Saturday, March 3, 2007

Architects: not as intellectual as you think

Many out there get the impression that architects are erudite intellectuals in constant pursuit of avant-garde design and brilliant discourse with one another and maybe, if they so deign, the public. They imagine that we sit around in our black turtlenecks and little black eyeglasses with tiny cups of espresso and discuss deconstructivist philosophy while we use words like, well, "erudite."

Wrong. (w)Rong with a capital R.

Granted, we're pretty intelligent. You have to have at least a modicum of intelligence if you can look at two-dimensional drawings and assemble them mentally and envision a three-dimensional space and suddenly know that the soffit over the nurse station is going to hit the door frame. However, this does not preclude us from having conversations like the one we had Friday afternoon.

Our office is mostly open. Only conference rooms are fully enclosed. Desks are located in rows that butt up against a wall that's about 3'-6" high. It's high enough that you can get a little privacy for most conversations, but you'll duck into a conference room if you need to call your doctor or parole officer. What this means usually, though, is that four or five people will get drawn into a silly conversation that gets sillier the more people you throw in. On my side of the wall, I sit between Derek, who's in the process of taking the ARE, and Clarence, who's been licensed for about six years and runs his own projects. Just over the wall from me is Jimmy Ray, an intern for about four or five years who's just getting his licensing paperwork started, and over the wall from Derek is Elliot, who is in the process of taking the ARE as well. I sit by some great people. Derek, Jimmy Ray, and Elliot are about my age and Clarence is in his mid-thirties. Derek really knows his stuff with exterior building systems and is great for checking a detail, and he also has a lovely subtle sense of humor. Clarence can provide great advice at any stage in a project and is a bit on the geeky side; he's the most unlikely to say something bizarre or funny, but when he gets going, he's hilarious. Jimmy Ray is a 3D modeling genius and looks like a redneck from Arkansas but is the most likely to tip a drag queen with a five-dollar bill in his teeth. (He's just really secure in who and what he is and has the widest collection of disco music I've ever seen.) Elliot is a great reality check on projects as well, and we're quite the Mutt and Jeff. Elliot is 6'-6" tall, and I clock in at barely 5'-0" tall. When Elliot holds out his arm, I can walk clean under it. Even wearing heels.

Oh, and Jimmy Ray sits on one side of Elliot, and Howie sits on the other side. When I stand up, I can see Howie's face and get his attention. If he's not on the phone, that is.

Anyway, Derek had to leave early on Friday, just before Sarge strolled up to Jimmy Ray's computer and saw some paperwork on his desk. Hence, I blame Sarge for starting all this:

Sarge: J.R., you finally getting around to filing with NCARB?
Jimmy Ray: Yeah, and I just sent off my shit to AIA. I'm finally an Associate AIA member. Whoo.
Pixie: [standing up so she can actually be seen over the wall] Oh, yeah? Well, I just got my certificate saying that I'm a full AIA member!
Clarence: (not looking up form his computer) Yeah, and your dues jump from $150 a year to $650. Good thing the office pays for it.

Elliot: What? That's bullshit! Kinda takes the shine off your new AIA certificate, duddn't it, Pixie?
Pixie: Yeah, this certificate and four bucks gets me a latte at Starbucks.
Jimmy Ray: How'd you go from associate to full AIA? Cuz you got licensed?
Pixie: Yep. Still haven't gotten my architect's stamp yet.
Clarence: (turning around from his computer) Why should you? I was gonna get my stamp, but the state laws say that if you use your stamp, you have to have liability insurance in case you fuck up something you stamp. I don't need that kind of hassle.
Pixie: I was just gonna use it to make my Christmas cards.
Elliot: Can you be sued if you just stamp a postcard with your stamp?
Clarence: If someone tries to build something off of it, then yeah.
Sarge: Ewok upstairs said he was gonna get his and stamp his ass with it.
Jimmy Ray: Eeuuw. That hairy bastard would put an architect's stamp on his ass?
Pixie: Well, we don't have to worry about anyone building anything from those plans.
[all laugh]
Pixie: Marco said he used his stamp to stamp an entire roll of toilet paper.
Clem: Toilet paper?!
Jimmy Ray: Why, so he can wipe his ass with his own acheivements?
Sarge: Well, then you'd have to use waterproof ink so it wouldn't smear.
Elliot: Or you'd have to wipe again to get the ink off.
Clarence: [turned back to his computer monitor] Not with my toilet paper. I use that recycled stuff. Damn, that paper's rough.
[all but Clarence laugh]
Sarge: So Clarence, you take exfoliation to the next level, huh?
Clarence: Seriously, I mean, have you ever used recycled paper TP for a while and then used some soft name-brand stuff? You're like, "God, this is a Rolls Royce on my ass."
[group cracks up again]
Sarge: [unable to speak, holding sides and laughing]!
Clarence: I mean, I'm really takin' one for the team just to save a tree, though it feels like I'm wiping with one sometimes....
Pixie: There are very few things Guy will buy name brand; toilet paper is one of them. He gets that super-nice Cottonelle with Aloe and Vitamin E. I saw it and said, "Jesus! Aloe and Vitamin E belong in my moisturizer, not on your ass!"
Elliot: Save the cash, Pix! Just rub toilet paper on your face!
Jimmy Ray: Man, I bet Guy's ass is nice and smooth.
[everyone does a double-take at Jimmy Ray]
Jimmy Ray: I'm just saying!
Sarge: [still laughing] Why would Guy's ass be smooth? What, does he shave and moisturize?
Pixie: Oh, please! I can't get him to shave his back! How could I get him to shave his ass?!
[group dissolves into laughter; Howie returns to his desk from a meeting]
Howie: [big smile] Hey, everybody! What's so funny?
[group looks at each other, collapses into laughter again]
Sarge: [walking away from the group, shaking head] Some sick, sick people work for you, Howie....


The Wandering Author said...

The secret is, the people who pretend they are erudite are even more sick; they just learn how to hide it from everyone else. The rest of us are human, we have our good days, and our sick days...

faded said...

Sarge, sick is the best kind of people.

BaxterWatch said...

that conversation so could have happened in my offices, past and present.

we may be nerds, but we're gosh darned entertaining to ourselves!!!

Sarge said...

Well, faded, sick they may be, and you're right, sick are the *best* kind of people. I'm sure Pixie will confirm that I can be the sickest of all, given the opportunity. After all, the whole conversation was my fault. And I was just passing through!

ms. kitty said...

What a hoot, Pixie! I'm out of town on Vashon Island so don't have my own machine, but I tuned in just to see what you all were up to at ye olde archyteck office. Saved my day for sure!