Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Enigmatic bean bag


     Last Friday I go downtown. My wife wants to stop by her office and pick up a few things, so I figured, go with her, keep her company, and stop by mine. What in spring 2020 was an obligation has become, by spring 2021, an outing.
      So I drop her off at the Thompson Center, park on Madison, enter the building for the first time in months, say hello to the guard, chat with the two colleagues who are also there—Jeff from IT, and John on the copy desk. Go into my office and start in on my pile of mail, begin listening to my 100 or so voicemails, 90 or so from the same guy. Give up that quickly.
     Before I leave, I made a pit stop, and there I see it. How long has it been there? Not last Christmas, certainly. Maybe the Christmas before, we had a Christmas party. There was good food from local restaurants, fancy drinks and games, such as cornhole. I assume everyone is familiar with cornhole, a sort of shuffleboard where you toss beanbags onto an inclined board. You get a point for landing a beanbag on the board and three points if it goes into the hole. Fun for picnics and parties. I played a few rounds—how could you not?
    I'd have never thought of it again. But afterward, whenever I walked down that hall, I noticed this one blue bean bag that must have been left behind. It was a pleasant reminder of the party—some years we didn't have parties—and I always sort of smiled at it. There's something friendly about a bean bag. Now that I think of it, maybe it wasn't from 2019. Maybe it was from 2018. Or even before. Time all blends together at this point.
     This isn't a criticism of the sanitation of the place. It's always clean. But somehow, in its cleaning, the bean bag remains. I assume that has to be intentional, and therein lies the mystery. An in-joke of some sort? A statement? Some ghost-in-the-machine cleaning in the wee hours, deftly detouring around it, a slight jog of the broom, an act of mercy, the way you'll pity a missing sock?
     I'm not sure I want to know. There must be some prosaic reason nowhere near the limits of imagination (the bean bag....thrown away of course ... stirs, and begins its arduous nightly climb out of the trash, ruffling through the papers, reaching the lip of the can and toppling out with a beany plop, slowly, determinedly crawling, expanding and contracting like a caterpillar, back toward its Beloved Spot...)
     One of those Office Mysteries that make going into work in a place appealing. Back when we, you know, all went someplace to work.


  1. ' There's something friendly about a bean bag.'
    hooboy! my cat would disagree...
    We use them for training purposes...

  2. I guess we'll see if the janitorial staff reads the paper. Here's one scenario: janitor to editor, a couple days after party, "Uh, boss, what do you want me to do with this blue thing on the floor?" Editor, "What's that, you say?" Janitor, "This blue thingamajig laying on the floor. Did someone lose it at the party the other day?" "Nah -- it's lying on the floor, by the way -- just leave it there; it'll drive Steinberg nuts a few years from now when it's still there."


    1. The staff should start moving the bean bag around every day or maybe mail it to NS.

  3. Well, I would definitely pick up the poor bean bag and relocate it to my office. Give it some company, for gosh sake, back among the living. Until I, or some other caring soul, gets the incentive to hunt down the cornhole game and bring the beanbag back home.

  4. I think your janitorial staff deserves some credit, actually. The staff of our building had standing orders that if an item was not in a wastebasket or did not have a bright orange "PLEASE THROW OUT" sticker on it (in three languages! English, Spanish and Polish), it was to be left alone. Period. It didn't matter if it was on the floor, or even in a hallway (with certain exceptions, presumably).

    One man's trash could be another man's... I don't know, $50,000 blue beanbag prototype for next Christmas's Smurf Cornhole Adventure game. Perhaps it's a memorial for company founder Cornelius Cornhole, who expired on that spot following a budget meeting in 1937. When it's something as non-standard as a blue beanbag in a hallway, a smart cleaning staff will assume that there's a Perfectly Rational Explanation for why it's sitting there, and leave it alone.

  5. I think it's a little odd. I would have thought someone would have picked it up and put it on a table or something. Got a column out of it. But I do think that is rather interesting.

  6. When the aliens landed, they didn't want anyone to be aware of their presence, so they established an SEP field around themselves. Whenever someone would look their way, the person immediately thought "oh well, that's someone else's problem."

    Beware the bag; it knows you've seen it now.

  7. Puzzling, indeed. Your attitude is much healthier than mine. I think it would annoy me, seeing that there for over a year, whatever the explanation. (A logical assumption, since it's annoying me now!) Though I would like to know the explanation, which Andy may have nailed.

    Not really similar, but it calls to mind this tweet of the Monk DVD collection that I recently saw. (Monk is a TV character whose OCD was a feature of the show.) The spines line up for the first 6 seasons, but the 7th season is different. A funny joke, but also annoying.


  8. I'm going into my office on Thursday, for the first time in more than two months. I doubt I'll see anything even as dramatic as a bean bag.


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