I mentioned before that I started a job straight out of college and alluded to the fact that I completely dominated it and made a ton of friends right off the bat.
Oh, I’m sorry, I must be thinking of someone else. I was the one who fell down the stairs during a fire drill within my first month of working there (more on that here). My bad.
Well anyhow, some time had passed and folks at work had stopped bringing up “the incident” whenever they saw me. I was making friends and no longer ate lunch by myself a my desk every day. Things were looking up.
Our office was broken up into rows of cubes with an aisle running down the middle. I sat across the aisle from a kid who was a few years older than me; he had worked at the company for a couple of years and he knew the ropes pretty well. We were friendly and we joked around a lot.
One day he was sitting at his desk eating an orange. In an attempt to get on my nerves, he was throwing the pieces of his orange peel across the aisle to try to get them in my trash can. Most of them were ending up on the floor and I was getting annoyed, so I picked up one of the bigger pieces and threw it back at him, frisbee-style.
What happened next will never make sense to me, no matter how many times I replay it in my mind. The orange peel was coasting towards my neighbor when suddenly it seemed to catch a wayward breeze; it arced up and to the left, flew over the wall of his cube and disappeared. We both gave a surprised chuckle and shrugged our shoulders. He was just starting to make a point about why I should be the one to get it when someone walked around the corner.
It was the Vice President of our department. He looked dazed and his glasses were perched crookedly on his nose.
Pardon me while I briefly interject to remind you that this particular VP is the same one who was present for Stair Gate a few months earlier, so it is probably safe to assume that he had a pretty high opinion of me already.
He stopped in the aisle in between our desks, held up the orange peel and looked back and forth between my neighbor and me. His glasses were still crooked.
Because he had just been struck in the face.
With the orange peel.
That I had thrown.
IN THE FACE.
I’m not proud of what I did next, but no one had said anything and the silence was deafening and clearly I couldn’t own up to it, I had just fallen down the STAIRS in front of this guy! He already thought I was a complete dummy, I certainly couldn’t let him think that I was also violent and reckless.
I did my best to appear nonchalant when I shrugged my shoulders and said “Huh. Well I’m not the one eating the orange.”
And then I turned my back on my neighbor. Literally, figuratively, physically, emotionally, you name it. I threw him under that bus without a second thought.
I was completely willing to let him take the fall for this one. I know, I know – terrible. But what else could I do? None of the “working professionals” who came to talk to our classes in college had given any indication as to what we should do in this kind of situation! I was completely unprepared.
The VP, who is a supremely nice and laid-back guy with a great sense of humor just laughed and walked away. My neighbor tried to touch base with me about what the crap had just gone down but all I could do was shake my head while staring at my computer and pretending to be busy. My face was so red that I thought it would actually burst into flames and I was sweating somethin’ fierce.
The longer I sat there, the worse I felt about having just doused my neighbor in A-1 sauce and thrown him to the wolves. Eventually I decided that I had to make this right. The guilt was crushing, yes, but it was also time to start acting like an adult. I marched into the VP’s office and came clean. Apparently I hadn’t acted as nonchalant as I thought because he already knew that it was me. Neat.
I went back to my desk and quietly got my things together so that when security came to escort me out of the building I wouldn’t have to scramble to cram my shoes in my purse and make a scene. It’s important to leave with some dignity, you know.
But they never came.
Over the next few days I realized that I wasn’t going to be fired – well, for this, at least. I unpacked my shoes and gave the VP a cautious hello when we passed in the halls. I gritted my teeth when my neighbor would throw orange peels at me and laugh until he cried – apparently he also knew that the VP was savvy to what had really gone down and was tickled that I was so horrified.
It took me months to get over that one. I can laugh about it today but rest assured that at the time, there was nothing funny about the thought of having to apply for a new job and explain that I was let go from my previous position as a result of assault with some dangerous citrus.
I hope you’ve all learned a valuable lesson here today: Don’t throw citrus in the office.
Oh, you already knew that?