Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Classy Act

            This didn't happen on my very first day. But it was within the first week. Perhaps, a Thursday or a Friday. In fact, now that I get to thinking about it, I'm almost certain that it was on a Friday because the residual stink of it all sort of ruined my weekend. It made me not want to ever go back. To ever show my face again within that singular block of a building (that must have spread an entire acre) that comprised every department and every employee that was Hemcon Medical Technologies; the prospering company where and with whom I'd just started a job.
            On my first day, as well as the following two, I'd done nothing but sit in a cubicle all by myself and read through the most tedious training manuals digital form, of course. For eight hours a day! Twenty-four hours total of nothing but scrolling down a screen and reading through document after document (most of which didn't even apply to me or what was to be my position within the company). Most of which contained a lot of technical jargon and referred to environments, situations, and instances that I could only begin to guess at. And this is what the manager wanted. It's what he'd told me to do. He mentioned that I should probably take some notes but also made it clear that there was to be no test so... I only found myself wishing that there would be some sort of test at the end of all this! So that I wouldn't have been staring at a black and white screen for three whole days and all for nothing! But unfortunately, this wasn't the case.
            Fuck. Now that I really get to thinking about it; make that 3 ½ days! Because the first half of that Thursday also began with me seated in the cubicle 'taking notes'. And I tried to search for this manager's motives in putting me through all this ennui. I tried to fish for some sort of time frame in which I might have been expected to finish all this...'training'. But all he kept saying was, “Don't worry about it. Maybe we'll get you into some hands-on tomorrow.” And the only reason he said this even was because I would ask him periodically, “Do you think there's anyone who could use any help in the lab right now? Or manufacturing even?”
            But anyway. Skipping right ahead to that Friday; I found myself rounding out my first, long-ass week with the company and finally putting in my first few hours of actual on-the-job training. And the job...well, let's just say that the job title read as; Lab Services Technician. I'd been hired through a temp agency and, according to them, my duties were to be assisting in laboratory practices and helping them to clean any leftover lab ware. So I'm thinking; beakers, test tubes...shit like that. When, in reality, what I came to find were carboys. Now...for those of you who don't know what a carboy is (and don't feel bad as I didn't even know until starting this job); allow me to offer a brief definition. In this particular case (as I believe they can take on many materials and forms); a carboy is a giant, plastic bottle shaped like one of those old milk carafes with two loop-handles up near the neck. Or...imagine your standard BBQ grill propane tank but about twice the size. And these used at Hemcon were composed of some seriously thick plastic; thick enough to cause them to weigh around 5 lbs. each even when they were dry and empty. And I hated them instantly. This wasn't at all what I had signed up for but it was a job...and I had no other.
            And my 'job' cleaning lab ware entailed these carboys almost entirely.
           To put it succinctly; Hemcon made bandages. Special bandages that claimed to staunch even arterial bleeding. But as most of us know; the process that goes into producing a marketable good is anything but succinct. It can be lengthy and messy and tedious at times and at Hemcon this was definitely so. There can be much dirty work involved (and I mean that in the more literal sense of the term). And the majority of this dirty work was now to be assumed by yours truly. And here I thought this whole time that I was being hired based upon my extensive medical background. Wrong and wrong again. When, in fact, they had probably hired me because I appeared strong to them and looked (mistakenly) as if I had a good back.
            So those carboys became my life. They were considered to be the 'lab ware' and I was considered to be the guy to clean them. Outside and in and with the aid of several different brushes, some nontoxic detergent, and three enormous sinks. Dozens of them sometimes would be there waiting for me whenever I arrived; each one slathered in a chitin gel which is the fancier and more scientific term for the ground up shrimp guts that were actually used in the the making of these special bandages. And this gel had already been very refined, it's true. But it still smelled like shrimp and like brine. But this is beside the point and I apologize. And of this smelly gel, I am not even complaining.
            I'm not really complaining about anything so far as this job was concerned and how it relates to this story. Rather, I'm merely trying to stress that it was highly physical work and that, after cleaning and brushing and lifting and stacking those carboys, I utilized a giant, industrial steam cleaner to wash and sterilize many racks full of the heavy, iron molds also slathered in shrimp guts and also used in this bandage manufacturing. And how, after that, I myself was probably already smelling particularly briny on that first half of my first Friday with the company.
