August 31, 2000
If You Can't Say Something Nice ...


We get as far as the laundry room, this morning, when David notices that I am hobbling along behind him like a dutiful 12th Century Imperial Concubine ... issuing little involuntary *pain noises* with each mincing half-step.

"Y'know," he says carefully, "I don't think those shoes are going to work." And he suggests that perhaps I should go back to the apartment and change into a different, more comfortable pair of shoes before we head off for the office.

I look down at my feet. The flesh around the straps of my brand-new ivory slings has already begun to swell and turn an alarming tomato red, and I've only been walking in them for fifteen seconds.

(Plus it feels as though there is a 2-1/2" C-Clamp attached to the ends of both ingrown toenails.)

"But they look so nice," I wince. 

Most mornings I don't pay a lot of attention to what I put on my feet: I either slide into my slightly-battered, ever-so-comfy black platforms, or into my slightly-battered, ever-so-comfy black pumps. Today, though, I've taken a little extra care with my *look.* My shoes actually match my suit. I feel quite Mary Tyler Moorelike.

"I can just sit at my desk and pretend to open mail all day," I say hopefully. "I won't even walk around much."

David casts me a look that says You know better than that.

And I DO know better. With my luck,  this will be the day Franz asks me to trot over to Sears during my lunch hour and pick up a couple of new refrigerators for the lunchroom. Or to hike up the side of Mt. Tam and take some aerial photographs of 101 during peak traffic hours. Or to flamenco dance in the conference room for visiting dignitaries.

"I'll be right back," I mutter.

Franz comes shlumping into the Totem Pole office at 9 a.m., looking haggard and disheveled and stretched perilously thin by life itself.

"You know how late I stayed here last night?" he says, dumping the contents of his briefcase into my *In* basket. "Until TWELVE-THIRTY." And he rolls his eyes in exaggerated, Franzlike fashion, in order to emphasize how haggard and disheveled and stretched perilously thin by life itself and stuff he is.

Translation: *I* stayed until twelve-thirty.  Why didn't you?

But I did stay late last night. I stayed two-and-a-half hours late, as a matter of fact, helping make emergency changes to a submittal due by 8 p.m. Mainly this consisted of me sitting in front of an ancient Selectric II, typing Franz' name over and over again onto assorted contracts. In between pages, I leafed through a Lerner's catalog and munched on stale apple chips. Did I complain about having to work late? No. Did I stay as long as I was needed, without whining or clock-watching? Yes. Was I cheerful and professional about the whole thing? Absolutely.

(Did I get any sort of *thank you* for the extra effort?)

Just then, Dan the Contracts Manager wanders into my office. Unlike Franz -- who is only play-acting at fatigue -- Dan looks legitimitely wiped out. He was called away from a family dinner at 7 p.m. last night to come into the office and perform emergency legal surgery on the ailing contracts. I wouldn't be surprised if he really did stay until well past midnight.

(Come to think of it ... isn't that the same suit he was wearing yesterday?)

"THERE'S my main man!" Franz shouts expansively, and he wraps one beefy arm around Dan's neck, hugging him like a long-lost college roommate. "You saved our bacon last night, man!"

Dan just sort of nods and smiles wearily. He's heard this stuff before. He hands Franz a couple of legal forms for signature ... they chat briefly about traffic and weather and the Totem Pole Company football pool ("The Rams are gonna destroy the Broncos in St. Louis!") ... and then Dan politely excuses himself, saying he'll be late for court.

"YOU'RE the MAN, Dan!" Franz shouts down the hallway after him, waving merrily.

The instant Dan is out of earshot, of course, Franz shakes his head. 

"Jesus," he mutters blackly. "That fudking jerk-off almost cost us a million bucks yesterday." And he stalks into his office and slams the door shut.

I don't even want to know what he says about *me* when I'm out of earshot.

Seriously. I don't want to know.  I would probably have to kill him.

Or  --  even worse  --  I would have to just pack up my stuff and walk away from this stoopid job, once and for all. Don't think I haven't thought about it the past few weeks, every time I see Franz glad-handing and back-patting and shmoozing people to their face, and then turning around and calling them a fudking jerk-off/a jerking fudk-off, the minute they walk away.  But until I am able to rebound financially from the Tot Visits (read this: until I can afford things like books and shampoo and phone bills again) ... I think that ignorance is probably bliss.

Or -- at the very least -- ignorance makes more sense financially.

I emerge from The Castle a couple of minutes later, wearing the slightly-less-groovy (but infinitely more comfortable) slip-on pumps.

They're the exact same size as The Shoes From Hell, but for reasons known only to God  -- and Payless Shoe Source  --  these shoes fit. These shoes don't feel like I am strapped into miniature Iron Maidens. I can actually walk around in these shoes without shrieking in agony. Or bleeding. Or both.

"Doesn't that feel better?" asks David.

It does. It feels amazingly better. It feels so much better, I could weep.  Or tap dance. My feet are loving me again. 

"Yeah, it feels better," I grumble. "But it LOOKS awful." Mint green suit and black pumps? Now I look like my tenth grade Spanish teacher.

"You look gorgeous, as usual," says David tolerantly. And as he opens the car door for me he adds, "The important thing is that you're comfortable, honey."

You know what?

That's very likely going to be the nicest thing anyone says to me ... or ABOUT me ... all day.

throw a rock