When I started working for my present employer, most days were good days. Now, the reverse is true. To be fair, when I started working for my current employer it was December of 2001. The firm had six employees and I was all of the support staff (everything from answering the phone to rebooting the mail server or performing light carpentry) and we now have 13 employees (we once had as many as 16) and I am only responsible for the firm's IT. Also to be fair, even after the unfortunate events of 2008, they still pay me and (I assume) my fellow support staff members much much better than they could afford to pay us all in 2001.
But that is all background information. Suffice to say that the atmosphere at my place of employ is horrible. This is particularly saddening since all of my coworkers-even those I don't particularly get along with-are ethical, hard working folks. There's not a bad apple among them. In spite of this, because of management problems, I can't even collaborate well with my friends among the staff.
However, every once in a while we have a day or two that reminds me of the big happy family that we used to be (the one that some of us are still pretending we are.)
On Friday I arrived to find a crowd at my cubicle. I was at first a bit concerned, but this crowd didn't look like an angry mob, in fact, they were smiling. They were smiling because my cubicle-mate Aaron* was planning to propose to his girlfriend this afternoon at lunch. Marc and Ellen were standing around talking to him about it. Aaron was smiling a little and glowing. Ellen marched off to reschedule a meeting that the three of them had with our boss Henry from later in the day to Right Now, so that the deck would be cleared for Aaron sooner, rather than later.
Word spread. Erin, who did not get to the office until 10 because she did Junior Achievement on Fridays (and, incidentally, had stopped off at UMB to pick up my textbook for me for summer session-thanks Erin) came over as soon as she had changed from her flip flops to her office heels. Janie, the office manager was soon over in our neck of the woods as well. I realize that I had never considering proposing marriage to anyone, but I had no idea there were so many complicated parts to asking someone "will you marry me?" Perhaps the complicated parts have been added because it's such a scary question to ask.
I'm going to go all existentialist for a moment and say that "Will you marry me" is a speech act. It's a rare situation where saying something is in fact doing something. Perhaps that's why Aaron, who is a quiet type was willing to discuss this with us, his coworkers, before asking his girlfriend this so-important question. Erin wanted to make sure he had gone the traditional route and discussed this with his girlfriend's father first (he had) and then there were other points that she raised-had he planned on telling the restaurant? "They can make sure you have a table outside or a quiet table." she pointed out.
Aaron flourished under all this feminine attention. He wouldn't show us the ring (fair enough.) He had booked a trip to Paris, which he had discussed with me and Marc. We hadn't realized when he asked our advice that he hadn't told the girlfriend about it yet. It was to be a surprise engagement gift. "You do realize," Marc said with an eyebrow raised "That you have raised the bar for Erin's Boy." We all laughed.
Someone suggested presenting the ring on a dessert. "Oh no!" I said, "Then you'd get to go to MGH to have her stomach pumped." Several people nodded their heads wisely.
Someone asked Ellen how her husband had proposed to her. "Well we'd gone to see these fireworks. And he said he needed to talk to me and pulled me aside. He was sure I'd noticed the bulge in his pocket from the box with the ring in it-I hadn't."
Our boss, who had broken his hip and consequently was more likely to buzz people on the intercom than go see them hobbled over with his cane to say a few hopeful words to Aaron.
I was sure that while the young ladies of the firm were all aflutter about Aaron's impending engagement, the middle aged economist would be too hard nosed to be much affected. I was wrong. I heard her squealing like the rest of the girls when she heard the news. I went down to our main conference rooms where one of our interns was waiting to have a meeting with her and explained that she was delayed because "Aaron is proposing to his girlfriend this afternoon."
I watched the rest of the firm show up and offer their best wishes throughout the morning. The other owner, Richard, showed up and said "What's this I hear?" with a big smile on his face. "Did someone post a status update to our company's facebook page-come and see the condemned man while you can?" I asked. Richard laughed, but every time he passed our cubicles for the rest of the morning he said "tick tick tick tick."
"What a good thing she isn't meeting you in here." Janie remarked. "We'd all stare at her."
"Where are you going for lunch?" Asked Erin "We could all go there as well." Weird as it sounds, I could see this happening.
Finally it was 1 PM and Aaron was still in the office. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "Get out of here before someone assigns you a project." Finally he did leave a few minutes later. He seemed all chuffed and full of sunlight. He stopped to talk to the office manager and I saw her hand him some gum before he left. Clearly we had done all we could for him.
*Names changed to protect the innocent