            For just over four hours, I'd cleaned those carboys on that day (and the iron molds). But then, as was the nature of this job, there was nothing left for me to do (and wouldn't be) so far as the cleaning of further 'lab ware' was concerned. And so, as I was told, it would then be part of my duty to spend the remainder of the day in a department appropriately named, Labeling, where I would assist in the  packaging of said product after it had come out the other end of the 'lab' and had been freeze-dried and, in a 'clean room', had been individually sealed in foil pouches about the size of one's hand. And so it was into this labeling room that I went on that first Friday somewhat smelly and stinky already after having performed my duties as a Lab Services Technician.
            And at Hemcon, if I may digress for just one second, every last department within the company (and I do realize that I have mentioned this just briefly above) were contained within this one building. One super-huge building out in Tigard enveloping all executive level offices, all research and development facilities, all of sales and marketing divisions (which, at the beginning of their downfall, I even began to participate in), all of manufacturing, all quality control, and lastly; all of the labeling and packaging of the product. And even the shipping! They even had that under control via a giant warehouse attached. And the product would be sent from us directly to all of the company's customers which, at this point, mainly consisted of the US military until our lovely Hemcon was outbid by a similar manufacturer of a similar product and so fatefully lost their contract. And if you should ever find yourself wanting to know a bit more about this Hemcon Medical Technologies; simply Google them to find all the information and more (less literary) stories about this seemingly promising company that would have been such a wonderful and much needed solid in this shaky local economy and how, from the start, they had done nothing more than infringe on someone else's already existing patent...but enough of all this. My only point here was to infer that, in this singularly huge building, the atmosphere was at least supposed to be that of a close-knit family all working to together to reach a similar cause; that of its expansion until there was enough capital on the table to make a public offer  whereupon all of us would mutually and ultimately benefit in the profit sharing rewards.
            So as I walked into this labeling room of perhaps only about 40 square feet; I found myself eager and yet exceedingly nervous to meet this new 'family' of mine which would, no doubt, be a very close part of my life for some time to come.
            There were probably 8 of them in there sitting on either side of the room at one of the counters lining each wall. Say...four people on one side and four on the other. Something like that. And they were relatively spread out...just enough. Each person had just enough space between him or her and next guy for two plastic storage bins; one on their left and one on their right. The one on the right containing foil pouches that they had already labeled. The ones on the left containing pouches that had yet to be. And directly in front of each of these people was a long roll of stickers (also about the size of one's hand as it was their aim to cover almost the entire front and back of the pouches). And this was the job. Each plastic storage been contained something like 150 pouches. The person would label them all with the stickers designated for the fronts. Then they would do the backs. And then they would reach for another plastic storage bin sitting on a cart in the middle of the room and begin working on that one. Forever. Unceasingly and indefinitely. And most of the people working in this room now had been hired to do this and this only. There were a couple others like me, however, who had already finished their work in the warehouse or wherever for the day and had just come in to help out. And I found myself instantly and increasingly grateful to be a Lab Services Technician and only a part-time labeler.
            “How's it going, everybody? Nice to meet you all,” I introduced myself as Troy, the guy who'd been teaching me how to clean the molds and carboys, helped me find a seat and a plastic storage bin full of foil pouches to call my very own.
            All of the people working in this room, save one middle-aged lady, were in their mid-twenties...and I found this a bit intimidating. They all looked up and smiled and said 'hi' and everything but, since I was also in my mid-twenties at the time, this made them my peers and some instinct within me caused me to feel like I might be judged by them or like maybe I had to try to act cool in order to impress them or get in early with the 'in' crowd. And, believe me, I know how silly this sounds even as I'm sitting here writing it. But it is the truth. I'm not sure if I'm just more self-conscious than most but this is probably so. And I really did want them to like me and not think I was a nerd or anything. Because they all looked like cool people. Close-knit workers as I've said. But also like friends who went out to the bar afterwards.
            At first, applying the stickers was sort of difficult; they were thin and wanted to fold back on themselves. Bubbles forming underneath them were also a problem but Troy told me not to worry...that I'd get the hang of it after my first couple hundred or so.
            But I was worried about it. I wanted to do a good job and for these people not to view me as a dunce. But it was pretty obvious that I was still fucking up every other one as there could be heard the bubbles popping as I tried to smooth the stickers out against the pouch or the equally obvious sound of me ripping one back off entirely in order to try and replace it...which never really worked out. Those fucking stickers continued to stick to my thumbs and fingers and, before very long even, I had a small pile of unusable rejects right next to me.
