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This week one of my favorite TV shows comes back on the air for the new season. I fell in love with The Office in its first episode (American version- Sorry, Q). The quirky humor and banter reminded me of my days back in retail. The way you have to learn how to co-inhabit a working space without killing someone in eight hours and the bond you develop over years of working for the hell hole. You develop relationships with people even when you’re not trying to, whether you hate their guts or want to push them against a wall in the warehouse and have your wicked way with them for an hour. These are the relationships that keep you going through those torturous eight hour treks into your own person hell. And these are the types of relationships we convey back into our writing.
I watch The Office for the humor, mostly, but most important to me is the relationship between Pam and Jim. Pam is the front desk office coordinator (I will not use the dreaded word that starts with an “S” and don’t you dare either.) whose desk is adjacent to Jim’s desk. Jim is a sales rep who spends most of his time thinking up ways to torture his desk mate, Dwight- the dork. Pam and Jim start out as co-conspirators. In order to keep themselves sane around all the insanity that is The Office, they institute practical jokes focused on Dwight. Dwight is a thorn in Jim’s side. He’s always trying to steal his sales. He’s a kiss ass to the boss (which this is not a good trait with any employee, but even worse when your boss is Steve Carroll’s character) and he is a know-it-all.
So they start as friends. They take breaks together. They share jokes. They have fun. It’s innocent. New. Fun.
And then they kiss. Pam and Jim on the rooftop with soda and pizza and fireworks.
But there is a complication. Pam is engaged to the warehouse supervisor.
So Jim pines away. And Pam shoves her attraction deep down inside. They still remain friends. They still joke and laugh and have a good time, but you can always feel the tension bubbling at the surface, threatening to boil over. I’m begging for it, “Please. Please by all that’s unholy, kiss her again. Make her see that he’s all wrong for her. Please Jim. Don’t let her go.”
But Jim is a good guy and Pam is shy.
Every time I watch this show I can’t help but smile. Years ago I had an interoffice romance that was nearly the carbon copy of Pam and Jim. If you could’ve taken script of our conversations, you might find the same kind of bantering and joking. We went on breaks and helped each other get through the long days of monotony and boredom. Times spent in the warehouse avoiding the managers were some of the best days and some of the worst days depending on the conversation and teasing.
But it never went any further. I was shy. He was giving me space.
Until one night he kissed me in the dark.
What they don’t tell you about those types of relationships, the only way to ignore it is to pretend it never happened and that’s much easier said than done. You can’t blush whore red every time he looks at you and pretend nothing has happened between you.
So the chase begins. Do you ignore it or do you pursue it? Do you lick your bottom lip when he looks at you or do you make a joke about how he’s got pizza sauce on his company shirt? When you think that it will turn you inside out, the unthinkable happens. It no longer becomes a choice. It becomes the air you breathe. You wake to see his face and to hear his voice. It’s like you’ve suddenly become possessed, obsessed with being at work so you can see him.
He feels the same way. You can see the look in his eye when he looks at you. The way he smiles at you from across the store. You get butterflies when you talk to him. The thought of actually moving away like you decided six months ago is tearing a hole in your heart. He doesn’t try to talk you out of it, deciding instead that he can come visit on the weekends and you agree a little too quickly.
Walk away, you tell yourself. Walk away before you ruin what you’ve got.
Ask him out! It’s that pesky little voice in the back of your mind that’s always getting you into trouble.
I hear you wore sweatpants to the club the other night, he says.
You laugh, because that’s what you’d normally do and there is a little part of you that’s glad he didn’t see that tequila drunken escapade.
Come to the club with me, he says. Wear your sweatpants, I don’t care. I think you’d look hot.
You give him a saucy look and suddenly realized when you turn to leave, your escape route has been blocked by refrigerator boxes. He’s standing in front of you, looking down into your eyes looking dark and sexy and you lick your lips because suddenly your mouth is dry.
The silence is only perpetuated by the fierce thumping of your heart. The warehouse is vacated in your time of need. Being alone with him is a very bad, bad thing. Friends first leaves you with no barriers to guard yourself against advances, even if they are wanted- really wanted.
Sure, you squeak and slip past him.
He laughs, I wasn’t going to kiss you.
You don’t answer. Instead you toss a saucy look over your shoulder and high tail it out of the warehouse like hell hounds are nipping your heels.
You think about it all day. You think about the look in his eyes all night. And the rest of the week while you avoid him. He’s avoiding you too. You can tell. You can’t tell if it’s a game of cat and mouse or if you scared him off. The only way to find out is to jump right in and go out to the club.
So you do and you find out it’s not a game. Oh, it’s really not a game.
On Thursday, I will find out the fate of my favorite TV interoffice romance Pam and Jim. Jim was going to propose to Pam in the season finale but another couple ruined the mood. Where will they go from here? I don’t care but I do know the ride getting there is one helluva one and I can’t wait to see what kind of fireworks explode this year.
What sort of relationships between your hero and heroine do you like to write? Been friends for years, weeks, months, days or strangers destined to be together? Readers, what’s your favorite relationship to read about? Or if you don’t want to talk about that, how about your own story of interoffice romance? And remember its Wednesday. Wednesday are scandalous days *wink*