Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Promiscuous Me: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Word Processor

So there I was in the mid-1980s processing the words of vainglorious little dickheads, unashamed Republicans, and avowed fans of the accursed Grateful Dead at the biggest law firm in San Francisco, feeling as though neutered. I was one of two straight male IBM Stylewriter jockeys, and at least one of the gay guys with whom I worked made clear that he thought me a bit of all right, as too did the odd secretary or two, but it was Janine H— after whom I lusted, and some of the young female associate attorneys, and none of them knew I was alive. Well, actually Janine knew because I asked her out, and she acceded, but then I had the bright idea of wearing the blinding lime green Stop Making Sense suit I’d bought a few weeks before in London on our date, and she, a Christian girl from the Peninsula, was quietly mortified. I don’t know what I could have been thinking.

Because I was a proudly horrible word processor, and made my disdain for the lawyers wonderfully plain, and would turn up for work in the loudest clothing I owned, makeup, and drop earrings, I was forever being asked to leave one of the firm’s many, many litigation groups, and banished to another, where it would take me a couple of weeks to make myself immensely unpopular. A couple of months after my marriage collapsed, I was transferred to the group bivouacked on the ugliest floor of the Dickensian 225 Bush Street building, and found myself processing words for a fill-in attorney named Susan G–, who was blonde and shapely — and had the worst complexion in the history of skin. She seemed to want to confer with me quite often.  I dared hope that in a flattering light her frightful acne scars might not be so evident. I had recently become aware that certain lovemaking positions precluded having to look at one's lover's face.  The vindictive side of me enjoyed the idea of making an attorney gasp and moan, and I asked her out.

We went to a mediocre Vietnamese place. She wore an awful pullover sweater, and awfuller boots, and our conversation didn’t sparkle. I got the sense that she wasn’t an intellectual giant. I got the further sense that she was kind of …weird. She produced from her handbag a list of her dream guests for her forthcoming birthday party. The Nelson twins (Ricky’s boys, with the gorgeous long blonde hair) were on top, Jon Bon Jovi second, and little old me third. By this time, Ms. G— was leering at me. I felt so…so objectified, but hadn’t gotten any less lonely over the course of the evening. Love the one you’re with, I remembered someone having sung some years before.

We went back to my place. I turned the lights down very low. It wasn’t awful. It wasn’t terrific. I felt lonelier afterward.

For the next couple of weeks, every morning when I’d open the door of my building and step to the edge of the curb to await the next cable car (sounds pretty romantic, doesn’t it?), Susan G—, who just happened to be driving past at that moment, would stop on the opposite side of California Street and call, “Give you a lift?” After about two weeks of this, she resigned herself to the fact that I was neither going to invite her over again nor accept an invitation over to her place, and made alternate arrangements. I later heard she’d become engaged to the Nelson twins. The preceding sentence is of course a joke, and an hilarious one.

I won't neglect to mention that I was deeply in lust at this time with the voice of one of the firm’s telephone operators, whose announcements were broadcast on the multiple floors the firm occupied in the Financial District. “You don’t honestly imagine you’re man enough for me, do you?” her voice demanded even as she purred something like, “Mr. Dickwagon [all names in this essay have been changed], please call the operator immediately.” 

I successfully conspired to meet her, my pretext being that I was hoping she might record an outgoing message on my telephone answering machine. She was no match for her voice, but have I mentioned that, in the wake of my marriage’s collapse, I was lonely? She suggested I bring my machine over to her home in Rohnert Park the following Sunday evening, after I drove my little girl to her mother’s house in Santa Rosa after our weekend together. I was pretty excited about the prospect of getting her to talk dirty to me in that fantastic smoky voice, but nearly passed out as I entered her home. My impression was that she must have around 150 cats, all of them heavy smokers. On the verge of passing out from the stench, I made up an excuse I’ve long since forgotten and drove like the wind back to Highway 101, and then south, feeling lonelier than ever.  

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