I’ve been waiting a while to tell this tale. Always on my “want to post” list, I would eventually wuss out for fear of alienating a certain coworker, a kind gent whom I love dearly. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I say coworker? I meant to say ex-coworker.

Once upon a time…

I went to an awesome school in the awesome city of Chicago. Alas, I love my alma mater. Chapman, I don’t mean you. You can suck it. (If you’re scratching your head – for reasons other than seborrheic dermatitis – then you must have missed “You’re Sweet, But No…” For shame!) But I digress… I have this weird relationship with Columbia College. Some might say the codependent kind. It’s like when you see those couples walking down the street – either the dude’s hot, and she’s not, or it’s the other way around. You curiously eyeball them and wonder why they’re together in the first place, right? Oh, you don’t? Really? Really? Well, I’m the “not so hot” girl who idolizes her boyfriend and hangs on his every word.

Therefore, it was with many tears that I finally said goodbye to CCC. For me, graduation was just one very public breakup with a cap, gown and Frank Rich. And just like we all have done from time to time when going through a breakup, I held onto any scrap of nostalgia that could serve as a final reminder of the happiness I once had. Some people keep cards. Some keep pictures. Me, I kept a slinky.

A few years pass by. I was working at _____ (to protect the not-so-innocent) and liked my office “homey.” I had the requisite pictures of family and friends on my desk. I had a blanket on the back of my chair in case I got chilly. But the piece de resistance? My beloved rainbow-hued slinky from college. If ever I became frustrated/overwhelmed/suicidal at work, I would just glance at my slinky and poof! All those bad feelings would instantly disappear.

So one rather mundane Monday morning, I skipped into work – as anyone can tell you I would often do – and was shocked by a rather gruesome sight. On my desk was a slinky, but not the slinky I had left a mere two days earlier. No, this slinky was twisted and warped, a tortured ball of tangled plastic. I swear I almost screamed. It was like the horse head scene from The Godfather. The alleged suspects who committed such a heinous crime? The children of my aforementioned coworker. Apparently they had come into the office over the weekend, and being children, got bored rather quickly. They then molested my poor slink-slink.

I was devastated. Devastated and pissed off. My officemate immediately tried to rectify the situation and reached for my mangled treasure. Hell, no! No one else was getting his or her hands on my precious piece of junk. I then attempted to untangle the mess myself, but to no avail… It was beyond help. Dejected, I pushed my slinky away as I headed into a production meeting…

A half-hour later, my roomie had somehow beaten me back to our office and was furiously trying to undo the angry knot. A tinge of human kindness then began to creep over me. I took a breath. Internal dialogue: “Anna, it’s just a thing. Just a cheap plastic toy. It shouldn’t matter so much. I’m making this guy feel really, really bad over a slinky.”

Not sure if he could tell that I was over it, but by that afternoon all was truly forgiven. No big deal. Actually, my coworker had been somewhat successful with his ghetto reconstructive surgery. The slinky had been detangled, but the damage was done. It would never be the beautiful, rounded slinky it once was. The plastic was stretched and deformed for good. Is this how parents feel when they realize their baby is ugly? You still love it, but… Maybe you can get another one – a better one – down the road somewhere.

Fast-forward a month. The slinky debacle is ancient history. The receptionist hands me a package, a box from Columbia College. Total confusion on my part. What could this be? I have friends in some pretty high places at CCC, thank you very much, but I never thought I’d get free swag from them. Sweet! Upon opening it, however, I glanced at the receipt and noticed my coworker’s name… No new slinky (those were made especially for graduation), but he had gotten me a pen, pennant, business card holder and keychain. OMG. I was such a douche. The man had felt so guilty about my stupid slinky that he had gone out and bought a bunch of CCC crap to make up for it. Wow. Coworker = 1. Anna = 0. Granted, I’m still not fond of children, but it’s not like they stole my checking account number or a kidney. They messed up my slinky. Slinkies are toys. Toys for kids.

Anyway, I immediately gave my coworker a hug and an apology. That night, though, I took my slinky home (I had purposely waited so as not to make him feel bad – guess that didn’t pan out – but I also wasn’t going to tempt fate twice)… As well as all my PEZ dispensers. Nobody better mess with my collector’s editions Chicago Cubs Snoopy and Charlie Brown PEZ. I will shiv you. With my slinky. *

* It has multiple sharp edges now. A single tear falls… Cue “My Heart Will Go On.”

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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