The Black Marks on My Permanent Record

Sometimes I reflect on the various events, characters and problems I’ve run across in my career.  Like today, I thought back to an event that happened in late 84 or early 85.  It was a different time.  One of the most important members of a company was the receptionist.  On some levels it was because that was the first person visitors met, but more importantly the receptionist was the voice of the company.

There was no email, faxes were becoming prevalent and a PC on every desk was not a given.  In 1984, I had one of the first 10 PCs in the company.  There were over 200 people in our office.  More significantly, there were very few direct lines to desks.  Every call came to the receptionist and she transferred them to an internal extension.  I sat just inside the ever open double doors, not far from the lobby.  There was nothing between Tina and I.  Except my cubicle walls.

In those days, I was trying to make my mark at work, but I was still a clumsy guy always fumbling for the right thing to say and understanding how to behave in a corporate environment.  And this was corporate – an insurance company in the Sears/Allstate family.  I knew enough not to hit on the receptionist.  Not that she wasn’t really cute; she was a very attractive Hispanic girl, a tad younger than I, from San Francisco’s Mission District.  I wasn’t suave enough to flirt or ask her out.  I wouldn’t have, because I knew she had a boyfriend and my father had taught me not dip my pen in the company ink.

I recall her vividly asking me one day, “Lee I need a favor.”  Always wanting to be helpful I walked to the counter and offered my kind assistance.

Lee’s rule of work #1 – always help the pretty girls.

Of course what she wanted was not at all what I was expecting.  I knew she was taking classes at CCSF, being a reasonably fresh graduate perhaps she wanted help with math or something similar.  It’s not like I was the guy who put staples in the stapler or could solve crossword puzzles with ease.

“Lee, you’re a native speaker and I’m having trouble with Spanish.  Would you help me with my homework?”

I was dumbfounded.  Floored.  She answered every call and transferred them to my desk.  She knew my last.  How she thought I was from Mexico, Guatemala or Spain escaped me.  Now I realize this might have been an opening to ask her out.  So much for being on my game.

“My last name is Greenberg.  I’m Jewish, not Mexican.  No habla espanole.”  Ok, so I was often confused for being Mexican when I was working in East San Jose.  I am a bit dark skinned and was more so when I was younger.  I could tell people I couldn’t speak Spanish and that was it.  My ethnicity traces to all over Europe, not the Americas.  I laughed very much at this exchange.  I don’t recall her reaction.

I recall this incident and realize I might not have handled it as tactfully I should have.  Ah, the perspective of 3 decades.

There was one other incident with Tina I recall.  This wasn’t quite so fun and it was handled much better.  Sometime later, in 85 I believe, there was a commotion in the office.  I walked around to see what was happening and Tina was running into my department.  I think I had moved to another part of the floor by then.

It turned out her boyfriend, or I should say ex-boyfriend, had come to see her in the office.  And by “see her” I mean he had a knife he wanted to stab her with.  We quickly found a closet and put her in there.  It was the wiring closet for the phones as I recall.  We all went back to our desks and acted as nonchalant as we could.  I have a vague recollection of a large man running by.

About 30 minutes later I had heard the police had him on one of the lower floors.  Wow.  I think she left the company within a month or two of that incident.  Over the next 9 years at that firm I realize I was witness or near witness to several other events I would group with this one.  I would not categorize the CFO walking into a board meeting with her dress tucked into her panty hose in the back as one of them.  But it was memorable.

I’m pretty sure you, gentle readers – all 40 of you, will ultimately have the opportunity to read about most of them.  Shall I continue?

 

 

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8 Comments

  1. Tara SMith

     /  October 10, 2013

    CONTINUE! You always make me laugh. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Ellen

     /  October 10, 2013

    Oh with a name like Greenberg it has to be Jewish. I’m happy I stumbled upon your blog. Its enjoyable reading.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

     /  December 31, 2013

    M. Jennifer adores this ^^. All Greenbergs are Mexican didn’t you know?

    Reply
  4. ellen

     /  January 24, 2014

    You blog. .. I’ll read!

    You want a random response? I’m super duper good at random – ness.

    I want to learn how I too can spend $.23 on $900 worth of groceries.

    TLC channel you’re killing me

    Reply

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