplace for the past four and a half years.  (Conversations about the weather in the mailroom do not count.)  In reality, I probably deserved it.  I had been accustomed to working alone for so long I never had to worry about talking too loud or saying anything that may be considered inappropriate.  Now that I realize my voice tends to carry a bit from time to time, I have tried to become more considerate of those who office near me.  Not to mention, I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of shooshing myself over the past few weeks (and have more than taken advantage of it).




In reality, it’s been quite an adjustment going back into a work environment with co-workers.  A good adjustment for the most part, but an adjustment just the same. 


First of all, I’ve gone from being a jeans and topsiders guy to a suit guy.  Since I rarely wore suits other than a few times a year at high holiday services, they don’t seem to fit as well as they once did.  Hopefully no one noticed that I wore the same gray suit (that’s only about a half size too small in the waist) about three days a week for the first month.  At least, I was able to mix the wardrobe up by varying those five ties I own.  Two new suits, some alterations to the olds one, a handful of new ties, some freshly shined shoes, and I feel like a real businessman again.  (Who says the clothes don’t make the man?) 


The new suits may not fit for long as I fear my waistline will continue to expand.  With a change in my work hours, I can’t seem to figure out an appropriate running/workout schedule.  But that’s not the worst of it.  In addition to slacking off on my exercise regiment, I’m snacking a little more during the course of the day.  There’s always an abundance of food around the office: candies, cookies, pretzels, flavored popcorn, doughnuts, bagels and “rugallah” (my contribution).  Not to mention that weekly Friday afternoon birthday cake for my co-workers down the hall whose names I do not know.  (I fake it during the song.)




Speaking of my new officemates, what is my social obligation when I pass people in the hallway multiple times during the day?  I certainly try to be friendly that first time with a cheerful “good morning” or “how’s it going?” but after that initial interaction, do I really need to acknowledge them a second, third, and fourth time?  Is it necessary to see if they are still “having a good day” after asking just 30 minutes before? 


And what are the rules about making coffee throughout the day?  I have no problem making that first pot when I get there in the morning, but every time I go into the kitchen, it seems like I always take the last cup.  Is it my responsibility to make more or does that duty fall on the poor coffee drinker who comes in after me?  Unfortunately, someone always seems to walk in for a cup just as I’m trying to sneak out.  Not a great way to make friends (especially with fellow coffee drinkers).

I’ve also had to tone down the sarcasm a tad around people I’ve just met.  (In case you didn’t realize it, I’ve been known to be somewhat sarcastic every now and then.)  I received a handful of odd looks those first few days from co-workers who didn’t know I was kidding about something.  (Those Aggies will get over it eventually.)  Hopefully, the rounds of drinks I felt the need to buy at a recent happy hour helped smooth over any prior misperceived comments.  (By the way, I’m definitely too old to be going to happy hours.  In fact, five years ago I was too old to be going to happy hours.) 


Back to shooshing.  What’s the deal with people constantly using their speaker phones?  I’ve never really gotten the intrigue of that phone feature.  It’s one thing if they really need their hands to continue working right through that important phone conversation, but more times than not, I see them comfortably settled back in their chairs just chatting away rather loudly.  It’s almost like they want their office neighbors to be able to hear both parties to their conversations.  (I’ve listened to many of these conversations and they really aren’t worth eavesdropping on.) 




I had forgotten that IT (computer) guys are exactly the same wherever you work.  They all speak the same foreign language and get quite irritated at non-IT people who have no idea what they are talking about.  I would definitely fall in that category.  Unless my computer problem can be fixed by turning the machine off and on a couple of times, slapping the side of the monitor, or holding down the “control, alt, delete” keys, I’m completely at their mercy.  (And they typically don’t appreciate my aforementioned remedies.)   Thankfully, a few of my non-IT co-workers are more computer literate than me and have been able to assist me in networking issues.


My technological deficiency does not end with the computer; I’ve also struggled to learn the comprehensive company voice mail system.  While in my old office, I totally mastered the skills required to use “callnotes,” I never had to deal with transferring calls, forwarding messages, setting up conference calls, or any other complex features.  Still, I get pretty excited when the red light on my phone is illuminated indicating that “I have mail” (voice mail, that is) in my phone message box.  More often than not, however, these important messages have warned me about significant facts like “the eighth floor refrigerator will be cleaned out soon.”  (I didn’t even know we had an eighth floor refrigerator.  Come to think of it, I never even knew we had an eighth floor.)




All in all, it’s been a very smooth transition back into an office environment.  My co-workers have been warm and welcoming and I rather enjoy them asking me “what I did over the weekend” when I arrive on Monday mornings.  (Typically, I make something up; it usually sounds better than the truth.)  Everyone has been very accommodating in my transition and helped me get acclimated to my new position.  I’ve even developed a comforting “hallway nod” to pass along to people I see multiple times a day; I make coffee just about every time the pot is close to empty; and I’ve refrained from sarcastic quips with those I hardly know (even the Aggies).  I suppose the real test of my acceptance will come soon when I see if my co-workers sing “happy birthday” to me and eat cake in my honor.  Come to think of it, I’m not that crazy about birthdays so I may just have to shoosh them if that occurs. 


FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a Ron Brounes publication focusing on not much of anything other than personal anecdotes, musings, and mindless thoughts about life.  Please call Ron at 713-432-1332 (or email at for questions, comments, or just to say “hi.” Feel free to pass along helpful suggestions about inter-office etiquette.  Though I am no longer “working hard for you” as in my prior capacity, I do wish everyone a happy healthy holiday season.