What were they thinking?

One of those names from the past that only comes up every decade or so came up last night. Whatever happened to, etc.? We recalled that this person had been involved in an interoffice romance, which led to a particularly tawdry interoffice breakup, the sort of incident that makes managers long to be in the rank and file again.

(There’s one of these in every management career — when you have to tell people it’s not their work that’s the problem, it’s their b.o. Or their whack-ass meltdown over a love affair gone wrong. Whatever.)

Alan said, “She’s the reason companies have no-fraternization policies.” Yep. I never worked for one of those companies myself; if I had I’d be married to someone else today, if I were married at all, and Kate wouldn’t exist. Newsrooms, well-known as turkey pens of coltish intellects, weird hours, incompetent management, triple homicides on deadline and other spicy ingredients, are notorious for breeding office love affairs. I think of the journalists I know, and most are/were married to people they met at work, some serially, which is to say first this person from work, then that person from work. This can get complicated, oh yes it can. Office divorces and/or affairs have sold more quitting-time beers than Budweiser.

I met and married my husband through work, but even after the I-dos, we played it cool. Alan hated talking about domestic matters out in the open. He didn’t even want me to ask what he wanted for dinner. All around us were couples who held hands on the way to the Coke machine, or wives who marched over to collect hubby’s paycheck the minute it was distributed on payday. I’m sure he considered it a huge success when we threw a party and one of his own staff members was amazed to discover I lived in the same house, that we were in fact married and had been for about five years.

(Actually, I considered it a success, too, since it seemed to indicate I was such a boring person no one even bothered to gossip about me anymore.)

I hesitate to bring up this topic, not because everyone has a story, but because everyone’s story is better than mine. Maybe Alex will tell us about the security camera that in one of his former workplaces captured an episode of oral love between a man and a woman who thoughtfully removed her dentures for the occasion. Maybe Kirk will tell us about the couple who was caught not only having an extramarital interoffice affair, but writing a pornographic novel with bondage themes in what they thought was a secret corner of the newsroom computer system. (I pinned down one of the bosses who read this treasure and said I’d be willing to do just about anything to see a sample chapter. He said, “It wouldn’t be a fair trade. It wasn’t nearly as good as it could have been.”) And then there was the young reporter who slept with an older colleague on his living-room couch after an impromptu party when his wife was away, gave him crabs, caused a crisis in his marriage (to say the least) and then later, when the parasites had been routed and the wounds had finally started to scab, showed up at another party where the wife was in attendance, along with her children. “Mommy,” said the little boy. “I saw that lady lying down with daddy on our couch once.” (That story may be somewhat apocryphal, but it still cracks me up.) Or the obsessed Glenn Close wannabe who demanded her lover, as the price of dumping her, insert a secret message to her in his newspaper column. She said this would be their secret. It remained secret for approximately as long as it took to survive editing and get onto the press. As the papers arrived in the newsroom, she showed it around, pointing out how the first letter in every paragraph spelled out, “I love you Joanie.”

None of those stories are mine, in the sense that they didn’t happen at my workplace, but were shared over beers later. It’s amazing to me that I heard them all and still sought out and married a colleague. It’s not like we weren’t warned.

So, bloggage:

You know how you get those e-mails from Nigerian scam artists asking for your help in removing $6 million from the national treasury, offering a 30 percent reward and asking only that you put up some of your own cash as security? You know how you ask yourselves, “Who could ever be so stupid as to fall for this?” We have an answer: The treasurer of Alcona County, Michigan.

Today’s forecast calls for a chance of snow in Michigan. Unless, of course, it gets rerouted to southern California again. Jeez, I remember being in LA once when it rained, and it had the same effect on traffic as eight inches of snow does here. I can’t imagine what actual snow does to the place. Besides freeze the oranges.

Whenever I hear a nitwit like Dinesh D’Souza pushing his latest book, I think to myself, “Maintain your sense of humor.” However, it’s difficult. Fortunately, we have Stephen Colbert to shore us up in the difficult moments.

Posted at 10:50 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

34 responses to “What were they thinking?”

  1. Kirk said on January 18, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Nance, one of the children of the daddy who passed his sweetie’s cooties on to mommy did indeed say something along those lines, my source says. And a few years later, I stuck my foot in my mouth when I was making cracks about the incident to another woman who works here and was, unbeknownst to me, on the path to marrying cootie daddy (they remain happily married; he has dealt with his latest mid-life crisis by annexing an earring).

    as for the bondage novel in the computer system, you pretty much covered what i know about it. i wasn’t high enough on the totem pole at the time to have the privilege of reading any of it. among the saddest parts of that story is that those idiots really believed that they had access to a part of the computer system that no one would ever find.

    i’ll see if i can remember any other juicy episodes.

