Friday, March 28, 2008
It was an embarrassing problem to be facing in the workplace. My boss was out of town yesterday, and she’s the only person with an unobstructed view of my desk. So I did what I always do when she’s away: took a midday walk down to the basement vending machine to indulge in a candy bar.
I’m a middle-aged suburban mother of two; I should not be eating candy bars. I don’t think I’ve seen any of my female friends eat a candy bar since college. Then again, they would say the same thing about me. It’s not something we moms do in front of each other. Which is why it’s my great indulgence at work when the boss is away and my children are at school.
But the candy bar that tumbled off the rack was a mess. It was melty and gooey and stuck to the wrapper. Not that that prevented me from enjoying it. With no one around to see, I licked the melted chocolate off my fingers and carefully dabbed my mouth with a napkin afterwards. Messy, but delicious.
Still, a candy bar from a vending machine shouldn’t be half-liquid. I know I should tell the facilities manager that either something is wrong with the machine itself or our candy delivery guy isn’t treating our account very well. I’ve never seen anyone else in the building eat a candy bar except the guys from IT, and they don’t talk to anyone, so I have little hope that anyone other than I will report the problem.
And yet to do so would be to reveal not only that I ate a candy bar for lunch but that I had the temerity to complain about its condition. How can I present myself as a serious midlevel professional once people know about my predisposition for Reese’s? There’s just no way to mask the fact that I wanted that candy bar . . . I bought that candy bar, and . . . I ate that candy bar.
While dithering over my options, I remembered something that happened in the office last summer. It was a mid-August day, and the air conditioning was set at a frigid 64 degrees. But somehow I was hot and getting hotter. No one else seemed warm. My boss kept a jacket on all day and looked cool and poised as ever; the women from Legal commiserated about the frostiness in their suite. Not me. I felt pink and sweaty; my hair was frizzing and the front of my blouse felt damp.
Finally, I confessed to one of the maintenance guys that I had gone outside in the 85-degree heat at lunchtime just to cool off. He checked the vents and discovered that the one directly over my desk had inadvertently been turned off over the weekend. In fact, it really was twenty degrees hotter in my workspace than anywhere else in the building.
Afterwards, I thought of it as a perfect example of the argument sociologists make for educating girls and boys separately. Afraid to make a fuss or call attention to my own needs, I had spent the whole day convinced the problem originated either in my mind or in my body. Had I just complained to the maintenance staff hours earlier – as any man in my company surely would have done – I could have had a nice chilly day like everyone else in the building did. Senator Clinton may have found her voice in New Hampshire; I found mine in cubicle 328A after editing the quarterly earnings letter.
So with that experience in mind, I reexamined my options with the vending machine. Then I thought of something. What if there was a really serious reason the vending machine was overheating? Maybe there was something wrong with the wiring. Maybe the whole basement was about to go up in flames. I wouldn’t be whining about a melted candy bar; I’d be saving the building!
Well, maybe. Except that I still haven’t said anything. Because while I don’t mind my office mates overhearing me scheduling a mammogram or telling my husband what we need at the supermarket, admitting I ate a candy bar for lunch is still too big a hurdle. I’ll save the building tomorrow. This time I merely scrubbed a chocolate stain off my skirt and went back to work. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito