Close Range Marketing
You hear a commotion in the kitchen from your desk, so you look up and away from your inbox, ear reaching towards the noise. You hear what sounds like a jackhammer, the intense whirring and the resulting vibration. It reminds you of the filling that you got last week during your lunch break. Your dentist assured you that this one was shallow, since he hadn’t seen any indication of a cavity during your last six-month cleaning. Instead, you spent the better part of your unpaid break clamping your teeth down on the bite block trying not to vomit on your dentist as he used the slower drill to dig out your corroded tooth. His bloated fingers squeezed at the latex gloves, and despite the novocaine you felt him groping around your mouth, probing your teeth for further cavities he may have missed, sliding his slick bulging finger into the pockets between your cheeks and your teeth.
You wondered why you get more cavities as an adult. You considered that you’ve swapped garishly bright pink and yellow strawberry-banana yogurts for demure pots assuring you that there are no added sugars, no GMOs, no traces of gluten- really, no taste, minimal substance. You had given up packaged cupcakes and gooey candy bars filled with nougat or caramel or both after you watched the documentary about the sugar industry in America and the corrupted food pyramid. Sitting there, teeth tensed on the bite block and tongue darting away from his hands, you decided to stop and grab a chocolate and vanilla pudding pot or two for lunch on your walk back to the office; if you can’t eat solids for the next four hours and apparently had to suffer through this drilling either way, what’s the point. Instead, you returned to your office and grabbed one of your labeled, tasteless yogurts out of the communal fridge, and when you got back to your desk you looked up which other dentists in the area your insurance will cover.
The jackhammer in the kitchen pauses, and you wonder if the promised construction is started early. Last Thursday morning you came into the office, and when you checked your email, you saw a message from the building that the kitchens would be remodeled. The word remodeled struck you, because the following description didn’t sound like an optional endeavour to redesign space: “Our communal kitchen space will be undergoing structural modifications to streamline its utility. The construction will commence shortly, and the updated space will include one microwave, one sink, one kettle, and one instant coffee machine, and one refrigerator. This will allow the building to remove three island countertops, three refrigerators that we have assessed were underused. The space will be maximized for productivity instead.” This sounds like downsized, veiled in marketing buzzwords. You wonder who wrote the email and if they ever used the second microwave, ever needed space for their lunch tupperware in the second fridge.
You hear hands slapping and a series of cabinet doors opening and closing. You realize that new hire started this morning. You saw his mustache and thin tie, and you read his verbose and self-assured resume during the hiring process. He’s working on your larger team, and you were pulled in for a brief chat to pose some extra questions. You only had to ask two, and he filled the rest of the time talking about his intrinsic passion for branding, so you let him. You realize now that the noise is a coffee grinder, a handheld one for beans. When you think of it, you aren’t surprised that he brought a coffee grinder into the open-floor office. A disruptive machine that claimed counters pace and announced jarringly his presence in the kitchen and throughout the office. You picture the two, albeit short-lived, coffee makers, with the selection of roasts. Behind that coffee is the rack of tea packets, different boxes of black and green and fruit and flavors fill two shelves. You wonder if the new hire knew that these were options and decided to bring his own coffee, announce his assent to the entry-level office job with discord in the communal kitchen. You decide this must be it, because you hear his voice above the metallic screeching when he whirrs up his machine, smoothing his beans one last time.
“I know, ha, uh, I’m Grant, by the way.” So goes the dissonant announcement.
You face your computer screen with purpose, and you look up his internal profile. This is effectively blank: no picture, no description, just a job title, “Customer Success Marketing Specialist.” What was his major, his alma mater? Where did he grow up? You expect to know these things about most people, and you feel like you deserve to know now that you’ve been subjected to all that grating noise. You search his name and then you wish that you hadn’t. The search pulls up social media and corporate-condoned social media, but it also brings up an anonymous webpage with not-so-anonymous comments about Grant’s past issues with hearing no, with recognizing consent, with listening, with stopping. Like you usually do, you highlight the words on the screen to read them better, to rest your eyes. I met Grant at a bar, you read. I said no, you read. Our paths crossed earlier, during college, you read. He didn’t stop, you read. You look at the computer screen, eyes blank and drawn. You hear the whirring and another guffaw from Grant. All you did was read and read, and now you hear the machine quiets and you don’t know what to do.
Céillie Clark-Keane is a writer living in Boston. She holds a Master's in English & American Literature from Northeastern University, and she works in publishing. Follow her on Instagram @ceillie_keane or at ceillieclarkkeane.com.