Breaking “Rule 31”: Blogging About Co-workers

I’ve already broken the cardinal rule of social media – the one that says, “Do not Friend your coworkers on Facebook, and for the love of all that’s holy, never Friend your boss or blog about work.” No one wants to be dooced, even if Heather A. swears she never was. And yet, if you can’t be friends with the people you spend 8-12 hours a day with, five days a week, who can you be friends with? I’ve thrown caution to the wind and Friended nearly 70 of them.

I was once invited to cover a work-related social media event –  to blog and tweet about work. “It’s a trap, isn’t it?” I thought. It was weird, like breaking the fourth wall, and my anxiety showed – according to the folks who asked me to do it, I sounded too formal, stiff, and buttoned up. They’d invited me because they’d read my personal blog and wanted that voice and personality – not the neutral, personality-less voice I’d perfected in thirty years of technical writing.

That’s like the time my parents took me to New Orleans when I was just seventeen. I tried to impress them by acting terribly mature and not slurring my words after downing a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s, and only managed to convince my mother I was a lush. “Young lady,” she said to me, pointing a finger at my nose as I got ready for bed, “you hold your liquor too well!” Damn. I could’ve been having a tipsy good time instead of doing that half-baked impression of a tea-totalling schoolmarm.

I have also not forgotten that time, back in the late 1990s, that I made a deal with Legal: I wouldn’t write about work, and they wouldn’t claim copyright on any novels or children’s books I might write during the term of my employment. Well, they’ve held up their end of the deal.

I have plastered exactly 3.2 times the number of required FTC disclosures on any posts dealing with work, and this one’s no exception: “No coworkers were harmed in the making of this post, and while names have probably been changed to protect their privacy, they know whether they’re innocent or not. I’ll leave it to them to out themselves in comments, below.”

Spider Redux

These are true stories, originally posted on another blog in 2010. 

Backstory

2001 was a particularly horrendous year for most of us, in one way or another. Even before 9/11, my mom was critically ill; it was an emotional rollercoaster. Imagine that, by the time the following events occurred, my nerves were pretty much shot to hell. There really isn’t any nice way of putting it – they were seriously damaged and misfiring on all cylinders. Add to that a debilitating spider phobia, and you have the makings of “Scary Movie 9 1/2.”

This is from a journal entry written at the time:

There is a TARANTULA on my back porch! I was sitting out there reading – in my bare feet – and saw it hop up to the doormat. I thought it was a TOAD, and leaned in for a closer look. [S]haking, I grabbed a can of bug spray – and tried to beat it senseless. (Well, duhhhh – it’s FLYING INSECT SPRAY, and useless against spiders!) That’s breaking the rules, of course – the rules being that if a spider is outdoors, where it belongs, I normally leave it alone. I have some sense of fair play. But a spider as big as my hand violates some unwritten rule, somewhere, surely…

Never fear, crazy arachnophiles, I didn’t succeed in beating it to a bloody, lifeless pulp. It jumped just a nanosecond before I whacked it into next Thursday. It’s still out there, waiting… biding its time… along with the its friends, the copperheads. Now I’m sitting here, writing this, feeling creepy crawly imaginary things brushing lightly against my skin in the dark…

Oh, but it gets better. Just one week later, we were about to leave for a much-needed vacation in California and I came home to find my father-in-law face down on the dining room floor. He was fine, as it turned out; he had an upper respiratory infection and was too weak to stand up without help. But at the time – let’s just say my mind had had about all it could handle:

…if you doubt I’m on the edge now,  you should’ve heard the B-grade horror movie scream I let out last night… I was looking for a shoe, pulled the curtain back, and mistook [what I saw] for a (possibly live, possibly poisonous) SNAKE!! What was the name of the woman who made her fame and glory as “the screamer” for all those awful late-night horror movies? I had her all beat to hell, I swear! (I am NOT normally a screamer, truly I’m not. If I saw a mouse in the kitchen, I’d probably jump up and sit on the counter until I figured out how to trap and release it, or kill it, but I wouldn’t SCREAM. [T]he only thing that rates this kind of screaming is a fully grown rattlesnake coiled up in a box held by your own child and shakin’ his tail in the middle of your living room – certainly NOT a scrawny, dried-up, most-definitely-dead earthworm stretched out on the windowsill. Scared K witless, but J.J. wisely ignored me and went on making travel plan changes…]

I didn’t try to help with the last-minute alterations in our itineraries, because after lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant the next day, I opened my fortune cookie and read: “Any arrangements you make today will be final.”

Flash Forward a Few Years…

So, this morning, I noticed that W had left his French homework on the table. He was halfway to the bus stop, but I glanced at my watch, quickly calculated the odds of catching him, grabbed the paper and my car keys, and ran for the garage. Stopped dead in my tracks, about a foot from the driver’s side door and let out a shriek to wake the dead. There, on the window, was an evil-looking, pitch-black spider – the kind that jumps. He had, as far as I could tell before squinching my eyes shut and trying to bring the shudders under control, a few white dots on his back. Each time I moved closer to the door handle, he jumped closer to the door handle.

Weird thoughts ran through my head: “For sale. Honda Accord Hybrid, excellent condition. Free to anyone who will get this creature out of my garage.” Now, if it had just been a question of getting to work, I’d have said, “Never mind. I’ll work from home today.” But no – I was a mama on a mission, and my son had worked hard on his forgotten homework last night. So after batting at the thing for a while with a piece of cardboard and driving it between the window and the doorframe, where I could temporarily pretend “if I can’t see it, it can’t see me,” I hurriedly got into the car and shut the door. After all, it was on the outside. Sort of. I mentally ran through all the possibilities of Honda’s car door construction techniques and decided I had time for the two minute drive. Ew, ew, ew…

Needless to say, I handed my son his homework through the passenger window.

