The Toilet Paper Award

And the worst boss is…drum roll please!


I love it here in the Ozarks.  I am glad I moved here, pretty much every day.  Yet, there are some days, I don’t feel that way.  They are few and far between, but lately there are more.  Those days, I ask myself, “What the hell did I do?”  “What was I thinking?”  “Why did I come here?”

I quit my job of nearly a decade with the county-not that it was a great job, but it was better than most.  I was a case manager at social services and a bit burnt out by it, and I had also recently gone through an extremely ugly divorce.  I was ready for a change.  A big one.  I had never really liked Pueblo, Colorado; but I had been there over 20 years now.  My family was moving to the Ozark Mountains, and they said there was plenty of room for me too.   I decided it was an opportunity that could not have come at a better time.

I grabbed my buddy, (my German Shepard mix) Captain Call, and loaded up my truck.  I hitched up a small U-Haul trailer with my basic necessities, and we hit the road.  I sold everything else.

I was excited and it was a bit exhilarating.  To me, it was simply a new adventure.  While I have always had a bit of an adventurous spirit, and there is still so much here to explore; I have found myself in lack for any inclination to do it, of late.  I have been here just over a year now.   I look outside almost any window of my new home at the mountains with lush green trees and valleys, and fall in love with it every time.  (Except for the Copperheads and ticks.  I hate them.)

I watch the deer cross the driveway or grazing in our pasture, and feel a sense of awe.  I admire how quick and slippery the rabbits hop away when they see me.  Or, the turtle, as he slowly pulls himself, and then pushes himself with his awkward and inflexible legs.  Even the armadillo fascinates me, because I had never seen one before; as he wanders around the yard, usually at night, sniffing and rooting around.  He’s looking for something to eat-I can only assume.  I am grateful I am here.

Yet, there is always this gnawing worry underneath the surface, trying to steal my joy.   I know what it is, and I try to ignore it.  Sometimes I am not as successful as I would like to be.

I can’t find a decent job, and what I have found, has been less than what I want, or need, for me.  (To put it nicely.)  The blunt version is, they suck and pay like crap.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here, either.  I have never been afraid of hard work.  I am not object to getting my hands dirty, or even working up a sweat.  Nor do I mind putting in weeks that total more than fifty hours.  I have done this in my life quite a bit.  No, that is not the problem.

While I have a degree and consider myself a good employee who is loyal, hard working, and all those other things you list on a resume; the good jobs just aren’t there.  I have skills, but not the right ones apparently.  If I were a nurse, an engineer, or foreman; or could run a chicken farm at one of the hundred farms around here, I’d be in hog heaven.  But so far, most of what is out there is stuff that pays minimally and does not utilize my skills or abilities.   Don’t get me wrong.  I, by no means, wish to imply that I am an expert at anything.  I am not.  I am more like a Jack-of-FEW-trades, master of none.   But I DO have some skills.  But I fill out app after app online, and submit resumes all over the place; and what I hear back is the sound of crickets. Even the retail places (which I swore I would never do again) won’t give me the time of day.  I can’t even get an interview, with anybody.  So I resorted to going to a few of the temp agencies I could find, and signed on with them.   Three actually.   They were of little help also.  I scored in the 95 percentile when I did all my testing, but yet they weren’t calling.   One lady I was assigned to, I must have called a dozen times, and she never called me back.  Not once.

I applied online to substitute teach last summer.  It was a lengthy process online.  There was a lot of information gathering, screen after tedious screen.  Then three essay questions.  I spent 2.5 hours applying.  I didn’t hear anything back for over six weeks, and my money I had stashed away was all but gone.  I was severely depressed, and afraid.

Finally, I got a letter of several pages in the mail telling me that I needed to go get finger printed and also get a background check through the department of Social Services.  All at my expense, of course.  They listed a few places I could go to have it done.  However, there was no “Congratulations, you’ve been hired” anywhere in all those pages of information.   It would cost me well over a hundred dollars to do what they wanted me to do, and I saw no guarantee of work even if I did.  I couldn’t see dishing out that kind of money-which I didn’t even have anyway; for something that may very well yield absolutely nothing in return.  I set the paperwork aside.

I don’t remember how it came about, or it was made known, but I found out that while they didn’t actually say it, that was as close to being hired as they were going to get.  It was basically the same thing.  Provided you passed the background check.   There would be no interviews for anyone.  Everything you had done online in the application process was apparently all they felt they needed.  But I didn’t have the money to pay for it.   It was so discouraging.

I don’t know how she found out, but a sweet aunt of mine sent me a message that she wanted to invest in my new career; so she was sending me a check to pay for the fingerprinting and background checks, etc.  I was very excited.

I went to the “training class” I was also instructed to attend in the letter.  There were tables and chairs set up in a room and the lady at the front counter took my finger print card and background check information.  I took a seat and waited, as a few other people straggled in.  One guy that came in?  Let’s just say I didn’t want him teaching MY children.  I’ll just leave it at that.  Maybe you guys shouldn’t skip the interviewing process. 

I use the word training class loosely, because it wasn’t much of a training.  At all.  Once the receptionist had figured all of us were there that were going to be, she came over and turned on the TV hanging on the wall in front of us.  My training?  Was a 3o minute long video.  Great.    It was mostly about how to use the online system and how the call center worked.  Things like that.   However, there were some good tips on how to deal with some behavioral issues that I took comfort in.  I tried not to let it get me down.

The way it worked was, you went to a website and picked the schools and school districts you would like to work in.  Then you checked it however often you wanted to see if there were any available jobs at those schools.  And, they had a call center.  Where people would call you incessantly asking you if you would work that day, beginning at about 6:00 a.m.   There was also an automated caller that would do the same thing, and you would push 1 if you wanted the job, or 2 for no.  It was annoying how much my phone would ring some mornings, even though I already had a job that day.   But, the system itself worked easy enough.

So, I began each day the same.  Get up at 5:00 a.m. and get ready for work.  Then, wait by the phone and check my computer for available jobs.  Since I have no idea where any of the schools are, I make sure I find the school address and write it down so I can Google how to get there once I get close.  I was gettin calls the very next day, and was surprised.  What about my background check?  Is it already done? 

