Love, Lust, or Just a Silly Office Crush?


I toiled away as a temp for what seemed like forever. Sure, temping paid the bills. It also provided me with free time on the job to write, its main selling point, but often I didn't look forward to going to work, knowing I would be sitting at some stranger's desk, doing some crappy job where hardly anyone even knew my name. As the months passed and I was still a temp, I began to long for a job I could call my own. I wanted to be a real part of things rather than just a transient, uncared-for worker. I hoped, I wished, I prayed for the day I would find a permanent job at a company I wanted to work for who also wanted me. Should this happen, I deemed, I would find a way to both devote myself to my job and still keep up with my writing.

And then -- the Universe provided.

A friend of my mom's ran the New York branch of a large advertising agency, and she was in need of a new assistant. We agreed to try it out for the first month on a freelance basis. After the trial month I was hired permanently.

I was so pleased to be an "official" employee again. I was glad to leave my temping days behind (and no longer have to pay for my health insurance). With glee I decorated the area around my desk, left numerous pairs of shoes in my desk drawer, and delighted in not having to clean the phone each morning, knowing it was mine and not some stranger's.

A few months passed and everything was great. I was doing a good job, and my boss was content with me.

One day there was an unexpected stir in the company when the head of the copywriting department up and left. As much as I was disappointed, since we were pals, I was soon glad about it, because one of the results was that this super-annoying woman who sat in adjacent cubicle moved into his vacant office down the hall. It was a relief to no longer hear her constant yammering. But then there was this other result....

I began seeing this cute guy around the office whom I hadn't seen before. We said hi a few times in passing, but didn't officially meet until a few days later when he came to my desk to introduce himself. He said his name was Jeff, and he reached out his hand to shake mine. I smiled, said I was "Laura," and put out my hand to shake his. When he took my hand he wouldn't let go. He kept shaking and shaking and shaking.

Jeff told me he was the new head of the copy department. When we were talking I was distracted, because I was instantly attracted. He cute, smart, had a great personality, and even dressed funky-cool. There was an immediate rapport.

I ran into Jeff the next day and asked if he could please stop by my desk for a minute? When he came over I asked him a couple of "new employee" questions like his birthday and phone passcode, because I was the keeper of these lists. I also mentioned that if he needed any supplies he should ask me, because I ordered the supplies for the office.

The next day Jeff stopped by. Could I could order him a radio? I asked our office manager and she said sure. But before I ordered it Sherry, who has final say over everything, heard about the request and said no. Oh, well. I left a note on Jeff's desk that read, "Regretfully, the office has declined your request for a radio. How about some Post-its?"

Next Jeff asked if he could get a new mouse pad. I happened to have a ridiculously warped one at home I that I brought in to play a joke on him. I put it on Jeff's desk with the note: "Regretfully, the office has declined your request for a new mouse pad. However, I was permitted to buy you this slightly imperfect one."

When he stopped by later, useless mousepad in hand, he said, "You're joking about this mouse pad, right?"

I tried to keep a straight face when I replied, "What makes you say that?" We shared a huge laugh.

My jokes and flirts were always well received. I began to wonder... does he have a girlfriend? Could I ever hope of dating him?

My questions were answered within a couple of weeks. I was chatting with the two other copywriters when Jeff came in the room and joined our conversation. He mentioned something about the company where his girlfriend worked and that they were living together.

Oh, well -- so much for that prospect. Bummer.


I continued to interact with Jeff in the same fun, flirty way, only now I considered it to be just play. And although I knew he was unavailable, that didn't stop me from getting a silly schoolgirl crush on him. Because of this crush Jeff got special attention and privileges. When I was standing by his desk one day I noticed he was drinking a Pepsi. "Do you ever drink Coke?" I asked.


In a low, sneaky tone I replied, "Oh, really? Because I can get you free Cokes. I have the keys to the supply room where the soda is stored." Sly grin before I left.

Later I returned, carrying a Rolodex box hiding six cans of Coke. "Here's the Rolodex you ordered," I said with a wink, "and don't forget to give me back the box." He thanked me and we laughed.

