Open office

I am finally out of open office space hell. So far, the best part of this whole tenure track phenomenon is the fact that I have my own office. I am sharing, but my office mate is hardly ever there, which means I am essentially all by myself and it is sheer and utter bliss. I haven't gotten this much work done behind a computer at work in oh, I don't know, forever! As strenuous as this whole thing may turn out  to be, they can't take that away from me! (well, I guess they can, but let's not go there for now, okay?)

Setting up my own lab is fun. It's challenging, but something I was looking forward to. I am off the tenure track job market and for that alone I have enough gratitude to last me a couple of years. There were hassles that I expected (thanks to the blogosphere I was well prepared because I read everything there was to read about those who have gone before me). But then there are the weird little things that I never thought about. And the office is one of them. 

For one, I didn't realise that with the office I suddenly exude a whole different vibe. Even with an open door policy, there is an invisible barrier. It's in the eye of those who come to visit. A psychological threshold so to speak. Some don't enter and hang out in the hallway when they have to ask me a question. Others do come in, but only after hesitating in the doorway. It is Really Awkward.
An office apparently comes with its own special code.

Now, when I say: let's go to my office (just because that's where all my stuff is), I see a swift look of desperation on people's faces. Of course, whenever I was summoned to my mentor's office I also always thought "oh shit, what the fuck did I do wrong". Nine out of ten times it was just to get some privacy, but bloody hell, overnight I turned into the scary high school principle where the words "my office" equal "you are in trouble". Let alone when I close the door because I want to discuss a sensitive subject, you can just see them brace for impact.

The worst part is that nothing changed for me. I have an open door policy, anyone can always come in any time they want. In fact, I wish people would come over more, because now that I am stuck behind the computer for most of the day it is unbelievable how much of the gossip and lab life I suddenly do not hear anymore. I used to be the one who was always spreading news (mind you, news, not gossip. Well not mostly anyways), now I keep being the last to find stuff out (there's cake, there's a new student, equipment is broken). It's only been a few months and I turned into a Group Leader. *shivers*
Yet I don't feel like my office is some holy temple of power. It's just the luxury version of a cubicle where now I am suddenly stuck for most of the day, really busy, yet feeling completely unaccomplished by the time I go home because I haven't done anything tangible, like running a gel. The other day I was discussing Exciting Science with a lab member. Who checks their watch when they do that, right? Suddenly there was a timid knock on my open door. It was the student with whom I had scheduled an appointment that should have started some 15 minutes earlier and the poor bastard had quietly been waiting for me to finish. Apparently I also need to be equipped with special timekeeping skills while in the midst of a scientific discussion. Before, in the Land of Postdoc, everybody would just barge in on any conversation you were having, scheduled or unannounced. When did I turn into this?

Yup, I am in the ivory tower and its turns out to be a shared office next to the bathroom and the coffeemaker. Who knew. But please, fearless travelers. Do come in. You are my lifeline to the Kingdom Of Science where the real stuff happens.

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