Thursday, May 29, 2008

Me? Swear at work? No #$@&*-ing way!

Ralph asked, in response to a recent post, "Why is it the male 'bosses' can speak swear word soliloquies so forcefully at work, but slink under their desks when confronted with such 'girl' talk?" (In the post in question, the 'girl talk' was a graphic recital of a visit to a club featuring male strippers.)

Ralph, I have only three things to say to this: (1) I wasn't the boss -- although, as I mentioned in the post, sometimes I was pressed into service as a pretend boss, (2) I didn't slink under my desk, I dived, and (3) I never, ever erupt into "swear word soliloquies" at work.

Well... OK, there was one time....

* shimmer * shimmer * dissolve * begin flashback sequence*

My old firm was housed in a converted apartment building, something I called a three-flat with a garden level, meaning that the lowest level of the four total levels was partially below grade. All the attorneys were quartered on the three upper floors, all the secretarial staff on the first floor. There were seven work stations in a large open space in the front half of the building, each facing the wall. Each work station consisted of a desk with a hutch on top -- no enclosed cabinets, as I recall, but open shelves so the attorneys could stack up the files that went with the tapes we'd dictated.

At the front of this common room was a glass walled office for the office manager. Her desk faced the common room and she could watch the secretaries at their work through the glass wall. There was a small reception area on the north side of this common room. The receptionist sat in front of the office manager's glass wall with a window on her left so she could see and communicate into the reception area.

Because our offices were on the upper floors, sometimes when running into the building, we'd grab an incoming call on the first floor rather than make the caller wait while we trudged up the stairs. I may have done this more than most of the others; even in those days I trudged pretty slowly.

Now I try and be careful with my language -- except while quoting a source I don't think I've used any serious profanity in this blog at all. (I'll wait while you run a search................ Satisfied?)

And I was generally careful in my use of language in the office. True, among the boys, I might resort from time to time to an Anglo-Saxon term that would have made my mother faint. I know all the words. In fact, I know how to arrange the words with some style and panache and, when the situation so requires, I can turn the air around me a vivid shade of blue.

But I always tried to keep a civil tongue in my head, particularly around the (at the time exclusively female) staff. Go ahead and call me old fashioned. I don't mind.

Now on this particular occasion I was running back from court and a call came in as I did. An attorney was calling with a request that I agree to extend the time for him to file his brief in the Appellate Court. This was about the fifth or sixth such request and I was becoming aggravated. And my client was not amused.

I should have taken the call upstairs.

But the stairs were steep and I was lazy and I grabbed the phone in the office manager's glass-walled office.

Her door was open.

It might have been better if it were closed. Then again, it might have made no difference at all.

I don't remember which of us began reminiscing first about our fond memories of old Intercourse U. (the fancy new name for the College of Hard Knocks) but soon my opponent was telling me to go $%*#! myself and I was expressing similar sentiments to him. Indeed, in the few minutes before I slammed down the phone I managed to turn the air in the office manager's office that bright and vivid shade of blue referred to previously.

I was embarrassed at this loss of self-control, particularly because I knew I'd have to run the gauntlet past the staff to get out of the common room and back to the stairs going up.

When I turned to look into the common room, I saw several sets of eyes staring at me, and several mouths agape. So maybe -- hopefully -- they considered this out of character for me as well.

The rest of the story is that I've gotten along famously with the attorney on the other end of the phone that day, from that day to this.

1 comment:

74WIXYgrad said...

I wouldn't call you old fashoned. I call you respectful.