Two days later he came over to my desk. "Laura, you won't believe this -- someone stole my Rolodex! Can you please order me a new one?" (A "stolen Rolodex" became our code for him being out of soda.) After several "replacement Rolodexes" needed within a short time, I told him I had to cut him back because he was plowing through our stockpile.

Soon not a day passed when I didn't stop into the copywriting room to talk to Jeff, or he didn't come by and sit in the chair beside my desk to talk to me. We laughed, joked and chatted whenever we could -- and sometimes when we shouldn't. I had always liked my job, but now it had become especially exciting. Each morning after I arrived, I would listen out for Jeff's voice. When I heard it I smiled to myself, knowing it would be yet another jovial day. My crush got bigger. I became increasingly distracted by his presence.


When Jeff began working in our office he was situated in the copywriting room (a room down the hall from me that was divided into three workstations, two of which were already occupied). He was informed this location was only temporary; when a nearby, vacant office was fixed up he would be moved there.

Jeff told me he didn't want to move into his own office. He preferred working in the same room as the other copywriters, so he could toss ideas around, instead of being isolated in a room by himself. Although he had told both Sherry and our office manager that he didn't want to move, the decision had already been made. As the time drew nearer to his impending move into "solitary" he became noticeably agitated.

I asked Sherry if Jeff really had to move. "Yes, there's a reason." When she was out of the office the next day, I pleaded Jeff's case to our office manager. Something about what I said struck a chord, and she said, "Okay. He doesn't have to move."

Jeff was very happy. I was happy because I made it happen -- or not happen. But when Sherry came back she quite displeased. I got a mild reprimanding for not dropping the subject, which was none of my business in the first place.

Reprimanding aside, my playful bantering with Jeff continued. When there was a problem with his e-mail, I was actively involved in the getting the IT department to fix it pronto. Mind you, not so he could conduct important business via e-mail, but so I could e-mail him.


From: Laura
Subject: Manners refresher

Dear Staff,

When you take the last of the water from the kitchen water cooler, please either: replace it yourself (if you're a guy), or if you're a girl --
appoint someone capable to replace it for you.

Also, please replace the roll of paper towels when you use the last one.

Thank you kindly for your consideration,

Miss Manners


From: Jeff
To: Laura
Subject: RE: Manners refresher

what if you believe you're really a woman and have been cheated into a male body, huh?


From: Laura
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: Manners refresher

Then you won't be able to be in Blue Dress Shoot #2 [I had recently shown Jeff these
great pictures of me wearing a slinky blue dress]


From: Jeff
To: Laura
Subject: RE: Manners refresher

see, that's the problem, I should be in that shoot looking glamfabulous, baby!!

but nnnoooooo, I'm stuck with this male figure... no curves and no lusciousness!!


One of the silliest interactions we had was a "Pear contest." I came back from Woodstock one weekend with these delicious pears I had picked myself. I offered one to Jeff, describing it as "the best pear ever." He declined, saying his girlfriend had recently picked some pears that were "the best."

"No way," I said, "Mine are the best."

"No, mine," he countered.

"No, mine!"

We decided to have a contest. My pear was ready to compete, but Jeff kept forgetting to bring in his. "C'mon, you gotta remember! My pear can't hold out much longer." Finally I had to give him an ultimatum: "If you don't bring in your pear tomorrow, you lose the contest by forfeiture." The next day he showed up with a pear. But then he told me he left his handpicked pear at home, and the one he had was bought at a Korean deli on his way to work.

I didn't think the outcome of the contest was fair. His pear won because it looked better, despite the consensus of several co-workers that mine tasted better.


From: Laura on Mon, Sep 28 2:55 PM
To: Jeff
Subject: tightening security?

We've had reports, usually on Mondays, of Rolodexes being stolen out of offices.

Just checking that yours is still intact.


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:04 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

Oh my god!!!! It's gone!!! sweet mother of mercy!!! What shall I do?!? Oh heaven
beat me down with a stick!!!!


From: Laura on Mon, Sep 28 3:06 PM
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: tightening security?



From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:06 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?



