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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Try to Keep Your Clothes On

I am what is euphemistically called a “job hopper” (as opposed, I guess, to a “flake” or “She Who Will Not Be Satisfied”). I’ve worked in a number of fields, from legal to medical to sports; and no matter where I go, one thing remains the same.

When you least expect it, someone’s going to take their clothes off.

Maybe not all of their clothes; but they’re going to be missing something. They’ve got their reasons, and not all of them bear close inspection. Whatever those reasons are, though, what it truly says to me is that we’ve all – all of us corporate types – become so accustomed to being at work that it has become an extension of our home.

Do you work in an office building? Look around. Somewhere, someone has fully decorated their space: portraits of their children, faux Tiffany lamps, Oriental rugs, personal heaters and fans, stereo systems, cots, those little fridges. OK – maybe not cots, but tiny refrigerators for sure. Our offices and cubes have become like dorm rooms. Here comes the boss – for cryin’ out loud, hide the bong!

I was unprepared the first time I came across someone treating their office as just another room. I was working in Sales at an inline skate company that had, at that time, been based in Minneapolis. On the same floor but on the other end was Marketing. I was distributing a memo, mindlessly walking from one office to the next. Office, desk, memo, office, desk, memo… Office, desk, attractive man with his pants off.

I stopped.

“Hey,” he said.

It’s a special moment in your life when the best-looking guy in Marketing is standing in front of you in a button-down shirt and his underwear.

I did what anyone would do. “Hey,” I said. And I left.

He and I could never really look at each other after that.

So what was the deal there? The company had an inline hockey team that played in the parking lot after work. He was changing from his work clothes to his hockey gear. It had not occurred to him to do that in the bathroom just down the hall.

The second time it happened was two jobs later. I was working as the secretary to the President and CEO of a medium-sized corporation, a rather unhinged man with a ridiculous temper. Within a week of having been hired, I learned that I was his 12th assistant in three years.

Two weeks later, I was called into his office. “Pearl, I need you in here right now.” I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my notebook and went directly to his office. When I walked in, he was sitting down, feet up on his desk. He appeared to be wearing nothing from the waist down but black socks.

I turned around, walked out, grabbed my coat and got into my car. Good luck finding your 13th assistant!

But why am I thinking about all this? Well, because it’s happened again.

The door was open, but even if it hadn’t been, the hallway-facing wall of the office was glass – not very private. I was not delivering memos this time, just walking by. But there she was, pulling her pants up. I stopped. Our eyes met and held as she buttoned her pants, zipped them up. She smiled.

She’s a friend of mine, someone I lunch with. I stuck my head in the door. “Going somewhere?”

She grinned. “Nah. I’m just sick of those pants.”

“Glad you aren’t sick of the rest of your clothes.”

I went back to my desk, shaking my head.

(She wasn’t actually “sick of those pants”, by the way. Turns out she was just changing for her second job.)

I don’t know if my job-hopping days are over or not. And I don’t know if I’ve seen my last pants-drop at work. But I’ve got years of work left in me; and I suspect that I haven’t seen it all yet.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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