I accidentally told a few of my workmates about a curious habit I have. (Accidentally in that I was talking to keep things lively and found myself relating an anecdote and thinking, “Oh dear. How do I change the ending on this one? Oh well, at least make it funny.”) And now, I’m afraid one of them is going to tell my boss ….

My curious habit is to sit under my desk. After a bad phone call, or uncovering an issue that feels insurmountable, or because I feel bad for some reason (e.g. a few weeks ago, I got some not so great news from home), I crawl under my desk and sit there for a few minutes, knees to chin, breathing deeply. After that, I can face the world again.

This habit started because one day something happened – I don’t really remember what – and I put my head into my hands. It all felt too much. And I thought, “I wish I could just disappear under my desk.” It occurred to me, well, why the hell couldn’t I? So I got onto my knees and crawled under my desk. It was nice down there. Quite spacious, really. Rather comforting. Dark. Quiet – the only sound was the hum of my motherboard and that was a reassurring kind of purr. I felt much better. I crawled out again and continued to work.

Calling it a habit is probably overstating it somewhat. My days at work are not so bad that I crawl under my desk with frequency. It is a rare occurrence (i.e. it’s happened twice this year and maybe three or four times last year).

As a child, I definitely hid in small spaces when I was not feeling so good. My mother chided me whenever I was unhappy, so if I was unhappy I had to be unhappy somewhere she would not find me. Under the bed. Under the stairs. In a corner of an unlit room. Once, when I was about 6 years old, I crawled into a chest and fell asleep there. I was missing for so long my family went searching for me up and down the street, and out to the park. I think my brother found me.  Thankfully, I’d been missing for so long that my mother’s relief washed out her usual desire to berate me for most of the wayward things I did.

I mused aloud to my workmates about what would happen if one day someone walked into my office while I was under my desk. Would it be better to stay really quiet and hope they don’t see me, or crawl out and own up? It would be quite easy, I think, to expect they would not see me, because that involves walking into the middle of my office and looking under my desk for me. I suspect, however, that I am the ‘own up’ kind of person. As it is, at least 7 of my workmates now know that I am wont to crawl under my desk when things are not going so well. All of whom now say that if they come to my office and I’m not there, they are going to look under my desk for me. And most people at work think I’m odd anyway so they can just file my crawl-under-desk habit away with “Oanh’s Quirks” (includes cycling to work, eating salad sandwiches, knowing words like schadenfreude and not watching TV).



  1. hey…everyone has a coping mechanism. ours just seems to be more ‘visual’ than others…

    when i have a bad day or things are going ‘south’…i clam up. the less i talk the more i am stressed…on the days that you cant even get a hello out of me means i am probably at breaking point!!!

    i developed this habit of holding my tongue because i find i tend to snap at people when i am stressed. i blurt out things that usually ends up upsetting others…so i will just zip it so i dont say stuff i will regret later.

    and then when it really really hits breaking point i close the office door and start yelling….at the wall…



  2. I am a big fan of hiding under the desk, I think because, as you alluded to, it is a confined space, with defined boundaries, and (generally) only one direction people can approach you.

    I used to also lie down on the floor behind my desk – much the same purpose, particularly as I was out of sight from the door, but I was less inclined to bump my head on the underside of the desk if someone yelled my name from the door.


  3. purple_orchid

    I, too, tend to clam up when I’m stressed / over-worked. There’s nothing to it but to put your head down and get on with it. I don’t tend to snap at people but everyone knows when I’m stressed because my usual tone at work is chirpy, bright and chatty. So when I’m not chatty, they know something’s up.

    I love the shouting at the wall. Poor wall.


    I had a friend who worked for a large firm in Aus. She lay down on her floor one day and, unfortunately, her supervising partner walked in. The partner decided to take the following approach: Oh! You do yoga! I do yoga. I’ll just leave this file on your desk. Nice partner.


    I love those pictures. But businessmen sure seem to be crap at hiding under desks …

    I’m very tempted now to take a photo of me under my desk! So suggestible.


  4. =) i do it too when i’m really really stressed. nothing beats a dark and quiet corner away from the world.


  5. Bless. I’m not a desk crawler myself, but can totally relate to letting-the-freak-out-of-the-bag moments in corporate environments. Which usually leads to me clenching my bum cheeks in private humiliation…


  6. Ha! I love writing posts like this one – you folks really come out of the woodwork …


    Dark and quiet is the key!


    Well, I’ve always been known to shoot off at the mouth. I think, in the end, one just has to run with it!

    Foreign Desi


    It is amazing how isolating not watching TV actually is, either because people think you are an elitist or because you can’t join in the conversation about what happened on The Apprentice last night …

    Salad sandwiches, on the other hand, a great unifier.

    unbalanced reaction

    You’re an academic. You are meant to be eccentric; crawl under the desk, my friend!


  7. Here is my confession: when I was a solicitor, I used to hide under my desk at intervals too. Sometimes I would just curl up with my eyes closed. One day my secretary found me and said, “Oh my God, you’re doing a George Costanza!”

    Once when I was working in the court, I hid under a desk because a particular Judge had asked me to move the same comma back and forth too many times, and I thought he was coming back to ask me to move it again. No, he didn’t find me – but his associate did – and went back and told the judge! The judge came up to me in the corridor the next day and said, “I understand that you hid from me yesterday – my wife tells me, [X], you are just too much. I am sorry.” I said it was fine, hiding under the desk was just my coping mechanism, and I wasn’t upset or anything.


    1. Hmm – isn’t part of the associate code not to dob in another associate in such circumstances? That was very nice of Judge X, though, to apologise to you.

      I don’t have such an odd habit after all!


  8. Haha it’s true- 50% of the time I’m lost in those convorsations about the latest episode of House or who got kicked out of Canadian Idol. It’s also pretty awesome to see how much you can get accomplished eh? I do all kinds of fun things with my no-TV time. Fitting in is so over rated.


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