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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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They’re In Love, Office-Style Today, We Take A Closer Look At Romance -And Lust- In The Modern Workplace

Lawrence Van Gelder New York Times

Love, your magic spell is everywhere, but it seems to be particularly potent in the office. There, the smitten suffer agonies of longing, overcome shyness, undertake impetuous acts and sometimes, just as in the happiest of tales, overcome all obstacles and find enduring romance.

Burning ardor! Fierce passion! Undying commitment!

No, not in the case of two co-workers of Linda Pollak. For years, theirs was a low-key office romance: always friends, sometimes lovers, never committed. But then came a fateful Valentine’s Day evening that also was the man’s birthday.

As Pollak recalls, it was too cold and slushy to go to dinner that night in Chicago, so the office gang went to the bar downstairs and turned to margaritas for warmth.

“If I marry anybody, I’ll probably end up marrying you,” the man said to the woman of his affections.

She rolled her eyes. “Right!” she said.

“You guys are never going to get married,” a colleague chimed in. The matter was debated until the man turned to the woman: Would she like to get married?

“Sure,” she said. “When?”

He excused himself, and when he returned, he said: “There’s a plane to Vegas in two hours. I booked the tickets.”

Accompanied by Pollak, they boarded the plane, and the bride-to-be promptly fell asleep on her intended’s shoulder.

About an hour later, Pollak looked over at the man. The alcohol had worn off. He resembled a deer caught in headlights.

The woman woke just before landing and was told the wedding was off. She didn’t seem too disappointed. She said she hadn’t really believed it anyway.

Everyone flew home in silence.

In time, the man and the woman married but not each other.

They are still friends.

“As a former human resources vice president for a major corporation, I have quite a bit of experience observing romance among the fax machines,” writes Ronald J. Rakowski of Bethel, Conn.

“Through it all, I learned one thing: The workplace is to sex as mold is to penicillin, and no management edict aimed at curbing this very basic human activity will ever succeed.”

Rakowski’s favorite story involves a young woman who was dating a young man who also worked for the company.

“It wasn’t a big deal because they were both single, worked in different departments and didn’t see much of each other during the workday - or so everyone thought,” he recalls.

But after the couple had dated for a while, some of the woman’s co-workers noted she would vanish for short periods during the day. So they kept an eye on her boyfriend and discovered he was invariably absent from his desk when she disappeared.

“It didn’t take long for these resourceful co-workers to discover the two were slipping down to the parking garage to spend a little quality time together in his fully equipped van,” Rakowski writes. “It all ended one day when a group of ‘fun-loving’ co-workers gathered in the parking garage and greeted the embarrassed duo as they emerged from the van.”

Rakowski concludes: “It was my lot in life to tell the amorous couple that they must keep their libidos in check during business hours and that, besides, the company’s parking garage probably wasn’t a great place for them to express their mutual affection, no matter what the time of day. They solved the problem by getting married, and she went on to a successful career with another company.”

Here is proof that romance can flower anywhere, even across a fax line.

Six years ago, when a business friend told Barbara Parker of Sag Harbor, N.Y., about a problem in his small marketing agency, she volunteered to help him.

He asked her to confer with Michael, the project’s account executive. For three weeks, Parker, who runs a small marketing and public relations business from a home office, made telephone calls and sent faxes to the mysterious Michael. Together, they accomplished in three weeks what others were taking six months to do. What a team, Parker thought.

“During our frequent talks over the telephone, although they never took a personal turn, it became evident that Michael, or someone like him, was the missing ingredient in my business,” Parker writes. “Where does one find a Michael?

“Both of us were overjoyed when the project went through, and to celebrate, I was invited to the office for a coffee.” They would finally meet.

Barbara Parker and Michael Roach have been living together for six years. They’re business partners, too. Parker says it’s a good merger.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

“Hi, I’m Robert,” Robert Mennella of Brooklyn said to the receptionist as he prepared to start work for a midtown Manhattan investment bank in May 1996. “I’ll be starting here on Monday.”

“She was cute,” he writes. “I had no idea I was saying hello to my future wife for the first time.

“I was attracted to her. However, I dared not ask her out.

“Who knows what could happen: rejection, dejection or, worse, sexual harassment!”

Mennella reminded himself he was starting a new job and had to focus on the work at hand. But he always smiled at the receptionist, and she smiled back every time.

Then a turn of events changed everything: Their company was going out of business.

“I had to find out if she was spoken for,” Mennella says.

It was the last day of business. He arrived at work with butterflies in his stomach. When he came out of the elevator and saw the receptionist, he said, “If you’re not busy Friday night, do you want to go out for a few drinks?”

“Absolutely,” she replied.

Four months later, Mennella and Debra, the receptionist, were married.

“Little did I know she had a crush on me since Day 1,” he writes. “It was the best job I ever lost.”

“I once found office romance because of an oil embargo and a company’s sexist policies,” writes Neal Sanders of Alexandria, Va.

The year was 1974, when Sanders was a young management trainee in a General Electric office near Albany, N.Y. On Feb. 1 that year, with the Arab oil embargo in full force, long lines at gasoline stations and ride-sharing a new way of life, employees from outlying divisions across upstate New York and western Massachusetts were late in arriving at a meeting about cost cutting.

“I was trying to stay awake when the most attractive woman I had ever seen walked in and took a seat at the front of the room,” Sanders writes. “From that moment on, I had no trouble staying awake, wondering who she was and why I had never met her before.”

When the meeting ended, Sanders found her in a reception area, waiting for her ride back to Pittsfield, Mass.

“Though I was painfully shy, I took the plunge, introduced myself and began talking with her,” he writes. “She was as intelligent as she was beautiful, and if there is such a thing as love at first sight, this was it.

“But what was the significance of that ring she wore on her left hand? How could I ask her out if she was married?”

Sanders excused himself, returned a moment later and summoned the courage to ask for a date. The woman accepted.

“How did I know she was single?” Sanders asks. “Back in 1974, General Electric’s office directories listed all men as ‘Mr.’ but subdivided women as ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs.’ A blatantly sexist policy that would have never been tolerated in today’s office environment allowed me to see at a glance that Betty Burgess was single and gave me the courage to ask her out on a date.”

They celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day.

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