I am disagreeing about a publicity campaign with Mark Gordon.
Mark is head of the Department of Doing Things Especially Slowly. He is about 40, I think, but comes across as older. He's overweight and wears cheap shirts that don't fit him properly. He doesn't understand publicity work, but he thinks he does.
We are having a work argument, which is different from a normal argument.
I say: "Mark, while in principle I think this is a fantastic idea, I'd just like to raise some concerns about what you're proposing here."
(Translation: this is crap and it isn't going to work)
He leans back in his chair.
"Of course I welcome your feedback, Alice," he says.
(Translation: I have no intention of listening to a word you say)
"We're talking about a lot of staff time and resources and I think the resulting publicity will be limited at best. I would like to go on the record to say I don't think we should be running this campaign on behalf of an external company."
(You will be haemorrhaging money on organising a PR disaster and the company in question has its own PR people anyway, so I don't really understand why it's our job to do this)
"I understand the points you're making, and I think they are all valid. But we will need to do this anyway, because it's political."
(Shut up and do as you're told)
"It's political" can mean a number of different things, usually variations on: "We have to keep these people happy because their happiness will benefit us/their unhappiness will cause us a problem."
It can mean: "So and so is the brother of/married to/friends with/having an affair with someone high up in our own company and if we don't do as we are asked our lives are going to be turned into a living hell quicker than you can spit."
It can mean: "I'm afraid of this person and I want to give them no reason to pick on me," or "I want to impress them because I have my own agenda."
On this occasion I strongly suspect it means: "I was mouthing off about being the Big Man Who Gets Things Done in a previous meeting you weren't at, and I have already guaranteed you'll do the work no problem. And I don't want to backtrack because I'll lose face."
But he's in charge. And as far as I'm concerned it's political not to argue, in the sense of: "When you want to disagree with someone in charge, you need to pick your battles carefully in order to maintain a pleasant working environment for yourself."
This is not an important battle so I smile and agree and leave to get started.
Outside Mark's office, Chris is leaning against the wall, obviously waiting to go in.
"Hey, Alice," he says.
"Hello," I say.
Chris runs his hand through his hair and smiles at me.
"So when are we going for a drink then?" he says.
I did not expect him to say that, and for a second I'm flummoxed. It's smooth, he doesn't look nervous. He clearly has a lot of confidence that I'll say yes.
"You free after work tonight?" he asks.
"Yes," I say. It's true.
"Great," he says. "I'll meet you out the front at 5pm."
Then he does something unexpected; he leans forward and runs his fingers very lightly up my forearm. His eyes are fixed on mine. His touch is so subtle it's barely there, but my skin heats up in the wake of his fingers. I can feel myself blushing.
I watch him assessing my response. He smiles. He's pleased.
"5pm," he says.