Mission accomplished, paper delivered, I pulled back into the garage and steeled my nerves. I considered climbing over the console and out the passenger’s side, but just then my husband appeared to take the trash to the curb and get to work. Trying for a show of bravado I did not feel – not in the least – I flung open the door and leaped towards the back of the car, hoping I didn’t uncover a whole nest of the damned things. “Oh, Godohgodohgodohgod…the things I do for my kids!” I cried, rather in the manner of a martial artist yelling a ki-up.

“What’s the matter?” asked my husband. I fought the urge to tuck and roll into the fetal position and suck a thumb. I gave him the short version while trying to maintain a sort-of-adult façade. And this is just one of many reasons I’ve stayed married to the man for nearly 30 years: He didn’t laugh. He didn’t say, “What the HELL?” He quite helpfully suggested: “Why don’t you walk around the other side of the car?”

Why didn’t I think of that? I gave him a great big hug befitting the hero that he is, and sent him on his merry way. Now, another cup of coffee while I try to figure out how to dispose of the car—er, the spider IN the car.

A few moments in Google tells me that my little hitchhiker is probably Phidippus audax, or the Daring Jumping Spider. Like that makes it all better.

9:15 AM – Insidious Phidippus is still hanging out on the car, only now he’s traversing the top of it. We play a little game of tag (not sure which of us is “it”) while I try to collect the proof that this thing lives on my car. Hard to get a picture on my cell phone when my hands are shaking and he’s jumping around and the lighting’s bad.

9:30 AM – I duck into the car really, really quick and look around. OMG, he’s peering at me through the windshield. Objects in windshield tinting are absolutely as large as they appear!! Eeeeeek!

9:45 AM – Park in the garage at work. It’s about four miles from home, and I was driving 30-40 mph most of the time. Phidippus Rex is mocking me. Actually, he looks like I’ve just roused him from a nap. On TOP OF MY CAR. How did he not blow off? He looks at me. I look at him. “Off! Get off my car, you murderous beast!” He just sits there, mocking me. I look up at the ceiling of the parking garage. There are some freaking HUGE webs up there (doesn’t anyone ever run a broom across the cement?)… “Make some new friends,” I urge Phidippus Rex. “I just can’t be…whatever it is you want from me. Like…dinner.” It occurs to me, glancing up at those webs, that Phidippus may not be my biggest problem. With a deep shudder, I exit the garage and make my way to my cubicle.

1:10 PM – I’m hungry. Maybe it’s gone. Or not. I’m not sure which I’m hoping for. If it’s still there, that’s just seriously “Night Gallery” creepy. If it isn’t, I’ll always wonder where it went. Like…in the air vents. I talk to a coworker while trying to steel my nerves. He decides to walk me to my car and slay the beast. (Or just see for himself whether it’s all that impressive or I’m just being a major wuss.)

1:15 PM – Damned if Phidippus Rex isn’t pretty much where I left him. Wandering around aimlessly atop my car. Really, WTF? Why? (“Babies” flits through my brain, only to be shoved upward and out by screaming nerves.) JP kills the beast with an ironically captioned poster pulled from the window in the hallway. “Connect with THAT!” I cry, feeling strangely bereft.

Phidippus Rex is dead. He looks rather…small. JP has robbed him of his power. Long live JP!

Lunch was good, too.

Today

I have paid for blogging this, many times over. It amuses JP and BT to no end. BT mocks my spider phobia by posting spiders on my Facebook wall. I’m rethinking the wisdom of Friending coworkers, after all. Naaah, JP and BT have both earned the right to jest, and are kind enough to do it gently.

BT loaned me his horse, so that I could turn my cubicle into a stable. (By the way, come November 1, the feed bag will be full of Swedish Fish. There’s deliciously decadent chocolate for anyone who mounts this on RD’s cube wall.

Besides, BT makes sure I’m well fed when my ankle’s broken and keeps me supplied with wipes for my eyeglasses – no doubt to make sure I can clearly see the taunting spiders he posts on my wall. RP (who, himself, gets up to mischief like lobbing crumpled balls of paper at my head while I’m videoconferencing with my manager and our VP) is probably trying to figure out how he can get in on this, but calculating his odds – given my pitching arm is getting pretty good, and my back-handed, over-the-shoulder aim is frighteningly accurate. He sits within easy range.

Remind me why I chose two weeks before Halloween to bring all this up again – in front of my esteemed colleagues? Oh, yeah, “Here, hold my beer while I proceed to break all the ‘rules’ I wrote about in “31 Ways Not to Use Your Blog #FridayReflections“!

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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4 thoughts on “Breaking “Rule 31”: Blogging About Co-workers”

  1. Dear Mr J:

    Kindly buy Holly an Xmas gift. It should be a corn broom, with an extra long handle. Heck, buy her two. My mother used them quite effectively on Arizona spiders.

    Or one of those guns that kills bugs with a load of salt fired at them. It may not work for Texas Spiders.

    Hum. Maybe you could get her a huge can of bug killer. Something that kills everything but crazy Blondes……

    Better yet, she could run for POTUS. And double the Secret Service detail.

    I better run. Mrs J knows important people.

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