This morning, the entire content staff was corralled into a makeshift classroom for some mandatory blogucation. I found the lesson valuable. Dave and Keith presented a number of tips learned from a decade of blogging. Keith’s powerpoint presentation was tastefully minimalistic, which made it easier for the low-powered minds in the audience to process. Most powerpoint presentations are adorned with cosmetic touches—glowing fonts, explosive graphics, silly puns—that dilute the focus of the slide. Mercifully, Keith’s slides were notable for their use of space and their bold, black-and-white messages. I remember the whole fucking thing like it was yesterday, even though it was today.
As absorbing as the lesson was, the real action was elsewhere. Betwixt the bright eyes of our wonderfully coed students, flirtatious energy popped like sparks off a Tesla coil. For the first time in the company’s history, everyone arrived early. Intent on finding a seat next to our “person,” we spilled through the glass doors of the rented space like the front line of pathetic Black Friday Target shoppers. We swarmed around the tables, jockeying for position. The seats around Big Cat and KFC filled quickly, as though by forming ranks around the queen bees, we might avoid Dave’s wrath. That was the defensive strategy for some, while I let my hormones guide my ass to a seat. I placed myself across from Frankie, with just a few feet of table separating us, providing the perfect canopy for the probing foot games that followed. Frankie removed his sneakers out of respect; I kept my boots on to make him wince.
Notes were passed. Ellie handed me a folded doily, scented by her Hello Kitty perfume and sealed with a piece of gently-chewed juicyfruit. It was supposed to go to Kayce, but I slipped it open. “Kayce! When I grow up, I want to be just like you!” it read. I scoffed, threw the note away, and ate the gum. Talk about misplaced idolatry. Kayce is a fine role model, but other women who have accomplished far, far more in this world. Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Whitney Houston, and the Angela Merkel all come to mind. I suppose when you set the bar low for your dreams, it’s easier to attain them. Again, nothing against Kayce, everything against Ellie.
Halfway through the lesson, Frankie had found the perfect grip. It felt like I was titty-fucking his ankles, which were softer than usual because he’s been wearing ski socks to bed. They trap the moisture between his toes, which I refuse to put in my mouth from December-April. I looked at his face, which was locked on the screen at the front. He didn’t quake or reveal the slightest sign of strain until a single marble of sweat leaked out from under his ball cap, rolled down his brown, took a left at his cheek, and slipped off his glassy chin to the floor below. If our neighbors noticed, they had too much respect to say anything. Perhaps they were busy themselves.
To my left, Glenny Balls doodled on a wrapper from a recent burger review. He sketched intricate layers of patties, cheeses, and sauces, chewing on his pencil between thoughts, his brow knitted from the concentration. By the third wrapper-canvas, the pencil was down to the nub, and I realized he was simply eating it like a beaver. Even when he’s not working, he’s working.
At one point, I heard what sounded like an angry ex-girlfriend keying her boyfriend’s car. But the source of the noise turned out to be Smitty, who was grinding his teeth so violently that his lips were bleeding. Simultaneously, he squeezed a grip strength training device that looked homemade. The veins on his forearms bulged and his face turned crimson. It was clear that he wasn’t breathing, but it felt like a choice. We let him be.
Finally, the lesson ended. We dropped our pencils, closed our laptops, and slid away from the tables as one. Frankie surreptitiously put his shoes on while I buttoned my fly and thanked God for helping me to choose dark pants today that camouflaged the expanding wet spot that was nearing my knee cap. I stepped out into the cold behind Kate, who bit off the end of a noxious cigar before lighting it with a butane torch for the walk back to the office. It was only twelve blocks, but somehow she finished it. I saw her offer a few puffs to loitering UPS drivers along the way.
Blogger school made me miss middle school, when every day offered the chance at romance. But I’m very happy to work with a group of people who are open to trying, and learning, new things. Especially when they involve feet.