I'm still not all the way back from what happened at the beginning of this month, or the myriad annoyances that have piled on since. But I wanted to summarize the past ten days while I can, in the hopes that it will get me back to blogging and commenting on a regular basis. (and thank you to John Gray and Mr. Shife for the kind words.)
It's Friday. I said to myself. Try to be happy. If she says something, break the silence and say something back. You've made your point.
But she didn't say anything. She got the message. We're in a Cold War now, and it may never end. So be it.
How long can I keep this up? I switched the default printer on my work computer so that I don't have to share hers anymore. I make fewer trips to the fridge and the bathroom, and when I absolutely must get up and walk around the office I take everything with me so as not to pass by her desk multiple times.
Looking down, looking away, looking in any direction but hers. Cannot even look that woman in the eye anymore. Don't sneeze anywhere near her. Either she'll say "God Bless You" and you'll have to respond..or she'll say nothing.
Our corner of the office was always quiet, but the silence has been amplified tenfold. Does she notice what's happening? Does she know why? Is she going to report this to her boss? Maybe she's e-mailing him now. Maybe he'll call me into his office next time he's here. Can he fire me for not speaking to his secretary? I haven't gone out of my way to speak to anyone - just in case I'm wrong about her. But I'm not. And she hasn't said two words to me, either. Not since Tuesday anyway.
"Good morning." She said cheerfully. I ducked into my office and said nothing. Ohhh no, we're not doing that anymore.
I made as many calls as I could stand. I did all my work - except anything that required the internet. I tilted my computer screen to face the door.
Then, shortly before 10 a.m. I had to get up. I had to put something in my boss's inbox. I had to pass her desk. "Good morning," she said again. I couldn't play it off like I hadn't heard her, or that I assumed it wasn't directed at me. She was already on a phone call, and held the phone away from her to greet me. She was casting a fishing rod with that second "Good morning." You're not getting away that easily. But I did.
She was on vacation the Friday before Labor Day, for some Christian church girls' retreat. And on that day I was called in to a meeting with two of the attorneys. Friday morning meetings with the boss are always a sign of doom, but I had been doing my job. As paranoid and pessimistic as I am, I could not think of any reason why I would be fired - especially since it would be a welcome change at this point in my life.
It had been brought to my attention that the attorneys had seen some "inappropriate images" on my computer. "Whaat?" I replied. This genuinely bewildered me. I've never been the type to watch porn or look at sexually explicit images on my own time - and certainly not at work. I told my bosses that I occasionally read news while using the internet for work-related things like searching tax records or pulling new files.
One attorney did most of the talking, and he sort of assumed that would be my response. But he made it clear that this was not one isolated incident. There had been multiple reports of inappropriate images on my computer - and when I tried to suggest that they could possibly have seen some advertising that I wasn't aware of he rebutted that by stating that there was one report of thumb-nailed images of women in lingerie..or some such nonsense.
When I am at a loss for words, I have a habit of looking away from the person I'm speaking to and staring off into the distance, as if searching for the right answer. I looked out the window and thought what the hell did they think they saw? What sites have I visited?
And then, a few seconds later.... Ohh fuck. The J-Law post.
Do y'all remember this post I wrote, about my very strange and realistic dream featuring Jennifer Lawrence? I wrote part of that at work. And I searched Google Images for an accompanying pic. Not sure why I did that at the office, probably because I knew I wouldn't be able to write at home until after 7pm. My bad, I guess. But if you'd like to see what happens when you search Google images for "Jennifer Lawrence" please click here.
Once I solved the mystery of what they saw, I quickly deduced who reported seeing such "inappropriate" images...
When I was a freshman in high school I was bullied and intimidated by a much larger kid, someone who probably should have graduated three years earlier. He kept taking my lunch money until I decided not to give it to him, just to see what he'd do. He let me off with a warning and said if I was empty-handed again he'd beat the shit out of me.
I reported him to the principal or the guidance counselor or whoever, and I was told that they'd handle it. The school security guard reassured me that I wasn't his only target and so they would tell him that "multiple people" reported him for "a number of incidents."
So when my boss tried to convince me that "If it was just one person, that would be one thing. But there were multiple people." I knew he was lying to protect someone.
There are six non-lawyers in our office..all women. One of them works downstairs and rarely surfaces. One of them is my "work mom" and even though she knows how badly I want to leave this place, she would never take it upon herself to force my ouster. Two other women in our office don't often pass by my door, though I couldn't dismiss them completely. Then there's our secretary, who isn't particularly friendly or loyal, and she passes by my office plenty of times a day.
Those five women have been working there long before I was hired three and a half years ago. I haven't been doing anything now that I wasn't doing then - just reading sports news, political news, or blogs. (In fact three years ago I was looking at Twitter and Tumblr so I'm actually doing less than before. But that's neither here nor there.)
That left only one prime suspect: the new hire who has been there less than two months and has made no secret of her Christian faith. It just so happens that she reports directly to the two attorneys who called this meeting. It just so happens that her desk is directly across from my office.
Church girl. Of course.
Since then the incident has been buried in an avalanche of annoyances:
~ My first grader started soccer this week. She's never played before, and we were not informed until a week ago that she would be placed on an already existing team because there weren't enough coaches. Her first practice was Wednesday, and she loved it. Then she had two games - Saturday and Sunday.
Her first game was played in 95F heat, and one of her teammates had to switch sides mid-game and play for the other team because of an injury. Then, when the score got out of hand, my daughter's team was told to stop scoring. Basically whatever you've learned up to this point (which isn't much) unlearn it and do the opposite. I understand why they did it, and it didn't matter anyway since my little one ate too many grapes during the injury time-out and couldn't finish the game.
In the Sunday game, the weather was much better and we were all prepared with chairs and sunscreen and extra drinks. For some reason my daughter played more - which was hard to watch because she looked clueless out there. She ran up and down the field, chasing the crowd and going where she was told to go...but when the ball came her way she forgot to do something. Repeatedly. It was as if she assumed someone else was more capable of handling this very important job of kicking the ball and she just deferred to them every time, even if they weren't a teammate.
My wife could tell I was in a foul mood about this, but she kept assuming I was mad because my daughter wasn't immediately displaying athletic greatness. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was embarrassed for her, and angry at the soccer association for throwing her on a ready-made team as an afterthought, with kids who have been practicing together for six weeks and playing organized soccer for at least a year.
~ The air conditioner in my upstairs room keeps leaking, and I had to take it out of the window. Which means that my sanctuary - where I write and watch TV and sort my sports cards - is fairly uninhabitable for most of the day. I have a fan up here, but it only makes sitting at the computer slightly bearable.
~ The Yankees won't friggin' go away, The World Cup Of Hockey hasn't even started and I'm already sick of it, and apparently the U.S. presidential election is a choice between a physically ill candidate and a mentally ill candidate. I'm about ready to vote for what's behind door number three:
I'll be back to blogging and commenting by the end of this week. Hope you're all enjoying the last days of summer.