From: Laura on Mon, Sep 28 3:09 PM
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: tightening security?

pear contest cheater


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:25 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

organic loving hippie chick


From: Laura on Mon, Sep 28 3:33 PM
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: tightening security? ?

grasping at straws, incorrect name caller

Do organic hippie chicks shave their legs and wear glittery clothes like I do?

I highly doubt it, thank you.


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:34 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

organic loving hippie chick


From: Laura on Mon, Sep 28 3:36 PM
To: Jeff
Subject: RE: tightening security?

If you want your new Rolodex, you'll have to stop by to get it. I refuse to bring
it in myself, thank you.


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:37 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

organic loving non-hippie chick?


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:38 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

lazy bastard, thank you


From: Jeff on Mon, Sep 28 3:39 PM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: tightening security?

ahhh... now who's resorting to cheap, uncalled for slings. Oh, the humanity!




Even though Jeff had a girlfriend, I always wondered if he liked me. It was obvious he was fond of me, but could his feelings for me be more than "friendly?" Certain things he did made me wonder. For instance, often in passing he would surprise me with a quick pinch to the side of my waist. And sometimes when walking beside me he would rest his hand on my shoulder and squeeze it. And one time, after I gave him the Rolodex box filled with sodas, when he came over to say thanks he put both of his hands on my shoulders and gave me a mini-massage.

In addition, Jeff dropped numerous hints that his relationship was less than ideal. One Friday afternoon I stopped by around 5:15 to say good-bye. The two other writers had left, as had many others in the office. Jeff was sitting at his computer, sullenly playing Solitaire.

"Why don't you go home? There's no reason to stay any longer today."

"Nah," he replied, uninspired, "I'll wait until 5:30, in case anyone has any copy requests. And anyway, all that's home is my girlfriend."

On another Friday afternoon, as I was leaving I said, "Bye, have a good weekend!"

He let out a sigh and replied, "I'll try." And yet another time, we were the only ones in the kitchen. A co-worker passed by and said to Jeff, "You're always laughing." Under his breath he mumbled to me, "Yeah, but I go home and cry."

An essential part of my role as an assistant is maintaining the utmost degree of confidentiality. I was always in and out of Sherry's office, overhearing juicy bits of gossip. Of course I knew to keep all information to myself. It's common sense.

One day I overheard some talk involving Jeff. I was aware he was having an ongoing problem with one of the other copywriters, but I hadn't known how very bad the situation had become. Because of some incident in particular, the guy hadn't come into work for the past two days, and it wasn't known if he was ever going to return. I was disturbed by what I overheard, which involved lawyers and suing. What was going on?

I left Sherry's office and went into the copywriting room. Jeff was there -- no one else was around. Quietly, I told him what I had heard in Sherry's office. He immediately got all worked up. I realized I had stuck myself in the middle of something very serious.

Jeff briefly explained his side of things. Before I returned to my desk, I said, "Do not say anything to anyone about what I've just told you. I could get in a lot of trouble if Sherry finds out. Do you promise? Really, this is no joke. Do you promise?" He promised.

About half an hour later Sherry came over to my desk. "Laura, I have to ask you something. Come into my office." I could tell from her grim tone and demeanor that doom was in the air. Bad news sure travels fast.

I followed Sherry into her office. After closing the door behind us, she asked me the precise the question I feared she would: "How did Jeff know what was discussed in here?" There was no way out. I was the tasty morsel of mouse trapped in the corner and she was the hungry cat about to pounce.

"Because... I... said something to him. I know I shouldn't have, but I was really concerned about what was going on. I thought if Jeff knew the other side that would help him understand things better, and help the situation get resolved...."

Working closely together for the past ten months, Sherry had grown to like me personally as well as professionally. Not to mention, she was a friend of my mom's. Regardless, she replied, "Laura, this is very, very bad. You know that you must never repeat anything you hear in this office, but you did. What you've done is immediate grounds for termination. I don't want to terminate you -- you know I care about you -- but I have to. This is business."

I was speechless. I leaned back against the pillar I was standing in front of to help prop me up. I've just ruined my fantastic job with a great boss because of a stupid crush on a guy that was completely unavailable. How could I have been such a stupendous fool?

