One day last week, the day manager accosted me as I walked into work.
“Do you have artistic skills?” he asked earnestly, eyebrows cocked slightly in anticipation of the Right Answer.
I hesitated. I stuttered. I backed up a little into my work area. “I don’t know, sort of. It depends. Is my life on the line? Then I can draw a fine set of tits if pressed to. No really, I suck.”
“Great, here’s some Sharpies and poster board.” And that is how (more or less) I walked right into the great important task of birthing a Diversity Chart for the company.
I had briefly pissed around with it earlier in the week, but then my cat Marcy and her fat ass slept on it and maimed the poster board with irreversible crinkles and war wounds. Hoping that avoidance and a dark corner would remedy it, I stowed the sheets behind my dresser and forgot about it. Until 10pm Sunday night, a day before it was due. and Henry was chased out the door by a lashing tongue to procure fresh poster board. An hour later, five desecrated sheets of poster board were strewn carelessly onto the floor, mingling with clumps of my hair; and the feelings of Henry sobbed in the shower, post-rape. But there was one mighty fine diveristy-in-the-workplace project – in the stylings of Erin – to show for it.
When I took it to work on Monday, my manager was already gone for the day. But my boss, Dave, stopped me as I walked through dispatch, the poster banging off my knees like a sandwich board.
“What the fuck is that?” Dave asked, pulling up the poster to read it.
“It’s that thing Vince asked me to do,” I explained.
Dave laughed and rolled his eyes. “Vince is so gay. I can’t believe he got you to do this.”
“Oh, but how I love to make magic with Sharpies,” I mumbled, moving the poster into the office. The A/P lady and the other biller who was scheduled to work with me that night (my favorite one, Diane) gathered around to extoll the virtues of my grade school science fair knock off.
I stood there awkwardly, confused and slightly embarrassed. It was a sign. It said “Getting To Know You: Diversity Week 2008” along the top, with a list of employee names going down the left hand side, and a few personality-defining questions along the top under the title. It wasn’t some magnificant pie chart made of edible ink and sprinkled with crack cocaine. It was a poster. It was blue, black and green. It had lines. Oooh, the ingenuity of it all.
“This must have taken you HOURS!” Diane exclaimed.
“No, not really.” Please stop talking about it. You’re embarrassing yourself.
The sign stayed on my desk all night, therefore managing to stay out of any ensuing limelight. But before we left, I pleaded with Diane to fill out her answers. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the only dork on here.” She laughed and filled out the answers to questions like “Favorite food,” “Favorite music” (you can imagine mine) and “Hobbies and Interests.” I played it sage and put writing, horror movies and going to concerts. I’ve only been there a month. They don’t need to know that I fill empty chunks of my life with stalking my neighbors and making serial killer Christmas cards. Please. I like this job. Keeping it would be great.
By yesterday, Vince had unveiled it to most of the employees. I noticed, as I walked through the breakroom at the start of my shift, that several other people had added their survey answers.
An hour later, I heard one man say to another, “Hey, I didn’t know you went to South Park High School!”, leading into a heartfelt bonding session of shared memories.
But then a few minutes late, I heard raucous laughter from the breakroom.
“You like JAZZ?” one of the drivers instigated.
“Who the fuck would put SUSHI as their favorite food? That’s disgusting,” a dock worker barked.
One of the dock workers came up to me when I was chilling in the dispatch room and yelled, very quizically, “What the fuck is an INDIE ROCK?” while a driver (who also happened to see me at the flea market on Sunday, how fabulous) felt a bond with me because my favorite vacation spot is the same place he goes every summer. (I played it safe and put Wildwood NJ instead of Morocco because it’s too early for my co-workers to know that I’m a pretentious snob.)
But by the end of the night, as more drivers returned from their routes, my poor poster had become a breeding ground for judgemental finger-wagging and insincere answers. Someone put “San Francisco” as his favorite vacation spot and then paraded around saying, “You know why, DON’T YOU?” because for some lame reason, he tries to make the other drivers (firmly planted in their hetero heels) uncomfortable by pretending to be gay. Oh, how I missed working around truck drivers.
“This poster isn’t bringing any diversity into THIS workplace,” I laughed to Diane as I returned to my desk.
“Oh, I know! It’s just giving them new ways to make fun of each other.”
Dave said he was surprised that the first eight people actually filled it out appropriately. “Yeah,” I said, laughing. “I didn’t think Pauls’ favorite food was ‘geese’.”
“No, I think it really is,” he said, and we laughed. “That’s why I’m not filling it out. I just can’t take it seriously.”
And why my manager ever thought that a bunch of men in the transportation industry WOULD take it seriously is beyond me. But it sure is funny watching grown men wheedle away at each other’s dignity. Maybe next month, Vince can have them all write an essay about their feelings.