I’ve never gotten over vague feelings of shame that arose from a minor incident that happened in a McGraw-Hill building bathroom in 1981. Maybe if I finally admit what happened I can get past it somehow.

I’d been hired to work as a freelance writer for a new outfit called Product Information Network (P.I.N.) by a very kind and extremely bright guy named George Finnegan , a friend of my father’s who lived near our home in Wilton, Connecticut. It saved my life, this job, as I was skirting on the edge of poverty when Finnegan brought me on. I was so grateful to be able to report to work on the 19th floor and snag a weekly paycheck and eat lunch every day, etc.

Cut to a moment in the late afternoon when I hit the bathroom. I did my business, washed my hands, combed my hair and hit the light switch as I left. Pure instinct — I always kill the lights when I leave any bathroom. A split second later I heard Finnegan’s deep voice say, “Hey.” He’d been in one of the stalls and I hadn’t noticed, and now he was immersed in total blackness, as there were no windows. I turned around to flip them back on when I heard him bark a second time, only much more sharply and loudly: “Hey!”

The anger in his voice scared me and I panicked. I was suddenly terrified that he’d know it was me, and all I wanted to do was get out of there in case he was about to leap out of the stall and turn the lights on himself. He might get really angry, I feared, and possibly fire me or something…who knew? I only knew I didn’t want to be busted. So I bolted out of there and left him in the dark. It makes no sense, I know, but that’s what I did.

As I was hurrying back to my office I heard Finnegan say “HEY!” one last time and then, “God damn it!”

I was terrified for the rest of the afternoon, thinking he might have suspected it was me and would call me into his office and grill me, etc. But nothing happened. I’ve told myself since that everyone panics and it’s not a major crime. Also that if Finnegan hadn’t sounded so angry as he blurted out that second “Hey!” I would have turned the lights back on. I can say that with confidence. But he scared me so I ran.

If he’d only been a little calmer about it. It was all my fault, of course, but if Finnegan had said in a mild, light-hearted tone of voice, “Uhh, hello there…? Lights?” That wouldn’t have caused me to panic, I’m fairly sure. So in a way it sorta kinda was Finnegan’s fault.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.