I choked out, "Do you think... I could have... another chance?" She said she didn't think so.

Fighting back tears, meekly I asked, "When is my last day?"

"I can't talk about it now. We'll talk later. But you're to go back to your desk and not breathe one word about this to Jeff. You're going to be a little actress, and act like everything is okay until we can talk about it later."

I left Sherry's office and returned to my desk. Within a minute I started sobbing uncontrollably. When I was able to stop, the second I thought about having just ruined my plum job, I started crying all over again. Cindy, my co-worker/friend who sat across from me, couldn't help but notice and came over to my desk. "Laura, what's wrong?"

At first I couldn't speak. But after a few moments I was able to mouth out, "I'm fired."

She couldn't believe it. Neither could I. But that's what happens sometimes when you play with fire and do stupid, stupid things.

I was a complete wreck. I was glad when Sherry asked me to run an errand out of the office. Outside, I walked around like a zombie. I thought my condition would improve when I returned, but it was more of the same: crying, composing, crying, composing.

Later that day the entire staff received an unusual e-mail, saying to give all copy requests to a specific woman in the office (usually all requests went to Jeff). When a co-worker passed by I asked, "What's up with that e-mail?"

"Haven't you heard? Jeff's gone. He resigned. He packed up his stuff and left already."


Back at my desk, my phone rang. "Hi, it's Jeff. I didn't have a chance to say bye to you. You weren't at your desk when I left." He told me he resigned in a split-second decision.

I whispered into the phone, "It seems I'm going to be joining you in the ranks of the unemployed."

"What do you mean?"

Fighting back tears once again, I choked out, "Because I'm fired."

"Are you sure? Laura, I'm so sorry. It's my fault. I feel terrible. It's all my fault."

"No, no, it's not your fault. It's mine. If I hadn't said anything to you none of this would have happened." I told him Sherry was going to talk to me at the end of the day to discuss when my last day would be. He could tell from my voice I was very upset, probably crying. He said all these really nice, really supportive things to me, like I was talented with so much potential, that I would be an asset to any company I worked for, that I could do so many things in life.

That grueling day continued. Around 4:30, during one of my more pronounced breakdowns, Cindy came over and said, "Laura, I can't stand to see you like this. Why don't you go out and take a walk? I'll watch the phones. It's okay. Go."

I grabbed my coat to head out. Yet when I reached the elevators I didn't want to go outside again and be amongst crowds and crowds of people. I needed to find a place where I could be alone -- ha, I'm in the wrong city for that. Somehow I found my way to the stairwell in the basement corridor. After half an hour of sitting on the steps, I returned to my desk. It was now near the end of the workday. At any minute Sherry would call me into her office for our talk.

5:30 came and went. No talk. Jeff called again to find out what had happened. I told him we hadn't had our talk yet. Shortly after his phone call Sherry whisked past me. "I'm running late. We'll talk tomorrow." Then she was gone.

I was left hanging. But hanging now with an ever so slight glimmer of hope. If she was going to fire me, why wait until the next, fresh day to do it?

Aside from a brief crying spell the next morning, I was able to hold myself together much more successfully than the previous day. Jeff called around 10:30. I told him we still hadn't had our talk. At the end of that day, again Sherry left in a flash. This time she said, "We'll talk on Monday. Try to have a good weekend."

Monday? I have to wait the whole weekend to find out my fate?

After Sherry left, I began to treat myself to thoughts that perhaps I wouldn't be fired after all. Think about it: Friday's a good day to be fired. It's the close of the week. You go away for the weekend and you don't come back. Monday's a bad day. Why have an employee wait all weekend just to come in on Monday and be fired? That would be a cruel thing for any boss to do, especially one as nice as mine.

I had plans to visit Mom and Pam that weekend, but after the two days I'd just been through I wasn't sure I wanted to go. My mom and I usually talk about everything, but I didn't want to tell her or Pam about my work situation. They were so pleased for me that I had gotten a good job with Sherry. I didn't want to disappoint them with the truth of what I had done, and I wasn't sure I would be able to disguise my troubles. After further contemplation, I decided to trudge ahead with my visit. I knew if I didn't go I would just sit in my apartment all weekend and mope.

