Dean and Leslie had met during orientation for their first job post college. The torrent of information regarding policies and human resource protocols felt like drinking from an angry fire hose.
Who had time to remember all of these details anyway?
Of all the people at orientation, Dean remembered Leslie most fondly. She embodied strength, confidence, and assertiveness in a decisive yet non-threatening package.
As far as Dean was concerned, the only person in the room he wanted to stay in touch with was Leslie. Her spirit resonated with his soul. Not the romantic type of connection. But the value driven kind.
Just like one of the presenters had said, over and over, during one of the many training modules they had to suffer through. “Be a person of value and the firm will value you”. Leslie seemed like a woman of value and Dean looked forward to building a professional connection with her.
Breaks were fun, people got to meet up and get to know each other. All a blur, as far as Dean could recall, people he would eventually sort out as his career grew in the firm.
During the technology segment of their training, they had to select what kind of bag would carry their laptops. It was standard protocol to select from one of three options to protect the firm’s asset.
The men had the choice of a backpack and a briefcase styled soft case. The women had the choice of the same backpack or a large tote bag case.
Dean thought it odd that the selections were so meager. Some of the older hires went for the briefcase styled bag immediately. He opted for the backpack. There was no need to carry a heavy bag on one arm during his tough commute.
Having grown up in a rougher part of town, getting into the city meant two long bus rides and two train rides each way each day.
Between the training manuals, the laptop, and power accessories, having the weight evenly distributed across his shoulders would be a much healthier option, Dean reasoned.
To his surprise, Leslie seemed torn about what option to use. Most of the women there, Dean noticed, seemed very unhappy with their options.
“I don’t quite understand what’s the big deal… can you shed some light for me?” Dean puzzled out loud towards Leslie.
“The backpack is huge and ugly. It doesn’t fit with any woman’s wardrobe, for starters” Leslie explained while waiting for an on-boarding person to address her questions.
“Plus, that tote bag is massive. It could swallow up a petite woman. And it’s not practical or matches anything fashionable a woman might wear” Leslie lamented as she put down the backpack and resigned herself to the tote.
“I see. I didn’t think about fashion when I selected the backpack” Dean said.
“Of course not. You’re a guy. It’s all about being practical, right?” Leslie said rhetorically.
“Well… most times. We just need it to carry the computer. Once at work, who cares what the bag looks like. In the streets, I’m heading home or to work, I don’t care to impress anyone” Dean defended his fellow men.
“Dean, you’re sweet. But society is critical of how women look, not so much about how you look. You just need to be dressed and you’re good to go” Leslie leveled on Dean.
Scrunching his face in mocked discuss, Dean let the conversation fade. Leslie was making sense. The company didn’t consider how women would feel with their choices. Maybe, they will consider this in the future, so that they can keep recruiting talent. Other companies let their staff select their own swag to carry their laptops.
On the last day of orientation, things started to feel less overwhelming. The policies were starting to make sense and the teams were starting to become more clear. Friendships were forming and people were networking to solidify their ties across service lines.
“Dean, care to grab a bite before heading home?” Leslie asked.
Given they were letting out a little early, Dean saw no harm in chatting up with Leslie a bit more.
“Sure, let me grab my stuff. Whatcha got in mind?” Dean inquired as he started shoving all his paperwork into his backpack.
“Wow… just shove all of it up in there… make the bag own it!” teased Leslie.
It wasn’t before they were on their way out. Dean noticed how often Leslie shifted her tote from side to side. It looked quite heavy. Risking sounding insensitive, he had to ask about it.
“How are you managing all of that on one arm, is it as heavy as it looks?” Dean asked with a jovial smile to cover the question… hoping it landed gracefully.
“Try it” Leslie jabbed the bag into Dean’s chest playfully.
As Dean hooked his arm into the bag, one thought broke clear through his sense and smacked the back of his brain. The bag not only was heavy but felt like it was going to tear his elbow apart.
“You’re way stronger than I give you credit for, my sincere apologies for underestimating you” Dean said as he gave the bag back.
There was no way he would have managed a half hour commute standing in the bus with a bag this heavy nestled in his arm like that. Even though he prided himself on being fit. Dean felt this was just crazy.
“Welcome to my world buddy. This is what we women endure for fashion” Leslie beamed as the light changed and they crossed into the mayhem.