I began to notice quickly that I was not going to get to work every day.  This was great for a person who didn’t really want to work, or only wanted to work 2 or 3 days a week.  It was not great for a person like me, who needed steady income.

I also began to notice rather quickly that not only did the kids look at you like you were someone from another planet, but the other teachers did too.  None of them were very friendly or helpful, and there was little to no instructions on what to do in various situations at each school.  You were on your own.  The kids would lie and tell you that their normal teacher allowed things that were questionable, would mimic and make fun of you-the typical stuff.  Some days were more stressful than others, but they were ALL stressful.  The smaller kids were more compliant, but they were all more prone to crying and throwing fits.  The older ones just wanted to get away with as much as they could while you were there.  And the teachers left minimal instructions that were often times not real clear.  Sometimes, there was no lesson plan at all.

I told myself I could do it, though.  That it would get better, and I just had to push through it.

Then I got my first check.

I looked at it in disbelief.  When you averaged out what I made each day (you are paid by the day) into 8 hours, I wasn’t even making eight dollars an hour!  There had to be some mistake!  So, I called…wait.  Who do I call?  Who was even my boss?

I called the 800 number and told them I needed to speak to someone about my check.  After being transferred around a couple of times, I finally got someone in payroll, who quite honestly didn’t even seem sure they knew what they were doing.

I thought you made more if you had a degree?  I asked.

“Yeah, you’re supposed to.”  They replied.

“So, is this right?”  I asked.

“Let me check.”  They said, as the line went quiet.

After a couple of moments, they said, “Yes.  That’s correct.”

“That’s…disappointing.”  I said.  I hate to see what you pay someone with no degree.  Is this even minimum wage?  How do you get away with this??? 

I knew this wasn’t going to work for me.  I wasn’t make enough money and I wasn’t even getting to work but about 2 or 3 days a week.  Plus when the kids were out of school for various breaks, I didn’t work at all.

Finally, I got a call from one of the temp agencies.  They placed me in a job doing data entry for one of the chicken farm companies.  It wasn’t Tyson, it was the competition.  Or one of them, anyway.

The regular employees there were treated very well.  They had great benefits and some nice perks.  I wanted to do my best, so that maybe they would keep me on.  It was told to me that it was a temp with possible permanency placement.

Since last winter, that was just one of the four temp placements I had received.  I worked two 12 hour shifts on Christmas Day and the day after in the Walmart alarm system office.  That was really interesting.  Plus there was food and drinks brought in for us to eat everywhere.  One was a one or two week thing stuffing envelopes all day for ten dollars and hour.  It was in a nice building and I didn’t mind it so much.  It was actually not bad.  But it was definitely a temporary situation and I was done and had to move on to the next assignment.  After that, it’s gone downhill with each job.

The job at the chicken farm wasn’t so bad.  I could sit there and type in numbers all day long and listen to stuff on my phone as I did it.  The desk phone never rang and there were very few people working in that satellite office.   It should have been great.

Except that they hired another temp to work with me.   And she was HORRIBLE.

The girl would never shut up.  She did nothing but complain or brag most of the time, and her mouth just did not have an off button.  How could anyone have that much to say? I tried to humor her, but within just a few short weeks, I began to loathe her.   Even though I would try to ignore her and stick my ear buds in, she would often manage to find some reason to walk over to my desk and try to start up a conversation.  She spent a lot (A LOT) of time chatting up the lady in accounting across the isle, but I didn’t have time to talk, even if I wanted to.  On the rare occasions I did try to speak, she would quickly dominate the conversation, telling me how she caught the biggest fish.  Whatever I said, she one-upped me, and had no inclination to listen.  Only speak.  I couldn’t even talk to the lady across the isle without this gal butting in, and taking over the conversation.  She was, in all honesty, the most annoying and attention seeking person I had EVER met in my life.  It was ridiculous.

She would also do things to make me look bad, too.  Like go into the system and pull all the easy files onto her desk top for herself to enter into the reports, while leaving me with the long and incomplete ones to figure out.  Since we had to report back to the boss via email in the next nearby town how many we had done each day, I must have looked like a tortoise compared to her.  And, every day, she’d ask me how many I had done so far, and I would tell her.  Then asking her how many she had done, she would smile broadly and tell me twice as much on a consistent basis.  Obviously quite proud of herself.  How is she getting so many done?  I would rack my brain trying to figure out if I was doing something wrong or if I was really just that slow.  It took me a few weeks to figure out what she was doing.  So, I started pulling the easy ones out for myself, and stopped answering her when she asked me how many I had done. I would tell her I wasn’t really paying attention and couldn’t remember off the top of my head at the moment.  That ought to throw her for a little loop, at least for a while.  She did other things too, but you get the point.  She was a horrible person.  I later found out her daddy worked for the company as a full time, permanent employee.  Not only that, but he was relatively up there in hierarchy, and had some connections.  It was disheartening to think that if they did hire only one of us on permanently, it would probably not be me.  Even if I DIDN’T look like the world’s slowest moving person.  But this job was not bad, per se, in and of itself.  It was just who I got stuck having to work with and sit next to the whole time.

I suppose though, that it was probably not the best move for management to stick us in an office where we were unsupervised by our boss at all.  In fact, on the two occasions she had come to the office to work and be available for us to ask questions and such, Psycho Sally was a totally different person.  She was almost completely silent.  I suspected that it nearly killed her to be so quiet.  How could our boss even suspect? 

Then one day, they called us both in the office and said we were caught up and they didn’t have anything else for us to do.  That little b*tch worked us right out of a job, trying to get everything done so fast like she did.  Half of it probably wasn’t even accurate. 

I didn’t even get upset.  That solves that problem, I guess.  No more Psycho-Sally.  I was actually relieved.  Because of her, I had been miserable.  Psycho Sally, on the other hand; cried.  She also seemed upset with me or something, because when I extended her the common courtesy of a “Well, I guess I’ll see you around,”  she glared at me and kept on walking without even saying good-bye.   The lady who sat across the isle from us also yelled out good-bye to her, and was met with no response.  What a little brat. 

