Saturday, October 10, 2009M. came to work late on Thursday. Her desk was semi-decorated with a colorful "Happy Birthday" banner, a gift bag from Starbucks, a card, and a Bismark donut on a paper plate with a sucker stuck into it.
After everyone had a chance to smother M. with fond wishes, she turned to me with a shocking announcement.
M: "Jake! I signed up for a Facebook account!"
J: "You did?"
M: "Yes! I signed up for one so I could see my friend's photos."
J: "Oh... So, will you continue using Facebook or was it just a one time thing?"
M: "Will I use it? Will I use it? Pffft! Now I have time to use it."
While M. Was on a phone call, I spoke to her cube mate. Her cube mate is the only person on the team who knows about this blog.
J: "I wasn't expecting this."
Cube Mate: "I know."
J: "If she looks at my Facebook page, she'll see all of the blog posts."
Cube Mate: "I was thinking the same thing."
J: "I should tell her about it before she finds out on her own, huh?"
Cube Mate: (Nodding her head.) Yes, definitely."
J: "That means I have to tell her, like... today."
Cube Mate: "Yeah."
J: "Oh man."
I wasn't prepared. I didn't expect to tell M. about the blog for another 2 months, but now I didn't have a choice. My Facebook page is unprotected so anyone can view it. I keep it this way to network with my former podcast listeners, and to advertise The Story of M. I had no other option than to tell her. Right now...
J: "I need to tell you something, M."
M: "You do?"
M: "Jake! Why are you so serious?"
J: "It's nothing bad. I just have to talk with you about something. Can we go for a walk?"
M: "Oh my God, you want me to go on a walk with you? Are you going to kill me?"
J: "Ha ha. No."
M: "OK... let me just sign in so there is evidence I was here." (She signs in using the time sheet.) "If I'm not back in 5 minutes, come looking for me. Jake is asking me to walk with him."
J: "You'll be back."
On our way out, M. informs everybody we pass, whether we know them or not, that she is going out in the hallway for a walk with me. I laugh and tell her to stop it. We walk out of the department into the quiet hallway. We turn the corner and stop alongside the wall. M. freezes in a kung-fu pose, changes her stance into another pose, freezes, and repeats it again one more time.
J: "You aren't making this easy for me. Will you just be normal for a minute so I can talk to you?"
M: "What did I do?"
J: "You didn't do anything, it's something I did."
M: "Oh, it's something you did. Oh God, what did you do, Jake?"
I stood there looking at M. for several seconds. All of the various approaches for this conversation rushed through my head, but I knew I wouldn't use any of them. Instead, I decided to be as honest and upfront as I could be.
J: "You read the birthday card I gave you, right? So you know I think very highly of you."
M. "Yes, I read it."
J: "You know I would never say anything to degrade you or to put you down. Right?"
M: "Mmm... yeah..."
J: "You have a very entertaining personality, M. How would you feel if your amazing personality had a strong but small cult following?"
Her expression didn't change. She just stared at me.
J: "You know The Ernie Blog I wrote?"
M: "Yes, but I didn't read it."
J: "OK, well... Let's go back to July. I sent you a text message one day, that I'm sure you don't remember."
M: "Jake, I don't remember what happened yesterday."
J: "Ha ha, fair enough. Well, in July I sent you a text message that said I would love to write a book about your life. Do you remember?"
M: "You did? No, I don't remember that."
J: "At the time, you brushed it off like you didn't think I was serious. But... M... I've been writing about you since July. I've written a blog for almost everyday we've worked together. When you told me you set-up a Facebook account, I was worried you might see my page on Facebook and discover the blog. I wanted to tell you about it before that happened. You are very entertaining, and so many readers love reading about you. People email me if I don't publish a blog on time, and everyone who knows me in person tells me how hilarious the blog is. They love it! They love you. If you want me to stop, I will, but I really want to continue writing about you because you are so fun to write about. I can't keep up with you sometimes. So... what do you think of that?"
M: "Ok, well... it's fine. But I can't access Facebook at work."
J: "That's OK, the blog isn't on Facebook. Let's go back to your desk and I'll show you the URL so you can read it. I'll give you some time to go through it, then you can sleep on it and see how you feel about it tomorrow. Just remember, it's completely anonymous so nobody knows who you really are, except for a few people. Your cube mate knows because she saw it on Facebook, but I swore her to secrecy. And you have a lot of really cool fans who love reading about you. You are a star, M!"
We went back to her desk. Before I could show M. the website, a colleague interrupted us and demanded M.'s immediate attention. I went to my desk and wrote down the URL on a sticky note, then I left it on M.'s desk. When she was free a minute or so later, she started typing in the address.
M: "Tunnel Scene, Jake? Ha ha!"
J: "Yeah." (I smile.)
I showed her how to start at the beginning and navigate forward so she could read them in chronological order. I saw at my desk and breathed. At least the secret was out. I didn't feel nervous about it anymore. Now I just had to wait and see how she responds.
M. started at the beginning. She laughed from the onset, sometimes so hard that tears sprung from her eyes. Her cube mate and I both looked over her shoulder and followed along with the text. Neither of us had read some of the entries since they were published, and some of them brought back happy memories. Soon, we were all laughing. We couldn't help it.
I had a meeting with a manager from another team so I had to steel away from M. for an hour, but even sitting several rows away, M.'s laughter was all we could hear. I took it as a good sign.
When she was done, her cube mate asked her if she was mad.
M: "No, I'm not mad at all. I think it's funny because I'm me and I know what happened before and after, but I'm not sure anyone else would see the humor."
J: "Don't worry, M. People love it! They love reading about you."
M: "It's so random."
The next day, I sent M. a text to see how she was feeling. Out of all the things I expected, I didn't expect this:
M: "You are a very good writer, Jake. I think you could follow a feather around and make it sound exciting and entertaining to everone who reads it. I am flattered that you're writing about me."
It's one of the best text messages I've ever received. Thank you, M! :) The truth is, I simply write down what M. says and does. She's very easy to write about.
We'll work together again this Monday, and I have no idea what to expect. Things might be slightly awkward between us for the first few days, because M. is aware of the blog, and she knows I'm writing about her. I question whether I'll continue takings notes in secret or whether I'll openly show M. the pad of paper and pen as I jot down her quotes.
But so far, so good. Don't you think?