You can keep the pen

I walked across the floor to my CEO’s office, with whom I had a meeting scheduled. Notebook and pen in hand, I was prepared for our conversation. As I entered his office, I was greeted by his assistant, Elizabeth. 

“He just stepped out of the office,” Elizabeth told me of my boss, “but he’ll be back in just a minute if you want to take a seat.” She gestured toward the chair in front of her desk.

“Actually, that works out,” I answered, “because I really have to run to the bathroom.” I set my paper and pen down on the chair and told Elizabeth I’d be right back.

A minute later, when I had finished in the bathroom, I returned to the office again for my meeting. I turned to the chair to retrieve my notebook and pen – and was startled to find a woman sitting there. She was middle aged, brunette. I think she wore glasses. I’d never seen her before.

“Oh!” I remarked. “Um, hi.” I looked around the office. No Elizabeth in sight. No CEO in sight.

“Are you here to meet with…? Um?” I stammered. Who was this woman, and how did she get here? And most curiously, where did she put my stuff?

I made small talk with her as I casually glanced around the room for my notebook and pen. On Elizabeth’s desk? No. On the floor under the chair? Casually leaning down to see, no. Was she holding them? Not that either.

Minutes passed. Or seconds. I don’t know, it felt like forever, talking to this mystery woman, half listening, mostly wondering where Elizabeth was and if my meeting was going to start. And most of all, wondering where in the heck my stuff went. I couldn’t see it anywhere!

Finally, I had to ask. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but did you see a notebook and pen on the chair when you sat down?”

“What?” she replied.

“A notebook? And a pen? Did you happen to see them on the chair when you came in?” I repeated.

“Oh,” she said. “Yes.” Then, before I realized what was happening, she leaned over ever so slightly to reveal the notebook – still on the chair, under her rear. SHE WAS SITTING ON MY NOTEBOOK.

Why this woman thought it would be appropriate to sit on a notebook instead of simply moving it and placing it on the desk immediately in front of her is beyond me. Is it the world’s biggest ethical dilemma? No. But it’s still a strange choice.

“Oh!” I said, surprised. We looked at each other for a moment. “Well, would you mind if I took them back? I have a meeting.”

Without a word, she leaned forward again, lifting her buttocks approximately 0.5 inches off of the chair so I could retrieve my belongings.

“Ma’am?” I asked, crouching to the ground. “Could you – would you mind lifting up just a bit more?” I struggled to pull the book out from under her. Finally it was back in my possession. But I still needed my pen.

“Ma’am?” I asked again. “Um, is my pen under there, too?”

“Yes,” she answered. We looked at each other for a moment. She sighed and leaned forward again.

I slid my hand under her bum, fishing around with my fingers, but struggled to find the pen. After what felt like a lifetime of discomfort, and in fear that my CEO would return to the office at the exact moment I was feeling up the stranger, I succumbed.

“Never mind,” I said. “You can keep the pen.”

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