Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
On Earth Day 2015 as a fun perk, my employer marked the occasion by giving out free tiny potted palms to every home office employee. They were three inches tall, probably the kind that professional greenhouses give out to kids visiting on field trips. Most of them were probably dead within a week.
Just for kicks, I decided to conduct an experiment by seeing what would happen if I actually tried to take care of it.
Two years later, what was once a cheap greenhouse keepsake is nearly ready to audition for Little Shop of Horrors. Lucky for me it’s not empowered enough to escape my workplace or hitch a ride. Yet.
Now standing nearly a meter tall including flowerpot, the Plant That Wouldn’t Die is the only Earth Day 2015 survivor on our floor. In its own way it’s become a tourist attraction in a largely artificial environment where signs of nature are rare outside the occasional lunch salad. Passersby stop and stare at its size, the intrusive branches peeking over my cubicle wall and flagging them down.
People ask me the secrets behind my so-called green thumb and all I can tell them is potting soil rather than just the dirt it came with, water three times a week, Miracle-Gro sticks every few months, pruning any dying sections as needed, and occasional rotations so different parts of it face the windows every so often. None of these factors seem magical to me, and yet I have a living plant the size of a toddler and they don’t. One coworker asked if she could rent it sometimes as a blockade to wall her off from another employee she doesn’t want to sit next to. Part of me wonders if I could make money selling its offshoots so coworkers and intruders from other departments might raise their very own green desk sentinel, but part of me is afraid I’d damage it and risk ruining the experiment.
Superpalm has a kid brother on the other corner of my desk that was an Earth Day 2016 giveaway, some broader-leaved species whose name I found once online and then forgot. It’s big for its age, but its limbs are sprawling, have had a higher mortality rate, and aren’t quite so photogenic. For now it remains off-camera and on the far corner away from the aisle. But on the occasion its first birthday, it’s holding up better than expected.
My company didn’t repeat the Earth Day giveaway this year, so for now Miracleplant and Kid Miracleplant remain a duo. It’s just as well — my desk doesn’t have any more free corners. And sooner or later those branches may threaten to loom too far over my neighbors’ spaces and get me in trouble with the lady in charge of quality-of-life enforcement on our floor. Until then, I’m proud of having given Planet Earth such a healthy avatar in our midst, a reminder of the world outside that we seek to rejoin at the end of every day, and a sign that even within cold stone walls and at skyscraper heights, life will find a way if you let it in.