Throughout the weekend my emotions were stable enough that I was able to hide my workplace woes. When my mom asked how things were at work I replied, "Oh, fine," and then nonchalantly changed the subject to this great documentary on polar bears I had recently seen on Channel 13. I had a decent weekend, although I never forgot about the dark cloud looming over me.


On Monday morning Jeff called again. (In my state of "work crisis" I sure was popular with him.) "See, I told you you'd be okay."

"What do you mean? How do you know? Did you hear something?"

"Well you're still there, aren't you?"

As Sherry was leaving on Tuesday afternoon, she said, "Tomorrow we'll talk. But before we do I want you to write a list of your strengths and weaknesses."

Strengths and weaknesses... hmm, let's see. Strengths: I'm nice and I care? Weaknesses: little birdie interfered in areas she shouldn't have?

That night I stayed in the office late working on my list. Under my "weaknesses" I wrote about my crush on Jeff leading me to do something very foolish: betray Sherry's trust by repeating confidential information. I also wrote, "I hope for the chance to take all I've learned from my terrible mistake and make good of it. I hope to have the chance to diligently work toward instilling your trust and confidence in me once again."

On Wednesday, after what had seemed like an eternity, Sherry and I had our talk. It lasted all of five minutes. Yes, I was allowed to stay. I was given another chance, providing the quality of my work improved. It had definitely been suffering lately.

I was very thankful to have a second chance. Although I missed the fun of having Jeff around in the office, it served me better that he was no longer around as a distraction.

On Thursday, a week after he had left, I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business, when suddenly Jeff was standing beside me brimming with a smile. Before I had a chance to react he put his arm around my shoulder, bent down, and gave me a big (luscious) kiss hello on the cheek. Then he plopped himself into the chair beside my desk and started chatting with me.

I had a hard time gathering my thoughts. Seeing him again so unexpectedly left me disoriented. And that kiss. While he was talking I was in a daze -- I kept thinking about the feel of his lips on my face. He told me the company had hired him back to do freelance work. We talked for a few minutes and then he left to attend to business.

By chance I ran into him on the far side of the office when he was leaving. He gave me a playful little kick on the butt. Cheerily, he said, "Catch ya around, Lo!" ("Lo" was his nickname for me.)

"Uh, huh," I replied unenthusiastically.

"What's the matter?"

"It's dangerous to talk to you."

"C'mon, don't say that. It's not dangerous to talk to me."

"Yes, it is." I turned and walked in the opposite direction.

I heard him say, "You've hurt my feelings." Well, too bad, I thought, as I shrugged my shoulders and continued on my way.


Since Jeff's resignation we had been e-mailing each other, despite my conflicted feelings about continuing our contact. When I wrote that maybe we shouldn't be in contact anymore, he wrote back professing his "deep appreciation of our friendship." My feelings for him were beyond those of friendship, and seeing him again that day brought them all back to the surface. I did feel it was dangerous to talk to him. Not because someone from the office might see us, but because it wreaked havoc on my emotions. In order to stay focused at my job, for my own well-being I had to end our contact. "Friends" was a pleasant thought but an improbably reality.

I diligently tried to put the whole "Jeff thing" out of my mind and concentrate on being the best assistant I could be. Yet try as I might, I kept messing up. I would make a dumb mistake, Sherry would call me on it, and then I would feel incompetent and unable to trust myself with the simplest of tasks. A vicious circle had begun. I became very insecure, and day after day I went home feeling bad about myself and my abilities.

I continued to struggle with my job. A few weeks later Sherry called me into her office. She said, "I'm going to start interviewing for your position." Her statement didn't shock me. I had a feeling it would happen; I just didn't know when.

I went back to my desk, and sat with the reality of just having been fired. I was surprisingly unemotional about it, probably because I had already been through so much anguish that I felt I had made peace with the situation.

On my last day a group of co-workers took me out to lunch. I knew Jeff was going to drop by the office that day. I hoped I would miss his visit. Just as we were returning from lunch our group ran into him at the elevator bank.

