When I first started working in Manhattan, I worked for a magazine publisher. Actually that's not true, my real first job was working for a company in sales. I was so unhappy I quit after seven weeks.
I gave my two weeks notice to go and work for the magazine publisher. When I got there I was suddenly a part of a big corporation with different departments with a myriad of responsibilities.
One of the departments I regularly had to deal with was Finance.
Now when one thinks of Finance and Manhattan one probably thinks of slick high powered businessmen in 5,000 dollar suits talking about bulls, bears and foreign currencies.
But Finance in my company was an office that dealt with payouts, with reimbursements and paychecks. It was also an office filled with somewhat unintentionally hilarious Filipino women.
I didn't quite understand how four quiet reserved Filipino women all ended up in the same department, but I suppose it was no more unique than four white people working in my department.
When I first started I didn't know the women in Finance that well. But as my job progressed I had to spend more and more time working with them to figure out specific issues and challenges.
Often times, I would need things from them.
Now there is an unspoken rule in businesses that she who controls the money controls the pace of business.
Since I needed things from Finance, payouts and author checks and such, I would do my best to charm the ladies. I usually dressed up for work in a tie or a vest or cufflinks or some other aspect of snazzy. This, I found out, made it easier to charm them.
Gradually these tough Filipino females softened to my presence. They would engage me in conversation and laugh at my jokes, giggle when I asked them if they wanted to hang out that weekend.
But soon they began engaging me. As soon as I would start talking, one woman in particular, would say, "You're so handsome!"
This was a wonderful thing. Especially when I started hearing it on a regular basis.
But things quickly got out of hand.
Like the time when one of the women brought her daughter to work. As soon as I walked into Finance on that day, the ladies started whipping out cameras like a horde of Filipino paparazzi.
Go, go stand with Richie, take a picture, he's so handsome.
There is probably nothing more embarrassing for an adolescent than being forced to take a picture with a gangly 23 year old her mother apparently has a crush on.
I was extremely uncomfortable. When I had dreamed of being rich and famous, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
I don't know if anybody was more upset than the Finance ladies when I left that company.
I moved onto another corporation, also with a Finance department. While also all women, this department seemed to be made up of women from only island nations. Again, strange, but perhaps not that strange.
One day, the middle-aged women of this finance department were having a spirited debate about the correct pronunciation of my last name. To settle it they took to the Internet. At this point I had already started my blog and was well into publishing regularly.
While looking up my name they came across my picture from my blog. I know this because I walked into their department in the middle of this process. I saw the headshot from my blog up on one of their screens.
Richie, Richie, how you say your last name?
I told them that in English it was Bem-key but in German it was Boomka
And that's when they started comparing me to a guy that was on a semi popular cable show about a former spy.
He look like that guy from Burrrn Noootice.
Don't he look like that guy from burn notice?
Boomka, you look like that guy from Burrrn Noootice.
I couldn't really agree or disagree.
That day really opened up the relationship I had with the ladies of that department.
I would chat them up and try to be friendly because, once again they controlled the money, and I often needed their help.
I even brought a special bottle of booze back for one of them when I went away to South America.
It's kind of easy to chat up middle-aged married women as a 24 year old. It's about as nonthreatening as it gets.
However as I poured on the charm and faux flirtation inside the office, I did not anticipate it being reciprocated.
I grew a beard at this time. And many people know my beard is red. Well one day at an all team meeting one of them ladies of finance tapped me on the shoulder before it started. I turned around.
Hey Boomka why is your beard red?
Oh, I said, my Dad has red hair.
Does the carpet match the drapes?
For those of you unfamiliar with that phrase I will just say they she was specifically inquiring if my facial hair was the same color as, well, it was probably not an HR appropriate comment.
It was the LAST thing I expected to hear from her. But since I was so caught off guard I did what I always do, I went into full out panic mode and made a ridiculous joke about it in the spur of the moment.
Oh you know, that's between me and the 100 or so ladies I've been with.
Jokingly. I said that JOKINGLY! Hyperbole. Exaggeration. Ridiculousness. These are my things. But the lady from finance reacted like I just told her I had a Ferrari, and I could swear the look she gave me was one of... pride. And she said;
Ohhhh alright now. Ok. Good for you!
My relationship with her was sufficiently tainted from that point going forward.
Fortunately, I quit several monthly later.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether I actually look like that guy from Buuuurrrrrn Noootice.