The air conditioning kicked on in the office for the first time today. Initially, it was a welcome reprieve from the early-summer sun that had begun to stream through the oversized windows.
But this pleasant coolness would last only about an hour before the environment became decidedly less hospitable. Soon our workspace was a bit brisk, then somewhat chilly, before finally settling in officially at damn cold. While the thermostat did appear to be set at a reasonable 70 degrees, independent sources estimate that the temperature plunged to the mid-40’s.
I meant to pack a sweater but forgot.
Shortly after arriving at work I developed goosebumps up and down my arms.
I tried drinking hot tea but only managed to burn the roof of my mouth.
Wait … is someone vaping in here? That couldn’t be. But what is this wafting mist? Mother of Pearl … it’s my breath.
After yesterday there was no chance I’d forget my sweater again. But I underestimated its effectiveness. The chill cut through my cardigan and seems to have infiltrated my very bones. Tomorrow, I shall add a shawl.
Numerous outer layers have proved ineffective. After a time, the cold manages to seep its way through all of it. I can no longer feel my fingers, even as I continuously squeeze this stress ball.
I look up to see the face of my tormentor. The HVAC vent points its cold, implacable face directly at my desk, exhaling its icy breath. Sometimes from the corner of my eye I swear I catch its metal slats twisting upward into a crooked smile.
An attempt at espionage. Jessica created a diversion by gathering everyone to watch a video of her pet chinchilla while I sped toward the thermostat, intent on raising the temperature at least a few degrees without anyone noticing.
Foiled! The thermostat is under lock and key. Only Rick, the building manager, can adjust it.
Multiple emails to Rick have gone ignored. No one is sure where his office is. It’s been rumored that he sits there, watching our desperate correspondence pour in on an oversized monitor, sipping hot cocoa beside a roaring fireplace, laughing. Some claim to have heard his sadistic cackle echoing through the halls, but no one can quite locate its point of origin.
A new low: I’ve ordered a Snuggie.
The president of the company just strolled through with a group of prospective clients. He saw me in my Snuggie, looking like a giant, blue caterpillar. The clients seemed to do their best not to acknowledge my presence, but I know they saw me too. The president did not look pleased.
I would have welcomed the warm flush of embarrassment just for the jolt of heat it might provide, but I am too cold to even feel shame.
The president and I locked eyes for a single moment. All I could offer was a desperate, glassy look that plead, “Save me.” The president and his gaggle moved on briskly.
Everyone is wearing Snuggies now. People are not bothering to refrigerate their lunches. A few arctic-grade military surplus tents have been set up for team meetings. Someone has hung fresh meat from the coat rack to keep it chilled. Perhaps we have learned to adapt.
At once, the continuous whir of the HVAC vent abruptly ceased, and the sudden quiet caught our attention. One by one we crawled out of our makeshift shelters, blinking against the glow of the fluorescent lights.
Later in the afternoon we gathered in the kitchen to celebrate the resolve that brought us collectively through this months-long ordeal, and to mourn those we’d lost along the way. There were cupcakes.
As the feeling slowly returned to my extremities in between bites of Red Velvet, I recorded a voice memo on my phone: “I love this company. I love my co-workers. But by next summer, I need to find a different job.”