Workplace diplomacy

You have no idea what kind of lunatics I have to deal with at work. The other day Maggie, one of my coworkers, she comes busting into my office, she’s like, “Rob, you know, if you’re not going to make any ice cubes, it’d be nice if you didn’t use them all. OK? Because now there’s no ice. So thanks a lot.”

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And yeah, I did take all of the ice cubes, but just the way she came at me, like no knocking, and no, I wasn’t on the phone or anything, but I was in the middle of reading something, I was on the Internet. And she’s all like yelling and pointing, she’s holding a can of Diet Coke in one hand and an empty glass in the other, like look Rob, Diet Coke, glass, no ice. Thanks a lot.

Sure, I could have been a little more diplomatic about everything, right, I told HR that I’d do my best to handle office situations like this a little bit more diplomatically, that’s what the letter that they made me sign said, I just remember that word, diplomatically, like I’m an office diplomat. But I lost it, I said, “Maggie, what the hell’s your problem?” and she kind of smiled, because yeah, I came out swinging, I said “hell” which isn’t very diplomatic, and so I could just tell she was already filling out the official complaint in her head, “And he was cursing,” and then I’d have to write out my own counter-complain, explaining how technically “hell” isn’t a curse, even though, yes, it is all about context, and no, I shouldn’t have said that.

But I was already knee deep in, and so I pushed ahead. “One, what are you, in charge of the ice?” And she was like, “Yeah, I filled up the ice tray this morning. Now there’s none left.” At this point she pointed to my desk. I had a huge glass of ice, which, whatever, yes, I used all of the ice. And this I admitted, albeit not very diplomatically.

“I’m sorry,” I told Maggie, “I didn’t know it was your ice. I thought it was the office’s ice. OK, and I filled up the tray with water after I was done. Why don’t you just come back in a couple of hours and you’ll have all the ice you want?” and she shot right back, “Well how about next time, you save some ice for the rest of us, especially considering you weren’t the one who filled it up this morning, I did, because I was planning on having an ice cold Diet Coke right about now. And now I can’t. Because you took all of the goddamn ice.”

Now I smiled back, I was already mentally adding on my future report to HR, that not only is “hell” not a curse, but if it is, then maybe you should talk to Maggie about cursing, because she told me “goddamn.” “Maggie, where’d you get that Diet Coke, from the office kitchen?”

“Yeah? So?” she said. “Well, it’s from the fridge right? It’s still cold. I don’t understand what you’re complaining about. Why don’t you just chill the f out …” shit, I shouldn’t have said f. Even though I didn’t say “fuck,” I only said f. There’s a lot of room for her to make it look like I said “fuck” and this was potentially a problem, because I could just see my response to HR, in my head, there was no way of phrasing a defense without writing out, “f,” or even, “fuck,” no, just “f.” Still. That was sloppy.

She smiled, “Well you know what? I filled up the ice. OK? And who are you to talk about ice cold soda? You’re telling me to drink it from the can, but you’ve got an ice cold Coke right next to a glass of ice. Don’t you think that’s maybe a little hypocritical?”

It’s true, I was using a full glass for my own refrigerated Coke. I like pouring just a sip, and then I drink it, and then another. Each drop perfectly chilled without being diluted. But I was on the ropes now, I didn’t have time for any concessions. “Look, it’s ice OK? It doesn’t matter who fills it up, and even though I’m grateful that you replenished the tray …”

“Bullshit you’re grateful.”

Bingo. I continued, “Even though I’m grateful, I didn’t think I had to ask everybody in the office if I could take some ice. Do you go around asking people who replaced the toilet paper in the bathroom? Huh? You want to get into that time I saw you not refill paper tray two on the annex printer with fresh paper? Remember that?”

And Maggie just looked at me, I was smiling, we were even for curses, and she said, “You know what Rob? Go fuck yourself, asshole.” And she stormed out.

I thought, ha, talk about a win. And I’d be the bigger person here. I had the cold drink. I didn’t see the need to involve HR.

But then ten minutes later I thought, you know what? Fuck Maggie. And I opened a new Word document and told HR all about how Maggie stormed into my office and told me to go fuck myself. I hope she gets fired.

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