today was one of those days where i'm pretty sure i was kind of a dick. looking back on it now, i think "yeah, that was kind of a jerkface thing to do, but i can see why i did it." i'm not sure that makes me any less of an asshole, though. i leave it to you to decide.
on my break at work, i was getting my bagel schmeared, looking at TMZ (truly the devil's website), when over the cubicle wall i hear someone answer their cell phone. two seconds later, it's a sob-fest over there. lots of "why?" and "how?" "he can't be," and "this can't be happening." it takes two seconds of overheard conversation to piece together that someone is dead. she gets off the phone, and breaks down at her desk.
at this point, i'm trying to look interested in anything but what's going on. i figure in a few moments she'll compose herself, head to the bathroom, or go find her supervisor and go home. it's unpleasant, i admit. i dislike hearing or seeing people cry. i am uncomfortable with any emotion but ha-ha or "i hate mondays" in the workplace, and sarcasm is as close as i get to honest emoting while at work. the one time i felt like i might cry at work, i gave myself a good pinch on the leg, sucked it up, and went to the bathroom.
five minutes go by. still a sobfest next door. ten minutes. fifteen. eighteen. there is sobbing, there is can't-catch-my-breath wheezing, there is a general gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes on the other side of my particle-board divide. no amount of acoustic tile could dampen the sound coming from over there. i can hear people gathered around now, murmuring things, but no one is doing anything. this sounds callous, but being able to pay attention to people over the phone, and being able to hear them, is kind of a huge part of our jobs. we are expected to only take emergency calls from our cell phones at our desks, and if we are upset, we are asked to go some where quiet and private. thinking that this is grief gone off the rails, i let some time pass before thinking, "someone has to get her away from her desk."
at this point, my break is over, so i pick up my travel pack of tissues, walk over there, hand them to her and say, "okay, it's time to go now." not in an overtly eye-rolling, get out of here way, i gave a good back rub and said, "this is too hard for you to deal with at work, let's get you out of here sweetie, someplace quiet, and you can get yourself together before you go." i offer to take her downstairs, to the lunch room, or to a conference room, or the bathroom. i tell her i'll let her supervisor know, but right now she needs to go. i ask if he's still at the hospital, and if so which one. will he be there when she gets there? does she want to go see him? i'm just about to tell her that it feels good to see your loved one, even in death, when she gives me a funny look. "well, he's at the doctor's. it's my dog."
it was her dog. all this time, i'm imaging a lost granddad, maybe uncle, friend or father. she was crying like that for a dog. i'm serious when i say the only time i've ever reached that level of "oh god why?" weeping was when my dad died, and i did that at home. i walk her toward the door when she sees a friend of hers and she veers off course quickly and says, "i need you to hug me, don't ask why," and i think, "yeah, this is about right." i let her go, go back to my desk, and log back into my phone.
i'm not saying that losing a dog or cat or any pet isn't traumatic. i happen to know where all my pets are, save LuLu, thanks to the magic of veterinary cremation. i spent all day in bed when Cuddles died, crying into the fur of my roommate's yellow lab, Maggie. i know that when pets pass, it's terrible. at the same time, i can't begin to tell you how cheated and annoyed i felt when she told me her dog had died before he'd had a chance to have a tumor in his chest removed. for a moment i thought she had lost someone the way i had, that of course she didn't think to go to the bathroom or into the hall and get herself together, that she was blindsided by death.
she kept saying, "i'm not ready for this, i'm not ready," and all i could think was, "no shit."