April 6, 2001


"Be thankful you're not downstairs today," Alice muttered conspiratorily, as we stood side-by-side at the mailbox this morning. "There's fire on the lower decks today."

Meaning: the Totem Pole was burning, four floors away ... and Franz was down there pissing gasoline.

"Thanks Alice," I murmured. "You're a pal."

I really didn't need to hear any details. It didn't matter what this latest conflagration was about, or how it got started, or whose head was on a platter this time around. It didn't matter whether it was due to a minor project glitch (like the time the poor hapless junior engineer formatted everything for WordPerfect instead of Word, and when Franz couldn't open it on his computer he thought it was the *I Love You* virus again and ordered the MIS guy to shut down the server) ... or a major corporate malfunction (like the time they came and took our phone system away because "we" didn't pay the bill). It didn't matter that some things, apparently, are never ever going to change in this company ... regardless of who is sitting at the desk behind Reception Area Hell.

None of that stuff mattered.

What mattered was the fact that *I* -- thanks to my friend Alice -- wasn't going to innocently wander downstairs and find myself walking directly into a firestorm. I avoided the first floor for the rest of the afternoon, and as a result I had a perfectly lovely, perfectly nonflammable day at work.

Now that's what I call team-playing.

Ironically, I couldn't stand Alice when she first started working at the Totem Pole Company last year. To me she seemed to embody all of the qualities I most hate in a female co-worker: she was loud and strident and bossy and thin ... and she came on like gangbusters from her very first day here, rather than slinking around unobtrusively in the background looking lost and stoopid and terrified for the first few weeks, like everybody else ... and she persisted in barging right into Franz' office without warning (or an appointment) while I sat there sputtering at her to "Wait a minute! Wait a minute!"  Plus she was always looking at my shoes with this snooty expression that said Payless Shoe Source?  Plus she treated me like the hired help ... at least, for the first few weeks. ("Fax this," she would say, tossing another bazillion-page Request For Qualifications onto my desk. It took about a month to straighten her out.)  Plus she was making way more money than *I* was.

I avoided her like the Liquor Aisle for the first few months she was here.

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the dynamic shifted between the two of us, though. She was standing in my office one morning last summer, and we were chit-chatting about something Franz-related  --  by that point we were cautiously connecting with each other, based primarily on our mutual loathing of certain Totem Pole Company Testosterone Units  --  and I remember rolling my eyes and saying, "It's just the same shidt, different day."

It was like someone threw a switch somewhere.

Her entire face lit up. I swear to god you could actually SEE my Q-rating rise at that moment. I don't know if it was because I had unexpectedly used a naughty word ... or because I was exhibiting flagrant public disrespect towards my boss ... or because I was finally wearing an acceptable pair of shoes. Whatever the reason, though, we bonded right then and there. It was like Alice and I KNEW each other finally. Nobody sang louder than I did at her 60th birthday party last month.

If there is a lesson to be learned here (and OF COURSE there's 'a lesson to be learned here' -- this is *FootNotes,* forcryingoutloud!),  it is this: You don't really know somebody until you know somebody.

Take Internet journaling, for instance. I understand that *FootNotes* is not everybody's cup of (double-bagged/triple-sugared/Fast Lane) tea. Just as I may find certain online journals less riveting than others  --  for instance, I'm not likely to deliberately seek out journals about babies or cigarettes at this point in my life, simply because I've pretty much sworn off both  --  still, I *get* the fact that a journal about alcohol recovery and midlife wedding preparations might not be of much interest to certain other segments of the reading population. And I'm fine with that. 

It's a big Internet. There's plenty of audience for everybody.

Where I might have a teensy-tiny problem, I guess, would be if someone were to smear my journal without actually having bothered to read it ... or after reading it only superficially, and then taking stuff out of context ... or after reading it and deciding that they don't like me, when what they really don't like is my writing style/my font face/my subject matter.

That's where I might have a problem.

[I mean ... c'mon. If you're gonna hate me for something stoopid and superficial ...
hate me for my SHOES, like everybody else.]

But it wouldn't even be a big problem. That's the good news. On the geiger counter of problems, a little harmless flaming would barely register as a blip. (It probably wouldn't even merit a mention on the website, unless it was a really really slow news day at the *FootNotes* factory ... like today.)  And it wouldn't change anything that I do here. I would still try to focus on the good stuff more than the bad stuff. I would still insert that extraneous *d* into the F-word ... just for fun. I would still pay more attention to how my words are put together, rather than how many people are reading those words.

And I would still try to make sure that there is 'a lesson to be learned' every time I throw another little piece of *me* out into the whereversphere ... mainly because I never know where it's going to land.

(Or who might actually learn something from it.)

Have a great weekend, everybody!

p.s. the world's cutest nephew is in town!!
p.p.s. [so are his mom and dad!]
p.p.p.s. photos/story/annoying requisite *life lesson* to follow!

two years ago: cyber evolution

throw a rock