I can’t believe with so many awards and credentials that I’m suddenly back in junior high school, Carl thought to himself, sitting in his dark office. It was Thursday at 6:15, everyone was gone, and he had a decision to make.
His apartment was in one direction, Dell’s Irish Pub was in another. In the former awaited tater tots for dinner and back-to-back episodes of “Friends.” In the latter there waited Marissa with her infectious laugh, relentlessly positive outlook on life—and a position with the company directly under Carl’s supervision.
“Just swung by for a drink,” she had said, suggesting for the first time they meet up outside of work. Carl had traveled this road before, but there were two new elements to the equation now: one, feelings for someone that were more powerful than he’d ever expected, and two, a blanket no-fraternization policy from HR.
He hadn't been around for the creation of this draconian decree. No one in HR even seemed to remember where it had come from. Yet it was there in the pages ofin 12-point type. Someone must have decided it was a "best practice," and had even bolded it.
They literally want to forbid my happiness, Carl thought angrily, starting down through the window at his lonely car sitting under a lamppost. He knew how destructive things could get when a manager started something up with an underling, yes. And if not actually destructive, then simply downright uncomfortable. But there were things in life bigger than work: real love, and just maybe the creation of a family in the future. Something far more important than selling boat insurance. Boat insurance, for crying out loud.
Go to her and probably lose his job, go home and be miserable with what-ifs. These were his options. The third option—a secret relationship—was the only truly unacceptable one. Never in history had that worked out. It was the deadly third rail disguised as an amenable middle ground. Carl picked up the phone and called Marissa, and he did what people of authority simply must do: Make a decision that does not ever need to be hidden.