July 30, 2002

Television

My boss, the Executive Director, would practice, in the men’s room, talking to the Board of Directors. Occasionally he addressed the entire Board, but usually it was the Executive Committee or individual members of that committee, most often the chairman. I could always tell, based on what he was saying, who he was talking to.

It was painful. He sounded exactly like he sounded outside the men’s room: like a person trying and failing to seem natural.

My desk was only about forty feet from the men’s room, which was how I knew. Didn’t he realize I could hear him? If it had been me, I would have run the faucet to drown out the sound.

When I was a child and something upsetting came on TV, I would hide behind the television. I didn’t so much mind violence, because I knew it wasn’t real, but I couldn’t bear to see people humiliated, even when it was pretend humiliation. Whenever it would start to happen, I would turn off the sound, wheel the set away from the wall, crawl behind it, and crouch amid the wires.

This is how I felt whenever I heard my boss’s voice issue from the men’s room: like I wanted a television set to hide behind.