(NOTE: Names of coworkers have been changed for their privacy)
Fear Not, Purple Pony
"Fear not, my little purple pony friend! I shall come to your aid!"
I set the little figurine down beside the others, carefully stuck his little Post-It note speech bubble on the desk beside him, and waited.
A few weeks ago, I stopped at the grocery store on my lunch hour for sodas and snacks, as I often do. Near the capsule toy machines at the entrance I spotted a tiny abandoned little pony figurine. I picked it up...and after taking it back to work, I impulsively set it on the desk of a very sweet but shy and soft-spoken coworker, Anjali, who was still out to lunch. And the game began; when she returned from lunch, she was utterly mystified as to how it got there. She began asking around the office. Her team leader even approached me and asked if I knew who had put the little pony on her desk; I looked properly at a loss.
About a week later, I saw that the capsule machines at the store had 'dino fossils'. I fished some quarters out of my purse, and a few minutes later, after snapping a few cheap plastic pieces together while sitting in my car, I had...my own tiny little parasaurolophus skeleton! I placed him next to the purple pony on her desk, and cut a tiny little speech bubble out of a Post-It note that said simply, "RAWR." A day later, I had the purple pony respond with a similar speech bubble reading 'EEK, A DINOSAUR!'. Anjali was increasingly intrigued with the mystery - asking around, checking people's handwriting. But she also laughed with delight at each new discovery.
A couple of people figured me out and pressured me to come clean...and frankly, I can deny with a straight face briefly but I am terrible at maintaining my innocence under sustained pressure. Still, while they did smirk and shake their heads, none of my new accessories after the fact told on me. I began to keep my eye on the capsule machines, looking for the next new character I could introduce to the drama.
This morning, as I grudgingly struggled to wake up for work, I reached for my phone and discovered that as I slept, someone in Las Vegas leaned out a hotel window and showered a crowd with bullets, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. I sat in stunned silence on the edge of my bed, unable to wrap my head around it. Honestly, the clearest thought I had about it this morning was "Wow...I just realized it's actually been longer than usual since the last time I read about a mass shooting." I felt a mixture of shock and horror as I realized that part of me felt like I was just returning from a break from the usual. (No, I'm not going to get into the politics of it right now...anyway, there are plenty out there doing that for me already).
But my thoughts kept returning to it all day today...I would try to focus, to concentrate on getting my work done...and eventually I would open a tab and check the updates again. Only to find that there was still no reason why, no more compelling information on the situation, only a growing estimate of the body count. On some level I felt like sobbing, but on another level I felt weirdly numb. And through it all, I kept refreshing, and refreshing, and despairing.
"You're the one, aren't you?" I looked up to see my coworker Deepika was peering over the cubicle wall at me. I knew instantly what she meant, but I sure wasn't going to fess up now.
"Well yeah, of course I'm the one," I replied. "I'm the coolest. I'm *always* the one."
"I mean, you're the one who's doing it. I think you know, yes?" Deepika has an odd way of coming across as both joking and yet intimidatingly compelling.
"Well, I mean...I'd have to know what 'it' was before I could say, I don't know what you mean..." I was faltering fast, and I knew it.
She looked even closer at me. "So is it you who is leaving these things on Anjali's desk?" I could feel my face cracking and knew the ruse was up even as I said "...no...." Yeah. It was over.
The next half an hour was hilarious. Anjali came over to call me out. She gently scolded me over denying it that first week and throwing her off track. Those of my coworkers who had been 'in the know' looked over cubicles and said 'Dude, you confessed?!' There was a lot of chatter and a lot of laughter. Then shortly after I got back to work, Anjali stopped by and put something on MY desk. A candy bar. As a 'thank you', she said shyly.
"For the record," I felt compelled to say, "I wasn't really trying to drive you crazy, I just liked seeing you get into the mystery and smile every day."
"Well, I am smiling now," she replied.
I held up the candy bar. "And now I'm smiling over this."
I took a few bites of the candy bar, and looked again at the news. And I teared up a bit. Then even though it was still about ten minutes until I was supposed to go home, I re-wrapped the candy bar and stored it in my desk, packed up my stuff, and headed for the door. Because today, I just couldn't even anymore.
Now, I know that telling a story about a mild, silly office prank may seem really out of place today. But my social media feed is already filled with plenty of other people talking about this tragedy, and there is nothing I really have to offer to add to their outrage. What I can offer, however, is a brief moment of humanity in an office filled with everyday people of quite varied races, religions, and backgrounds, that can hopefully make someone else smile for a moment today.
Some days, I see evil in the world that makes me despair for humankind.
And some days - sometimes the same days - I see reminders that MOST of the people around me are kind and funny and good, just trying to live a normal life and maybe make the world around them a little more pleasant. And I'm really glad that they outnumber the bad.