Camoflauge

Without any forethought or planning, I took last week off from posting, and just spent the time quietly enjoying the holiday weekend with my son. To say that nothing spectacular happened at our place would be the understatement of the year. I texted my mom late morning to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, to which there was no reply, and later in the afternoon I received the customary “Happy Thanksgiving” text from my daughter (I replied, and we had a short back-and-forth text conversation about her younger brother’s “hibernation” habits and how they were interfering with my brunch menu). Outside of that, no other texts, phone calls, emails, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, singing telegrams, nothing – just a deafeningly quiet day at home. Is this odd? Well, seeing as how I have five brothers who are all, for the most part, adequately versed in cell phone operation, and that Thanksgiving was historically the primary family holiday, yes, experiencing complete “radio silence” was chilling – almost “Twilight Zone” worthy… As if having five brothers who were mysteriously absent on Thanksgiving wasn’t odd enough, coupled with the cold shoulder my text was receiving from my mom, my three rather “social” sisters who also know how to rapid-fire group text messages were freakishly missing too! No “hi”, “howdy”, or “hey” from any of them! (And, for the record, almost a week later, still no response from mom…)

I guess that’s what happens when you live several states away; you’re not an everyday voice, and not an everyday face, so eventually the memory of you becomes blurred, faded, and erased.

Ironically, the flip side of that happens on the job – at least for me! Being so consistently reliable and reliably consistent has made my face and my voice as commonplace as the torchiere lamp in the reception area of our office. Everyone just takes that lamp for granted; the lamp has been in the office for years and years, dutifully greeting clients with warmth and cheer, nary being thanked or extended a word or gesture of gratitude because, after all, it’s only doing its job… If, for some reason, the light was left off though, everyone’s day would be slightly askew – grumblings in the office corridors about the uneasiness in the air. Why? The lamp is not lit. What lamp? The lamp in the reception area. Never noticed a lamp in the reception area. Never noticed it because it’s always lit. The lamp isn’t lit today. Why? The lamp should be lit; that way it’s not noticed…

I stepped out for lunch one afternoon. Seems harmless; most people do it on a daily basis. One particular individual – let’s just refer to this person as the “helicopter pilot” – came around looking for me while I was out running some errands on my lunch hour (and to reassure any and all, I was within that one hour timeframe!) and was totally taken aback when it was discovered that I had the audacity to step out of the office for lunch (read: the lamp was not lit)! The helicopter pilot even stated, “but she never goes to lunch!” and began to “joke” that such departure from normalcy required ‘disciplinary action’; the company wanted consistent reliability and reliable consistency, not “free thinking”, and they didn’t want to have to come up with a contingency plan in the event something – anything! – should happen in my brief absence that would require someone else to do anything outside their scope of ‘job function’, such as say hello to a client…

~ sigh ~

Regardless, either case seems to be extreme, but yet truth. My large, usually tight-knit family seems to be lost to the four winds, my phone as silent as the grave, while the office staff, in particular the helicopter pilot, content in knowing that I will be at my post, day in and day out, all the way up through quitting time the day before a national holiday, because I have no better place to be (read: she lives hundreds and thousands of miles from any family, so she doesn’t need to go home early to prepare for guests – she won’t be having any guests at her place – and her son can just wait for her to get home; he’s old enough to be by himself until she gets there). An old, faded, barely distinguishable memory, not even noticed as missing to some, while to others, simply not noticed at all, blending in with the rest of the surrounding décor, almost as if just another light fixture…

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