I called my new scatter brained and incompetent rep at the temp agency, and made sure she knew we were let go, and that I needed another assignment.  She said she would start looking and get back to me.  I never heard from her.  Even though I would call her at least a few times a week; she was never available when I called, and never called me back.  Not once.  One time, I happened to be in the area, and decided I would drop by.  I was told she was on the phone and to have a seat.  She’d be right with me.  After siting there forty-five minutes, I hear someone ask her if she had gone to help whoever was waiting for her.  “Oh, I forgot she was there!”  She had said.   Great. Give ME her job! 

I gave her another copy of my updated resume instead of emailing it-since she had lost it before; and she told me she’d be in touch.  In fact, I never heard from her again.

I called the other temp agency.  They didn’t have anything for me either.  I tried to pick up a sub teaching job, but because I had not worked at least one day in a 30 day period due to working at the chicken place, they had shut me down.  What amazing timing. 

They got me up and going again, but there were no jobs subbing.  It was weird.  What th?  Not what I need right now!

About a week later, I got a call from the second temp agency and they had something I may be interested in.  If I was, they’d send my resume over to the company.

See, it doesn’t work the same out here as it does in Colorado.  In Colorado, they do the testing and hiring and they send you out.  They decide who they will place where.  Out here, they send a few resumes to the company, you go interview, and maybe you will get to work, maybe you won’t.  Which hasn’t been a problem.  I’ve gotten all the jobs I interview for.  It’s still nerve racking and time consuming though.

So, I go interview at this ambulance/911 station.  It’s a job in the billing office.  I am interviewed by the CFO, the office manager, and the human resources guy.   (Who never said a word until the CFO asked him if he had any questions for me.  His question?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  So cliché.)   The CFO and the office manager asked some pretty basic questions and I decided I was just going to be honest.  I wanted it to be a good fit.  I didn’t want to waste my time.  I told them that I needed a job where I had some freedom to work independently and also to be able to go to the restroom as often as I needed to without catching any grief.  (I have a bladder issue-though I didn’t go into that with them.)  I also told them that I did like, nor felt I needed micro-management, and that while I could work with others, I leaned towards working independently.  I was just going to lay it all out there for them.  I could tell just by looking at the CFO that he was uptight, and while the office manager obviously wanted to appear nice and easy going, she seemed…overbearing, and perhaps manipulative.

“How would you describe your leadership style?”  I asked her.

Caught off guard, she glanced at the CFO a quick second, almost as if in fear, before answering.  “Oh, I would say we are all pretty laid back here.”  She said.  Then flashing a huge smile, she said, “We have fun!”

I smiled back.  “Fun sounds good.”  I said.

Though I wanted to, I didn’t quite believe her.  I had almost convinced myself that even if they offered me the job, I didn’t want it, and would not take it.  I think I even hoped they wouldn’t pick me.  But I needed to work, and there were no other prospects on the horizon.

I was offered the job and was told to show up the following Monday morning.  Thus began this routine of coming in and not having anywhere to sit until the office manager decided what she was going to do with me that day.  There really wasn’t a place to put me.  There was no where for me to put my purse and lunch either (the pint sized fridge that sat in the corner was always packed) and no one seemed to care.  I would stand there holding all my things until the office manager sat me somewhere, and then my stuff sat on the floor by my chair.   I thought it might be nice if someone would at least offer me a small space somewhere.  I kept waiting for someone to pipe up, “Here, you can put your stuff over here.”    That never happened.

I was supposed to cover for the pregnant girl while she was out on maternity leave.  Usually I would sit with her, but I never knew from day to day.  Miss Preggars was not in the mood to work most days, and was calling off sick often.  She was especially not in the mood to train me.  Sometimes the girl with pretty, although vacuous eyes would be out for some reason, and I would sit there.  She called off a lot too.

The job was for receptionist duties, which meant taking calls and doing the mail.  Not only that, but since she was able to help out with about 4 different jobs, I was going to be trained to do them all, and was expected to learn them all miraculously in just a few short weeks.

The office manager, come to find out, had no idea how to do any other job in the office except what she had always done-her own…and the mail.

I should have prefaced this story by saying that I have started a more detailed account on my experience there.  I have not decided if I will blog it, or not.  The first half was blogged, but I found many things I wanted to add to and/or change, and errors I needed to fix.  Even though I deleted it immediately, I knew there were a few of you who still ended up being able to read it, because I heard from you.  I am not sure how you were able to get access to that blog.  Maybe just those who subscribe to me by email?   But, I may blog it.  Be watching!

That being said, I am trying to tell this part of the story at this particular site with enough information that you get a good picture of what’s going on, but not get too involved, either.  The rest of this blog is about my current position.

But I digress.  Anyway, this woman had only been the office manager for around a year and a half, maybe.  And this was by default, from what I could gather.  Apparently, the CFO had come on the scene about two years before, and pretty much everyone left.  Hmm, I wonder what’s up with that!  (I restrained myself from raising my eyebrows at that one.)  Therefore, she was pretty much the only one left to do the job of office manager.   Like I said before, she basically only knew how to do her job, and that was it.  Let me be clear here.  The woman did not know how to use many of the basic functions in Outlook, like the calendar.    I’m not kidding.  None of that stuff.  She was all over the place, a hot mess, disorganized, yet trying to appear organized…making us use a calendar on the wall for days we needed off, and things like that.  It was ridiculous.  She had started there when she was just 19 years old.  She was now about 40, and she had not kept up with a lot of the things going on in the world around her.  I take that back.  Except for things like fashion, maybe; things like that.  What I really mean to say is that she did not keep up with the tools available and the changing technological times that a majority of offices had moved on to.

This irked me somewhat since even as a mere temp, I was expected to pass a test to prove my office skills.  Outlook, the whole Microsoft Office package, actually; typing test-and of course the drug test.  Which is neither here nor there since I was never into drugs.  But still.  Temps go through the hoops just to get placed in a measly paid job where they usually get thrown away by the employers like yesterday’s newspaper and then hope and pray for the next gig.

