October 25, 2001
Office Enigma


The flowers are sitting on my desk when my boss and I get back from lunch on Wednesday: a tasteful autumn bouquet of carnations and alstroemeria, all fuschias and yellows and peachy-pinks, tucked artfully into a little round vase.

The attached card reads:

"Enjoy your first day
at the new job!
Me."

"Oh my," says JoAnne. "It looks like somebody is thinking about you today."

Yes indeed. *Somebody* probably IS thinking about me today. And when *Somebody* and I get home from work tonight, I'll inform him that he sent me flowers.

(I'm sure he'll be surprised by his own thoughtfulness.)

I sit and admire my pretty flowers for a minute. So far this little bouquet is the only thing on my desk that is 100% *Secra.* Everything else is either company issue or souvenirs from my predecessor. (A half-empty bottle of Curél hand lotion. Scribbled sticky note reminders all over the place -- "CALL DAN!!," "Edict Environ. #4561190," "Domino's Pizza: 555-1234." A ratty-looking hairbrush in the back of the bottom desk drawer, with a few strands of long blondish hair still clinging to the bristles.) Nothing here in this workspace says anything about me yet, professionally or personally.

And that's the way I want it for now.

Tomorrow I'll probably bring my beloved World's Cutest Nephew coffee mug into the office. Maybe my battery-operated desk fan, and my raggedy thesaurus, and my Ugly Emergency Sweater. Next week I'll start bringing in the good stuff: photos of David and The Tots, the TicTac snowglobe, my lucky wind-up chicken. But I want to be extremely subtle about this. I used to show up for the first day of any new job with everything I owned, practically. Now I know that it's more professional to phase that stuff in gradually (and with great restraint). Why start advertising your husband/your hobbies/your taste in hand lotion, right off the bat?

Better to remain a bit of an office *enigma* for a while.

Ten minutes later, the burly young UPS guy shows up. "Delivery for a Terri Rafter?" he says. And he sets a large square package on the edge of my desk, next to the bouquet. The box is marked "1800FLOWERS."

Uh-oh. How many bouquets did I ORDER, forcryingoutloud?

"More flowers?" JoAnne marvels. "That husband of yours must be a real sweetie."

But this one isn't from "David." Genuinely surprised this time, I open the box and carefully unwrap a miniature rose plant and a decorative mug planter. The inscription on the mug reads:

May the sun shine on your windowpane.
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

"These aren't from my husband," I tell JoAnne, smiling broadly. "They're from my oldest daughter." And I show her the card, which says "Congrats and good luck on your new job, Mom! I love you very much! Jaymi (and Joel)."

"Well," JoAnne shrugs. "Like father like daughter, right?"

She is making the assumption, of course, that David is the father of my children. She has no reason to believe otherwise, and I don't bother correcting her just yet. I have thus far managed to be uncharacteristically sparing with personal information ... through the interview process, through my first morning on the job, through our Employer/Employee "Welcome To The Company" lunch. Over a smoked turkey Reuben and a pile of coleslaw, I shared the important stuff -- I was born and raised in TicTac, I have three children, my husband works for a newspaper, I was Miss Fire Prevention 1970 -- but the rest of it is going to have to wait to emerge gradually. Again, this is precisely the way I want it. This is the new, improved, professional Secra. *Old Secra* had absolutely no self-control: she would have spilled her entire life story to her new boss within ten minutes of shaking hands for the first time. (Or else maybe she would have just handed over the URL to *FootNotes* and said "There will be a quiz afterwards.")

*New Secra,* on the other hand, sort of likes the idea of remaining an *enigma* for just a while longer.


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