December 5, 2001
Accidental Candor


Mark, The Astonishingly Buff UPS Guy, shows up at The Dirt Company every morning around eleven o'clock, give or take half a cup of coffee. (I've noticed that quite a few women in the office seem to plan their coffee break around his delivery schedule. It's like being in the middle of a Blue Light Special in the Maidenform department.) Usually Mark is here to deliver another forty-pound box of dirt, or to pick up a couple of forty-pound boxes of dirt, or making arrangements to come back and pick up ten forty-pound boxes of dirt after hours. He hefts these incredibly heavy boxes around as deftly as the chef at The Village Cafe, tossing a pizza crust into the air. It is poetry in motion.

(And yes, even the [ridiculously-happily] married audience members are able to appreciate Mark's ... um ... technical prowess.)

This morning, however, Mark The Astonishingly Buff UPS Guy is delivering a smaller package than usual: a mere ten-pounder, instead of the usual forty. Plus this doesn't look like a box of dirt, for a change. It's addressed to Scott, The Office Manager, and it's stamped "FRAGILE" on all sides of the box. It makes a sloshing noise when Mark plunks it onto the floor next to my desk.

"Looks like somebody's Christmas wine is here," says Mark The UPS Guy. Sure enough: the box is labelled "Ultra Snooty Napa Valley Vineyards Inc."

Apparently this is something of a tradition.

As I sign for the package, Mark pokes at the box with his foot. "That's some pretty fancy stuff," he says admiringly. "Bet I know what YOU'RE getting for a Christmas bonus this year." 

I open my mouth to say something offhanded and witty -- We're already high on life around here, maybe, or You know what they say: don't drink and analyze sediment compound data. Instead, an entirely different combination of words spring from my lips, unbidden.

"I'm not sure if my sponsor would approve," is what I actually wind up saying.

Whut the hell??

Where did THAT come from?!?

First of all, I don't HAVE a "sponsor." At least not technically. David sort of qualifies, since he is the one who hand-held me long-distance through those earliest days of recovery, and since he is the one who continues to provide daily support and encouragement. But I am not a graduate of any formal twelve-step program. And secondly, although I understand that eventually my new co-workers are going to realize that I don't drink -- and I'm FINE with that: it's something I'm very proud of, even though alcohol is clearly a huge part of the corporate culture here -- I sorta figured the discovery would unfold naturally. At next summer's Dirt Company Picnic, for instance, when I'm the only one not sitting there clutching a Bud, or during a four-martini farewell lunch for someoranother departing geotech, when I'm demurely sipping my Pepsi Twist.

Or -- more likely -- at the company Christmas party this Saturday night.

I'd even begun to rehearse the moment in my head. I'm standing in front of the buffet table on Saturday night, eyeballing the tiramisu, when Scott or JoAnne or one of the young techs offers me a glass of Ultra Snooty Napa Valley. I look them straight in the eye, smile sweetly and say, "No thanks." No further explanation. No elaboration. No embarrassment or hedging or pretending to take 'just one taste,' just to keep the peace. I've been mentally/emotionally gearing up for this moment almost from the first day I came on board The Dirt Company. I certainly didn't intend to "come out" like this ... in the middle of a Monday morning, standing in front of my desk signing for a package.

And I certainly didn't intend for Mark the UPS Guy to be the person I come out TO.

This has been happening to me all my life: hearing one thing in my head, but finding myself saying something else entirely. (And the "something else entirely" I end up saying is usually a whole lot more embarrassing -- and a whole lot more revealing -- than what I intended to say in the first place.)  I'm not sure if it's the Sagittarius in me  ... or the Grandma Vert. I suspect it's a little of both. This sort of accidental candor is great when you're writing an Internet journal, of course. Everybody loves to hear about you peeing your pants when you cough, when all you meant to write about was summer bronchitis.

But it can be not-so-great in real life situations.

Feeling just a little foolish, I sneak a sideways glance at Mark the UPS Guy. What could he possibly be thinking, right now? Does he know what a 'sponsor' is? Does he understand the meaning? Does he think I'm ridiculously prim? Hopelessly prudish? Annoyingly self-righteous?

To my surprise, the look he is giving me is one of understanding ... and recognition.

"You too?" he says.



tell 'em secra sent you

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