Yet here was this woman, managing an office, who had no idea how to use any feature in Outlook except the email function.  She made a comment about how the CFO wanted her to get more “caught up” technologically, but that there was always too much going on and she never had time.  She mentioned the calendar of Outlook specifically as one of those things he had told her he wanted her to utilize.  I mentioned to her that while I was no expert, I was certainly able to show her a few things that I thought could save her some time and make her job a tad bit easier.  (We never really got around to that, though.)

Since she had no idea how to do any of the other jobs in the office, she enlisted the help of all the other girls to train me.  After about two weeks there, she called another little meeting (she had lots of them) and told us all that the CFO wanted all of us cross training, so she needed us to be patient and flexible through this process.  So, you are going on about how bogged down you are and trying to train me; and NOW you are going to try and have everyone train each other too?  Ya’ll are crazy.  This is not the time for it.  The time for it was in the past.  Which is, of course, why you are scrambling to do it now…because the CFO has been on your ass to get this done since you were promoted over a year ago, and you haven’t done that either.  Wow.  At the very least, you would both be wise to wait until I was up and running, then cross train each person, one at a time. 

There were four girls who shared the big room with the office manager, and the receptionist, just on the other side of the wall.  They each had their own way of doing things, and training; so not only was I learning a handful of different jobs, I was being told a different way to do it, even.  I was confused.  A lot.  To say the least.  And, every time they would “check my work” I received the equivalent of a big fat F.   They went through my work with a fine-toothed comb, and at times, seemed to come up with the ridiculous to ding me on.  I was even told that while they knew another gal in the office was still in the habit of putting a period after the E for East, or N for North in an address, I should have removed it.   They were all petty and uptight; and I was uncomfortable.  When are we going to have that fun the office manager talked about in the interview? 

I was told TWICE that I could not go to the restroom when I needed to because “We HAVE to get the mail done as quickly and efficiently as possible!”   Apparently two minutes is going to kill someone.   (Let me be clear here,  doing the mail included the task of preparing the deposit and making sure it balanced.  It could take up to three hours to do the mail some days.  I go into a lot more detail in my other writing on this topic-which is nothing less than egregious, if you ask me.  But I see no point in doing it here.)

As my training went along, the office manager would call her little meetings with each gal, and go over how I was doing with each of them behind closed doors in the CFO’s office.  They would take their little notes with them to tell her how many checkmarks they were able to give me on my work.  It was horrible.   The first time this happened, Miss Preggars explained to me that she would be meeting with the boss to go over how I was doing, etc. and she held her piece of paper guardedly in front of her.

“Ok, you can tell her how much I suck.”  I said with a laugh, in an attempt to make humor out of what I felt was a very awkward, if not inappropriate situation.  Each of these girls took their “job” of training me very seriously; and, as I would later find out, told the office manager, every. little. thing.  They took a superior stance towards me, as if they were each little office managers themselves, making note of not only my mistakes on the tasks I had performed in the system; but everything I did or said.  They rarely smiled, and for the most part were “polite,” but they were not necessarily nice.  Miss Preggars was down right aggressive about things at times.  (She was also the one who told me I couldn’t go to the restroom.)

My joke to Miss Preggars about telling the boss how much I sucked was met with dead silence, and an attempt to hide a smile.  What was that about?  Is she smiling because I will be pleasantly surprised, or is that a wicked smile taking pleasure in her anticipated slaughter of me? 

I guess sometimes, I am a little dense.  Because, it took me a while to put my finger on why I felt so dang uncomfortable and upset while working there.  I knew the girls weren’t being all that nice or friendly towards me.  I decided I wasn’t there to make friends; I was there to work.  But they could at least be NICE, couldn’t they?

I deduced that at some point, the office manager had told them I had a degree; because the girls would all make statements (very loudly, so I could hear them) at various times, about how people with degrees weren’t any smarter than they were, or how a degree didn’t mean anything.  (While two of them were in school themselves, of course.) I know that the boss must have mentioned it, because I had never said a word to anyone.  I am a pretty humble person, and I fully recognize that I am no smarter than anyone else just because I played that game and jumped through those hoops to get that piece of paper.  Yet, they made it clear, it was a point of contention with them if someone they spoke to, like a rude attorney they just got off the phone with, had a degree, and they didn’t.

Can I add an aside here?  Humor me.  While I in no way think a person with a degree is superior to anyone, or that it means they automatically deserve some high paying job; I feel I need to say this.  I understand that this whole system was set up by crony’s way back when, to ensure that they, being those with money, could ensure their offspring would continue to make more than us peon’s who could not afford to go to school.  I also understand that in today’s world, there is a vast amount of knowledge at your fingertips through the web and whatnot, that would allow for even a six year old to have information that one once had to go to school to obtain.  I understand there is a population of people out there who would proclaim that having a degree isn’t even special anymore, because practically everybody has one; and that it’s an outdated concept.  At the same time, I would like to point out that I worked my ass off for that stupid piece of paper.  Thanks to things like Pel Grants and other programs, it is much easier for us “poor guys” to go to school and get degrees now.  And yes, I have noticed that there are a lot of people out there who have a degree, and are competing for the same jobs I am.  I will even admit, that quite honestly, even after getting my degree and making more money than I had ever made before, I was financially no better off.  This is because of the student loans I was now expected to pay off.  At a whopping $600.00 a month!  Yes, I will begrudgingly admit that for a young person to start their lives off in excess of roughly $30,000.00 (and more) in debt by getting a degree may not be the best route to go.  However, if they are young, they could feasibly have this debt paid off by the time they were in the prime of their lives as well.  (Which is not my case since I was 40 when I finally finished.)  I will be paying those loans off from the grave.

