Another bloody day in the real world

sillystring2.jpgThursday, May 24, 2007

I don’t know why but just now as I was logging in to make a post about something arty, I had a flashback to the most embarrassing day in my life. I guess it almost qualifies as performance art.

I guess arty things make me think of the contrast of my life now to the days when my life was filled with corporate things. Come to think of it, most of my days in the, “real world” were pretty much embarrassing attempts at trying to fit in. It’s like I had landed a role in a soap opera and my role was that of corporate misfit and every year I was nominated for worst actress, or something convoluted like that. Actually, it is pretty much embarrassing to be me in any setting at any time, yet it is rarely dull, so I guess there is something in *that*.

Anyway, a while back I posted in my newsletter about a dramatic rescue from my balcony by the hotel staff on my first big business trip and people loved it and asked for more stories from my corporate adventures, so here is my most embarrassing day ever. This is a true story, sadly, and not at all embellished, even more sadly. I lived this day and have told this tale many times. It took a long time before I found this experience amusing.

Years ago when I was fresh out of college I managed to land a job as an assistant to a big-ish wig in the advertising department at the corporate headquarters of a worldwide (snooty) women’s clothing company. It was a dream come true kind of job, or so it seemed. Just the name [redacted] looked so impressive, so corporate, so worldly and valid, on my resume.

The first week was fairly smooth. I dressed up every day in my new suits from TJ Maxx and Dress Barn and I was well-protected from sartorial humiliation by my blissful ignorance of just what constituted good fashion sense. I wore nylons and pumps and the averted glances of the other women with a sort of ignorant pride. I mistook the enigmatic smiles of my co-workers for a maternal approval at what could be done on an entry level budget. I could post for days about the parallels between this company and high school but maybe another day.

Having survived my first week, I drove to work the next Monday with a bit of confidence. It has been my experience since that whenever I gain a measure of confidence in this life, the universe will check me on it in a big way. The universal plan is for me to be at base camp humility at all times but I didn’t know this then. I dared to not fear the day.

So I drove to work in my first car, a brand new Hyundai Excel. It cost 6k brand new and was made of tin. I barely knew how to drive a standard but I was learning, mile by mile. I had the Sunday New York Times in the back seat because now that I worked in the corporate world I felt I needed to be worldly. As I inched along in Boston traffic I would grab sections and attempt to read them before tossing them back onto the seat behind. I was smooth indeed.

My new Boston Apartment had no screens and the night before my boyfriend’s mom had given me moth rings (which were like some sort of translucent hardened gel) to hang in my closet as I had complained that I was finding moths inexplicably eating my man-made fiber suits. As I drove to work this hot summer day I could smell the moth rings and hoped that the smell would not stick to me.

I got to the massive corporate headquarters parking lot and parked my car and made the long pedestrian trek to the main entrance. Once inside I proudly showed my picture ID to security and then began the walk to my office. Perhaps I even strutted, with a confident clickity-clack of my heels on the tiled flooring, and this caught the attention of the gods. The advertising department was at the farthest possible point from the entrance and was isolated from the rest of the company by a huge empty warehouse. I think advertising was the least genteel group and was thusly situated out of view. We *did* look less the part of well-heeled garden party attendees than the rest of the company. We didn’t even wear real pearls.

As I was walking the long main hallway, a guy from my department caught up to me, let’s call him John, and so we walked together and chatted about how I was adjusting to my new work world. He was very nice. There were dozens of important executives and the like all round us, rushing to their desks perhaps, or to beat their assistants.

Suddenly one of my steps was impeded. I tried to move my right foot forward and it was met with resistance! I looked down and saw the problem. My slip had somehow dropped to my ankles and was bound around my ankles like a sort of frilly white rubber band. I was mortified. We had a huge audience and people actually stopped and watched. John turned bright red as well. Just his luck to have decided to walk with me. But he tried to help. He was carrying a giant portfolio case so he used it as a sort of shield and held it up next to me while I tried to wriggle the slip back up under my skirt without actually lifting my skirt up. Somehow I managed to get it in place enough and we resumed our walk in silence (there was really nothing to be said at this point) with him carrying my brand new pleather briefcase (filled metaphorically with the stuffing material that came in it) for me while I used both hands to hold my slip up under my skirt.

When we reached the department I frantically begged Janice, the kindly assistant to the Creative Director, for help. She gave me safety pins so I went into the ladies room to pin my slip to my skirt and then I had to rush into a full staff meeting. All throughout the staff meeting I nervously fidgeted, imagining that everyone was smirking at me, and obsessively brushed my fabulous Farrah Fawcett hair from my face. I could swear the smirks were getting smirkier and that the people speaking were trying not to laugh but I knew the story had gotten around before the meeting and figured I was being paranoid.

Then Janice came in to deliver an important message to the Creative Director and on her way back out of the conference room she looked at me and stopped, seemingly alarmed. She gestured something and I made a gesture of incomprehension back so she leaned over and solemnly whispered, “Go to the ladies room right away”. I locked myself into the ladies room and looked in the mirror. I had red streaks running up both cheekbones. Evidently I had pricked my fingers while fumbling with the safety pins and was making little bloody streaks every time I moved my hair aside. I BURNED with shame. I sobbed, removed all of my makeup, reapplied my makeup, put little voodoo hexes on everyone in the conference room, and returned to the meeting, humiliated, with little imaginary f-word rebuttals circling above my head like the stars that circle over cartoon characters’ heads when they get bonked.

At lunch time Janice sympathetically took me under her wing. In the cafeteria I ordered what she ordered, afraid to make my own decisions, and we stood in line to pay. Someone bumped me from behind causing me to jostle my tray and my soda tipped over, the lid popped off, and my drink went all over my tray, over the edge and onto the back of the dress of the important woman in front of me. She shrieked in surprise from the sudden cold and wet on the back of her dress and when she realized what had happened she loudly called me a, “[redacted] stupid little [redacted] [redacted]” among other things. She was a Director of something, a big person in this big company, and had a big temper to match. I had chosen my victim with peculiar inadvertant precision.

Somehow I got to the end of the day and left for home. When I got to the parking lot there were all these cars in Lot B backed up and honking. People seemed really pissed. Something was going on. As I walked toward my car I realized, sinkingly, what the problem was. It seemed that *somebody* had failed to set the parking brake and a little blue Hyundai had rolled in front of the exit, blocking everyone in. Something in me died a little bit at that moment, but I bravely [not] got into my car and set about unblocking the exit.

My car REEKED though. It was 80 degrees out. The moth rings had melted in the back seat and I was nearly overcome with that intense mothball smell. I quickly rolled down my windows and popped open the back window thingies that tilted out, and got on the highway. As traffic became less sparse I sped up. Then I heard this huge sucking noise, immediately followed by a screeching noise and horns honking. Before I could even look behind me I heard another sucking noise. My lofty newspaper was being sucked out the window and blowing about in traffic, page by page. No words can describe how I felt at that moment.

I pulled over and sat in the breakdown lane for a very long time, until the passing parade of hand gestures abated, and assessed my life to date. Once safely home my roommate, who was very tall and proportionately-boned, asked me to go out for a drink. Over drinks I told her the story, during which she had an incomprehensible look on her face. When I finished she said, “I am so sorry. I borrowed your slip the other day for a job interview. I think I stretched the elastic.” She totally paid for every drink from that moment on.

Oh the blood, the Macbethian gory sticky blood.

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