The Elevator Look

On Friday, I check my name off the sign-in sheet at a MANDATORY refresher course on sexual harassment.

*

I am scheduled for the early afternoon session. 10 employees show up. The same moderator of last year’s mind-numbing presentation is on site. The “update” requiring this mandatory iteration: electronic sexual harassment.

Ten minutes into the presentation, things turn a tad creepy. The person that once inhabited the cubicle next to mine for an entire year, the social disorder I had to beg management to move away from me before I killed myself, becomes belligerent.

It has everything to do with behavior the moderator calls: the elevator look.

The elevator look, she explains, is when someone looks you up and down, from head to toe and then toe to head. If this happens and makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to tell this person that you are offended by this behavior. If he or she doesn’t stop, that constitutes harassment.

My ex-cube-neighbor claims he indulges in the elevator look on a daily basis (and don’t we all know it) and sees nothing wrong with it.

spying

“You don’t get it. You have to look down to the shoes and then back up to the hairstyle to take in the whole outfit,” he says, in a condescending tone. Like the moderator is a fashion mistake and he’s Marc Jacobs. In red plaid pants and saddle shoes.

The moderator explains why the elevator look could be construed as insulting.

The ex-cube raises his voice.  If he wants to look at a girl like dat, why shouldn’t he? 

The twenty-something guy next me rolls his eyes and utters a barely audible “Duh.”

The ex-cube, possessing a finely tuned sonar for insults, real or imagined (the only thing fine about him), takes note. I can almost hear the scribbling inside his head.

In yet another attempt at edification, the moderator pulls an example from real life.

Scene: A man in a neighborhood playground is screaming profanities in the presence of little kids. When he won’t stop, one of the mothers calls the police. The police arrive shortly after and arrest the screaming man.

Ex-cube says, louder this time: “I thought we supposed to have freedom of speech in dis country!”

The moderator says, “We do. But the man was screaming 4-letter words, vulgar 4-letter-words, in front of little children and would not stop when asked. That’s harassing behavior, which is against the law.”

Ex-cube is huffing and puffing. Some of us are cringing. Others are enjoying the show.

For an entire hour — I sit and stare at my lap. I think I’m going out of my mind.

At long last, the moderator concludes the talk. We all get a cookie. I make a swift exit and return to my desk.

*

Not ten minutes later, a guy from the mailroom approaches me with a package addressed to my boss. He asks me to sign for it.

The package is from: Try My Nuts Nut Company, Inc.

This is not an image I’d care to conjure about my boss. In fact, on some level, it offends me!!

When my boss’s office is empty, I drop off the package and get out of there.

*

Back at my desk, again. The woman who sits next to me — the Queen of Gossip in an office crawling with rumor-mongers — also sat next to me in the harassment seminar.

She sidles over to my desk and whispers: “Did the paralegal guy sitting next to you say Duh when [the ex-cube] was talking…?”

She’s itching to stir up some dirt  — and then report back her findings to the ex-cube. Gossip is the glue that bonds them.

I don’t want to go there,” I tell her. She doesn’t move. I adopt a high-pitched, fluttery tone of voice, I wave my arms in the air and say: “You’re offending me! You’re offending me!”

A look of bewilderment crosses her face. She backs off and she forces out a cackle from her throat, not knowing quite how to take what I have just dished out.

She takes her leave, heading most likely for distant parts of the office — quite possibly on a mission to spread a few nasty bits about me.

Ten minutes to five, I gather up my belongings and clock out. How much harassment can one person take?

At the elevator bank, I punch the button. Repeatedly. The door finally opens.

I step inside and go DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.

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