My colleague Jess had set me up with Charlotte from Accounts. A figure of beauty as well as an authoritarian – Charlotte was just like my inaccurate self-image. Jess had done the heavy lifting, all that was left was for me to ask her out.
I should have been overjoyed but I was concerned – rejection would mean another black mark against my name. There was the repetitional risk to consider – also, when it came to work colleagues, my form was poor. Emma from PR discontinued our romance after the third date, citing the generic ‘lack of spark’. Linda, the CEO’s PA, turned me down both in person and via email (while I could see the merits of this ‘belt and braces’ approach, it was a little too emphatic for my liking). Charlotte’s refusal would surely cement my reputation as a low-rent lothario. And if there is one thing worse than a womaniser, it’s an unsuccessful womaniser. All things considered, her decision carried weight.
In my civilian life there were, of course, dates-a-plenty however such mitigation counted for naught. I wondered if I could offset my lack of workplace success with valiant tales from the outside. Could I somehow shoehorn amorous vignettes into canteen chit-chat? I considered asking Jess to flout my dalliances around the office, then dismissed it as impractical. Besides, she might bungle it – she had made some notable errors of late. Last week she sent an email to the operations director outlining ’employee miss-conduct’. It sounded like a dominatrix’s twitter handle – no, lovely girl but not a safe pair of hands.
I turned my desk fan up a notch.
“So Jess,” I said loosening my tie, “what do you reckon? I’ll think I’ll drop Charlotte an email.”
“Are you for real? This isn’t a meeting you’re arranging, just go and speak to her.”
“Well, it is a meeting, technically.”
Steeling myself, I headed up to Accounts. On the door a large sign announced (in Comic Sans): ‘training day, accounts closed, please email your query’.
I walked through and up to the small reception desk where they kept the interns. A young girl looked up.
“Sorry, we’re closed today. They’re training.”
“Hi, yes, I knew that. I just thought they might be on a break, I heard Charlotte just came back.”
“I’m not sure. I could check, but really they did say…”
“It’s ok, I’m from HR. If she’s free, can you tell her Marcello is here?”
“Sorry, I didn’t know. If she’s not around, shall I call one of the other managers?”
“No, it’s fine.”
Her hand rested on the phone.
“Actually, you know what,” I said, “I’ll just go. I’ll email my query.”
I was turning to leave when the inner door opened. Charlotte emerged, coffee in hand, accompanied by her effeminate assistant, Roger.
“I heard that,” she said, “using your HR powers for evil, eh?”
“Do they have any other use?”
“Probably not – what do you want? We’re training today.”
Roger shifted an armful of files.
I said, “yes, sorry, can we talk?”
“Oh, right, is it confidential?”
“But not in the way you think. Not HR confidential, just confidential.”
No one said anything so I added: “you know, work stuff.”
The intern’s gaze was burning the side of my face.
I said, “it’s ok – I’ll just email, it’s nothing urgent.”
“We’ve got to…” Roger said, and they left.
I turned to the intern.
“Can I say something?”
“That sign on the door, it’s great, very informative.”
“But we’re a FTSE one hundred company not a jumble sale, do you mind not using Comic Sans?”
“The font, it’s not brand standard. We use Bookman.”
She looked down at the pile of unopened mail on her desk.
“Old Style, that’s it. We use Bookman Old Style.”
She nodded. My phone vibrated, I looked – it was a spam text.
“I’m joking,” I said.
But before she could respond, I fled.
A couple of hours later I received an email:
“M, I know what you came up here for, you idiot. How’s Friday for you?”
It was Charlotte.
“See, I knew my powers were good for something, baby.”
I meant to delete ‘baby’ but hit send without thinking. Straight away I emailed Jess:
“J, it’s a goer! We need to talk tactics.”
Almost immediately she responded with a smiley face. Presumably, that’s a good thing.