I have been with my current employer for a little over two months now. We are a teeny, tiny non-profit that receives cube space as an “in-kind” contribution from one of our board member organizations. This arrangement has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.
On the one hand, we are left out of company events, free donut cattle calls and the delicious concept of summer hours (whereby those who work an extra hour Monday-Thursday get to skate out of the building at noon on Fridays). However, I am also able to rise above the common pitfalls of the typical large office environment. Petty politics and team infighting? Don’t concern me. Gossip? Only if I go and seek it (and rest assured, at times I do). New hire orientation day? Exempt! I find myself in this nebulous situation of being part of things, yet not. I think this might be a metaphor for my life in general, so it suits me fine.
On my first day, I was seated at a cubicle near the key card entrance door to the building’s sixth floor. This arrangement also placed me within sight and speaking range of one of the host company’s bigger fish, a man whom I shall call “Oscar” for the purposes of this post.
Oscar has been with the company for over 30 years. He is old school in every sense of the word, a relic of the 1970s corporate American “Boys’ Club,” who still refers to female colleagues as “darlin’” and “sweetheart.” As Oscar is a warm, trustworthy and genuinely good man, the post-feminists I share space with grant Oscar a free pass for these non-PC addresses.
However, it became apparent during my second week on the job that Oscar is a particular fan of mine, though as I intimated above, there is no reason on Earth why our work should ever intertwine. I am not insensible to the fact that at the age of almost 32, I am one of the younger folks in this elder-skewing environment, another bonus of my employment here. Obviously, Oscar noted this anomaly well before I did.
Oscar is aware of my marital status, and is a newlywed himself, married to his second bride for about a year. I know where stories like this typically go, but fear not: there is nothing sordid here. Oscar is merely an appreciative audience, and when we come right to down it, must that always be a bad thing? It is still OK for a man to notice I am female. And in truth, the older I get, the more ego strokes I receive on the rare occasions when I find myself an object of physical admiration. Ought I to have evolved beyond this need by now? Perhaps. But I haven’t – just being honest.
Oscar’s mini-crush on yours truly has taken the form of acting as the titular office (literal) Sugar Daddy: random free Cokes, the occasional morning muffin, an unrequested bowl of soup or roast beef sandwich. Apparently, Oscar likes the ladies with a little meat on their bones.
Did I mention that Oscar’s elderly assistant, “Loretta,” sits in the cube right next to mine? She is rarely on the receiving end of these delicacies, yet instead of becoming embittered, Loretta behaves as if this preference is wholly natural. She even gets in on the act. After a heated phone call between my boss and I last Friday that ended with my slamming the handset into the receiver, she trotted up to my desk with several Hershey’s Kisses and a pat on the head. This after I shook our mutual cube walls with disturbing fury.
Of course I have looked at the moral implications of acting as the de facto company pet. However, knowing that my own behavior is beyond reproach professionally, I have decided to enjoy the favors. As there is nothing I will do to compromise myself, and the only requirement seems to be existing and breathing, I may be able to enjoy special status on an open-ended basis. I have talked this over with Eddie at length. He has taken the position that anything that saves him money can only be good thing. Do you know what the price of a Big Gulp is these days?