It seems like I’m always learning something new about my co-workers. I’ve been around at the City of Buena Beach Recreation Division for a few years now, so I figured I knew most folks pretty well. Not necessarily because they’ve spilled their guts after a few too many drinks at happy hour or anything like that (…actually, that was me). But I’m very observant, and keen on “collecting” information on folks in the division.

For example, I know that although my colleague Steven is a fitness freak (always shaming us for every carb we ingest), he sneaks over to the vending machines precisely at 2:15 pm each afternoon for a non-Diet Coke and 2 Snickers bars, which he sucks down in the supply room. And I know that my boss Danny – a manager paid to keep us peons on the straight and narrow – spends a good three hours a week bidding on eBay. These little details definitely color the otherwise mundane personalities of my co-workers, although they’d probably be horrified to learn that I see them just a bit differently than I would otherwise thanks to my enhanced knowledge.

I guess that’s the thing about perceptions – as much as you try to manage them, you’re never in control over what happens.

Like me – I try to give off the whole stylish, in-the-know, trendsetter vibe even though I can’t afford most of the things I covet each month when my InStyle Magazine arrives. I spend a lot of time on this image of mine but, who knows? With all the work I put in, I’m sure some of my colleagues simply think of me as a pretentious, materialistic poser with no goal in life but to nab the cutest pair of Kenneth Cole shoes in the mall. They’d be right, but that still isn’t quite like how I’d like the world to see me.

I say all this as a segue into an experience I had this weekend at one of the best places on earth – Costco. It’s true, I can’t get out of there without spending at least a hundred bucks, but who can resist a whole case of Hansen’s soda? Anyway, I had stopped in just to pick up some pictures I’d printed (and, yes, ended up taking home a case of wine, a venti-sized bottle of ibuprofen, and a dozen apples that will end up rotting in the dusty glass bowl on my dining room table), and decided to grab the $1.50 hot dog and drink special after I finished shopping.

Walking towards the beverage fountain, my eyes spotted something that didn’t belong in the form of a 7-11 X-treme Gulp mug (rather than the standard medium-sized Costco cup). At first I kind of laughed to myself, thinking “go-on girl” as the woman holding the cup filled it with seemingly gallons of orange soda. But then, she proceeded to pull out another mug and, this time, helped herself to enough Sprite to satisfy a thirsty pack of Olympic runners. It was then that a different voice in my head spoke up, telling me that I should go find a manager and revert back to the tattle-telling days from my childhood. Or better yet, be bold and loudly confront the woman, publicly exposing her beverage burglary. In that frenzied second, while deciding if I should take action or write the whole thing off as a non-incident, she turned around towards the parking lot and began her getaway to an idling car nearby, not noticing me as she checked around for witnesses.

But I certainly noticed her. Even with the dark shades and snug baseball cap, I’d know that lady any day. It was my colleague Isabel from Accounting. Isabel, who I’d unofficially appointed as my “real grown-up” idol; my late-30s suburban icon. The girl was put together, y’all. Never a hair out of place or a chip in her nail polish. Make-up was always flawless (not that she needed any) and she was more fit than the personal trainer I’d dumped earlier in the year after just half a session. On top of that, she was one of the smartest people in the department with more than one Ivy League degree framed in her office (why s