However, the fact remains that I still spent five years of my life dedicated to reaching a goal.  I jumped through all the grueling hoops to apply every year, fill out paperwork for grants and loans-which often times included spending hours writing essays.  Heck, the whole process of admittance was down right frustrating and tiresome.  You spend hours doing this and that, as they require, only to find out you can’t do something because you didn’t do something else.  Which they never bothered to tell you, but you didn’t know what you didn’t know to even ask.  I put up with professors who were aloof, arrogant, moody/cranky, thought they had something to prove.  I bought frickon books that the professor wrote and then made a mandatory text book for their class!  I showed up for classes even when I didn’t really want to, because they were required.  I spent hours and hours, AND HOURS reading text books, listening to boring lectures, and studying for and taking tests.  Shouldn’t that count for SOMETHING?  Why is it all the sudden such a bad thing for a person to have a degree, and people with degrees are looked down on with disdain by those who don’t? (Maybe even some who do?)  Why do I now feel like I should be ashamed of all my hard work and as though I should be afraid to even mention I have a degree?  It shouldn’t be that way.  That’s how I feel about THAT!

But back to my story.

I tried to engage a few of them in conversation.  Asking them if they were married, had kids; things like that.  My questions were met with simple answers and very little eye contact.  They squirmed as if I was physically hurting them.  None of the questions I had asked them were asked of me, though.  They did not ask me where I was from, or if I had kids or was married.  They did not ask if I liked green eggs and ham.  They were not interested in knowing a single thing about me.  Is that because they know I won’t be here long?  And anything I offered up, was met with little recognition that I had even spoken.  None of them had much of anything to say to me at all, and even after I left, knew basically nothing about me.  The few times I did try to interject in a conversation, it was met with ignorance.  (As in being ignored, not as in being ignorant.)

Then I deduced by statements made here and there by them, that one of the gals who had been there about a year or so, felt that SHE should be next in line to be trained to do some of the tasks I was being trained to do, and things began to make more sense.  Who the hell was I to come in there and just start doing these jobs that she should be next in line to do, anyway?

Well, the girl was dumber than a box of rocks, so I could certainly understand why the office manager was not all that enthusiastic about trying to give her more responsibility.  Some of the questions she would ask almost made me feel sorry for her.  She was cute as could be, and sweet as molasses too.  But wow!  She was worse then Jessica Simpson.  More importantly though, the girl was never there on time; and I mean never.  She was sick at least once a week, and made a lot of errors on her work.  (She was the one who kept putting a period after the street directions on the addresses, even though being told more than once not to, for example.)  Yet, she expected to be rewarded for the fact that she had been an employee who had been there longer than I had, and was.

The office manager told me after about week three or four, that she was going to pull me off of insurance checking and try to have this other gal do it-immediately interjecting that she knew the girl had a tardiness problem, but they were “working on it.”  She also made comments alluding to the fact that she knew it would be a challenge, given this gal’s capacity to learn or retain information at the rate she did; but that she really felt that was the route she needed to take.  I shrugged and said, “ok.”  Whatever.  You want to stick me in a corner and do nothing but answer phones and stuff envelopes all day, that’s fine with me. I still get paid the same! 

The office manager was just…exhausting.  I mean, she ran around there making sure she had her nose in every little thing, and talked so much about how important this was, and how important that was, and always had the need to explain why.  It down right exhausted me.  I don’t know how someone can be so “on” all the time.   She would even brag about how she would rise early every morning around 3:30 to 4:00 a.m. to prepare for each day and how vitally important she felt this was to her success as the office manager.  She would tell you she didn’t want the job and took it against her better judgment; but you could tell she was loving her position of authority in the most absolute way, no matter how much she tried to convince you she didn’t.

She was one of those manipulators, I could tell.  Nodding her head and smiling real big as she spoke to you, naturally EXPECTING you to nod along with, and agree with her.  I didn’t play along.  She was met with a lot of looks from me that gave no indication one way or the other what I thought about something.  Sometimes I merely left her with only a brief indication of hearing her, or understanding what she said.  Nothing more.

She had a Monday Morning Meeting every week, promptly at 8:00 a.m.  (Which tardy-girl often missed.)  There were also little impromptu meetings called throughout the week, to discuss “issues” and making sure everybody was “on the same page” as well.  i.e. somebody made a mistake, and we are going to point this out and make sure that everyone knows we don’t do it that way.  Then, she also had one-on-one meetings with us about once a week as well-sometimes more.  There were easily at least three meetings for any one person in that office, and more oft than that the number was higher.  I never read that book on her desk called Death By Meeting, but apparently that book is about killing us with meetings and propagating it.

Every day we were expected to keep a “daily log” of what we did from when to when.  If I did mail from 8:30 to 11:00, I was expected to make note of that, and then what I did from 11:01 to lunchtime, etc.  At the end of each day, we were to email these to the office manager.  Then, every Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. we were all expected to stop what we were doing and type up a weekly report and email it to her before she went to some meeting at 11:00.   Seriously?  I have emailed you what I’ve been doing every day all week, with the exception of when I blew my nose!  Now you want a weekly report too? 

When the office manager told me about the daily logs, I looked at her in surprise.  “Oh…are you doing a time study?”  I asked.  I had heard of these at a place I worked before; where they have everyone keep track of what they do and how long it takes them to do it.  But this is in order to determine how much more help they need and how many more people they need to hire.  At least it was in that particular circumstance.

“No.  It’s just something we do for the CFO.”  She replied.  Looking a bit uncomfortable.

I squirmed a second, as everything in me revolted and wanted to scream.  What the French Toast?!?!  Are you kidding me?!?!  What a total waste of time and energy just so someone can keep us under their thumb!  That’s just downright degrading and insulting to any employee.   

The only time I had ever worked somewhere that I had to keep track of how long I worked on something was when I was a paralegal and had to keep track of billable hours for each client.  So, it certainly wasn’t accounting for every thing I did, or every moment of the day.

“Oh.  I’ve never worked anywhere that we had to do that before.”  I said, as I began contemplating what to say next.  Timidly I asked, “Isn’t that kind of like micromanaging us?”   I asked, almost whispering.

