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Away from the desk - July 2016

30 Jun 2016

Away from the desk - July 2016 Image

Hello, neighbour

With Susie Williamson

Looking through my own rear window.

One of the perks about my job, aside from the pretty cool people I get to work with (I have to say that, they’re reading this), is my desk. And no, I’m not referring to the George Costanza-style modifications I’m slowly in the process of building beneath it.

You see, I have a window seat. And even though I don’t have a million-dollar water vista, or even an outlook of the city skyline, I do get loads of natural light and a front-seat view of the weather (the forecast for today? Wind. Same for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next).

Plus, the whole reduce-eye-strain-by-looking-away-from-your-computer-every-20-minutes rule is way easier to remember when you actually have something to look at other than your pod neighbour’s head (even if your pod neighbour has a lovely head).

When I turn around and look out my window, my gaze falls directly onto a block of apartments across the road from our office. Sometimes, the lights are on and everyone’s home. And while I really don’t mean to be a nosy parker, I often find myself channelling my inner James Stewart.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film Rear Window (one of my favourites), Stewart plays a photographer who’s stuck in a wheelchair after breaking his leg. Trapped in his New York City flat in the middle of a heatwave, he relieves his boredom by paying close attention to (i.e. spying on) his neighbours through his rear window.

There’s the single woman he’s dubbed “Miss Lonely-hearts”, the dancer he’s nicknamed “Miss Torso”, and the travelling salesman whose wife seemingly, mysteriously disappears overnight.

While I’m not privy to the personal lives of my working-week neighbours (because: hello, it’s none of my business!), I do feel connected to them simply because I see them almost every day.

There’s the woman who always seems to be studiously seated in front of her computer. I imagine she’s a freelance graphic designer, a judgement based solely on her Apple iMac and her arty dress sense.

There’s the guy who enjoys a smoke on his balcony while wearing nothing but a singlet and shorts, even if it’s 12 degrees outside. There’s the elderly lady whose immaculately kept balcony garden would make Jamie Durie proud, and the young mother whose balcony is reserved for the loads of washing that her bub is most likely pooping and puking his or her way through.

I’ve even shared a wave with the toddler in the corner flat. The little guy makes me smile every time I see the top of his head speedily zoom from one end of the apartment to the other, no doubt running rings around his poor mum who’s probably just trying to dress him.

Observing my neighbours leads me to ponder: what do people see when they look across the road at my office building? If they observed my little nook, they’d see the piles and piles of paperwork I’ve yet to file that’s sitting on the window sill, next to the boxes and boxes of breakfast cereal I’m hoarding.

If they looked closely, they’d see the photos of my sprogs scattered around my pod walls, along with random sketches my favourite Irishwoman has drawn for me. And when (not if) the Saints win their next flag they’ll see plenty of celebratory posters plastered in the window.

Unless you have the type of job where you’re on the road a lot or you’re often in meetings, it’s easy to forget to look away from your computer every now and then.

Not only is doing so good for your eyes, however, but it’s also great for your mental health. After all, there’s nothing better to remind yourself of why you’re slaving away at work than a little toddler’s wave, or the freedom of having a smoke in your underwear.

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