March is Women's History Month, a month to highlight the contributions women made to society. But these contributions don't come without struggle or embarrassment, and the women of the workforce have to be prepared for anything. Carolyn's story, and Ann's response, are about female workers walking in on their male and masculine-presenting bosses and finding something they never expected to see.
Can I Have Fries with That?
When I received the promotion to work for a real estate attorney in the law department at the Bell telephone company, now known as Verizon, I was thrilled to experience a new challenge of learning something I had never experienced during my career at the telephone company or even been exposed to.
My first few weeks were times of adjustment, that is learning real estate terminology and processing contracts. The real estate attorney I worked for appeared to be OK. He was heavy on dictation, to a point where I feel almost overwhelmed. One day, he buzzed me to go into his office for dictation. When I went into his office I saw him lying face up on the floor under his desk. His head was pointing toward the door of his office and he wasn't moving; it appeared that he wasn't breathing. And I didn't see any response at all. I called his name but there was no response. So I ran out of his office, got another attorney and said that it looked like he was dead. The other attorney ran in, and I heard him say “Connie.” That was my boss's nickname in the department short for Conrad. “Connie, are you OK? Hello are you OK?” Finally there was a verbal response from my boss. I heard the other attorney ask “Why are you on the floor under your desk like that”. My boss responded “My back was hurting and I thought if I laid a flat on the floor it would stop the pain. And I wanted to put on my brace so it would relieve some of the agony I was in.” I was outside the door listening. The other attorney came out and said “Everything 's OK now.” My blood pressure had gone straight to the roof. Later the other attorney and I fell out laughing. Let's just calm him Jeff. Jeff comforted me “Don't worry about it, it's OK.”
Part two as usual I was on alert to take dictation; I wasn't disappointed. My boss buzzed me to come into his common for dictation and off I went with my steno book. When I entered his office he wasn't there. I couldn't imagine what had happened to him; he had just buzzed me. I left my boss’ office and sought out Jeff, and asked him if he saw my boss pass by. I said “He just buzzed me to come in for dictation” Jeff got up and we went into my boss’ office.
Jeff said “I didn't see him anywhere and I didn't see him his pass by so I don't know what happened to him.” There was no sign of him, there was no sign of him.
I said to Jeff, “This is crazy. Do you think he could be in here?” I pointed to the closet and I was laughing, just joking to Jeff with Jeff. Jeff said “Nah.” But before I caught myself I whipped open the closet door and there was my boss, in boxer shorts down around his feet with white socks and went up to his calves and his back brace slung halfway around his body. He had a little pair of white briefs or something on and I guess he wore that under the boxers. I almost passed out. I heard myself say Jeff, who couldn't see the inside of the closet, and pointing I said “He's in there.”
“What!” Jeff said. I said “He's in there” Immediately I slammed the door shut. I slammed it faster than a speeding bullet and along with Jeff got out of the office at warp speed. Later after I got over the shock Jeff and I were hysterical along with the other secretaries that had seen what had taken place. My boss didn't call me in for dictation for the rest of the day. Of course you surely must know why. I couldn't have sat across from him and kept a straight face taking dictation.
I just wanted to add to the story that I told because I felt that those of you that are participating in this class are thinking what bizarre behavior that the attorney that I worked with had. He was problematic but the general counsel lounge manager and administrators in the law department did speak with him and he never did that or carry out that behavior ever again because I know that it was very erratic behavior and certainly not something that should happen in an office. I took it with a grain of salt. But I did want you guys to know that he was reprimanded about his behavior. The whole law department—they heard—you know, we were all like in a group so everybody knew the story, we just laughed about it forever.
To this day when I think about what happened I still laugh like crazy. Both situations where hysterical and of course those two stories were the highlight of my experience in the Law Department of Bell telephone.
Ann von Dehsen
I had a friend that worked for a photographer once, in the big house, and he mostly took pictures of people in sports and all. And he would often lock his door. I guess she was sort of like a secretary to him. And he’d be in there for long periods of time without a client or anything. And one day she didn’t knock and the door was unlocked and she walked right in and he was standing there dressed up in his drag, in women’s clothes. Standing there and posing in front of the mirror.
And that sounds like it was only the beginning of the story. That session was pretty packed, so I only got to hear that part, but I'll send Ann a message and see if there was any more to it.