            “Don't worry,” Troy told me again, “Especially about the front ones. The back stickers each have a specific lot number on them so we try to use every one of those. But even's really not that big of a deal.”
            “Thanks, man. I appreciate that. I just feel so dumb, ya know? Like, who would have ever thought it would be so difficult to just apply a freakin' sticker?”  
            “You wanna know the trick?”
            “The trick is you gotta use your whole hand. Just peel that puppy off, take a little bit of an aim, and then just smack that thing on there. You're just going too slow. I know what I mean. You're just trying to be too precise and that's actually what's messing you up.”
            “Alright,” and I tried one his way then...and it worked! “Hey, thanks man. Good advice.”
            “Anytime. I'm pretty confident,” he said completely deadpan, “That sometime before these next three hours are up, you'll not only have it down pat; you'll be bored out of your fuckin' mind just like the rest of us.”                
            “Amen Troy,” and, “Ain't that the truth,” some of the other kids backed him up.
            And these kids...these personalities I could already guess are what made the job tolerable. It was the ongoing stream of conversation as the voices spouted out while, however, nobody ever really looked up from what they were doing or turned to look at who they might have been addressing. And it seemed fun like a game that I'd be good at. I didn't really know any of these personalities quite yet and would so resort to only answering questions if spoken to directly. But soon. Soon, I hoped to be just one of the gang; peeling stickers and talking about new movies, talking trash about the company and talking trash about each others' mom's, 'chiming in for the day' and laughing with this group seemed to me. And laughter was key because this was a factory sort of work without an actual assembly line. Laughter was an outlet through which everybody could go on staying sane; an outlet that this group had naturally achieved and seemed very good at sustaining throughout the countless storage bins full of labels and foil pouches.
            Just before Troy had taught me his trick to labeling, though, I had begun to notice that an unwanted entity had sort of crept into this small room with me...and for once, it wasn't my exceedingly dark personality. For once! And for perhaps the first time ever; it seemed to me like I could have made a good first impression and that these kids could have liked me almost instantly. And at least by the end of the day, it seemed, that I could have been labeling my pouches and cracking jokes with the rest of them...which was unusual. Normally, it takes me eons of time to come out of my shell (which, ironically, is when people usually start to accept me). Weeks sometimes. Months. The better part of a year as it has happened. But not this time. This time, I may have had a chance. If all but for that one, unwanted entity. It being my body odor.
            Now, when I'd first stepped into the room; I'd smelled. It's true. But I wasn't worried about that particular brand of stink. I'd smelled of sweat and of the workout I'd just given myself cleaning all those iron molds and carboys and typically, once I cool down and dry out again, this type of smell begins to dissipate shortly thereafter. But this smell, unfortunately, is not the one I am referring to.
            Just before Troy had shown me his trick to sticking, I had begun to become aware of my nervousness in the failing of my being able to properly stick a sticker and it was this temporary inability, perhaps, that had acted as the trigger. Or maybe not. It's good speculation at any rate although, and I realize, sort of irrelevant. But it was during this brief time that I'd begun to notice that tainted sort of vapor arising and becoming ever stronger and more pungent each time my armpits separated themselves in attempts at applying another sticker. And his act of coming over, however noble and effective it may have been, only seemed to catalyze whatever this horrible function was that happened to be going on inside my body. In the acidity of my blood? My lymph nodes? Definitely my apocrine sweat glands, though, with the perfect dash of undesirable adrenaline mixed in there to boot.
            And ever since I had begun to notice it; this BO was only on the increase. And like little, brown clouds as I imagined them to tiny, little smoke signals each time that one arm or the other ever separated itself from my torso; the odor would rise up again in stronger force until arriving at the point where I could not only detect it but felt immersed in it and knew for certain that its traces could at least be picked up from several feet around me. And yes. Lamentably, these boundaries would and had already crossed over into the personal zones of those two currently working on either side of me. And like well-bred and decent people; I was just sure that they were pretending not to notice. But had they become quieter? Had they purposely minimized their own contributions to the conversation going on all around us in attempts to also minimize their breathing. So that they wouldn't have to take in any more of this awful stench than they absolutely had to?! It certainly seemed so to me. And since I was prone to not participating in the conversation just yet (especially under these present circumstances) and since I found my own core, as it were, now stewing in its own juices, I was quiet and keenly aware of all that was going on around me. The low music. The stream of conversation. Pauses in the conversation. The sound of every, individual hand peeling off their stickers (of those next me and of those across the room even). I was suddenly aware of every single second ticking by as this seemingly solid and noxious fume generated only by myself had wafted and begun to settle in even the far corners of this small room. No region was now left unexposed. Untainted. Or uncontaminated. But what could I do?
