I once worked for a metalworking tool company for 7-1/2 years as a customer service rep. The office was a horrifically hostile environment for the most part, but I enjoyed the job and the pay and benefits were great. Being a single mother, that went a long way toward the reason I stayed there so long.
One of the bright sides were our sales reps in the field. Our call center supported New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The office was divided up into groups, "pods" that supported a specific area, it's customers and it's sales reps. The group that I was in for the majority of time supported New York and New Jersey. When you talk to specific customers and sales reps on the phone on a daily basis, you develop beneficial business relationships with them. Sometimes these business relationships lead to friendships, also.
Three to four times a year, each sales group would hold a meeting in the office, and the office workers of that group were invited to participate. These included obviously the sales meetings and in-office lunches, but also the out of the office cocktails and dinners. We all for the most part enjoyed each other's company, and looked forward to having fun outside of the office.
When one of the guys that I was particularly close to, Jon from New Jersey, took a different position within the company, it seemed only natural that we would continue our business relationship. Especially as his territory now covered the entire territory our office supported. I was doing the same work for him as before, just in a much larger area. It didn't seem odd that he was still calling me even though he had a different office staff in the home office he could have been calling, although that probably should have been a red flag. He and I had an established business relationship and already had a flow of working with each other. Technically, there was nothing wrong with him still calling me and asking me to do work for him. We enjoyed joking and bantering with each other.
As Jon's sales territory had expanded, so did his need to travel. He probably traveled beyond his home range in New Jersey three out of five days a week. In the beginning, if he happened to be in the Connecticut area, he'd ask me and my "pod-mates" out to lunch, his treat, every once in a while. Most often my "pod-mates" would decline because of prior commitments, and just Jon and I would lunch together. I'm not one to turn down a free lunch, and quite honestly I enjoyed his company. We talked a lot about work, we talked about how horrible the office itself was, and we started talking more freely about our personal lives.
As Jon happened to be in Connecticut more often on business, the more often we went out to lunch together, until it started being almost a regular thing, as often as once every week or two. Our friendship started becoming less work related, also. We started opening up to each other more. When he asked me for my personal email address, it again seemed natural. We had started talking to each other about our personal lives. Things that probably shouldn't go through the work email. That should have been red flag number two.
The first time Jon stayed over in Connecticut and asked my "pod-mates" and I to dinner, they again all said no. I asked one woman to please go with me, as I wanted to go but felt it would be awkward. She told me that she had a husband and step-children at home waiting for dinner. I wish she had said what she really had been thinking, but I don't know if I would have listened to her. I agreed to meet him for dinner, and it was just he and I and we had a really great evening.
He emailed me at my personal address shortly after to tell me what a great time he had at dinner. He told me that he could talk to me as a friend, and he really enjoyed and valued our friendship. He also told me about how, in the past, he had stared at my hands, and my eyes, during the sales meetings in the office. How he often thought of me when he was no where near me. How he thought of me often.
And I liked it. I liked this man who was charming and intelligent and funny and handsome. I liked the suits and ties he wore. I liked the way he smelled. I liked that he was much older than me but didn't patronize me. I liked that he valued my opinion of things professionally, that he thought I was undervalued at the job that I did, that he thought I was also intelligent, and funny, and dare I say it, sexy.
To be continued...
7 hours ago