Secretarial: Groper Greg

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The Independent Culture
FOR THE first time in my life the phrase "he makes my skin crawl" makes more than metaphorical sense to me. For when Dirty Boss Greg enters the room, I feel as though a colony of maggots has somehow made its way beneath the surface and is making merry between my shoulderblades. Every muscle is poised to dodge the wandering fingers, and each one twitches with tension when I can feel him within five paces.

No one who is doing so inadvertently manages to brush his hand across a colleague's breast six times in five days. Greg has done it three times while handing me folders, once in the lift, once while taking a cup of coffee from me and once while expressing concern about a non- existent stain. Each time, he pauses, smirks and attempts to meet my eyes.

I know. I should complain. But to whom? No point in complaining to personnel, because I'm not an employee of the company. No point in complaining to my agency, because all they will do is make a note not to send the complaining temp to work for the same boss again. I can't drop out, because I won't work again for another fortnight if I do, and principles tend to crumble in the face of an impending rent bill. And anyway, it's not for ever. He'll be doing it to some other poor woman soon.

So all I can do is count the days. But Greg - Mr Marshall, as I have taken to calling him - isn't content to keep things as they are. Every day, he gets bolder: sucking suggestively on his pen, squeezing into crowded lifts behind me and grinding his crotch against my buttocks, dropping things on the floor so he can look up my skirt: the sort of games the boys at school gave up on some time before we reached the sixth form, only he's larger and more powerful than those boys ever were. Greg's world is the world of the Loaded reader, where women are there for one thing only and boys are, after all, only being boys.

Finally, I lose my rag. Over by the filing cabinets, slightly hidden from the rest of the room, I'm bending down when I suddenly feel a slap on my buttocks and jerk my head around to see him standing over me with a huge "Go on then" smirk on his face. I can't keep my rage in any longer. Raising my voice as loud as I can, I say, "Mr Marshall, I'm not here for you to feel up at every opportunity. If you ever touch me in that way again, I'm going straight to personnel to complain."

Not a pin drops around me. Everyone stops, and looks. He colours, mumbles something about my not being able to take a joke. "No," I say. "This isn't a joke. It's not funny. You're invading my personal space and it makes me very uncomfortable." And I stalk away across the floor, triumphant, as a rumble of gossip begins.

Half an hour later, I'm standing by the lift when a voice hisses in my ear. "Don't you ever even think of trying that again," snarls Greg Marshall. "I can crush you like a bug, you little bitch." And I find out another harsh reality: that though hell for women is an office peopled by leery gropers, hell hath no fury like a groper scorned.