            Before I answer that, though, please allow me to rewind again if I may for just one second.
            I don't wear deodorant. I hadn't since high school. And other than partially believing it to be nothing much more than a pasty carcinogen, I also just never really saw the point. In fact, even back in high school; I think that what I really found appealing about deodorant itself was its cologne like scent. And, since I didn't wear cologne either; perhaps, I believed then that it was the scent of the deodorant stick that through pheromones or whatever, would ultimately attract the ladies. But I'd never really had body odor. At least, none such as an attack like this one presently plaguing me in the labeling room. My scent had been just never that strong. It did come about once in a while, though, surely. And I'd noticed that it usually came on when, the previous evening, I had probably eaten more than my fair share of meat. It was never a major problem such as this, though, and had never resulted in such a situation. And, just to be fair to meat, I did also notice a slight rise in my own personal gaminess after eating processed foods such as those boxes of Lipton noodles with the packet of powdered seasoning or those horrible boxes of scalloped potatoes which I have no idea why I keep on buying. But basically; poor people food. The food that I've reduced myself to even up until this point in my life.
            But I do recall that on that last Thursday evening; the evening leading up to the point of this odoriferous predicament...I must have splurged a little and grabbed some fast food on the way home. This was uncharacteristic of me but, perhaps after cleaning all those carboys that evening for the very first time and only then realizing how physical this job was actually going to be...perhaps, after that, I'd simply felt too tired to cook anything. Also, and this is something that I've neglected to mention thus far; this job took place on a swing shift which meant that I didn't even get out of there until just after midnight...which was a bit different for me. I was used to working more of a mid shift and had, for years, practiced a pretty strict routine when getting home around seven. First, I take a nap. And then I'd stay up half the night drinking and writing or reading and finally making myself something to eat. But not even getting off until midnight? What was I supposed to do? Come home and take a nap until like four in the morning or something? And then start drinking? I suppose, rationally, this shouldn't have made any difference. Either way, I was working a full eight hours and had relatively the same amount of time between alarm clock buzzers. But there was just something about starting to drink while the sun came up and then having to still go to work (even if I did take a nap in between) that bothered me. So...while getting used to this new routine (whatever it turned out to be); I'd decided to take it easy on myself by grabbing a hot, steaming bag of greasy Jack in the Box.
            Poor as I was, I usually hit the value menu pretty hard almost always opting out of a combo meal. I don't drink soda so... So, I believe that my usual order went something like: 2 Jumbo Jacks and 4 of those deliciously oily, mystery-meat tacos. And I probably tacked one more item on there just to make it an even five dollars. Then I drove home, chowed down on that shit, washed it down with something like nine beers, and proceeded to take a shower. Then I went to sleep! And I always go to sleep right after chowing down just like they say you're not supposed to. And how I haven't had a massive heart attack by now is perfectly beyond any of my best guesses but this story has less to do with my heart and more to do with my chemistry. All night, that toxic food had a chance to churn around in my bowels and combine with my stomach acid until settling somewhere deep down in my guts. And all the while I slept; those hamburger patties, those mayo slathered buns, and those disgusting, wilted pieces of lettuce that they always threw on top of there bubbled and broke down metabolically until my very blood was heavy with sugar and fat.
            Part of the problem, I'm sure, was that the shower that I'd taken shortly after stuffing my face was also the only shower I'd take in the next 24 hours. I'm simply a night shower-er. It's always been my routine. Although, I have to admit, that it's never really come back to bite me in the ass quite as hard as it did in this instance. Because, hard to digest as it almost always is, that Jack in the Box meal caused me to toss and turn and sweat under the covers. For eight hours almost, I sweated it out under there; the covers quickly becoming a dank hotbox of junk and my armpits beginning to show symptoms even then that I should have noticed first thing in the morning if only I'd been listening. If only I'd known! If I'd known then I would have risen and given myself a quick 'whore's bath' with a wet washcloth and rubbed some bar soap under my arms. But I didn't know. And I wasn't thinking clearly enough first thing in the morning to be able to predict such a catastrophic event of this social and professional nature.
            Which is why I began to hear giggling come from the other side of that labeling room. Stifled little giggles which made them all the worse. Their suppression was meant to save me my dignity. It was the act of them needing to express themselves without being outwardly rude. And I even heard one of them say to the other...“I think I know what you're laughing about,” through his teeth although not quite under his breath.
