Not safe for work

A naked woman stared at me from the computer.

I fumbled with the mouse until the cursor reached the “x.” The attachment closed. I glanced around, relieved to find the adjacent cubicles empty. I gazed at the email attempting to parse the message:

How about this

There was no punctuation to help me decode the sender’s intent.

While I had been surprised to receive an email from Scott, a second-shift security guard, there seemed no harm in opening the subject-less message. Now I wanted to un-see that image and delete the email. I wanted to pretend it didn’t exist or to be able to laugh it off.

“Good morning!” Valerie startled me as she walked past.

“Morning,” I managed, completely distracted by the bomb in my inbox.

I was only a few months into my year of national service at a non-profit agency. I loved my work, and I didn’t want to cause problems.

“Um, Val, I need you to look at something.”

“Sure,” she replied. Val was in her second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. While I had a college degree, I knew this slightly older single mom had more street smarts than me. I trusted her judgment on how to handle this.

“I got a weird email from Scott,” I began.

She knew who I meant. While there were many volunteers plus the constant parade of people logging community service hours at the agency, the paid staff was small. Everyone knew everyone.

But why does Scott think he knows me well enough to send this?

I showed Val the message and then opened the picture. She gasped, so I quickly closed it.

“What are you going to do?” she asked in wide-eyed shock.

I had been counting on Val to know the proper response for when a male coworker sends you pornography.

“You have to tell Sharon,” she finally advised.

So began a parade of people into my cubicle since I sure as hell wasn’t going to forward the email. First my supervisor, Sharon, and then her boss, Deb. When John from another department, with a bit more eagerness than was appropriate, asked, “Can I see it?” I was relieved when Sharon and Deb responded in unison, “NO!”

My face had grown hotter each time I opened up the photo. My stomach churned a bit more with each viewing.

Deb called me into her office. I felt like a child summoned to the principal’s office and promptly broke into tears as soon as the door was closed. And then I couldn’t stop crying because I was crying about this.

It’s just a stupid picture, I chided myself. You didn’t do anything wrong.

But I felt guilty. Scott seemed okay, and I didn’t want him to get in trouble. But I also never wanted this to happen again.

Despite Deb’s reassurances that I wasn’t in trouble, I remained distracted when I left her office. I couldn’t stop asking myself one question:  Why me?

Why had Scott sent me that photo? He flirted with Val, but didn’t send it to her. What had I said or done to make him think I would want to see it?

I dreaded the hour when Scott would show up for work, and I avoided eye contact when he arrived. He was immediately summoned to explain the photo, and then he was sent to apologize to me.

“I’m really sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to send that photo to you.”

I wasn’t sure if that made me feel better or worse.

35 thoughts on “Not safe for work

  1. This has happened to me ….its pretty awkward. I don’t understand why someone would take the risk of sending something like that, when it could accidentally end up in the wrong place? I guess Im just not a big risk taker. Well, thats not true… I guess Im just not a porn fan…to each their own…You hear about that sort of emailing accident all the time.

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  2. Maybe it’s because of my job and our rules, but I would have wondered why he wasn’t suspended or fired. Of course, it may also depend on how long ago this was…

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    1. He wasn’t fired, but I can’t remember if he was suspended. This happened about 8 years ago, so some of the details are fuzzy. Fortunately, one of the fuzzy details is the naked woman. Thank heaven for small favors.

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  3. How freaking awkward! I’m glad to hear it wasn’t a woman you recognized though… good lord. That is so odd…. One of our security guards friended me on facebook and even though I keep him on a restricted list where he sees nothing he will still start messaging me at like 2AM. No porn yet though.

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  4. Oh wow, that’s an awful situation. I work in a really small office (9 people total, and 3 of those are the bosses) and pretty much anything goes. No porn yet, but there have been some incredibly inappropriate emails sent around.

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  5. I thought it was going to be spam! I get all sorts of links, sometimes from people I know, that I never open since I know it’s not really from them. Your situation was creepy.

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  6. “But why does Scott think he knows me well enough to send this?”.. Your underlining of “this” made me totally think you had a link to the picture! ha That does sounds like a tough situation though. 😦

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  7. Thank the Lord I’ve never had to go through that! Although I worked at a place where the guys in the back had naked lady calendars…still not very fun to deal with. :/

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    1. The thing about those calendars is that everyone is subjected to them. There was something unnerving about being singled out. Or thinking that I was singled out.
      Those calendars still need to go.

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  8. Wow! Inappropriate in the workplace, even if it wasn’t meant for you. At least that’s what he said once he was outed for sending porn. I can’t believe he wasn’t fired.

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  9. Yeah, that would have been pretty horrible, considering that I work for a school district! But yeah–feeling like you’ve been singled out with a “special” picture? Not cool.

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  10. Well, it seems he intended to send it to someone, but perhaps clicked the wrong address. The intent was there, just the follow through was the problem. The amount of trouble you had to endure was ridiculous and no simple apology can ever undo that.

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    1. I’ve always thought his apology was mostly sincere. I’ve always suspected that he really did intend to send that picture to someone else. Doing so at work was questionable, so I know part of his unspoken apology was “I’m sorry I got caught.”

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  11. What an uncomfortable situation. Like you, I would have felt embarrassed, like I did something wrong. The fact that he meant to send it to anyone is kinda creepy.

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  12. Ugh! That’s an awful situation, you feel like you’ve done something wrong when you haven’t. I really expected you to say he was as shocked as you and it was spam. What the heck was he thinking?

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  13. Being an IT Director I often get urgent requests from employees wanting to retract an e-mail and also many stories of e-mails that were meant for other people that begin with the same name and then auto-fill completes it. You may or may not be comforted that this happens so much more than you know…..

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