Misdventures in Friendship: Wonderland and the Unlikely Office Friend
When I moved from Ohio to South Carolina, it took months before I finally landed a job as a sales associate in a small radio advertising office.
Up until that point, my professional career had been spent working for a very conservative healthcare consulting firm.
Making the switch to radio advertising was the equivalent of falling down a rabbit hole and finding oneself stuck in Wonderland.
The office was composed of two teams (sales and production) and an endless array of characters.
The general manager (aka the Mad Hatter) was a short, middle-aged guy. He was an idea-generating machine (with no off button) who occasionally made inappropriate comments — like the time he kept insisting that black people loved watermelons and Cadillacs. He meant well.
Then there was the tall, smooth-talking production director (aka The Caterpillar). He knew a ton of people in the music industry and I’d always wondered how he ended up as a PD in our small office. He seemed like a big fish in a small pond, and I swear he might have been a friendly gangsta in another life.
There were the on-air radio personalities (aka The Tea Party). These guys and gals ranged from being total divas to being complete goofballs. They hosted the different radio shows throughout the day and recorded commercials. They brought the office to life and made every joint meeting between the two teams a hilarious delight.
Finally, there was the sales team (aka the rest of Wonderland). This was the group I supported. To this day, it remains one of the most diverse and eclectic teams that I have ever worked on in any job.
The team was made up of older people who’d been in advertising for years, young folks just out of college, black people, white people, Asian people, southerners, Yankees (yes, I said Yankees…that’s what people said there), horse-lovers, models, music enthusiasts, drunks, and slick-talkers.
Again, this place was the Wonderland of radio advertising.
When Kari (aka Alice) Met Lynn (aka the Red Queen)
I was given a small cubicle next to a pretty blue-eyed, blonde girl named Lynn.
Lynn was an upstate New York transplant and had been living in South Carolina for about two years.
Her personality always came off as very serious and her conversation was often very curt.
On the rare occasion that I did actually hear her make a joke, I was never quite sure if it was actually a joke or a sly diss — dry humor can be extremely hard to read.
She was the one person in the office whom I could not decide if I actually liked or not. Her personality was so different from everyone else and I just could not get a good read on her.
So, for the most part, I avoided any prolonged interaction with Lynn…just to be on the safe side.
One of my jobs as a sales associate was to handle the collection of money from local clients who called-in to purchase vendor booths for our end-of-the-summer concert.
Unlike the sales executives, I did not receive a commission on any of the money I collected from these clients. I was simply the middlewoman responsible for getting the money from the clients and into the system.
Account executives, like Lynn, had a monthly sales goal that needed to be met before their commissions actually kicked in. Towards the end of the month, you’d know who had already met their sales goals and who was scrambling to hit it at the last minute.
Lynn was typically one of the account executives who hit her goals. Again, this gal was the epitome of “no-nonsense”.
But this particular month, I overheard her conversation with another account executive (through the thin cubicle wall we shared) about her being just a few hundred dollars short of her sales goal.
It was the first time I’d actually seen her show signs of stress. This typically poised, hard-to-read 20-something was showing normal emotion and I could see for the first time that under the hard shell there was just a regular gal trying to make ends meet.
When her cubicle guest left, I rolled my chair around the cube wall that separated us and handed her a small slip of paper with some client info on it. “Hey, call this client. They want to purchase a $500 vendor space. You put it in the system.”
The expression on her face was priceless. “Really?” she said completely taken by surprise at my offer. This order would put her above her sales threshold and allow her to get her commission for the month.
“Yep. I’m not making any commission off of it. Somebody might as well. Go for it.”
I grinned and then turned to roll myself back into my own cube.
“Thank you,” she whispered back to me.
“My pleasure,” I winked.
This 2-minute interaction ignited a friendship between us that I never saw coming.
Months later, Lynn would be my saving grace when I ran out of gas and found myself stranded on the side of a road in the dark.
I couldn’t get in touch with my husband and I didn’t know who else to call besides her. She came to my rescue in less than 10 minutes.
I joke that she might have even saved me from a serial killer because some random stranger was pulling up just as we were getting into our cars to drive off. Okay, he could have been a Good Samaritan, but in the dark, strangers look like killers as far as I’m concerned.
Out of all the people in that office, she was the last person I expected to become my friend. We were a very unlikely pair — me (Alice) and Lynn (the Red Queen with a soft side).
A decade later, we’re still friends.
It just goes to show that friendship can blossom in the most unlikely places with the most unlikely people.
Check out other stories in the Misadventures In Friendship series.
***Note: Real names of the women mentioned in the stories have been changed.***