            “I think I do too,” the other guy answered through his teeth as well.
            And, for the life of me, I couldn't tell whether they were speaking this way (through their teeth) in order to seem more incognito or whether they actually didn't want to activate their noses..even as far as taking in one sentence's worth of breath.
            I tried even harder then, desperately, to hold my pits together and it must have been completely obvious to anyone looking that my torso had grown completely stiff and that my arms were moving from the elbows only. But this tactic, of course, only served to make matters worse. This tactic allowed zero air to be able to escape from that region at all and for the stench to be able to heat up even more like a couple of tiny ovens were attached to me. But then, inevitably, I'd have to lean over in order to peel off a poorly stuck label or something and the two, yellow clouds (as I now imagined them) would just come pouring out in an even more concentrated form thereby dusting the room anew like a crop fumigation. This space encompassing all of us; perfectly humid with only me. It was probably sticking to other people now. They'd probably be able to smell it clearly even after they'd returned home!
            “Um...alright,” I stood up and spoke mostly to Troy, “I'm gonna take a quick leak. I mean...if the boss asks where I am or something. Um...I'll be right back.”
            And I could just hear them all saying (in their minds), “Take your time, new guy. Take all fucking night if you need.”
            But they didn't say this, of course. Troy only replied with a, “Cool, dude.” And, in a way, their collective silence on the matter only made it all the more mortifying.
            I hadn't wanted to get up, despite the fact that this move may have seemed the most practical from the get-go, because I hadn't wanted them to be able to talk behind my back. Not to mention, I'd wanted to spare myself the embarrassing return I now must inevitably make. Hey, guys. I'm back! Did ya miss me?! They would, undoubtedly, look up at the clock then and curse God himself that there were still something like 2 more hours left.
            I should have just nipped it in the bud though. When I'd first noticed that my smell was becoming offensive, perhaps just over an hour ago now, I should have excused myself, said something to the affect of, “Man, I'm sorry guys. I fuckin' stink after cleaning all those carboys. Whoo, what a workout. I'm just gonna go rub some soap or something under my armpits and I'll be right back.”
            That's what I should have done...but I'd hesitated. And, stupidly enough, that's still what I was off to do just now...I'd only prolonged it, increased the embarrassment 50-fold, and ultimately scarred any good impression I could have ever made on these people.
            There may have been a bathroom on the manufacturing side but I didn't know where it was. But also, I just needed a little bit of time and a lot of cool down. And, fortunately, the building at this hour (aside from the labeling room of course) was all but completely dead sparing me the further awkwardness of stopping and having to talk to somebody who would certainly detect the foulness and perhaps even proceed directly to the labeling room where this condition might be addressed even further and further fueling the conversation that was now, absolutely, taking place while I was away.
            Once in the bathroom, I did take a leak and then...from the dispenser right in front of the sink, I squirted huge globs worth of the foaming pink hand soap onto a paper towel and attempted to work it vigorously underneath each arm. I wished to God it was dish soap though. Or just something thicker. Because this foaming just didn't want to stick to me in the way that I needed it too just then. It didn't coat my armpits as much as it did; just wash them out. Plus, with all the greasy, fast food sweat already built up under either one of them; this particular pink substance seemed not to be able to dry against my skin as there were already two, huge pools of wetness present beneath each of my t-shirt sleeves. And underarm perspiration was just another element that I was so unused to dealing with! The plain visibility of this wetness, though, did prompt me to do something else that I'd been questioning ever since this little fiasco began.
            In my satchel, in a locker about halfway down the hall to the labeling room on the manufacturing side, I had an overshirt that I was accustomed to wearing here...especially since all I'd done earlier in the week was sit in a cubicle on the more administrative side of the building. And it was this overshirt that I went for now. And this also may seem like something that I should have done earlier...and it wasn't that I hadn't considered it. There just seemed to be a lot of drawbacks. For starters, the most impractical of these drawbacks had to be that adding an overshirt to my ensemble would only increase my body heat. And if even by only a few degrees; the results could be disastrous...even more so than it was already. And even if I buttoned up this overshirt all the way; it's not like the knit cotton that it was comprised of would ever really help to contain the problem. The air would still get out. Through the collar and through the untucked waist. And, of course, right through the material itself in little, pulsating bursts of effluvia; it would escape. It could not be contained. Because it was, in fact, completely out of control. Plus, for some totally irrational reason, I just didn't want the other kids to notice that I'd changed into something new. That I'd added another garment in attempts to cover up my putrid companion. I felt that this was openly admitting my guilt and would thereby cause me to somehow feel even more shame when, in reality, the others probably would have appreciated me having at least tried to make some sort of effort.
