Folder tucked under my arm, I waded through the dense crowd of people. This is why I actually choose to eat lunch at my desk, rarely venturing outside during lunchtime rush hours, instead of choosing to elbow my way through the concrete jungle. But this time, I had no choice. I had to make a delivery on behalf of my boss to another firm that was urgently awaiting these documents.
Fighting my way through the throngs of people as I powerwalked around the corner, I collided into a group of old men that had just come out of their office.
Thankfully, I didn’t break any hips and no Life Alert alarms were activated.
Then I realized looking up that they had just come out of the mysterious building I had been eyeing for months since I had taken a job at my office. Every day after work, I ran along the Riverwalk and noticed the yellow brick and the vinery. Once, the door that could open directly on the Riverwalk, was left ajar when two young teenagers came pushing through. They left it wide open and I was able to take a peek. Inside, it had couches to watch the big screen, a pool table, booze and a bar. From street level, it was very well secured; gated and locked with a door buzzer. There was a bike chained to the gate and from the window view I saw a few cubicles and a loft above with a desk. I had never seen anyone in it nor did I know what the building was for. I had just figured someone had turned it into an office space upstairs but lived there as well.
“Do you gentlemen work in this building?”
“Oh no, we’re just visiting a friend.”
Shortly thereafter, an even older and more frail looking man came out.
“I always pass by here and wanted to know what this office is. Can you tell me?”
The friend chuckled and handed me his business card.
“I’m Bob, you have a lot of spunk. Email me and we can do an office tour. I can’t actually talk right now but I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have.”
I shoved the card in my pocket as I pushed on further.
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Later in the week, remembering that I needed to take my gym bag home I grabbed it from my drawer. The plastic card fluttered onto my lap.
Oh yeah! I had forgotten about the old men and their mysterious office.
You probably don’t remember me but I’m the girl that ran into your friends and was asking about your building. You offered to give me an office tour and I wanted to take you up on your offer. Thanks!”
“Of course, I would be more than happy to. I am available Tuesday, at 12pm. Thank you.”
A few coworkers ended up finding out about my office tour and were also very curious about the mysterious yellow building and its elderly inhabitors as well. I had googled both Bob and his company to come to find out he was a VERY successful and old business man worth a couple of pretty pennies. Jokes ensued that it wasn’t an office tour but an “office tourrrrr.”
I was just ready to pepper him with questions and excited to see what was inside.
Tuesday came, as did many unexpected clients for an unexpected conference. At the last minute, I had to arrange breakfast and lunch for the guests. Once they were all settled in and fed, I took off thirty minutes late.
This time the building was not gated but the door was locked. Thankfully, Bob was right by the door as I rang the bell. It reminded me of a scene from a commercial where the puppy is sadly waiting for its owner to get home. I apologized for being so late and explained about being caught up in a meeting. He brushed it off losing his puppy dog face and got right to showing me around.
Bob explained that he and his team work in the biomedical research field. They take on projects and lab research to find a more creative solution to their client’s needs.
I was foaming at the mouth.
Working in the biomedical research field had been a career goal of mine since my younger days. In high school, I was part of a program that helped propel my interest. I became involved with city projects, made resourceful contacts which also helped into my acceptance into a university with a prominent biomedical science department. Unfortunately, I had to rescind their offer due to personal reasons and move forward with a more practical choice in both an educational institution and career. It’s a memory when looked upon that I wish I could’ve done but understand circumstances at the time prevented it so. I have no regrets in my educational and career opportunities that I have had now. It’s just one of those what if moments in my life.
He showed me the empty cubicles and explained when further expansion was done in both employing and building they would be used for administrative personnel. Behind the cubicles was an open office with a metal spiral staircase leading both up and downwards. I chose upwards where I came upon the loft that was held by chains. This was Bob’s office. He had a couch and a desk littered with trash or what he says was work. The loft opened onto a very small balcony that housed two chairs and table with Christmas lights decorating the rails.
We then took the stairs down to the basement which was what I had peeked into all those months ago. I asked about the kids I had seen and he explained that those were his grandchildren. His children live out of state and when visiting they were housed in the office as some of the space was converted into personal dwellings. The reasoning was that the handful of employees worked remotely and/or part of university research teams but every so often came together to discuss their findings so it was easier to have working and sleeping quarters together. Thus, the downtown office in which he worked from. It also was a few blocks from his penthouse apartment.
The office tour was a success and Bob was showing to be a promising future reference/contact into a future career move for myself.
He mentioned lunch reservations and although, we had missed the set time he had arranged they always had a table for him as he ate there every single Tuesday. I hesitantly agreed. True to his word, we were greeted by the host and his server at the door. Already, they had set up a table with an appetizer and menus. As we walked to the table, restaurant patrons watched. I understood their silent stares were judging me. I wasn’t naïve to their thoughts but I almost wanted to laugh because they were completely wrong.
The table was in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by businessmen taking glances, whispers and maybe even a photo?!
It was going to be a very uncomfortable lunch.
Bob asked me about my schooling, job, goals and my interest in pursuing a career in the biomedical research field. He mentioned more valuable contacts he could send my way and possible opportunities. I was feeling better thinking that I had hit the gold mine.
He recounted how he had mentored a younger girl similar to me. Once she graduated with her Bachelor’s she expressed to him interest in Harvard’s graduate school. He had made a few calls and she was in. He was looking to mentor again.
It was THEN I understood.
He asked if I had my own apartment, as he was married. His wife had fallen ill and work kept him both stressed and busy. He wanted a “friend.” Someone to merely occupy his free time.
I CLEARY understood.
He was offering an arrangement. I was beautiful. Spunky, smart and a real go getter. He liked that. I was gonna go places. He wanted to “help” me. He knew the struggles of being a young twenty something and only wanted to give back to someone.
I embarrassingly declined. Face red as fellow eavesdroppers listened quietly.
Lunch was over.
Departing the restaurant, drenched in rain as I didn’t bring an umbrella I trudged onwards to my office as what felt like a “Walk of Shame.”