Sunday, January 6, 2013

No. 515 – Lather

Performer: The Jefferson Airplane
Songwriter: Grace Slick
Original Release: Crown of Creation
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: None

Interoffice romances happen all the time, but how often does it happen where the office relationship comes after the fact? That happened with me and Laurie.

In 2010, my magazine finally got serious about restarting its long-defunct website, and one of the first tasks was to begin to bring each of our product articles up to current specs and prices. This involved hiring three temps to call companies and collect data.

The first wave of hires was, shall we say, a bit lacking. By that I meant two of them quit before much work had been accomplished. So my boss came to me soon after my eyes had been opened to Jefferson Airplane by Tributosaurus, as I mentioned, with what he thought was a great idea: What about Laurie? She’s a professional; she understands the magazine business; she comes with a great reference (me); she’s unemployed; and—best of all—the magazine could pay just her and not an outrageous temp agency’s fee.

My initial unstated reaction was that this was a bad idea. This involved very detailed research work, which wasn’t really Laurie’s skill set, let alone interest. Not to mention, but I’m about to here, I wasn’t certain that my magazine was the best environment for her—particularly the hours, which included being to work at 8 a.m. sharp, no exceptions. Then, of course, there was the whole working-at-the-same-place issue to consider. I was dubious but said I’d ask.

Actually, I couldn’t wait to tell Laurie. She’d turn it down, saying she was quite flattered, and we’d have a good laugh about it.

The joke was on me, as it turned out. When I told her about the offer, I prefaced it by saying, now, I know you’re going to say no, but … Well, she didn’t say no. In fact, she said, that sounds good. I’d be interested. Really? I had to ask twice to make sure I heard what I thought I heard.

I had. It had been more than a year since Laurie had been let go by AHA, and the free-lance well had dried up a bit. My magazine’s pay rate—$25 per hour—was more than sufficient, and it would be only for a couple months anyway. Why not?

So I hooked her up with my boss and stepped out of the way. Laurie started in June with the expectation that she’d work until September. She would sit in an office that was fairly far from mine, and she’d report to the person who was overseeing the website development. In other words, we’d have next to no contact on a professional basis. It wouldn’t be bad.

In fact, it ended up being great. Most days we drove to my train station and rode the train together. Then, at the end of the day, we rode home together. Sometimes, Laurie needed to drive, so we went together, and then if I had to stay later, I took the train and bus home by myself. We ate lunch together many times; we really were America’s sweethearts. It was cute.

And the times we saw each other at work, we kept it professional but fun, well, except for one time. Laurie was in the copy room, which is across the hall from my office, when I went in to retrieve a printout of an article I needed to edit and I saw my opportunity for a little mischief: I gave her a little slap on the butt.

Laurie didn’t yell out like she might have ordinarily, because, as she said later, there at least was a chance that it was her boyfriend doing that, and, of course, it was. She addressed me by my surname, however, as though what I just did was inappropriate, but then that might have had more to do with me suggesting she come to my office later to, ahem, take dictation. (After being accused of it twice in previous lives, I finally actually committed sexual harassment in the workplace.)

But all good things must come to an end, and so it was with Laurie’s employment at my workplace. It turned out that it was actually a perfect job for her, because it prepared her to re-enter the workplace on a more-permanent basis. In August 2010, Laurie took a job as managing editor at a health-care consultancy, but that’s a story for another time.

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