She did her big smile and nodding head thing, and went on about how it was a “tool” really, and how they could use it to see if someone needed more training in a certain area.  Blah, blah, blah.  Trying to justify it.  Um, yeah, no.  It’s not.  All you have to do is look at the errors and you can tell if someone needs more training or if they are just being careless.  If they aren’t getting their work done, you know if they are spending too much time chatting or surfing the net.  It’s pretty simple.  What THIS is, is you treating your employees like crap and making them account for every damn minute while they are here.  Except for lunch, you don’t even give us breaks, for crying out loud!   I just said, “Oh,” and changed the subject.

After about four to six weeks there, (it’s all a blur) I was questioning my competence and my competence.  By this I mean my ability to do the job, as well as my sanity.  No one laughed or joked.  Everyone was so serious.  Fingers were always pointing out mistakes and there was plenty of back-biting and back stabbing to go with it.   It was hard enough trying to take in and learn all these different tasks, and the bull didn’t help any, at all.  I had never felt so INcompetent in my life.  When I had always excelled in so many areas and had done so well in my chosen occupations in the past, I now basically sucked.  I got straight A’s in college-was always on the Dean’s List.  Never wrote a paper I didn’t get an A on.  I was also recognized often for doing well on the job.  How the hell did this happen?  How is it I all of the sudden SUCK?

So, I have now been there between six to eight week.  I now have another one of the girls showing me how to do the return mail.  She complained about it all the time, and I was actually psycho-I mean psychic, and had foreseen me being given this task eventually.  It was just a matter of time.  But being trained by her to do it was far, far worse than the job itself.   Listening to her drone on in her monotone voice, as I stared at the back of her head because there wasn’t enough room to actually sit next to her at her desk, was just the most agonizing thing I had to do since I had started there.  It was pretty straight forward, you would think.  But no.  I wasn’t doing that correctly either!

The thing is, I had done a BUNCH of them over the course of a few days, and Droney-Donna had not gotten around to checking my work until then.  So, here she came and told me that, get this, the way I wrote my notes was wrong; and I had to go back and correct ALL of them.   I was pissed.

You see, you can’t just make a note that says, “Returned mail: Sent to XYZ address with return code 123, re-sending to ABC address.”  No.  You MUST abbreviate certain words a certain way, and you CANNOT abbreviate other words.  You basically have to learn a whole new language to make these guys happy.   I spent over a decade working in fields where I had to do legal documents, or make case notes that could be called into court if needed, and was always told I did a good job documenting things and wrote well.  But these guys?  Nope!  It has to be written EXACTLY like the office manager wants it.   Her excuse for this is so that as you look through all of them in the system, it’s easier to differentiate between them and being able to ensure you can understand what each person is trying to say.  Mmm hmm, cuz cryptic language is so much easier to understand. 

It was at that moment I broke.  I looked at this gal in utter frustration and irritation, and asked her if I could possibly to anything right.  I told her that I felt like I was being dissected, and that I thought a lot of it was down right nitpicky.  That the micro management was difficult enough, but the way they went over my stuff with a microscope, just looking for anything they can to find fault with, was just a bit too much for me.  That I felt like walking out.  It’s returned mail!  How can I POSSIBLY screw that up?!?!  I told her that if she wanted me to change my notes on all the letters I had done the past few days, that was fine; but it would have been nice to know I was “doing it wrong” about two days ago.  I threw out there for measure, that I would be including the fact that it would have been nice to know two days ago to the office manager in my daily log as well.

Her eyes got big and her mouth dropped open a sec.  I thought it was because she was shocked by my candor or willingness to be so honest about what I was thinking.  I later found out that it was because she was afraid.  The office manager had been bugging her to check my work, for two days.

The gal took “pity” on me, and said, that she thought it would be ok if I just corrected the few in my hand, and going forward, use the format she had provided.  That there were times she felt like walking out herself, and that if I didn’t like micromanagement, it wasn’t going to get any better; because the office manager, since she was promoted, has only gotten worse.   We chatted a while and she shared some of the stories she knew about our “wonderful” office manager, and I calmed down.   I told myself, it was just a bump in the road and I was tougher than this.  I could do this.  I really need to work. 

The next morning I walked in to find an email from my office manager that said the gal who had been training me the day before had told her what I said about feeling like I could not do anything right and felt like walking out-and that I felt like I was being micromanaged.   Fan-frickon-tastic. 

She pointed out that she had already told all of us that she was going to need patience and flexibility from us.  How dare I not after she ordered me to?  She went on to say that she just didn’t understand how such a tiny matter would make me so frustrated that I would want to walk out.  Right.  Because YOU’RE not making a big deal of the ridiculous and tiny little things.  She was making sure to prove her case-of what exactly, I wasn’t sure.  But it was obvious, she was trying to put me in my place.  What ever that is.  She then ended it by saying that perhaps she and I should meet with the CFO and discuss if the arrangement was going to work out like we had hoped.

I sat there staring at my computer in silence.  It was silent because I had to get tags for my truck that morning, and came in about an hour late.  So they had all obviously been talking about it (and me) before I came in; and the tension was so thick in there you could cut it with a knife.  No one was saying anything to anyone.  It was crazy quiet.  The proverbial sh*t had hitteth the fan, and everyone knew it.  Such a great feeling.  Not.  I am sure that everyone in here knows she sent me this email, and exactly what it says, too. 

I clicked the reply button, and the CC button to the CFO, since she had not bothered to include him on our previous correspondence.  I typed out:

“If it’s such “a tiny matter,”  as you say; then why was I being asked to make changes over it in the first place?  NOTHING in this office is a “tiny matter!  I don’t think it will be necessary to meet.  I am giving my two weeks notice.”

I sat there with the mouse hovered over the send button, not sure what to do.

Delete.  Delete.  Delete.

I decided I wasn’t going to make a decision like this in haste.   Besides, I had bills to pay.  Surely it will all blow over.  I would wait the day out and see what happens.

At lunchtime, I stuck my head into the other room and told them I was going to lunch.  A few seconds later, the office manager was standing in front of me.

“We need to talk about the fact that you came in late today and when you will be making that time up.”  She said, as professionally as possible.

