Skating on the Job—A True Story

It’s the Christmas holidays, and the CEO of Ross Laboratories has announced that all employees will report for work the first Saturday of the New Year. It has something to do with snow days the previous December. Since the Ross payroll consists of hardworking Midwesterners who do what they’re told, few employees grumble. I, on the other hand, am offended.

At the time, I am manager of a department of writers, proofreaders, and secretaries—one of only two female managers in Ross’s misogynistic culture. Clearly, I have hit a promotional ceiling because of my gender. I never liked the job anyhow. The boys call me the company’s “women’s libber,” which gives you an idea of my popularity.

Inspired by Carolyn, one of my writers, I buy a pair of expensive roller skates before Christmas so that I, too, can have skating adventures on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. It seems like a quirky, exciting thing to do while my kids are off with their dad for the holidays. What better Christmas present to myself than a pair of handsome, white leather shoe skates with jaunty red tassels?

Having coffee together in the cafeteria during Christmas week, Carolyn and I share skating stories—the ogling and laughing of spectators, the times we’ve fallen down and skinned our knees, and so on. We also grouse about Ross’s mandate to work the first Saturday of the New Year. Carolyn says, “I’ve got a mind to wear my skates to work that day.”

“Great,” I say. “If you wear your skates, I’ll wear mine.”

Skates On!

So Carolyn and I bring our skates to work that Saturday and lace up. We decide to say nothing to anyone about our footwear but just go about our business. As Carolyn skates off to her cubicle, I hear nervous titters from my staff.

For over an hour, I work at my desk, almost forgetting that I am wearing skates. My phone rings. It’s my boss. “Hey, Barb, Marketing wants to see the Pedialyte brochure.”

“Sure, I’ll go right up there.”

Manuscript in hand, I skate out of my office. First there’s a hush. Wide eyes peek around corners. Then I hear whispers and muffled laughing. The word has spread. As I glide down the hallway past people’s offices, I see them poking their heads out of their doors. I couldn’t attract more attention if I were riding naked on a white horse. Into the elevator I skate and ride up three floors to the marketing department.

Aghast, the marketing guys watch me skate toward them and pass over the manuscript. The word has already made it up three floors that the Manager of Biomedical Communications is wearing skates to work.

Mission accomplished, I skate back to my office in the bowels of the building.

Toward noon, I have to leave the grounds for a dental appointment made weeks earlier. I take off my skates, drive to the dentist’s office, and come back to work an hour later.

Skates Off!

A note lies on my desk with a message scribbled in large Sharpie pen. “Skates off, Barb. Orders from the CEO.” In three hours the gossip has worked its way up the chain of command and the CEO’s mandate has been passed back down.

My boss later tells me that one brave marketing guy stood up for me. He told the CEO, “After all, there’s no rule that says employees can’t wear skates at work.”


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