            But there was nothing I could do about it now. I had to put the overshirt on; so ridiculously large had the pools of dark grey dampness under my arms become after all the wiping and the soaping. And I wasn't about to let them think for one second that these pools, suddenly so much larger, were actually of even more sweat that I'd somehow perfused in the ten minutes real time that I'd actually been away. I just prayed to God that the soap would work. Because if it didn't; I felt that there was a strong possibility of me saying 'fuck all' and abandoning this job altogether. Who knows? Maybe I could work at Jack in the Box. They'd probably hire me up pretty fast. food. But seriously. To have to sit in that torture chamber any longer... A chamber that had become tortuous to the others also...and all because of me! This was the absolute worst! Maybe I could just flee the scene for tonight and return, perfectly deodorized, on the morrow. But no. I'd just started this job. It wasn't even my first week yet! And I didn't want to make a bad... Nevermind.       
            I didn't work though. When I reentered the room, a couple of people looked up and nodded to acknowledge my presence but nobody said a word. There was music playing, as there had been, over a pretty nice stereo system and everyone just acted as if they were super intent on doing their work. And maybe there truly were as we, from what I'd heard, were supposed to have this entire lot labeled, packaged, and ready to be irradiated by the time we left here at midnight. So, not wanting to draw any attention to myself if that were even humanly possible, I quickly and quietly made my way back over to my stool and work station and instantly began to resume what I'd been doing. Labeling.
            And it didn't take very long. Fifteen minutes perhaps. It was something close to that, I knew, being now keenly aware of the clock. I felt like part of me was caught in one of those Chinese finger-traps. Like the more I willed myself to stop secreting whatever this neon green, chemical garbage inside me was; the more it seemed to drip. Like it was somehow rooted in my own anxiety. Causing it to exude. And 15 minutes was all it took before that foaming hand soap underneath my arms must have dissolved; my pits feeling all the wetter and more uncomfortable now for having so much as attempted to amend the situation. Wet and sticky and excruciatingly annoying to even want to hold my arms closed anymore. Like they were caked together with batter even when I pulled them apart! And I wanted so badly then to take my hands and just rub them with anything to soak up some of the excess perspiration. With absolutely anything in the room that might have been available! A piece of copy paper even. Anything! But I couldn't. Whoo! I was shivering with heebie-jeebies.
            And the room stunk up again much to everybody's increasing frustration. No one ever said a word, though, but I could just tell. There was something about their demeanor, their sighing, and their grunting even. And I'd already exercised my only options. And now, for certain, there was nothing I could do.
            So together, we all drudged it out.
            After another 20 minutes was up, the labeling was all finished and it was then our collective duty to stick all the foil pouches in boxes and then stick all those boxes into bigger boxes for shipping. And this wasn't good for my plight either as it meant getting up and moving around more...more physical activity and one that required me to stretch my arms the whole while. And it was fucking awful. For everyone. So awful that, before these larger boxes were even finished being packed, someone suggested to Troy that he take me out back just to show me how to properly recycle all the cardboard. I knew it was probably a bit early to be taking out the trash though. I'd never done this before. But I just knew.
            As chagrinning as such a suggestion might have been, though, it was actually well welcomed by me just to have such a made up excuse designed for the group's aggregated benefit. It offered me the opportunity not only to leave the room again...but to get outside and perhaps dry out and become a bit refreshed in the cool, night air. And Troy was cool about it once we were out there and taking turns at re-piling all of the day's used cardboard into the large, metal receptacle.
            He said, “Man, I'm really stinkin' tonight.” And he even lifted his own arm here and brought his nose closer in feigning an estimation of his own, nonexistent scent. “I totally must have forgotten to put on some deodorant today. I'll have to remember to do that tomorrow for sure, ya know?”
            And there wasn't even a trace of accusation in his voice.
            “Yeah. I'm pretty sure I have a bit of that going on myself today. I'll have to remember to do that too.”
            How humiliating!
            But this was Troy's way and he turned out to be one of the best people I've ever met.
            And I must have redeemed myself somehow. Because, just a couple of weeks later, I did start going out to the bar with all those guys after work. And nobody ever said a thing.