“Oh, I didn’t think I was allowed to make it up.”  I said, feeling the blood rush to my face.  In fact, when I first started, Miss Preggars had even asked the CFO for me if I was allowed to do comp time, and he had said no.    Why wasn’t I asked to make up the day I was sick last week???  That was never an issue, and I was told matter of factly when I started that there was no comp time.  You’re just trying to flex your muscles right now, and I see right through you, be-otch. 

“Well, your situation is different, and you need to make it up.”  She said with big, serious eyes.

“Ok, I can sit right here and eat my lunch while I work.”  I said, shrugging.  “No big deal.”

“I would also like to meet with you and speak to you sometime today.”  She said.

“Ok.  Just let me know when.”   I replied.  Here we go! 

I got out my time sheet and filled in my hours for the week, ready for her to sign, just in case she threw me out.

She waiting until just after 3:30 that afternoon to meet.  We went into the CFO’s office and she closed the door.

She sat there with an ever so dramatic pause, demonstratively thinking and choosing her words before she spoke.  She spoke slowly and with extreme carefulness, as she began to lay out her issues with me.  Basically, in a nutshell, this is the condensed version of what she said, in layman’s terms.

She was hearing things from the other girls and was “concerned” about my attitude.  (She said concerned.  What she meant was, didn’t like.)  That I had been doing and saying things that she found disconcerting.  (Again, didn’t like.)  She went on to say that she had defended me, and I was lost as to what the hell she was talking about.  What did she need to defend?

As she went on, it became clear to me that even the most minute things I had said in jest, or in an attempt to crack a joke, or ease the tension were being blown completely out of proportion and reported back to her by the other girls.  I felt my mouth drop open and my eyes widen.  While I wanted to remain as emotionless as possible and not give anything away, I couldn’t help it.  I was shocked by some of the way things were told to her!  Those little bitches!  

Then she looks at me straight in the eyes and says, “Do you think that telling someone who is training you that you think you are being micromanaged is appropriate?”

I sat there bewildered by the question.  Is she serious?  This is something I have said already TO HER FACE; and now she’s pissed about it?  And why is calling someone a micromanager such an atrocity? 

I sat there with my head spinning and she sat there shooting daggers at me with her eyes, waiting for me to answer.  I was unable to open my mouth.  I was visibly shaking, my mouth completely dried up, and my body from the chest up turned crimson and blotchy.  She wanted me to admit I was being inappropriate, and I wasn’t going to do it.  I had said that exact same thing to her face weeks ago, it’s not like I said anything she hadn’t already heard.  She knew where I stood on the matter.

“I’m sorry, I need a drink of water.  Is it ok if I just go grab a drink of water real quick?”  I said.  Getting up and not really caring if she said it was alright or not.   She nodded, though visibly not happily.

I walked down the hallway to the water cooler and grabbed a cup and began to disperse the cool water into the Styrofoam cup.  My hands shook so much, it was hard not to spill any water.  I told myself I had to regain my composure as quickly as possible.  I gulped the water viciously and filled it again.  What the hell am I going to do?  What do I say?  Oh God, help me! 

My head was like a muddy pool of water that had just been stirred up.  I couldn’t think clearly or gather my thoughts.  I looked in the mirror and saw my red chest and neck full of blotches.  My body was showing visible signs of distress.  Great.  This certainly doesn’t help!  I went back into the office, closed the door, and sat down.  I was no closer to an answer than I was before I left.

She began again, “I had asked you if you think what you said was appropriate.”  She said.  Glaring at me with hostility, once again.

I don’t know what happened, but all of the sudden, I opened my mouth, and this is what came out.

“First of all, you were only told one part of a two-sided conversation; of which, you have no proof that what you were told is even true.”   I began.  “I am also not going to lie and say I never said it.  I said it to your face the second week I was here.  As to whether or not I think it’s appropriate; I am not going to respond to that.”  I said with every ounce of strength I could muster.   “It’s a pointless topic of discussion, and was something I said, in private to someone else.  What I said to someone else, is none of your business, and what got back to you is gossip.”

She looked at me, not sure what to say next.  Didn’t expect that response, did ya?  You thought I would just roll over, but I didn’t! 

“Ok, then what was the other side of the conversation like?”  She asked, now folding her arms across her chest.

I tried to look as confident as possible.  “Honestly, we could play the game of He Said, She Said, forever.  But I see no point to it.  It serves no purpose, only stirs the pot; and you won’t believe me anyway.  So, I’m not answering that either.”  I shook my head slowly, from side to side and pursed my lips.

She looked at me incredulously.  Not knowing what to say next.  She was obviously pissed, and I was not giving her what she wanted.  She then began her diatribe of how she was NOT a micro manager.  It was almost painful to watch as she questioned herself while she spoke.   She would say something and then, backtrack, realizing maybe she should not have said it.   Who are you trying to convince, lady?  Me, or you? 

I let her go on a few moments, and then said she again, “I am not a micro manager.”

She wanted me to agree with her.  I could tell.  That ain’t gonna happen lady.   I didn’t want to be confrontational or rude towards her, but wasn’t going to agree with her either.

I shifted in my chair, attempting to be as casual as possible in my response.  “Well, maybe your definition of micro management and mine are just different.”  I said.  Trying to sound as non-accusatory as I could.

The disappointment in her face was almost tangible, and she looked down quickly, trying to hide it.

When she realized she wasn’t going to get anywhere with me on that topic either, she switched gears.

“I really like you.  I really do.”  She said, flashing her smile again.  “I truly do think that you are a wonderful person.”

So, I’m here why, then? 

She continued.  “I really want this to work out.  I just need to know that I don’t want to have to worry about you walking out on us the next time you get frustrated.”  She pleaded.

I sat there taking my turn to gather my thoughts and trying to choose my words carefully.

“Not one of those girls out there can tell you a single thing about me.”  I began.  Pointing towards the door, where I knew my new enemies must be getting champagne glasses out.

