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Single In The Suburbs, Installment 104


Our writer’s facing a new regime and deeper scrutiny than ever at work… for online dating. Now what?

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n our previous installment our writer learned (horror of horrors!) that the dreaded Steve is now in charge of her company, with co-harasser Burt moving up the chain of command right behind him. Her attempts to reach out to Charmaine S. Blith were rebuffed. How will she cope?


Wednesday, 10 a.m.
…your office is now in receivership. Effective immediately, your supervisory responsibilities have been removed until the investigation has ended and any necessary disciplinary action has been implemented, at which time your management status may or may not be reinstated. In addition, you are required to fill out the attached work activity log
My guess is that she’s as scared about losing her job as I am.
and submit to Charmaine S. Blith at the end of each day for approval. Please be advised that this investigation and the circumstances that initiated it are to be kept completely confidential, and violation of that confidentiality will be considered insubordination and grounds for termination.

Are you kidding me? I don’t usually get angry (I’m much better at kicking myself or getting panicky or both), but right now I am furious. The activity log is an obvious indication that they’re taking disciplinary action against me — I figured that would happen — but having Charmaine approve it is worse than disciplinary action; it’s one big, awful, cold slap in the face.

And where is my boss in all this? Cowering in her office, probably. She has cut off contact with me and is now directing all my email to Burt and Steve. My guess is that she’s as scared about losing her job as I am. Like me, she’s divorced and has a mortgage to pay.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if she were one of Burt’s victims. Or Steve’s. I wish Stan Able would call me back. My guess is that the good old boy network is too thick for a good person like Stan to pierce.

I click on the work activity log and stare at the spreadsheet. I feel like throwing up. This is something they give interns and people on disciplinary probation to ensure they’re not goofing off.

Now there’s another email. Oh, the irony! It’s from the online-dating site, my latest list of guys I might like to meet. And even in my panic, my ever-vigilant peripheral vision sees one in particular — loves to cook, doesn’t want kids — but common sense restrains my hand, and I decide I’ll just wait until I get home.

Wednesday, midnight
OK. Let’s file this one under “things not to do when you’re trying to impress a guy online.” I do wind up emailing Loves to Cook, Doesn’t Want Kids. He emails back right away and makes the mistake of telling
This is a nightmare. To hell with the work log.
me he was in human resources. So I send him a long, rambling, possibly psychotic account of my troubles at work, from my first encounter with Steve to the terrible news that I’d be submitting activity logs to Charmaine S. Blith.

Normally I wouldn’t reveal so much, given the tiny town and extensive grapevine here, but this guy lives all the way in Chicago, and besides, I have Abba blaring on my iPod and have already finished a glass and a half of Merlot.

It should go without saying that Loves to Cook, Doesn’t Want Kids does not email me back.

Thursday, 11 a.m.
I’m tightly wound after a mostly sleepless night and three cups of coffee. I wonder if this is how it felt to be targeted by Joseph McCarthy. First of all, I’m paranoid. I find myself wondering if my office is bugged, or if my webcam is set to record me as I sit here filling out this stupid activity work log. I don’t trust anyone, neither my boss nor my secretary nor the guy pushing a broom down the hall. I’m dying to talk to someone about this mess, but I’m under a gag order and could lose my job. And even though I’ve done nothing wrong, I feel like a leper. No one on my staff will even look at me.

This is a nightmare. To hell with the work log. I have 61 vacation days and 14 sick days coming to me. I am going home. I run into Charmaine in the hallway, and she demands to know where I’m going.

I ignore her and keep walking until I get to my car. I plug in my iPod and blast ABBA all the way home.

Thursday, 9 p.m.
This is unexpected: Loves to Cook, Doesn’t Want Kids has written back. And surprisingly, he didn’t tell me he’s suddenly in a relationship and would prefer that I’d leave him alone. Actually, he wrote back a long and thoughtful message full of support and advice. He says I’m the victim of sexual harassment. He says I will get through this. He tells me to think like an Amazon warrior and fight back.

And then he says he wants to meet me.


Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 105


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