Mike Nickele: Warning! April 25 Is National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

April 02, 2024, 10:15 PM

Anthony and Rory

A native Detroiter, Mike Nickele has enjoyed a long career writing for newspapers and magazines, as well as print, radio and tv advertising. He was born in the Detroit projects and worked his way through Wayne State University building Chryslers and making Whoppers. He fronts the local rock band Cocktail Shake.

By Mike Nickele

Dear friends, April 25th is National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Now, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You have time to schedule a vacation day, fake an illness, or just hide under the covers and shiver until it’s over. For it is just this celebration of children in the workplace that turned me from a writer into a wreck.

Oh, it started out as a grand idea. It was created by the Ms. Foundation for Women, with support from founder, celebrated journalist and ardent feminist Gloria Steinem. Little did they know that this glorious day, created with bold and honest intentions, could be a ticket to a mental institution for certain hapless parents like me.

It started back in 1992 as Take Your Daughters to Work Day, to introduce young girls to the workplace and let them know early on that careers are not just for the boys. That opportunities for women abound.

And that’s cool. Where the chaos may have begun was in 2003, when they decided to include the boys - thus a name change: National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. And, for me, a day I will never forget. It was the day I executed a perfect swan dive into the sea of insanity.

Way back when my two sons, Anthony and Rory, were 10 and eight, respectively, I was working as a copywriter for a huge advertising agency with its offices in what’s now called Ally Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue in Downtown Detroit. It was a grand place to work - a creative
atmosphere with tons of personal and professional benefits. Management was consistently cognizant of the familial demands of its employees: a happy family generally means a happy employee. This time they dropped the fucking ball.

Mike Nickele

On that fateful morning, I gathered up the two rug rats, belted them in the car and headed downtown. We were all in a great mood, wondering what fun the day would hold. Treats? Puppet shows? Maybe an exercise that would have the visiting short-shits create their own ad campaign.
Herding them from the parking garage, into the building, onto the elevator and into the office was a feat to behold. I could have used a curling broom to swoosh them down the street. Once in the office, I realized that the company that was so attentive to family activities had nothing special planned for the day. Nothing. No cupcakes. No puppets. 

No kiddie ad campaign. We were on our own.

And, even though this was a special day, the work demands didn’t stop. Sure, the ad biz is a fun biz — booze, dope, long lunches and lotsa laughs … until it’s deadline time. Then, nothing matters but the work.

As I turned on the computer and began to sign in I got immediate signals from the shorts. Rory is bored - already. And, Anthony announces the need to urinate. The phone rings and it’s the slick young guy acting as the account rep on the current project I’m working on.

“We get this done by tonight and we will be the darlings of the client”, he says snidely while probably winking and sipping his $4 chai tea latte. No, Mr. Nice Tie, YOU will be the darling of the client as you smile, straighten your tie and tell said client, “Hey it’s all in a day’s work. Someometimes I have to crack the whip with our crazy creatives, but I think you’ll agree that I’ve steered them into some really sweet stuff for you”.

Meanwhile, Rory is still bored and Anthony still needs a trip to the restroom - one of many such trips he’d make that day.

So, I find a computer game that will un-bore Rory for a while and take Anthony down the hall to the restroom. And, of course we have to stop and peak into every whacky ad-guy/gal office enroute. “Why does that man have a bunch of underpants on his wall?” is just one of many such
inquiries. Followed by, “I smell beer.” “She has a tiny dress.” “How much money does he make?”

Adults Anthony (l) and Rory 

Thankfully, one of the interns - a nice looking college girl - takes a liking to Anthony and asks if he can spend some time with her in the mat room.

She was a godsend, showing him all of the art supplies and drawing pictures with him on huge sheets of paper. He was in heaven.

Back at the office, Rory is engaged with the same video game. Then a revelation: “This is dumb. Can you find a good game?” The phone rings and it’s Mr. Nice Tie again reiterating the immediacy of the deadline. I try writing on a yellow legal pad while Rory commandeers my computer.

Impossible. I decide it’s time to take a break and herd the boys to the McDonald’s restaurant in the basement of the towering Renaissance Center building. I collect Anthony from the mat room and head, once again, to the restroom. He has a handful of highlighters, the large flat ones.
Yellow, blue, pink, green, purple.

Standing at the urinal next to him, with a small divider between us, I hear an awful sound. Bloop, bloop bloop, bloop bloop.

”Uh-oh.” Did you drop those markers in the toilet?

“I’m sorry,” he says as I scoot him back from the porcelain trough to perhaps retrieve the markers. Swoosh! And, there they went down the auto-flush urinal. All five of them. I’m about to stroke out at the thought of destroying the company plumbing system when Anthony assures me, “Well, at least we know they’re flushable!”

So, they love the idea of going to McDonalds. I gather them up and lead them across the street into the Detroit City County Building. From there, there’s an elevated tube connected it to the Millender Center, which also has a tube connected to the RenCen. Lotsa lunch folks doing the
noon-time hustle, but we make it. Coupla Happy Meals later, the kids are smiling - and finally, so am I! Until we head back to the office. That’s when I first got a whiff of the sulphur of that would be my living hell.

Approaching the first tube from the RenCen to the Millender, Rory decided that he didn’t want to walk anymore. In the middle of the lunchcrowd hustle, he just plopped himself flat on the floor. As I tried to get Rory to stand up, Anthony assesses the situation and decides to take off running into the tube of bustling lunchers.

Holy crap! Which one do I save?

I pick Rory up (no small feat, as I’m kind of tyke-sized myself) and run into the tube in search of his truant brother. After dozens of bumps and apologies, I find him at the end of the tube laughing is skinny little ass off.

I hustled them back to the office, steam blowing out of every orifice of my body. I was enraged, but trying not to show it so the lunch bunch wouldn’t mistake my anger for child abuse. That’s it for Take Your Monsters to Work Day. They’re going home.

Back at the office, I gathered up all of their stuff and head to the parking garage. Anthony is belted in the passenger seat and Rory is behind me in the back. Before I even start the car, Rory makes an astute albeit incorrect assumption, “So, Dad, at work you basically do nothing.”

I remember resting my head on the steering wheel and trying to regulate my breathing. The drive home was uneventful. But I had to return to the office to continue doing “nothing”.

Back at the agency, I see Mr. Nice Tie pacing up and down the hallway. He tells me he needs all of the unfinished campaign work for a morning client meeting. So, there I stayed doing my “nothing” until 11 pm.

Outside the building I lit up a joint and repeated the same unanswerable question over and over again, “Why me, God, why me? Why?”

But, all’s well that ends well. The kids had an exciting day at the ad agency, the campaign was well received and Mr. Nice Tie was once again the darling of the client.

Remember. April 25th. You have been warned.

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