Public and private
Somebody called me and asked to come down to the lobby to meet people who came to our company for some event. First I saw N. Yes, of course there was a gathering of “old timers.” I should have figured that by myself. When I saw her in the lobby, I knew right away it would be a lot of drinking just with her alone not to mention others. This is going to be tough to combine with my other daily responsibilities. Fortunately, in our company no one takes things seriously, at least from me.
N told me she was thirsty and asked for water. Cold water. I knew where to get it. And I knew that the water was just a beginning. N said, “thank you sooo much,” and I was surprised she was so thankful for the plain water and always took it for granted when I offered her vodka. Water as a public version of vodka for sure requires standard exchange of pleasantries that we tend to ignore in our more private affairs.
A dark-haired woman came and reminded me that I had to be at an important meeting. I was not sure where the room is and decided to go to my office first to check my calendar. My office and the meeting were on the same floor, so it would not be an inconvenience. I came to the 8th floor after making several attempts. Although I knew which floor I needed to go, first I called elevator to the 6th floor, then to the seventh, and finally to the eighth. Well, it is hard to get things right from the beginning.
When I finally arrived at the 8th floor, I turned into my office just to realize I am in a wrong room. Everything was set differently there: the desk, the chairs, event the bed. Also my room was much larger than that one. What is going on? I rushed out, as I did not want to be found trespassing at someone else’s private space. From the sign by the door it was obvious I was at the right floor but at a very different part of the building. It was sector “E” and my office was in sector “A”. I asked a woman who was passing by how to get to “A”. She asked, if I was new here. The reason she was asking was that according to the original building plan, “A” and “E” were connected by a passage. However, unless I am a new employee, I probably do not know that because of a recent construction the passage was temporarily closed and we had to go all the way around. She illustrated that with a gesture, extending her hands like two parallel trains that would never meet. I nodded confirming that I was neither new here nor old and proceeded in that direction.
Soon I saw my ex-boss, M, sitting in an armchair. I remembered it was the first time I saw him since his dad had passed away and wanted to say something about that, however noticed there was a lady sitting next to him and thought talking about private matters would be not appropriate. Although it was hard to decide whether the death was a private or public event. Then I wanted to tell him that N is in town, but I thought that he must have known it either directly from N or from his wife who was her friend. Whether I could be of any use to M it was hard to tell so I waved to him and he waved back to me. When I approached him, he reached into his pocket and handed me a yellow sticker with a rather long number scribbled on that started with 405... He smiled and I remembered that it was one of my old passwords I must have written down a year ago. I must have changed it many times since that. I put the sticker in my pocket and said to M that it was surprising it took him such a long time to memorize my password. It was a subtle joke playing on the assumption that had he been able to memorize my password right away, he would have trashed the paper rather than kept it in his wallet. M pretended he did not get the joke and as usual started mocking my Russian accent.
Then the lady sitting next to M turned her face to me. That was S, a big shot in our company. She examined me and my wife and asked if she could look at my pants that my wife was holding in her hands. The edges of the pants had embroidering that my crafty wife just added using three-color threads. The work was almost finished. “Who did that?” asked S disapprovingly putting an angry grimace on. And having said that she started undoing the threads. My wife was terrified seeing someone so high on the corporate latter to disapprove of her work. Not to mention the work that she was proud of just a second before. And I honestly did not understand what was wrong with the embroidering. It looked perfectly fine to me. I told S while gently trying to remove my pants from her hands: her management style is a bit too authoritarian and she has to take into consideration that many people do not appreciate when someone interferes with their private business. After all, everyone has a right to their private space and some people would even get angry if others accidentally touch them. Psychiatrists have a term for such people, psycho...psycho ... I tried to remember how such people were called, and in the meantime perhaps in order to fill-in the pause, S took out a small set of scissors and started cutting my nails starting with my left hand. I looked down and was terrified by how long my nails had grown since I saw them last time. And not only that, there was a black rim of dirt under every nail. “Do you mind me touching your nails?” asked S and smiled. “I hope you are not a psycho?” I nodded with a smile. Seeing my nails being cut-off one by one was shameful yet relieving at the same time. And after all, touching someone’s nails can be considered touching that person’s body only inasmuch as the nails were attached to the main body. However, the very moment they became detached touching them ceased to be an infringement on one’s privacy. Also I was happy that her attention switched from my wife’s craftwork to something else.
Finally S let me go. Wondering whether she would try to retaliate my criticizing her managerial style, I caught up with my wife who was now almost at the end of the long passage. “It is strange that she did not like your work. Remember, when we were visiting in Iceland their crafting was even less solid, using rather random patterns.” Now it was my turn to get down from the truck onto the ground. The driver wanted to make it easier for me and drove to a pole so I could get out from the back of the truck while holding to the pole. It was still quite a fit on my part, as I had to move my right leg behind the left while moving the left behind the right at the same time. When I got down, one of the people who also just got off the truck asked me where I needed to go. I said that I lived just here. The truck conveniently stopped just next to my door. I realized that I was talking in Russian and these people were Icelanders and would not understand. I repeated in English and then I heard how one of them said several times in a very clear Russian, “I live here” apparently mocking me or just playing with the language unknown to him.
As I was approaching the entrance to our house, I realized that the space by the door was all covered with overgrown plants of different sizes. “They sprang from my flowers”, explained my wife. I was wondering whether that was done intentionally or happened by chance. And I still am...