The sitcom of our office lives

Congratulations to Jessica Lewis who gave birth yesterday to a healthy baby boy. Unfortunately in moving forward with her own life, the most senior full-time Evening Sun reporter will not be able to return to her duties.

It’s a strange shock coming into work on Monday, two weeks before the expected due date, and finding myself standing alone in the office. Melissa got stranded in Washington, D.C. and had to call in, Jeff scheduled the day off knowing soon we would be undermanned and Jessica went into labor. Jeff actually did come in, but it was strange having such a sudden exodus of a co-worker I’ve worked with for the past three years.

In thinking back to our time on the job, I can easily imagine it being made into a prime time reality TV series.

If we were to make a sitcom, I think some of the episodes would be titled, ‘Baby on a Shelf,’ ‘Ball Pit of Doom’ and ‘The Not-So-Anonymous Call.’

One of my favorite episodes would have to be ‘The Grandma Voice.’ You see in that segment the whole show focuses around the different tones adopted by The Evening Sun employees when they’re on the phone. It all depends on who might be on the other end of the line. From the direct dialogue of a police officer, to the personable gossip of a board member, to the confrontational complainant, to an offended reader’s concern, you’ll have an entire choir of notes hit in a single day. However, there is a one-of-a-kind tune that once heard everyone in the office immediately identifies.

The studio audience would become entranced by the excruciatingly polite and painfully considerate voice that seizes the entire office like a soothing siren’s call – Jessica is talking to her grandmother. The hi-pitched sound rolls forward with such an enthusiastic exclamation, “Hi Grandma!” We’ve all heard it before and some of us are even guilty of doing it. It’s a funny scene that hits at the sweet nature so obvious in our red-haired protagonist.

Other important characteristics include the ability to drastically over-exaggerated everything. For example when there’s a lot to do she’ll say “There’s a million things to do.” Even greater figures have even been known to reach the bazillons, but nothing positive ever goes below “a ton of things to do.” (I’m not sure why it’s converted into weight).

This trait is also often employed by our sitcom star with a reverse meaning as well. Another example is when you have less time than you need, then you say “I’ve only got like 5 seconds to do this,” and so on.

A holiday favorite might be ‘The Grinch Who Saved Christmas.” In this repeating Yuletide episode, you see a darker side of Jessica. The Evening Sun won first place in the Norwich Parade of Lights two out of the three years we’ve participated in it. (Only twice were we eligible for placing).

When I think back to how in the world we managed to pull that off, I get bleak historical flashes of the Battle of Britain in World War II (before the U.S. joined the fight). What Winston Churchill did for that cause is what Jessica did for our float each year – blood, sweat and tears. Trust me there were points in the process when even Charlie Brown’s X-mas tree looked more appealing. Yet, despite her skeptic co-stars (including yours truly), the show has a happy ending as Jessica manages to motivate the crew to victory with only 5 seconds to go, using a ton of cut-out cardboard snowmen, a million helium balloons, and a bazillion miles of duct tape. It’s a Christmas miracle.

There would probably have to be a show about the strange camaraderie we sometimes shared, often a love/hate relationship similar at times to a sister being agitated by her obnoxious brother.

The plot would have to include our famous office paper clip battles – often motivated by boredom, irritability or just plain old meanness. The occasional paper clip would be heard pinging off the top of my computer, having been blindly tossed over the cubicle directly across from me.

Then, like accelerating rain drops picking up pace to a downpour the sound of crashing paper clips haunts the office. They’d be fired back and forth until one of us finally scored a few good hits (or Jeff yelled at us).

She always won. I’d surrender and go back to work, but usually after about a minute later a final insult-to-injury paper clip would suddenly ricochet off my forehead. (How did she always have such good aim?)

Sometimes when paper clips weren’t available, Jessica might resort to a heavier objects or physical attacks, delivering a random kick to my shin whenever I said anything too stupid. The episode might be called ‘(Expletive) You, Tyler” after the famous battle cry often playfully employed by my co-worker.

The season might also include the titles ‘Camera Cover Roadkill,’ ‘Company Party,” parts 1, 2 and 3 and “The Vegetarian.”

Not that I expect anyone to know what some of those titles might mean, but if you ever see the famous Jessica in real life, you can ask her to tell you the story while she signs an autograph.

I’m having a hard time imagining just how our show at The Evening Sun might go on without her. It’s that point in any good sitcom, in our case after a third successful season, where the most likable character suddenly gets a better movie offer and has to depart. Except instead of Hollywood, Jess is going back to school and raising a new born child – far worthier pursuits. Alas the show will go on, but there will never be another to fill the place that now feels so void. There will never actually be any reruns. I’m sad to see her leave and I will miss her dearly.

An upcoming coming preview in next season’s Evening Sun includes the dramatic return of a long lost reporter. Tune in next month to find out who it is.

Good luck Red.

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