I was young. I had a hot date, and I wanted my nails to look good.
I knew better, but I did it anyway. My students were taking a test, so I unscrewed the bottle and started my manicure. If a student turned around to see where the smell was coming from, I motioned for them to turn around. I needed them to focus on their work so I could focus on mine. I cracked a window to let out the fumes. It seemed like the responsible thing to do.
I was applying the top coat when the door to my portable opened. I stashed the bottle and hopped up to greet my surprise visitor. I didn’t catch his name. He looked like a grandpa so I asked which student was his. “I guess they are all mine,” he said. “I’m the superintendent, just making the rounds to visit all the first-year teachers.”
I found myself in a nail polish pickle when he reached out to shake my hand. I didn’t want to get caught or smudge my nails so I did what any clever girl would do. I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a big hug instead of a handshake. I kept my fingers outstretched the whole time. No smudges on his jacket, no smudges on my fingers. I thought I was home free until I realized my classroom smelled like a strip-mall nail salon. I said something about a cross-curricular project with the chemistry teacher. I think he bought it.
Fast forward 10 years or so. This time my blunder was not intentional. I was working as the Newspaper in Education manager at The State. On this particular day, I was one of the first to arrive. It was dark as I made my way to my desk. I’m not a coffee person, but need caffeine so I always grabbed a can of Diet Coke out of my refrigerator on my way out.
I was going through voice mail and reached for what I thought was my soda. I popped the top and the smell gave it away. Another workplace dilemma. In my morning rush, I had grabbed a Bud Light, not a Diet Coke, out of the fridge. My first thought was to go to the sink and pour it out, but I was afraid someone would see me, and I didn’t want the office kitchen smelling like a brewery all day. The bathroom was too far away. I thought of putting it on the desk of a co-worker I didn’t particularly like, but resisted that temptation. Another early bird co-worker offered to slam the beer, crush the can and hide it in her purse. We decided that wasn’t the best plan, either. I’m not completely sure how we got rid of that early morning beer, but I am certain I never grabbed the wrong can again.
When it comes to workplace etiquette, if you know it’s wrong, just don’t do it. No manicures during a language arts test. No beer before the sun comes up. Your nails can always wait until you get home. Beer always belongs at happy hour. Make sure you know your boss’s boss’s name and always, always pay attention when you go into your refrigerator first thing in the morning.
(Tammy Davis is a Lee County native, Columbia resident, and a contributing columnist to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com. Email her at email@example.com.)