(*This is an essay I wrote in Feb last year. Comparing then and now, nothing, sadly, has changed.)
* * *
No one talks much these days. The more you stay together, the less motivated you are to speak.
I am not referring to lovers or couples, though they are typically so; I am talking about my colleagues and coworkers.
My office feels like a ghost room in a ghost town or a tomb in a graveyard — everyone is quiet, motionless, silent, and almost soundless, from dawn till dusk.
We spend most of our awake hours together every day, for years, in the same enclosed space.
Each day, we take the same elevator up and down the building, walk through the same glass door, drink the same coffee, and fetch the same water from the same pantry room. Yet, we brush past each other as though all were apparitions, transparent and invisible.
We move our body parts only when we have to, sometimes with a silent “hi,” other times a squeezed smile, and more frequently nothing more than an indiscernible nod when we have no space to parry in a narrow corridor or are left alone at the water cooler, waiting awkwardly for the old coffee machine to do its job.
I used to be an ice-breaker years ago. I was good at initiating small talks about the bloody weather, the jerky footballers last night, the hellish traffic in the morning, and many more.
We cannot talk about any hot topics now — too sensitive. We cannot mention the big names now — too touchy. We don’t feel
comfortable exposing our opinions about many things now, fearing
unpredictable misinterpretation, stigma, imputation, and ubiquitous third rails.
People nowadays are unprecedentedly divided, almost on the verge of its extremity, no matter where they are, the free world and the oppressive world alike.
I used to like hanging out after work with friends, colleagues, colleague-turned-friends, or friends of friends, but those good old days are long gone. Friend has become a weird word – I have had few, lost many, and want none anymore.
I’m getting older; everyone is becoming “strangerers” to each other. Freewheeling and carefree talks are not possible. Vehement but logical debates are unheard of. Everyone is trying hard to be politically correct. Everyone is cautious about what to say. Silence is gold. No talking is “more gold.”
During the long hours in the office, I used to sit up, stretch a little at my seat, scan around, and see some colleagues who happened to be doing the same. Now, I only see the tops of people’s heads, more and more bald ones, perpetually bent down at their keyboards on various “busyness.”
My office is a tomb in the graveyard or a ghost room in a ghost town, but why?
(Feb 9, 2022)