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Deserter's Just Deserts

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 2/26/2003

The other night, a woman I went to college with was in town and we got together for dinner. We never dated or felt any romantic attraction for each other but had always hung out with a lot of the same people and gotten along really well, so I was glad she called. We had a good time at the restaurant and made plans to get together again when she came home for her sister's graduation a few weeks later. Upon her arrival, we went to a local bar and met up with some mutual friends. A woman I had been attracted to for some time was at the bar, and we started talking. The woman later asked me for a ride home. I didn't even think about it; I just grabbed my car keys and left with her. I assumed my college friend would understand. But when I called her the next day she ripped me a new one for leaving her at the bar. I didn't exactly abandon her. She was with friends, and I knew she'd have no trouble getting a ride. Now, though, she's furious. I always thought the pursuit of love took priority over friendship. I've started dating the woman I took home so I think I did the right thing. I don't understand why my college friend is so pissed off.

Dave in Denver

Dear DID
You ditched her, you scuzzbag, so of course she's pissed. You may not have been physically attracted to her, but if she called you, it's possible she felt differently. She might have even considered your dinner a "date," at the end of which you publicly dumped her for another woman. Nice. Even if she wasn't romantically attracted to you, you put her in the awkward position of having to find her own way home. So what if she was with friends? That made it easier on her than if you had pushed her out of the car on a back-country road, but she still had to ask. The rule is You leave with the one you came with. Period. OK, I know that between single, club-crawling friends who are looking to score, it's every man (or woman) for himself. (And, if the driver of the car gets lucky, the passengers are on their own.) But unless you've agreed in advance that that's the deal, you're expected to behave like a gent and take the lady home.

There were things you could have done. You could have taken one of your friends aside and asked him to escort your college friend home, thereby assuring her a ride. You could have explained the situation to her (presuming, of course, she really wasn't romantically interested in you) and offered to put her in cab (and paid for it). But the only truly acceptable alternative would have been to tell your new lady friend that, as much as you would like to give her a ride home, you are otherwise obligated, but you would be happy to put her in a cab (and pay for it).

My boss is going on a business trip next week. He has asked me to field all his calls so that no one, including his wife, will know he's not staying at the local hotel. He'll actually be staying with a "friend." I've only been working with this company for a few months, but the other secretaries tell me this sort of thing goes on all the time and that they're used to it. I think it's creepy and hate being put in this position. But I was unemployed for a long time before I got this job and don't want to rock any boats, if you know what I mean. And aside from this, I really like the place. Any thoughts?

Agitated Assistant

Dear AA
Secretaries keep secrets. It's part of the job. And sometimes they lie. At least when I was a secretary, I did. It was mostly to tell unwelcome callers my boss was "out of the office." I even once had to cover for a guy who was in rehab for a month. I compromised with a story that he was recovering (sort of true) from surgery (outright lie) and couldn't be disturbed. Other employees handled his work, and his clients didn't suffer. So I figured, No harm, no foul, and accepted it as part of my job. I appreciate your discomfort, but marital infidelity is no one's business but the people directly involved. If certain people had minded their own damn business just a few years ago, this country might still be in the hands of intelligent, peace-loving Democrats instead of the let's-shoot-first-then-try-to-find-a-valid-reason-later jerks who are in charge now. I'll probably get a lot of letters about this, but it's not your job to pass judgment on your boss' morality. If he were asking you to help him embezzle pension funds, that would be a totally different story. In this case, however, though what your boss is asking is tacky, it's not illegal. In a more open job market you would have much more leeway, and you still have every right to refuse to lie. But in your place, I'd do what he asked for the time being. If it really made me miserable, I'd start quietly looking for another job.

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