I still can’t believe this happened. I’m shaking as I type this. After that great weekend with my Granddad and my brother, the week could not have ended much worse. I couldn’t tell Shannon when I picked her up from Lasik surgery, because she had enough to deal with already. I was glad I put in the trunk the box holding all my personal cubicle effects. I managed to sound excited for her as she read off every distant road sign and the various neon attention-getters, but my heart was sinking.
Let me say right up front that I know it was nobody’s fault but mine.
This is a tough post for me, because Dave’s blog was something fun to read. I usually get to work a few minutes before starting time, and because Dave is in the eastern time zone (an hour ahead of where I am), his entry for that day always was there waiting. I would read his paragraph or two on the weather and his personal life, and then peruse some of his links to eye-catching stories, usually with funny headlines. I commented on his blog and he commented on my blog. It was all good, clean fun.
That’s Monday through Thursday.
The big difference Friday, and the part that led to my professional setback, is his BOTD (Babe of the Day). It is a BOTW (Babe of the Week), really. More times than not, there would be an additional BOTD with a link that said, “There’s always room for one more.” Also on most occasions, the BOTD was from a site called sportsbybrooks.com. It features mainly women with cosmetically enhanced breasts. I’m not a “boob man” in general and definitely lose my appreciation when the breasts almost outweigh the woman.
Nevertheless, there’s something that makes Dave choose those particular women, and I’m still a red-blooded male, so I look. I also thought it was funny to see nose ring holes sometimes and wondered why the site didn’t at least ask somebody’s kid to touch them up digitally.
But enough excuses. Back to getting fired.
Although I considered them G-rated and harmless, I was always very careful to look at the pictures when nobody else was around. This normally would be difficult to do in my area, but before 8 a.m. my boss is the only other person here, and he sits pretty far away.
Friday morning I read Dave’s post about reuniting with an old friend, and looked at the BOTD links.
At about 9 a.m., I worked to finish setting up some network shares on a NetApp device. My boss walked up to my cube and said, “Mark, I need you to come see me in my office.” This is not unusual. He often gets updates from me face-to-face.
I said, “Sure,” and followed him. I didn’t take the time to lock down my Windows session.
My boss, whom I admire and respect, said with a look of discomfort, “Mark, we’ve had a complaint that you were viewing objectional material on your computer.”
I was dumbfounded. “What?”
“Someone claims she caught a glimpse of your monitor and saw something that she found offensive,” he said.
“Well, before I clocked in I was looking at a guy’s blog and he links to pictures sometimes. They have all their clothes on, though. They’re just standing there for the camera.” My voice had trembled on that last sentence.
“I can understand that, but I also understand how sensitive we need to be to these kinds of issues. We’ve had some problems with another employee doing this kind of thing before. In fact, I have a hard drive right here to prove it.” He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a hard drive. “That employee was let go.”
My heart was pounding. That’s nice to know now. Actually, he had shown me that hard drive during my interview, but at the time it was not as a warning. I was trying to think of a way out of this. My wife’s a stay-at-home mom and we have a toddler. We all have this nasty habit of eating.
“Let go? I’m getting fired over this? I don’t understand. It was nothing.”
“I’m not saying that for sure, Mark. I’m just saying that we have to look at the situation. Why don’t you go back to your desk and wait for me to call you?”
I sat stunned for a moment. No, this cannot happen. Hell, half the guys who work here stare at women’s breasts while they talk to them. I look at a picture of a stranger and my job’s on the line? There has to be something else going on. If I lose my job, how are we going to pay for that Lasik surgery Shannon’s having today?
I got up and walked back to my cube. My usually low blood pressure was up. My mind raced trying to figure out who might have seen it. As I turned to step into my cubicle, I noticed light coming from the guest office. It hit me. The chair was empty, but there sat her laptop. It was her. She saw it.
Unbeknownst to me, a female employee from another location did not leave Thursday as planned, and she got in early to finish up and catch a morning flight on our corporate jet. Our guest office is right behind my cubicle, and she was in there. She’s a very outspoken and respected employee. In my few talks with her, I never got the impression that she would be a whistleblower on something like this. Apparently, it offended her.
Unfortunately, she is not blind.
Anger and fright fought to fill my mind. As I sat, sweat trickled down my ribs.
I stared blankly at a Word document on my screen. I hadn’t been working in Word when I left my station. What the Hell’s going on? The text was in a small font and in my emotional state I had trouble focusing. Finally, I made it out. It read:
I feel bad for what I’ve done to you. You have always been nice to me, so I will put a stop to it. Here’s my secret: I sometimes write fiction, and this is my first April Fool’s joke ever. I cleared this with Dave first. Have a nice weekend, and don’t look at boobies at work.