    (and, of course, i met my wife when she worked here, too).

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  2. Dorothy said on January 18, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I married the boy across the street, who moved there the same year we both turned 16. This might sound boring, but we still find each other pretty interesting, 33+ years after we met, thank heavens.

    My copy editor daughter has been dating a page designer since August. She talks of lots of others at the Pilot who are dating/engaged/married so your observation is spot on, of course.

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  3. Kirk said on January 18, 2007 at 11:19 am

    we did have a copy desk chief who was blissfully planning her wedding to an assistant city editor until she was swept off her feet by the assistant art director a few months ago. that one still reverberates every once in a while.

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  4. nancy said on January 18, 2007 at 11:27 am

    “Reverberates.” Like a gong, I expect.

    In one of the bad endings I recall, one party wanted the walls of her cubicle reconfigured, so the entrance wouldn’t face the office path upon which her ex would reliably travel several times a day. She actually asked her bosses for this, at which point they told her, in essence, to buck up.

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  5. Kirk said on January 18, 2007 at 11:29 am

    one detail i forgot: the jilted asst. city editor drinks now (though apparently not to excess); he didn’t before.

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  6. Danny said on January 18, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    SoCal drivers suck in the rain. Which is unbelievable because many if not most are here from somewhere that gets actual weather. As soon as the first rain drop hits we all immediately swerve into one another.

    But five or six years ago, snow flurries did drop on my drive home from work in downtown San Diego. It was on the I-15, ten miles inland from the Pacific, at sea-level or thereabouts. Amazingly everyone maintained control.

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  7. Maryo said on January 18, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Weather wimpiness hits everywhere — when I was a reporter in Albuquerque 20 years ago, people would go nuts at the first sign of a snowflake. New Mexico!!! I ask you.

    Regarding intra-newsroom affairs, I thankfully was on the outside looking in on most of them. I dated a photographer once. Couldn’t help it. The job consumed most of my life, so what was I supposed to do?

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  8. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Well, here in the non-media corporate world, I once felt my mouth go dry and heard my heart beating in my ears, when my ex-wife came storming into the office to make a splashy shouting scene.

    Fate smiled upon me at least to the extent that my ‘significant other’ colleague wasn’t in sight during the incursion (and wisely stayed that way!) – certainly sparing her a heaping dose of the same stuff. Also – the boss was out that day. I remember seeking him out immediately upon his return, so as to tell him about it (‘course, he’d already heard!), and to offer to resign (he seemed genuinely puzzled by that – which was a relief!)

    All in all – not recommended except for trained professionals in controlled environments!

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  9. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    I had co-workers witness my side of a very ugly phone call from the ex once. Not a pleasant thing.

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  10. Dorothy said on January 18, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    We had some fun in the office yesterday involving a phone call. I shared a phone number with a co-worker, and it was supposed to be a company that assists in getting travel visas expedited. (I got the number from a different co-worker about 3 months ago but had never called it.) So Jill dials the number, and a recording says (seductively) “Hello! If you’d like to communicate with hot ladies from your area, you’ve called the right number!” We dialed it twice to make sure and died laughing each time. Turns out the person who gave me the number originally transposed the last two digits.

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  11. Kirk said on January 18, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    For several years, our phone number was a digit off from a number for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. We got about a call a week from people trying to get their driver’s license reinstated. I always resisted the urge to tell them that they had been banned from driving for life.

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  12. colleen said on January 18, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    My parents met while they worked at the Dayton Daily News. Apparently they were so discreet about it that one of my mom’s friends on staff wanted to set her up with this guy who worked there…and it turned out, uh, they were already dating.

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  13. Kevin Knuth said on January 18, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Old bloggage returns-

    A while back there was a thread here about “Hannibal Rising”, the new book by Thomas Harris.

    I think everyone agreed that “Hannibal” (the book) was terrible- and the movie was even worse!

    However, I am about 2/3 of the way through “Hannibal Rising” and I find it quite good. Not as good as “Red Dragon”….but pretty darn good.

    on the subject of Harris- ONE amazing fact- he has written 5 books- and ALL OF THEM have been made into movies- one of them twice.

    No wonder he only puts out one book every 9 years or so.

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  14. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Speaking of people who make us uncomfortable, Paula Abdul is getting her own reality show.

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  15. Kirk said on January 18, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    which will be about as “real” as various sections of her face

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  16. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I had co-workers witness my side of a very ugly phone call from the ex

    my side of the converstion consisted almost entirely of “I understand”; didn’t want to add any fuel to the fire at all

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  17. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    My side of the conversation was more along the lines of, “I think seeing your kids should take priority over playing golf for the sixth weekend in a row.”

    Come to think of it, I had that conversation a lot before he became an ex.

