Rita Paradis, the artist, worked with me for a few years at an academic branch library. We both lived in Northampton at the time and were each unhappy in our own marriage. Occasionally we would ride together to work, enaging in general coversation only.
A few years later we both found ourselves in a science library, both divorced. Rita had been promoted and I had been hired to fill her position. It seemed a relief from the job I had held earlier, almost relaxed.
But that changed all too quickly as I began to learn the peculiarities of the individuals in that place. The Director, soon got into the habit of settling into the desk across from me and would often spend a few hours there. Its difficult not to be polite when you are embarking upon a new job, but it didn't take long for me to be tired of hearing the history of his personal trials and tribulations. I cautiously approaced Rita about it, desperately needing advice on how to handle it appropriately.
Rita laughed. "Have you heard the divorce story?" she grinned.
I had heard this story, several times in fact, within the short span of time I had been employed, and I told her so.
"Well," she responded, "You will hear it again and again. You will hear about the treacherous commute in from the hilltowns during the winter. You will hear about the issues the children have. You will hear about lingering deaths and funerals, over and over and over again. You will even hear him describe personal incidents of sexual dysfunction."
"How do you handle it?" I asked her.
"I find something to do that allows me to leave my desk. I shelve books, or cards in the card catalog. Anything, but sit in the office."