Valentine’s Day approaches. For women, this means that men will give them cupcakes or jewels or even a rose cleverly encapsulated within a blown-up balloon, if they’re my 10th grade girlfriend. For me, it means that the secretaries have begun to adorn their desks with bowls of candy. Which is why I like Valentine’s Day more than your average woman. Look around my office these days and you’ll see a smorgasbord of Valentinish treats, a place where every conversation heart is imprinted with the words: “you know, eating candy would be so much better than writing discovery responses right now.”
Run away. Run, while you still can.
But like everything given on Valentine’s Day, this candy comes with a hidden price. Almost every lady that puts out a candy jar is also a lady I barely know, and almost never talk to. There they sit behind their little counters, acting like they have no idea what’s going on with the candy jar a few feet away. Treacherous ladies. The second I stick my paws in the jar, it’s clear they’re not focused on their work at all. They are waiting for someone to take their candy. It always happens the same way. I fumble with the red hots or mini-candy bars, trying to get enough to make the stop worth it, while not taking so many that I look like a heartless mercenary. She watches me while I struggle, and then it starts. She looks up and gives me that conspiratorial smile, like we’re partners in guilty candy crimes. “Oh, aren’t we naughty candy eaters” it says, and I have no choice but to give the appropriate “I know, I reeeeally shouldn’t” grin, and we laugh together at nothing. It’s a shaming, dehumanizing ritual, that mandatory interaction with the lurking candy hostess. What remains, as I shuffle back to my office, is a handful of the priciest candy you can buy.
It’s not worth the price. Candy is valuable, but not ‘dignity’ valuable. I resort to wandering the halls looking for the rare unattended candy jar. It may take three or four unnecessary trips to the bathroom before I spot an unguarded dish. I never feel right about it, but I pounce on these opportunities, stocking up for the long hours until the staff leaves. It’s funny how a candy jar can sit completely full all day while the particular assistant works attentively nearby, and then, how, while she’s away for ten minutes, the whole jar gets almost emptied out. This is how I can tell I’m not the only one looking for these little windows. There are others like me wandering these halls, waiting for a candy hostess to step away, never seen, but always there, watching.
Some of the meaner ones make you write them a little poem first
Is this wrong? I try to act like the candy is just there for anyone to take as they will. There are no price tags, and no coin slots around. Why can’t the candy be free? Why can’t one just step up and take the candy? But deep down, I know that this candy isn’t just a freebie, and can never be. Taking the candy is a transaction. The goods must be paid for, and the price is a few muttered words of greeting or an agonizing joke about weight gain. These are not easy terms.
But it’s also not easy to sit in your chair, typing those discovery responses, hearing the soft enticements of the conversation hearts just outside your door. Beckoning softly, sweetly. So you turn away from your keyboard, you stare out the hall, and you come up with a little line about “there goes my new years resolution!” . . . And you leave your self-respect on the counter next to the pretty pink dish.