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  18. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Speaking of family life, check out this story. I find it very John Waters-esque.


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  19. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I was responding to remarks of a more existential nature – with regard to her exceedingly low assessment of my cosmic value.

    Over the years since then, her tone has mellowed (even as the assessment lives on)….but I digress!

    The only workplace sex story I ever heard (that I believed) involved my best friend; the Deli (which had a backroom) in the open-24-hours supermarket where we worked; and the most soft-spoken, Bambi-like girl in the place.

    Suffice it to say, she had interesting appetites, and the board of health would not have approved

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  20. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    I hear workplace sex stories aplenty here at the hospital, nothing you can’t imagine I’m sure. They run more along the lines of which doctors are just utterly despicable dogs rather than describing exotica.

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  21. nancy said on January 18, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    That story is amazing, Mary, if only for the fact that homes for unwed mothers still exist. Who knew?

    I found it more David Lynchian than Watersesque, however.

    How’s that cold snap treating you?

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  22. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    It’s in the thirties in the morning when I leave for work, but it’s in the sixties by mid afternoon. I’m not quite as much of a weather wuss as some of my neighbors. Spend a few winters in Colorado and you’re not easily impressed. The snow in Malibu wasn’t at the beach. It was up one of the passes through the Santa Monica mountains so it was pretty high altitude. The stretch of the 5 freeway that’s been closed is at pretty high altitude as well, and is legendary with truckers for icing up frequently.
    I feel for the citrus growers, though. They’ve lost a lot of their fruit. Stock up on the OJ now. It’s going to get expensive.

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  23. ashley said on January 18, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    I used to live in Hollyweird and South Pasadena. I rode a motorcycle in to work, so whenever it rained, I would just call in sick. Not worth it.

    My parents’ phone number was one prefix digit off from a local second-run theater. My dad would tell them that if they got there in the next 15 minutes, it was free admission. I told them that tonight was the first night of our new “all porno” format, and then ad lib suitable movie titles.

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  24. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    If you were living in South Pasadena you likely had to use the dreaded Pasadena Freeway, designed in the thirties. Those entrance ramps are pretty challenging even when it’s not raining. Perfect for cars going say, 30mph max.

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  25. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    David Lynch is The Man!! And indeed – if he did a movie about such a home, it would surely be good stuff.

    Didja notice it was just outside Salt Lake City?

    Sounds like Big Love to me….

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  26. LA mary said on January 18, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    I emailed that story to a friend and she agreed on John Waters. She thinks Harvey Fierstein should play the housemother of the wayward girls home.

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  27. brian stouder said on January 18, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    And Paris Hilton would make an interesting case-worker…

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  28. John said on January 19, 2007 at 8:41 am

    “Speaking of family life, check out this story. I find it very John Waters-esque.”

    I bet the girls made their escape to Mortville…

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  29. Dorothy said on January 19, 2007 at 9:20 am

    My sister Lou used to work in a home for pregnant teens in Pittsburgh run by Catholic Charities, not so many years ago. I’m fairly sure it still exists.

    Did any of you ever see the movie “The Magdalene Sisters”, about the Irish nuns (true story) overseeing pregnant unwed girls? Good heavens it is harrowing. Gave me nightmares.

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  30. Bob said on January 19, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Some years ago, when the current downtown Holiday Inn was a different franchise (Sheraton?) I frequently got wrong-number calls from people trying to make reservations. I had had my phone number for several years before the hotel existed.

    Complaints to the phone company and to the hotel availed nothing, so after a while I just started taking the reservations. The problem went away after a fairly short time.

    About thirty years ago I worked for a large company with its own phone exchange. The exchange number was one digit off from the exchange for county government offices, and I used to get calls for the county public health department. Some wanted to know the results for their STD tests, and I was always able to avoid the temptation to tell them they had only months to live.

    I was almost overwhelmed by temptation, though, when some very angry and possibly somewhat inebriated fellow called to raise holy hell with me for denying the septic tank permit for his building lot. He threatened to come down there and kick my ass, and it was all I could do to not tell him, “Bring it on, f###er!” and then watch the evening news.

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  31. Danny said on January 19, 2007 at 11:39 am


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  32. nancy said on January 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

    My phone number was one digit off from the request line at Fort Wayne’s only, ahem, “urban” station. I frequently came home to 10 or more answering-machine messages, all from African-American teenagers asking to hear “The Humpty Dance.”

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  33. MarkH said on January 19, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Actually, Mary, it’s the damaged oranges that go to the FCOJ processing plant (my understanding, at least, from a network news report this week). So OJ will be plentiful, but not produce oranges themselves.

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  34. LA mary said on January 19, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    The oranges are pretty crappy this year anyway. Small and hard. I’ve been buying clementines instead.

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