Thursday, September 15, 2011

In which I kiss a married man but I didn't know he was married the entire time we were flirting over the phone at work

Before grad school, I worked in Austin for this company. This was back in the olden days when to conduct business with someone, you actually had to speak to that person instead of emailing him. As my company was an international company and even the domestic operations were wide flung, I found myself needing to talk to company employees in other locations about our mutual interests.

There was this guy in Oregon who was working on an account with me. He was very funny and we played off well against each other. (Are you sensing a pattern here? If a man is funny, I am willing.) We flirted and flirted and flirted because over the phone, everyone is good looking and everyone is interesting and these were the days when there was time to goof off at work because you spent half your time waiting for your secretary to type your darn letters already and wouldn't it be better if there were just a way to do it yourself so you weren't caught in this ridiculous loop of editing typewritten after typewritten draft as you struggled for the best way to tell someone your company was raising their premiums like 17%, which is a ton of money and nobody, I mean NOBODY wants to deliver that letter because most people don't like being the bearers of bad news. Unless someone is a heartless jerk, I promise you that he is not enjoying telling you about a price increase.

Back to - let's call him Sancho. Back to Sancho. We flirted and talked about our lives and where we had gone to college and what we liked to do for fun.

The one thing Sancho neglected to mention was that one of the things he liked to do for fun was to hang out with his wife.

Every year, my company held a big sales conference. If your sales were high enough, then you got to go and hang out with the other stellar sales people at a resort in Palm Springs where I thought my $15 per diem breakfast allowance would let me eat like a queen, but then I discovered that in Palm Springs, $15 buys you a bowl of oatmeal and leaves you just a tiny bit of change.

One year, my sales were high enough. Even though Austin was the smallest market in my division, I was in the top 30% of sales, not that I'm bragging or anything, but I was a pretty good salesperson considering I am one of the least salesy people you will ever meet. My boss, who is still my friend, could sell ice to Eskimos, but me? I was all about the facts, laid out objectively, along with the pros and cons and an explanation of how I would handle the cons because let's face it, no matter what, your company is going to screw up and your customer is going to be upset, so when that happens, how are you going to fix it and return your customer to her deserved state of happiness? Don't ever believe someone who tells you that his product or service will never have any problems. Everyone has problems. Will they fix them is the question.

Sancho attended the same conference. I didn't know what to look for, as I had not seen a photo, but I was eager to meet him. I found him that first day by searching nametags. My first words to him, after I 1. looked at his nametag and 2. looked at his left hand, were a blurted, "But you didn't tell me you were married!"

He mumbled.

There were parties every night. The first night, a bunch of us, including Sancho, were at the resort disco, dancing, drinking (this was back when I still thought tequila was my friend, which it is not) and having fun. My division's VP, Bart, was there, dancing to "Wild Thing." I thought he was too old to dance - he must have been in his mid 40s. Had he no dignity?

Bart complained of a headache. In my constant attempt to advance my career by sucking up to the higher-ups, I told him I had some aspirin in my room. I could get it for him.

"I'll come with you," he said.

I stopped, stymied. Bart had a reputation. He was known as a ladies' man. He was handsome, in that old man, mid-40's way, with his gray hair, periwinkle blue eyes and his old, mid-40s face. Sha. Like anyone that age still had sex? Gross.

He scared me. I didn't want to fool around with him and I didn't want to be put in a situation where my own reputation might be compromised. Remember this.

But he insisted on accompanying me to the room. We arrived. After I put the key in the lock, I turned to him.

"Stay here," I instructed him. I didn't want him coming into the room with me! What would people say? He had a reputation.

He stayed in the hall. I fetched his aspirin. Gave it to him. We returned to the disco, incident free.

There was Sancho.

Did I mention I had been taking tequila shots with my friend Elise? And that my judgment was impaired?

Actually, it's not judgment that gets impaired when you drink, is it? You still know right from wrong, but avoiding wrong just doesn't seem so important. It's like being on a diet and knowing that eating that second piece of pie is a bad, bad idea but it's a bad idea for the future and overall but right now it seems like a really good idea. So the judgment is intact but the desire to act based on good judgment is not.

Sancho. Tequila. He had been drinking as well. For some reason, we left the disco and ended up in a stairwell, where we started kissing. Even tequila'd up, I knew better than to take him back to the room.

"I shouldn't be doing this," he said.

Which was absolutely true and I hope that this one incident shamed him so much that he never strayed again. But in the meantime, we kept kissing and I am ashamed to say that it took a hotel security guard telling us to take it elsewhere to make us stop. If we went elsewhere, we would really be choosing to do wrong. An incidental kiss in the stairwell? Hmmm. But making a decision to continue the kissing elsewhere? No way to excuse that. Not even any way to excuse the stairwell kiss.

He avoided me the rest of the conference. And we didn't speak on the phone anymore. It was done.