I’m writing this quick post at home over the lunch hour before heading back to the office. Life has imitated art, as I live an approximation of an episode of “The Office,” one of my favorite television shows.

In last night’s episode, two of the key characters in the television show return from a secret joint-vacation to Jamaica. The man tries to send a suggestive photo of his female companion to a friend via email, but instead forwards it to half of his office. The other half of the office soon gets a copy of the photo via forwarded emails. The male character goes crazy, as his attempts to keep the matter private go horribly awry.

I laughed at the stupidity of that character, and how his mistake was broadcast throughout the office via email and then full-color poster-sized prints of the suggestive photo. “No one is THAT stupid in this day and age,” I thought to myself.

Then I got an email at work the next morning. No, it didn’t contain an attached suggestive photo. It contained a link to the website of the photographer who took pictures at our company’s recent holiday party. I went to the website, logged in with the supplied user name and password, and began to look at the pictures. “Nothing too bad,” I thought, when a coworker passed by and saw my computer screen. “Hey, don’t hog them to yourself,” my coworker complained, coaxing me into sending the link.

“No harm,” I thought. “We’re going to send the link to everyone later today anyway.” I forwarded the information and listened as my coworker began to review the pictures with other people who circled the cube. My biggest concern was whether a boss would pass by and wonder why this group of people didn’t have something better to do.

Then I saw the first questionable picture. While the first thumbnails I viewed were pretty sedate, they also were the first photos taken that night, before the drinking had gotten very far. I, and the group of employees in the nearby cube, began to see pictures where people threw caution to the wind, and (nearly) let it all hang out, so to speak. Nothing pornographic, but probably embarrassing in the calm (and sober) light of day, two weeks after the original event.

A supervisor who sits near me was one of the people who had taken several questionable photos with his date, and with some female coworkers. I called him over to my PC and showed him the photos. He reacted very much like the male character on “The Office” episode I had watched the previous evening. Lots of spontaneous sweat, increased respiration, and softly muttered sounds of terror.

Obviously, if he had thought about it at all, he imagined that only he would be able to view the photos. Now the reality that the entire company would realize just how far he can stretch out his tongue struck him. “Can we take those off of the site?” he whispered in a pleading voice.

I was a step ahead of him, but I knew that I had to move quickly. As word of the photos spread throughout the office, people began to log onto the site, using the login information that the photographer had given on the night of the party. With the okay of the service center management and HR, I had IT block access to the site. I exchanged emails with key people and together agreed that the site would remain blocked, and people would need to view and order photos from outside of the office. In the meantime, a coworker contacted the photographer to request that some of the more questionable photos be removed from the site.

Easy enough, but someone pointed out that some people in the photos might actually want to purchase those photos (maybe not the Tongue Master, but some of the others). How would they know that the photos were available if we had them removed from the website?

That is why I am at home. I had to leave the office where the photographer’s website was blocked by our IT Department, and get screen captures of the questionable photos before the photographer had a chance to remove them!

I hope that the people involved learned a lesson about corporate events like the holiday party. Careers aren’t often made there, but many a career has gone down in flames due, in part, to poor decisions made under the influence. That’s one of the reasons why I stuck to nonalcoholic beverages that evening–and struck a safe, non-offensive pose when taking a photograph with my wife.