Is That My Future I Smell?

You're not supposed to stand on the toilet. (Image credit:

You’re not supposed to stand on the toilet. (Image credit:

“It could have been much worse, and you know it,” I sneered at myself while crouching on the toilet in the very last bathroom stall.  I was having trouble breathing normally because I was squatting with my feet on the edge of the toilet lid so that Janice from Accounting would not know I was there.

I had 15 minutes to get myself together before meeting with my boss to discuss the email I accidentally sent to him.

“Jesus. How long does it take to wash your hands,” I screamed at Janice in my head.  My right leg was cramping, and she was still scrubbing away and checking her hair in the mirror.  I bowed my head to pray for strength to maintain my balance on the toilet and noticed that the hem of my skirt was floating in the toilet bowl, like a urine-soaked Ophelia.

“Why didn’t I flush the toilet before I stood on the seat? No wonder I am about to get fired.” At least there were only 12 minutes left until the meeting, but now I had to dry my skirt under the hand blower.  I had to wear the wool skirt on the day I ended up perched on the toilet.  What I wouldn’t have done to be wearing quick-dry polyester.

With one minute to go, I stood outside Dr. Briton’s door thinking about my excuse.  My mind was blanker than my future, so I just smoothed down the front of my sweater, ignored the faint stench of urine emanating from my skirt, and knocked on his door.

He finished whatever sentence he was writing about statistical regression analysis and swiveled his chair around.  He stood and gestured for me to join him in what I referred to as the “lounge” area of his office.   I dutifully took a seat on the blue chenille loveseat and stared at his three framed Harvard degrees.

“I think we should talk about this email,” he started.

“I didn’t mean to send that to you.  I apologize.”  To my horror, Dr. Briton produced a copy of my email.  I noticed that certain portions of it were highlighted in yellow and tabbed.  Damn academics—none of them could read a single word without tabbing it like it was a Heidegger text.

“How long have you been my administrative assistant?”

“I started in July, so it’s been four months.” This was going well. I knew all the answers to his questions.

“Judging by your email, it appears you have some grievances.”  He put on his reading glasses and scanned his highlights of my mis-fired email.

“I could see how you got that impression.” I offered.

“You wrote here, ‘I’m so bored. I feel about as useful as the extra thumb that inbred people in the Appalachians have.’”  He stared at me.

I held up my hands and wriggled my thumbs.

He was not amused.  Not many tenured professors enjoy the liberal employment of jazz hands.

“If you are that bored, Ms. Tate, we can get you more work to do.”

“I would appreciate that very much. It’s been an honor to send faxes detailing your speaking fees to Yale and Stanford. I guess I was just hoping for a little more to do.”

“Well, I would say that you could help Margaret out, but I am not sure you would be a good fit.”

Jesus. He read the whole thing? I was hoping he would stop after the first few paragraphs, especially when he was clearly not the intended recipient.  In the fifth paragraph, I mentioned my feelings about the Co-Chair of the department, Dr. Margaret Roth.  My boss’ wife.

“I am sure we could work it out,” I mumbled feebly.

Dr. Briton read aloud my choice words for his Beloved: “And Dr. Roth thinks I am a mentally deficient monkey.  She made me track down the origin of a $4.25 fee on her personal credit card.  Her personal card!”

It’s true that I hated Dr. Roth because she treated me like a personal assistant and not the professional administrative assistant that I was.  And, frankly, I was concerned about her dysfunctional obsession with credit card fees. I longed to remind her that I earned a Master’s degree at the esteemed university that now saw fit to hire me as an “Admin Level 1.”

“I apologize for those remarks.  I will find a better way to vent my petty annoyances.”  Was he going to fire me or not?  I thanked God I hadn’t said anything about the scions of Dr. Briton and Dr. Roth, who were known best for their overbites and unfortunate inability to tame their cowlicks.

“We can find you more work to do, but you need to be more careful with email.” Dr. Briton said.

It sounded like he was done talking to me.

Our meeting over, I turned to leave, my spirits buoyed because my fledging career as a university admin still had a heartbeat.

On the way back to my desk, I passed Janice from Accounting.  “Do you smell something? Is the bathroom broken again?”  She said, engaging me in co-worker banter.

Turning the damp part of my skirt towards the wall, I looked Janice in the eye and said, “I don’t smell a thing.”


81 thoughts on “Is That My Future I Smell?

  1. Oh, the suspense! I kept having to stop myself to read carefully, because I wanted to skip ahead to see what happened! Glad I did. I would have missed a lot of details. Well done, you. 🙂

  2. oh DEAR!! 🙂 how on earth did the email get sent to your boss and who was the original recipient? i think i would’ve just permenantly left the building after sending the email. kudos to you for sticking it out.

  3. The sending of an email to the wrong recipient is just the worst nightmare, but having it be your boss is downright brutal! Loved this post, though…you wrote it so well! 🙂

    • I am sad that it’s true, but I have to say that he was very kind about it and we never spoke of it again. I can only assume that he never told his wife about it, because I don’t think she would have enjoyed my words.

