How white was my lie? An ode to Costanza. Part 1.


The best lies are made of truth. I know this because I’ve practiced devious behaviour – sometimes for the benefit of others, like women who wear too much makeup. Sometimes for the purpose of exploration – “I thought this was a library!”. And occasionally for a snack. ( A free snack, as the great George Costanza says, should not be ignored.) But sometimes, you just need to get out of a jam.

As I did one Summer a few years back – desperately. I’d been working for a great company, with a great crew, great location, and great work. But my contract was up, and I wasn’t needed for a while, so I ended up working from home, which is when I got a call from another company – let’s call it Agent Orange. They offered me work, and I took it.

My first day at the new studio, it was either a thirty dollar cab ride, or a bus and two trains. But whatever – the pay was pretty good, it’s worth it, and who knew how long it will last?

I buzzed the door, and was met by a very friendly woman, who showed me all around the building, and introduced me to everyone. Every person in the place, one by one. She described me in detail, even showed me the ‘quaint’ little kitchenette. Then I’m finally shown to my desk, and introduced at long last to my boss and work partners. She mentioned something about needing to do this a lot, and left, all smiles.

The boss introduced me to the entire floor for a second time, one person at a time, before leaving for a meeting, promising that I’ll be briefed on his return. This turned out to be true, when he returned from a nearby chat an hour later.

For obvious reasons, I can’t describe the job I was expected to handle, but it became clear fairly soon that these people assumed I was some sort of Terminator. All I can say is that a two minute commercial would normally be handled by more than three, socially awkward geeks. Or maybe I was just used to having it easy?

Either way, I sensed trouble – an internal eyebrow raised. But press on with plans we did, and soon enough it was time for lunch.

Now, most places I’ve worked have some sort of access to a source of food and water. But these folks must have discovered that the secret to maximising productivity involved a long trek to the only nearby food, that being a traditional Chinese takeaway. And all this is the middle of Summer, resulting in a Ben Hur-like struggle to find our way back to shelter, days later. I believe we saw lion on the way.

But the worst was yet to come, because, that afternoon, during what seemed like a rather premature progress meeting, (which saw me presenting some imagery downloaded from the internet as reference), the Chinese food came back to haunt me.

I do remember leaving the meeting for the gents, making my way past what I’d noticed earlier was a strange discrepancy in terms of interior design. The gents, you see, was clearly borrowed from the set of NYPD Blue. Andy Sipowitz could be heard, seen and smelt changing inside. The door was being held on by sticky tape.

Opposite this curiosity was the new board room, occupied at the time by clients, who enjoyed a sleek environment not unlike a James Bond villain’s pool room. Large and spacious, minimal, air conditioned, with whale sounds echoing softly through soft tiled walls. Some new campaign displayed on various plasma screens, while management agreed on next year’s budget.

And all this as I entered the toilet from hell.

It was only once I was in there, though, that I realised my predicament. The door, you see, really was broken. It hung ajar, by quite a few inches. And while I’m not the most relaxed, care-free camper on the planet, I’m also quite a good judge of geometry, and not prone to imagining things.

So, as I sat there dealing, again, with curious nature of my takeaway lunch, I realised that the occupants of the boardroom could literally see, through the quite-open toilet door, and under the old fashioned cubicle, my feet.

Now, I should mention that a condition known as ‘shy bladder’ runs in my family. It is fairly self-descriptive, but it’s worth mentioning that this condition goes beyond the bladder, making it difficult to complete another certain activity in close proximity to others, at least without much discomfort. Having your feet in view is one of those moments.

So it was there that it all came together. I had to get out of this weird, bizarro world. I made up my mind to get out, before it was too late, and this job went to hell.

Now, it was actually earlier in the day that I received a call from the first company. We’ll call it Heaven. They’d had some work come in early, and needed me back. But this was earlier, before things had gone strange, and for all I knew I’d be tied up for a few weeks. But not wanting to seem less than open to coming back, I stalled – I said I’d come back for a higher rate.

So later in the day, after meeting Andy Sipowitz, trekking to Mongolia for lunch with the two socially awkward but lovely fellas, and pondering the following weeks of this trial while some other designer enjoyed my old desk…I picked up the phone, for the second time, to speak with my old boss.

He approved the pay rise, on one condition. That I come back tomorrow.

I’ll see you in the morning, I said, and hung up.

To be continued…

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