How I Ended Up Listening To My Coworker Have Phone Sex

January 14, 2015  |  

(as told to Veronica Wells) 

After far too many years in my college town, having learned all that I needed to from the people and predicaments there, I moved back to my home town to start my dream company. But before that I had to get a job, you know, to eat. After a about month of searching, I found a lovely job at a sales company. Not only was I drawn to the position because they were going to pay me, I took the fact that there were several women in managerial roles as a good sign.

And it was…mostly. But we all know that just because someone shares your gender and even your race, it does not automatically make them “your type of person.” Zora Neale Hurston said it best, “All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk.”

I discovered this lesson all over again when, after just two weeks on the job, I learned that I would be working closely with a woman who had been with the company for nearly a decade. And though you might assume she would know the ends and outs of the business, my manager told me that since she was new to our department, I would be training her.

Uhh…I’d just left a job where I exhausted myself training others. And I really didn’t move to another region of the country for round two.

But again, after relocation expenses, I was in no position to tell someone what I wouldn’t do. So here I was training Ashley*, a Black woman in her early forties, who liked to talk, ad nauseum, about wigs and handbags. I appreciate a good wig as much as the next lazy naturalista with a corporate gig, but I do not want to spend my days talking about such things. And this would have been bearable if my manager had not called me into her office just two weeks after I started working to drop a bomb.

“Nicole*, we’re having our annual conference in New Mexico next week and we’d love for you to come along and get a better feel for the way we do things around here.” 

Oooowwww! An all expense paid trip to New Mexico, at the onset of winter in a midwestern city, seemed too good to be true.

It was.

“You and Ashley will travel ahead of management and we’ll see you guys two days later. Does that sound like a plan?” 

I wanted to scream nooooo into the never-ending, expanding space that suddenly appeared between her desk and my face. Traveling with Ashley did not sound like any plan I wanted to be a part of.

Instead, I shook my head and managed a weak smile.

By the time I moped back to my desk, Ashley was waiting for me… in my cubicle.

“Did you hear girl? We’re going to New Mexico! I’m so excited! You know, I’ve never been on a plane before?” 

I flashed her that same weak smile I’d given my manager a few minutes earlier.

I spent the next couple of days leading up to Christmas, lying in my bed, with a bout of anxiety…but also relishing the last moments of peaceful solitude.

Here’s the thing about me: I can be quite social; but for the most part, I’m a loner. I’m a nice person–whatever that means–but I’m not one for hugs, meaningless small talk and forced friendships. So the idea of spending a week in the desert with a woman who had already worked my nerves, seemed like torture.

And despite the reassurance from my friends and family that I was overreacting, that’s exactly what it was.

But in an effort to be fair, I warned Ashley about myself. I told her I don’t really like to be touched and I generally like to be left alone after a certain point. She told me she understood.

Day 1

Our journey began, like many modern journeys do, on the plane. We both boarded and I settled into my seat. We weren’t seated together and by some good fortune, I had a whole aisle to myself. I closed my eyes and prepared myself for four hours of relatively comfortable airplane sleep.

I must have sensed some imminent doom because I opened my eyes to see Ashley’s unnaturally shiny wig bobbing toward me. She informed me that she saw I was sitting alone and asked the stewardess if she could trade seats.

Hours later, we landed and made it to our hotel. I walked up to the desk and gave the the receptionist my name.

“Oh, okay Nicole. I have you right here. Looks like you’re in a room by yourself.” 

I felt my body begin to relax at the thought of a hotel room with cable, internet and room service all to myself.

Ashley, who had been taking in our surroundings this whole time, suddenly threw her hand up in protest.

“No! We’re supposed to be together.” 

I opened my mouth to object but I remembered the words of my mother, telling me to make the best of this opportunity and stay positive. And even though I had lived by myself throughout most of my college career and the four years after that, I decided having a roommate wouldn’t be that bad.

We walked into our hotel room and I made a bee line for the bed next to the balcony window. (I have a fear of sleeping next to the door.) Before I had even managed to put all of my belongings away, Ashley walks over to my side of the room with a confession.

“I have to tell you something. I’m a secret smoker.” 

Well, that certainly explained her darkened lips. Still, I didn’t think it would be a problem until she walked right out onto the balcony right next to my bed and proceeded to smoke the first of many Newports.

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