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I would love to know how whispering as a mode of communication started. By its very nature, it means to keep information from the ears of others. Did Neanderthals whisper to one another behind Unga’s back that his cave drawings sucked ass? When the Revolutionary War was at its peak, do you think George Washington whispered to his top commanders that Craig shouldn’t be allowed to cross the Delaware River because his body odor was akin to that of a tarred and feathered Tory?
My own inclination towards the origin of whispering is that it arose with the advent of the cubicle. Invented in 1964 with the intention of “empowering” people, proving that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, the cubicle has grown into a $3 billion industry. Gone were the days where you could slander a man and then challenge him to a duel. No, in that new, modern society, I surmise that we began to handle our affairs like civilized people: by talking shit about our co-workers behind their backs. If someone brought a lunch that smelled like road-kill, aggressively whisper to your cubicle neighbor Linda about it.
I’m fortunate enough to have gotten a job out of college that was somewhat related to my major. My hours are flexible, my pay is decent, and my co-workers are pretty decent to be around. But, like many other young graduates, the new experience of being in what is essentially a long hallway with ceiling high cubicles was a major adjustment for me. I learned after the first week that I needed to tone down my prolific swearing. As someone that used to use curse words extremely creatively, that took a bit of getting used to.
Even more difficult than adjusting my own behavior to suit the “cubicle culture” was dealing with the passive-aggressive whispering that lay behind each thin, grey, carpeted wall. Listen, I’m a naturally curious man and there are only so many podcasts out there to keep me occupied. I’m not fucking McGruff the Crime Dog, I can’t listen to any more True Crime stories. By default, I’m stuck listening to what my co-workers are whispering about, and honestly, as much as a curse whispering can be, it can provide some downright hog-wild entertainment.
Take today for example. Oftentimes, I’m stuck listening to my co-workers disparage fellow employees. Whether it be what a person wore that day, what someone brought to lunch, or just general shit talk, there is never a lack of belittlement around. But today, a day unlike any other, I was treated to some truly creative debasement. I was fortunate enough to be right next to a conversation about which employees would suck toes and eat ass. Oh my. How am I supposed to listen to that and not bust out laughing at the thought of my co-workers venturing down the dirt road?
It was, in a word, resplendent. Never have I before heard such immaculate reasoning as to why a certain employee assuredly takes frequent trips down Little Piggy Lane. Like lawyers before the Supreme Court, I got to hear the most flawless reasoning as to why they thought fellow co-workers grocery shopped extensively. Back and forth, the debate raged for 20 minutes before it simply got too heated to continue. I’m not into fetish shaming; I think people should engage in (mostly) whatever they want, but the conversation was honestly hilarious. If a rainy day can be brightened with some ass play discussion, I’m all for it.
And for all of the negativity that floats around office spaces, sometimes you really do just need a gem like that to get you through hump day. I’ve been treated to, and have engaged in, some buck-nasty discussions in the past ranging from sexual habits, to college escapades, to the social importance of memes, and I don’t think I could have carried on in such a difficult job if it weren’t for those discussions. Obviously, whispering has its downsides. I think excessively talking about people behind their back can lead to negativity in an office and almost certainly makes it difficult for people to come to work every day. But, done right, it can be the secret that unites employees against their bosses. With a creative twist, it can be the lighthouse in the fog of a person’s day. Let’s end #WhisperShaming..