I worked there for six months, maybe a year. It wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever have (note: I’d find the worst job soon after this). People were pleasant to me, if a little distant and condescending. I wasn’t a New Yorker and they obviously knew this; I felt like they enjoyed knowing this. The investment bankers who stalked around the office like werewolves enjoyed knowing it; the secretaries, which was the group that I was technically a part of, enjoyed knowing it, too.
I answered telephones, directed calls, set up appointments, signed for packages, and ran an old, knucklehead computer. And I operated the velobinder. The velobinder was the office equivalent of a medieval torture device. It was a large, blank-faced machine with a long, thin slot on the front of it. Within seconds of switching it on, the machine would give off a hot, burning smell. I’d carefully feed stacks of paper into the velobinder’s dark slot. The slot heated up to a high enough temperature to melt plastic. The velobinder’s job was to fasten stacks of paper together, to bind them, with the melted plastic. I had to hold the papers very still for maybe five or 10 seconds in the slot when operating the machine. If I moved at all, even the slightest bit, the velobinder would throw a fit and not do what I wanted it to do.
The day of the office Christmas party I put in more of a workday than I’d expected to put in. I sat at my desk and went through the motions, trying to look busy, trying to distract myself. I had a tough time concentrating. I felt restless and impatient. What I was feeling was genuine excitement. I hadn’t been this excited since I was a kid.