Jeff saw me and exclaimed, "Hey!" A co-worker stopped to talk to him. I immediately walked away. I didn't think he would come all the way down the hall, through the office and over to my desk to see me, but he did. I acted blasé. He mentioned getting together and I declined. At the end of our brief conversation he said, "So, we'll keep in touch?" He motioned typing on a keyboard.

Feigning disinterest again, I replied, "Oh... uh... with you?"

He let out a big sigh and threw his hands up in the air. He exclaimed, "Forget it!" as he briskly turned away and left.

A wave of melancholy swept over me. I knew I had just squashed any affection he still had for me. I wallowed for a bit, until I thought, What the hell am I doing? I'm fine. I'm through with Jeff, through with all the aggravation it caused me. Soon I'll be on to bigger and better things.



Yo! Doll-face!

Not that this is any o' my business or anything but hey -- somebody's gotta set you straight about what's goin' on here. This Jeff guy ain't hardly no prince that you should be workin' on gettin' over. He's a bum an' he played ya like a piano! Think about it...

First he meets ya and gets all warm & cozy with ya even though he's got a gal at home (granted, me an' the boys do that all the time but the dames we do it with are used to that kinda treatment cause they're... well... friendly kinda gals, if ya know what I mean...).

Then he starts workin' ya like a pro -- slow at first, a Coke here, a radio maybe there... Before ya know it you're stealin' cases of the stuff for the guy and he's got himself the world's sultriest Coke machine. That delivers! Great deal -- fer HIM!

When he knows you're definitely on the line so ta' speak, he ups the ante a bit and gets into the touchy/feely stuff. A pinch here, a squeeze there, a little back massage thrown inta the mix ta legitimize the whole thing. BINGO -- the guy gets his own office squeeze toy. Sure, you get strung along more but do you think he gives a crap about that? Of course not. It's a great deal -- fer HIM!

An' when you find out he's got a gal at home he gives you that dime-store Romeo business about "she don't understand me...", "all I got at home is my girlfriend...", "I go home an' cry...". Gimme a break. A buck says he goes home to lingerie an' heels an' everything's rosy. He's usin' the oldest line in the book, babe (which also means a gal like you oughtta know better but I guess matters of the heart can make anybody kinda stupid, right?).

But you shoulda known when the guy blabbed after you gave him the office low-down that he was lower than shark shit. Any stand-up guy knows ya gotta respect your sources an' protect them from gettin' popped for talkin'. Only a total goomba would tip his hand to where he got privileged info. This guy sold you right down the river an' never thought twice about it. In my business, there ain't nothin' lower. End of story.

But not end of story for this guy -- he's back emailin' you, butterin' you up with this "deep appreciation of our friendship" bullshit so's he can come into the office every now and then for more o' that touchy/feely jazz. I know these kinda guys -- they'll take whatever they can grab. And this one's grabbin' you! It's a great deal -- fer HIM!

And at the end of the day when the dust settles and the chips are down whatta you get? A voice-mail message sayin' he'll call back. An' he doesn't, of course, which I coulda told ya a long time ago. He knows that he's gotten pretty much everything that he's goin' to be gettin' outta ya.

He's off settin' up his next score. Guys like this are a dime a dozen, babe. They're greedy, selfish bastards with no allegiances or loyalty. Only interested in featherin' their nests a little more -- at anyone's expense. In my line a' work they get weeded out pretty fast -- they end up as speed bumps in Jersey or swimmin' with the fishes in the Hudson River.

You gotta watch yourself better, kid.

Yours sincerely,
A friend*

[ * Thanks and compliments to my writer/friend Ian in Canada for his above commentary ]




Yeah, I sure blew it on that one. Bye-bye to a great job. A fool for love, and it wasn't even love. Or lust, really. It was just a silly office crush.

After a perfectly-timed vacation with a fun girlfriend to gorgeous Laguna Beach, CA, where I drowned away my sorrows with margaritas, sunshine and incredible scenery, I returned to New York to tend to an important task on hand: finding a new job.