Tuesday, March 20, 2007

men and women...

So we’ve hired all these additional contractors in the past couple of weeks: 4 women and 1 guy. All of them have had to interview with numerous people, including me. The guy is an immigrant, from Africa, with a wonderful, lilting accent. I don’t know what his story is, but I know he’s been in America for a while, doing contract work in a number of places, most recently New Jersey. When he accepted this job, the company asked him to start right away, so he flew down without any of his stuff, not even his car, which is being shipped. He lived in a hotel the first week he was here, and various co-workers drove him to and from work, but last Thursday he rented a car and found a cheap apartment (his terminology), 5 minutes away from campus.

He ends up working in a cubette (yeah, that’s what they’re called, and it’s accurate) just a few feet down from me, albeit with his back to me. We’re doing similar work, and I’ve previously done the work we’ve hired him to do, so he’s been assigned to a space close to me so I can answer any questions he has about what he’s doing.

We both worked late on Thursday, but at a quarter to eight, having been at my computer for almost 12 hours, I called it a day.

“Don’t work too much longer,” I said, smiling, as I logged off and prepared to leave.
“And keep track of your hours. Remember to ask Sue if you can bill overtime.”

“Oh, I won’t work too much longer,” he said in his beautiful, lilting accent. “Have a good evening, Judi.” The way he says my name, it sounds exotic: “Zhoodee”.

“Thanks, you have a good evening too,” I said as I left.

Having worked a long day Thursday, it was my intention to leave by 3:30 or so on Friday afternoon, but the best laid plans and all that...

At 5:30 I’m still sitting at my cubette, trying to write a cohesive account of a complicated follow up call that I’ve just completed. He’s still there too, typing away, but other than the two of us, there’s no one else in sight or in earshot. He turns around in his chair.

“Are you working late tonight, Judi?” he asks.

“Not really,” I say,
“I’m just finishing up some things here, to avoid sitting in rush hour traffic. What about you? Have you finished?”

“I have, but I will wait for you,” he says, in his beautiful accent.

“Oh no, that’s OK, go ahead, it’s Friday,” I say.
“And anyway, I’m not going to stay late tonight...”

“No no, ” he says,
“I will wait. I will wait, and we will walk out together.”

I’m a bit of a workaholic; that’s known about me. Sometimes I’m teased about that. It’s nice of him, I think, to say that he won’t leave until I do, to assure that I’ll leave at a reasonable hour on a Friday.

“Thanks,” I say.
“Alright then, let me just finish up and I’ll log off, and we’ll walk out together.”

The cleaning staff has waxed the floors, and put construction tape across the doorway at the end of the hall, so we can’t leave that way. We take a detour that I know, down the back stairs, past some of the research cubes.

When we get outside, it’s a lovely evening: clear and cool.

“Do you have plans for the weekend?” he asks, in his beautiful accent, as we walk toward our cars.

“Oh, I have big plans,” I say, chuckling,
“I think my daughter and I are going to buy a new used clothes dryer, because my old one is dying. What about you? Do you have plans?”

“I want to see Fort Worth,” he says.

“Oh yes, you must explore a bit,” I say.
“There’s lots to see...do you like art? Go to The Modern, or better yet, check out The Kimbell. Have you been to Paris?”

“Noooooo...”

“Well, I’ve been once, and the Kimbell...it was designed by Louis Kahn, and it’s so beautiful...there’s crushed gravel outside, and all these trees, and there’s an esplanade...it always reminds me of Paris...”

“Paris France?” he asks incredulously.

“Yes,” I say, and ask again, “Have you been?”

“No,” he says, “Have you?”

“Well yes, as I said, once, when I was young..."

He blurts out,
“I would like you to show me Fort Worth!”

I’m a little taken aback. Shoot, I’m a LOT taken aback. I don’t even live in Fort Worth, and he knows that.

“Well,” I say, faltering, feeling as if I’ve suddenly stepped into murky waters
...“Sure...maybe...sometime, when I’m over here...perhaps we could do that...”

“We will see Fort Worth and then get some dinner,”
he says, talking fast. He takes a step toward me. “I didn’t want to say anything inside,” he says, shrugging toward the buildings behind us,
“But...I would like to do that.”

“Well, maybe sometime,”
I say vaguely, backing away from him a bit...

“I am telling you, I would like to go out with you!” he says forcefully. It is a pronouncement.

I look at him. I have no idea how old he is, but he’s not a kid. He had to interview with me, for Chrissake! Still, I’m not sure I’ve heard him correctly, or perhaps I’ve misunderstood...and my face must show my confusion, because he repeats,

“Yes, I am telling you, I want to go out with you!”

Whoa.

I didn’t see this coming, but I know for sure, I don’t want to go out with him, or for that matter, with any of my co-workers...

And I also know that I don’t want to have this conversation with him right then, alone in a darkening parking lot...

“I have to go,” I say, and I turn away from him, walking fast to my car...

8 comments:

ab said...

Oh my. What a situation to be in. Do you wish you would have responded differently? One thing that defines moments like these is that they have caught us off guard. Fight or flight, in a sense. Not sure I would have reacted any differently.

Rhea said...

God, don't you hate it when something goes from normal to complicated!? That just stinks. And he's so darned pushy. You can always use that excuse that employees can't date each other or something like that.

Tammy said...

Yikes! Will that be uncomfortable now or what! You will figure it out :)

Lisa :-] said...

It's been so long since somebody "asked me out," I have no idea how to comment on this...! (LOL!)

Still, this whole situation seems a bit creepy...

emmapeelDallas said...

Ab, I wish I'd had the wherewithal to confront him right then and there, but I was sufficiently surprised and also creeped out by his aggressiveness that the first thought on my mind was to remove myself from the situation...I guess that was fight or flight. And Rhea, yes, I do hate it when things go from normal to complicated, and a big part of what creeped me out about this is that while I thought we were simply having a pleasant conversation, he was thinking something else entirely.

Monday at work, I reread his resume. Part of my hesitation in confronting him was that I thought perhaps I was dealing with a cultural difference, but he's been living in America for at least the past 15 years, including attending all 4 years of college here (in America). Since completeing college here, he's worked for a number of major pharmaceutical companies as a "consultant" (in plain English, he's been a contractor), so I can't imagine he hasn't had to endure, a number of times in the past several years, the same anti-sexual harrassment training we've all had to endure, meaning, he has to have some realization that his move was inappropriate, not only because we work together, but because I'm his supervisor. Yes, it's been awkward at work, to say the least. I've left early (for me) so far this week, to avoid being alone with him. He's a bright guy, and if he's as smart as he seems to be, he'll back off and simply keep his nose to the grindstone for the duration of his contract here. I don't want to make a big deal about this, but I won't let my guard down around him again. The whole thing really creeped me out.

TJ said...

"Oh gees..." hate it and the ackwardness that follows. Only one thing worse....working daily with the "worst date" of your life.
He knew exactly what he was doing...and took the shot.
TJ

ab said...

judi - thanks...little things like you said mean more than you might know....and i responded to your most recent comment on my post.

andy

Paul said...

We men are so misunderstood...