Saturday, June 28, 2008

When Karma Attacks

The first part of this story is here.

Fast forward six or seven years. I am twenty-nine, have been living in America for three months with my husband and two young children, and am starting my first American job tomorrow. Better yet, it is an actual programming job! It's entry level and it pays next to nothing, but that doesn't faze me - this means that, from here, there is no way for me to go but up. I'd been out of work for too long, dependent on my husband and parents financially. My marriage is on the verge of falling apart after all the arguments about money, housework, and taking care of the boys. But now that I am a professional in America, I know this is all going to change. I am excited about the new life I'm beginning, and would be surprised if someone told me that I'm about to turn one of the darkest, nastiest pages of my life, something I'd be ashamed to tell people about many years later.

Next day in my new office, I noticed Aidan right away. He was my age, yet he occupied the corner office with a real window. Rumor had it he used to be a manager until he had to step down to work on some urgent, top-secret project. He was the tall, dark and handsome type. He drove a sleek sports car. (The sleek sports car later turned out to be a fifteen-year-old Pulsar covered in rust and dust - goes to show you how far off my judgment was.) He spoke flawless English and gave high-fives to his colleagues. I'd never seen a high-five before.

He was everything my husband wasn't. I fell for Aidan on the first day and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was terrified. I spent my days hiding from Aidan in fear he'd figure me out. I had never intended to act on my inconvenient crush.

Two months later, Aidan figured me out. Hey, I told you he was smart. What I didn't know then, though, was that Aidan had an abrasive personality and somewhat of a surplus of self-esteem. In Aidan's estimation, he was miles above my league. Whatever.

Aidan started greeting me every morning by an eye roll. When the second-highest ranking person in the company rolls your eyes at you each time you say "good morning", you know you're in trouble - especially if you're a lowly entry-level programmer. I was scared shitless of losing my job. After a few more months of suffering in silence, I turned for advice to Aidan's close friend and my supervisor, George. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

George was very sympathetic. He promised to talk to Aidan. He took me out to lunches and stopped by my desk to chat. All was well until George started giving me somewhat strange tidbits of information.

"In America, it is customary for people to hug each other as a manner of greeting. If you don't let a person hug you, they'll think you're a foreigner."

"You may not know it, but in America, it is customary for people to kiss on the lips when they see each other. Yes, men and women too. I know, must sound strange to you, but you need to get used to it."

While I fretted and wondered if it was customary for Americans to dry-hump when they meet, rumors started around the office. Pretty soon, as far as everyone was concerned, George and I were dating. We were both married and had kids.

It just got weirder from there. George found a new job and left. Then he hired me. Rumors started at the new place.

George hired Aidan. He asked my permission to do it. "Whatever is good for the company," I said. Aidan was one of the best in his field, so that was it.

The first week with all three of us together at the new place, George called to tell me this:

"You're so lucky. It's not very often that people get a second chance. I mean, you're working with Aidan now."

Followed by even stranger phone calls to my house on weekends.

"Did you know that Aidan is hung like a horse? We went to the gym together."

God, I wish I was making this up.

That was just too much of the fucking head games. With George working me over every day, and Aidan in my face every weekday, I lost all touch with reality. I had a massive crush on Aidan again and I was dating George and someone else was dating George too and I had no idea how it all came to happen. Mr. Goldie was not much help, what with the two of us fighting 24-7 and the word divorce coming up in conversations more and more often.

I started getting into nasty arguments with Aidan. (Abrasive personality, remember?) I was racking my brain trying to reconcile my hero-worship of the guy with some asinine things he said and did, and all that with his crappy management style. I admired him one minute and hated him the next. Aidan, meanwhile, asked George what it would take to make me stop hitting on him.

A girl from the old job started a rumor behind my back that my whole career was based on fucking my supervisors in exchange for raises and promotions. I had been sure she and I were friends. It took me a few years to befriend another woman after that.

George was seeing someone else and using me as a cover-up in front of his wife and the woman's husband. One of my cover-up gigs entailed going to a late-night concert of 13th century folk music and listening to a female singer who had the same first name as my son LilProgrammer. My life was getting exponentially weirder.

I lost weight, going from a size 8 to a size 4. Sounds like every girl's dream, but I wasn't happy. Matter of fact, I was living in my personal version of hell.

I got fed up, found another job, and quit. Aidan stopped talking to me the day I gave notice, as he assumed I was leaving because of him. George did something even more interesting. He told everyone in the office I'd found a new job three days before they sent me a written offer. It was a pretty scary experience. If the old job had fired me, and the new job retracted the offer, then I guess it would've been up to George and his big mouth to support me and my family.

After I changed jobs, I had some more interactions with both George and Aidan. In fact, Mr. Goldie and I still run into them a few times a year, as we hang out with the same group of people. It is very awkward each time it happens.

Mr. Goldie and I have resolved our marital difficulties and are now an ideal couple, so you'd have to shoot me before I voluntarily agree to fuck it all up by going out and having an affair. We both worked our asses off to get where we are; I personally don't want all my hard work to go to waste.

This was nine years ago, more or less. For the first few years after that, I refused to view my coworkers as human beings. I told people I was sick of socializing at work and I wasn't going to do it anymore. But we humans are wired for socialization. When a deadline is coming up and the group of you works twelve-hour days side by side, or when you are on call and something breaks really badly and you spend all night on the phone with your teammate trying to fix it, bonding happens. Friendships form.

Even with attractions, we're all only human. Lock me with a bunch of IT guys in daily, intense five-hour meetings where we have to cover each other's back, followed by long sessions of working together covering each other's back, and, after a few months of this, even IT guys will begin to look attractive. If you're an IT guy and we work together and I spend most of my day hiding from you, then most probably this is what happened - for some reason, at the moment, I find you attractive. This too shall pass. Then I will come out of my hiding and we will talk. I have also had my guy friends approach me with propositions in my old job. I'd look each guy in the eye and tell him he's awesome and a terrific friend, it's just that I don't believe in dating at work or in dating while married. Then I'd tell him my story of George and Aidan. The guy usually goes out and finds someone else, and remains friends with me. Works for all three of us, myself, the guy, and his new woman. Probably for Mr. Goldie too, I might add.

So this, in a nutshell, is a story of how karma bit me in the ass for not taking a coworker's crush seriously back in 1990. Moral of the story is, I guess, that we need to respect people's feelings, but not to the point where we allow those other people to bring us down (Aidan) or mess with our head (George). As an online friend of mine brilliantly put it once, we cannot let another person's insanity become our reality.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:47 PM

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