Here's how my morning started. I walked in the door, and one of my cow orkers pounced on me. (Not literally.) She demanded to know why I'd told so and so such and such. I kind of blinked, a little baffled. Not only had I not told so and so such and such, such and such was news to me. But I didn't say that; I just said that it made very little sense for me to tell so and so such and such, seeing that I was this, and this wouldn't be at all advantageous to such and such. She blinked, thought about it for a moment, and then allowed that maybe, on balance, it hadn't been me. I asked her who else she'd told about such and such. She named some people. I pointed out, as delicately as possible, that if one really didn't want one's colleagues to know about such and such, one probably shouldn't tell anybody at work, because, well, people do talk.
Thinking that was it, I got to work. But later in the day, another of my cow orkers began telling me about certain Issues with That One. (Man, it's annoying, not being able to use names or actual events. But I can't. Some of my cow orkers might know this blog exists and I have this vested interest in not pissing anyone off. Any further.) Turns out That One was the main reason This Other One left, and this particular colleague wanted This Other One's job but Unnamed Person #3 had already decided to fill that opening from Outside, which really annoyed Unnamed Person #4 but only seemed fair to That One and Unnamed Person No. 5. Which was, like, wow. I mean, all this time I've just been shut up in my cube, working away, and all this stuff's been going on and I had no clue.
Well, here's the truth: I can't afford to have a clue. I really can't. I have a certain reservoir of mental energy. It's enough to get me to work, get me through eight hours (and sometimes change) of Things Legal, and get me home afterward. Just going to a Meeting after work is sometimes pushing it. I've been known to arrive at the point of no-longer-able-to-cope when there's still an hour left in the workday, which is not a happy situation for me (I do a lot of filing). So if there's a bright shining center of office gossip, I'm in the cube it's the farthest from. I can't handle the drama, can't deal with the fallout, can't cope with the angst. How do people do it, these strange creatures who not only participate in office gossip but seem to thrive on it?
More to the point, how do they get away with it? I don't mean how do they not get caught gossiping. I mean how do they get away with all the heavy-duty emotional baggage that comes with it? Because there's obviously a lot at stake, emotionally speaking. The person who pounced on me when I came in the door was understandably furious. The colleague who was upset that That One had caused whatever it was to happen with Unnamed Person No. 3 so that Unnamed Person No. 4 would be filling an opening from Outside was, well, upset. Nobody's neutral about this stuff. Whenever anybody starts in with a "Did you hear about..." you can just feel blood pressure rising all over the room.
And then there's me. The creature from the Black Lagoon, or some other lagoon full of creatures that just don't get this stuff and consequently can't participate in any meaningful way. Honestly, sometimes I feel like an anthropologist studying a strange culture. I feel like I should whip out my notebook: "12:01 P.M. Participated in a ritual known as "scuttlebutt." Entirely unclear as to the point of this ritual but everyone else seemed to enjoy it." Am I, in fact, a member of the human race? Or did I just land on the wrong planet 42 years ago and forget to ask directions?