Friday, November 12, 2010

Random Photo Moment 2: Story of a Mug

Well, here I am and it's a bit of a slow Friday afternoon. I was thinking of my realization that I might want to add in a few visual elements to my blog, given my tendency to use words only, and lots of them.

So, this is the story of a mug. The mug, pictured, is from Cooper & Chyan, a company that no longer exists, and was given to me by a coworker who has since left the company. Grey and unassuming, stained by daily use, it looks like an ordinary mug. It is. Even so, it's special to me.

Last year I was teaching summer school and working here at AATI as a temp part time. Working as a temp is always a strange feeling, being part of a company and outside of it all at once. What added to the strangeness was the fact that I had previously worked here as the front desk receptionist. In our old building, almost everyone came in the front door and walked past the front desk every day, and given that there were only about a hundred US employees at that time, almost everyone knew my face. I always felt like I belonged.

Working as a temp, on the other hand, I always felt like a visitor. My electronic key would lock me out of the building after hours and on weekends. I was half in and half out, and having to switch minds en route to each job. I would be teaching in the morning, on stage in front of lots of people and then in the afternoon would be here in a bare cubicle, alone with boxes of parts doing inventory management for the Engineering department.

I was also exhausted from stress and lack of sleep. My son was three and my baby girl was still only a year old, and I was breastfeeding at night. It was summer, and we lived in a second story apartment with no air conditioning. Our apartment kitchen had just been invaded by cockroaches, so we weren't eating meals at home, and we didn't have a washer or dryer, so we had to do laundry out at friend's houses or at the laundromat. Looking back, I don't know how we were holding it all together.

So because of the exhaustion, I was living on coffee. I would literally get up every few hours and get myself a free cup from the AATI kitchen, using the free disposable cups. One day I was in the kitchen filling my cup, when a fellow employee from my receptionist days asked me if I would like a real mug. He brought me this one from his cubicle. At the end of the day I washed the mug and brought it back to him, thinking it was a loan. He laughed at me and told me it was an extra, that he had gotten it for free and I could keep it.

It was a small act of kindness. But it also meant that for the first time since I had come on board, my cubicle had something in it that was mine, that belonged to me, personally. It made me feel like I belonged. It was a symbol of permanence in a chaotic time in my life.

Shortly thereafter I was hired as a full-time employee, but that's another story entirely.

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