  4. Oh my god. That moment where you realize you sent an email to the wrong person has got to be the worst moment of your life. I know firsthand. What I love so much about this is that you didn’t describe that moment, which would have been the more obvious way to go, but instead described the aftermath of that moment, the uncomfortable meeting, and the fall-out. I think that made this piece fascinating. The internal dialogue is spectacular, and the whole thing just flowed. Amazing job.

  5. Girl, I once told an employer that I felt like I was being treated like a “fucking prostitute” because when I was leaving the company they weren’t going to pay out the vacation I had accrued. It was so out of character for me that they paid out.

  6. I can’t believe this actually happened. I mean, I do believe, it but it’s just so perfect. The highlighting and tabbing of your email, the boss’s WIFE who had you chase down petty credit card fees, and …. the urine on your skirt, the “Not many tenured professors enjoy the liberal employment of jazz hands”. Priceless. You told the story remarkably well. I seem to love your posts more and more each week. (P.S. I *nearly* cc’ed an email to a superior at a new job calling him a “blowhard”. Thank goodness our email system let you delete an email after you sent it. I learned that one real quick…)

      • Message recall on outlook. The only thing more devastating than the moment you realize you sent something to the wrong person is getting the “message recall failure” message. It pops up in your inbox like “ha ha f*cker! you are SO caught, don’t bother trying to undo it.”

      • Oh, it’s best I don’t know about that. I need to just ZIP it and learn how to text like a real woman. So long as I don’t accidentaly text that picture of my breasts to my boss. THat would suck.

  7. I have no idea how you’re managing to be this CRAZY FUNNY every single day. Girl, you’re a machine. Keep it comin’! x

  8. Love
    This…such a thing would certainly happen to me. So if I memorize this…..I can keep my job. And avoid pee skirt which I am notorious for. Awesome!

  9. Great story. Is it weird that when I envisioned you standing on a toilet seat, I wondered what kind of shoes you were wearing? Flats? If it was heels and you didn’t fall in, I am doubly impressed.

  10. When I was in college, I was dating this new guy and he was coming over to make me dinner. I told my mom and she said, “Be careful. Guys usually do things like that when they want to get in your pants.” After I hung up with her, I texted my friend, “Ha. My mom says [guy’s name] is only cooking me dinner because he wants to get in my pants. I don’t think it’d be polite to tell her he already did…”

    Except I accidentally sent that text message to my mother.

  11. LOL…I once replied to an insurance adjuster I was haggling with over the settlement for my hubby’s totalled car that her insured side-swiped. It said “This b**** thinks I’m stupid.” It was meant to be a forward to Chief. Her reply, “I think we should end this conversation.” Believe it or not, I still got the settlement I asked for. 🙂

    Great post!

  12. Oh God Christie! How did you not die right on the spot?!
    This story was great. Everything from the subject to the pacing to the details and the conversation. Awesome, albeit mortifying, story!

  13. Wow. How was your relationship after that? It’s awful when your boss finds out how you really feel, isn’t it? And the urine soaked skirt is such a fantastic detail. This is one of those posts that makes your skin crawl in a wonderfully awkward way.

  14. I used to occasionally be too free with my words in emails to my former boss. That would have been okay, except he occasionally found it funny to forward my emails in their entirety to upper management. You know, the people I wanted to impress with my thoughtful and tactful observations rather than my bitchy rants.

  15. You tell an awesome story. I could feel your pain, but not smell, the whole time. I, too, sent an email to my boss (president of my company) and regretted it the second I pressed send. I got in at 6am the next morning and got the IT head to get into the system and remove it. He said I used up my favors with that one.

  16. The thing about that message recall thing is that sometimes it failed without you knowing! The recipient would see your e-mail in their inbox, followed by a recall message. If they tried to open it, it would say “this message has been recalled” or something like that and you were all good. But if they had their preview pane set a certain way and didn’t actually click on the message, they could see it in the preview window. Now that is bad news bears, my friend. Bad news.

  17. This is sooo good! I loved how you handled Dr. Britton – that was likely more excitement than he’d had in … his whole life. And this Dr. Roth sounds like a real character ;-). I could picture you in every word of this story – great job!

  18. I love the tension in this piece. You’ve got a great narrative zing, and I kept waiting for you to get fired. I think you were saved by the use of “I” and saying what you thought-they-thought of you, not what you actually thought of them!!

  19. Unfortunately, I’ve made this mistake. It’s like your mind is thinking of whoever you were probably slandering/defaming/shaming/whatever you wanna call it/whatever box it fits into and bam! you type that person’s name instead of your best friend. Sucks. I’m glad he was understanding, though. Did you get more scut work though? I had an attorney I worked for who wanted someone to walk his dogs (he lived nearby) and pick up his dry cleaning and his wife from the airport (insert blank stare of “someone lied to you about my capabilities for this position” here).

    • Omg. I am star struck! I saw you at Blogher this year. It’s like a celebrity just commented on my blog. Thank you. I only ever got scut work. Twas do boring. Shudder.

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  21. You were just hanging out with the wrong academics. All my mentors loved judicious use of jazz hands.

    Maybe that’s why I’m rethinking another degree…so few milieux in which thumb-centric jokes appreciated.

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