I’ve chosen to believe that being called a brat is an endearing term solely used by the female gender and is quite often accompanied by an unrestrained whack to the shoulder. Apparently I was especially endearing to all 5 women managers I reported to at IBM. But the best brat moments were perpetrated against my peers. I’ll let you judge if the endearing name-calling was appropriate.
The Magic Properties of Silicone
It was while working for Likit (pronounced Like-it by the owners and Lick-it by everyone else) Windows, a small manufacturing company in the SF bay area, that I was exposed to silicone. Used to glaze a window to the aluminum frame, the bead of silicone was devoid of color and when cured had considerable elasticity much like a rubber band. A long bead of the material, held vertically by one end, would stretch and retract under its own weight very much like a string of snot hanging from your nose after a violent sneeze. Recognizing these unique properties, this knowledge was forever engrained in my memory until an appropriate application presented itself.
Ten years later, such an opportunity presented itself while working in a cubicle farm. Margaret insisted on coming to work and sharing her sniffing and hacking virus with everyone within a 12 foot radius of her sneeze infested workspace. Since my cubicle was within the sneeze fly zone, it was only a matter of days before my immune system succumbed to the barrage of airborne attacks. Being that retaliation is not part of my nature, I decided instead to teach her a lesson for the sake of my cubicle buddies. Having created a 2 foot spaghetti-like strand of cured silicone the night before, I gathered the gummy mass in my hand and approached Margaret. No sooner did I began to speak when my head reared back, eyes squinted with hands quickly covering my nose and mouth. Upon expelling a loud Ahh Choo and nodding my head forward, I released all but one end of the long bead of silicone. As the clear, mucus-like bead stretched and bounced from my nose, a quick flip of my hand transferred the seemingly snot-like material onto Margaret’s shoulder. At that moment, I would have preferred stunned silence. I mean, we were all professionals working at a fortune 100 company in a San Francisco high rise. The loud screaming and physical gyrations by Margaret were clearly unexpected. Fearing that her peers would dial 911 and report a 51-50, I quickly removed window glazing from her shoulder, to which see responded by an affectionate whack and name calling.
Excuse Me, Mister
Being a slow learner, Margaret returned the next morning with Kleenex in tote. By mid morning I was exhausted of her sniveling, sneezing, coughing and nose blowing, Accompanying my collection of plants such as Boston fern, devil's ivy and dieffenbachia, was a small spray bottle of water used to lightly mist my cubicle oasis. While Margaret was busy speaking and breathing through her mouth to one of her clients, I decided another lesson was due. Strategically pointing the sprayer in the direction of the nasally tones being emitted from her cubicle, a robust sneezing sound was generated from my side of the cubicle partition while simultaneously giving the spray bottle a good squeeze. The resulting fine mist that settled on her desk caught her in mid-sentence while dialoguing with her client. Margaret bolts up from her chair, yelling “OMG!, OMG! I can’t believe I just got sneezed on!.... Oh, I’m so sorry, I’ll have to call you back”.
Open, Says Me
Some years later, and having matured from spreading simulated nose fluids on to my peers, I preyed on the less technical and somewhat gullible young college graduates. First, the set up. New badge readers had recently been installed to replace the previous model that only read a magnetic strip on everyone’s ID. The new readers looked the same but were able to read the new badges that had an embedded chip. Instead of swiping, you merely needed to wave the badge in proximity of the reader and the door would unlock. Rollout of the new badges started at headquarters and was slowly working its way to the west coast. Since I had recently relocated back to California, my badge was issued out of my previous reporting location back in New York and had the imbedded chip.
On this particular occasion, dear, sweet, young Cory was carrying the day’s lunch run and with hands full was unable to swipe her badge to gain access to the office. Having set down a tray of drinks and numerous bags, Cory swiped her badge just as I approached while she began the delicate juggling of drinks, bags and bowls while holding the door open with her foot. Being in a helpful mood, I relieved her of some of her load… well at least my part of the lunch, while inquiring why she put everything down just to open the door.
“What are you talking about Erich?”
“Here, close the door and let me show you”
Now it just so happens that the badge clipped to my belt was at the same height as the badge reader, but not visible under my untucked shirt. As I strategically stopped next to the reader, i instructed Cory that she only needed to say the password for the month and the door would unlock.
“Nut aaah. You’re just messing with me. What’s the password? Show me.”
While discreetly brushing by the reader I responded,
“Open sesame” which was followed by the familiar click of the unlocking mechanism.
“No way! Go inside and close the door. I want to try it.”
As soon as the door closed, the persistent “Open Sesame”s began as I gathered a small band of her peers to hear Cory uttering pure nonsense behind the locked doors. Though warmly greeting her when she entered after swiping her card, the aforementioned whack and accusations of being a brat ensued.