“I know I am a bit of an odd duck, and I get that.  I am also a bit of a loner, so it doesn’t bother me.  I am not telling you this, because it bothers me.  I am telling you this, because the fact that they know nothing about me is indicative of a few things.   Most importantly, they don’t want me here.  Maybe they don’t like me, maybe they think I am stepping on their toes, I can’t say for sure what their problem is.  But the fact that they are telling you the things they are telling you, makes it very clear to me that they want me to fail.  No, they don’t just want me to fail; they want me to fail magnificently.”  I said with emphasis.

I took a breath and a short pause.

“I appreciate you ‘defending’ me, as you say.  But you shouldn’t even have to do that.  Plus, this SO does not feel like you are defending me right now.  Nor am I inclined to continue on in a place where I am having to defend myself.  I don’t want to have to constantly watch my back and be afraid to do or say anything for fear of how it may be twisted.  This?  What we are doing right now?  This is AWFUL.   Just LOOK at me!”  I said, waving my hands at my blotchy red chest, neck and face.  “I don’t EVER want to do this again.  I’m not cut out for this kind of thing.  I’m not made that way.  This kind of thing just doesn’t happen to me, and I won’t.  I can’t.  I am not doing it again”

She looked down at her hands in her lap.  Maybe she was actually a bit sad.  I don’t know if she’s really capable of that.  Maybe she was though.   “I am sorry to hear that.”  She said softly.

About that time, the CFO walks into the office and she begins to tell him about our discussion.  He interrupts her and says, “Bottom line, is she going to stay and help out through the maternity leave, or not?”  He said, while flinging  his truck keys on his desk and placing his hands on his hips.   He won’t even look at me.  His question seems to be directed at her, and he looks at her as if she should answer it.  She looks at me.

I had only decided for sure what to do just a few moments ago; when I realized the full extent of the mess I was in.  I couldn’t believe how fast all of this was happening, and what I was doing.  OMG.  I am doing it.  I am actually doing this. 

I began to shake my head slowly.  “I have never walked out on a job in my life, and I don’t want to start now.  But the most I can give you, is two weeks notice.”  I replied, and then realized maybe I shouldn’t assume.  “But I guess that’s up to you guys.”  I added.  “If I stay or go beyond today, that is.”

He was now sitting at his desk and looked at me for the first time since he had walked in.  He folded his fingers together in front of  him, attempting to hide his anger.  He glanced at the office manager and then back to me.

“Let us have a moment to discuss this and figure out our game plan.”  He said.

I nodded and went back to the desk I was sitting at for the day.   I got out my time sheet and pen, ready for the office manager to sign.  I knew he was going to tell her to go ahead and tell me to leave.   I was ready.

The office manager came out and came over to me looking apologetic.  “We are going to have you go ahead and go.”  She said.

“I figured.”  I said, as I held my pen out to her for her to sign off on my hours.

I wasn’t mad.  I didn’t cry.  I thought about squealing the tires of my truck on my way out of the parking lot.  Bye bitches!   That just wasn’t me though.

The office manager asked if she could give me a hug and I agreed, hugging her back.  I gathered my things, and walked casually out the door at 4:15 p.m. as if I was finally going to lunch.

I pulled over onto the side of the road on my way home and sat staring at the lake.  I felt like I was in a daze.  I was blown away by what had just happened.  I told myself those people were just flat out crazy!  Never in my life had I worked some place like that.   They took the cake!  I was glad they did not ask me to stay the two weeks, and that it was over.  That was the worst job experience of my life!  Little did I know.

Enter Jan and Fred.

I called the lady at the temp agency and told her what happened.  I had already given her a heads up it may happen.  I told her previously how they weren’t letting me use the restroom, and asked her if it was legal to not get breaks.  (Apparently here, they don’t have to.)   I was honest and told her what I said, and how it all went down.  She was completely cool about it.  “Honestly, I can’t believe you lasted as long as you did.”  She said when I had told her everything.  Within a week, she had me placed somewhere else, and making more money too.

When I interviewed with Jan, I was really excited and had my fingers crossed that I would get this job.  She seemed really nice, kind of cool, and I thought we would work well together.  When I got there, she took me over to her office, told me she had to take care of something real quick and to have a seat.  She would be right back.  She came back about five or ten minutes later and we talked about my past work experience, she gave me a tour, and I asked a lot of questions.  I thought that place was really interesting and I wanted to work there.

Jan is a short woman, about 5’3″ tall, and though not fat, has a muffin top and a few rolls of back fat you can see-depending on what she’s wearing.  (Which is always trendy and a bit edgy.)  She wears Miss Me jeans when she wears jeans, and cotton tops with cut outs or other cool features to them.  Sometimes, she even shows up in heels, which I find weird, considering we are often in the shop, and we may have to lift heavy boxes or items.  She has blonde, shoulder-length wavy hair that she wears scrunched with gel or mousse,  unless she decides to straighten it.  She has light skin with freckles, light greenish eyes, and wears glasses.  You can tell she’s a real blonde too, it’s not from a bottle.   She rarely wears makeup, and sometimes, she has acrylic nails, others she doesn’t.   But she always makes sure she’s dressed nice, though sometimes, I’m not sure how professional I think it is.   Like, when she shows up wearing short shorts and a spaghetti strap top-but hey, she’s the boss.  Not me.

My first day, I sat there in the office for forty minutes staring at the walls, not knowing what to do, until she showed up.   I wondered if maybe I was wrong about her telling me to be there at 8:00 a.m.   But I was not.  I would soon learn, that Jan was pretty much always late to work.  Usually about half an hour, and some days more.  Within a week, Jan was leaving about 4:00, and leaving me to try and watch the phones and take care of customers on my own-but I could text her if I needed to.  Which has been often.  I have been there almost 8 weeks now, and that woman has stayed until 5:00 exactly twice.  She has been there by 8:00 maybe four times.  She usually leaves about 4:00, but some days she leaves even early than that.  She also takes about ten or fifteen smoke breaks every day.  I’m not exaggerating, either.

The day I interviewed and she took me to her office while she took care of something, was her making me wait for her to smoke a cigarette.  I know this only because I have seen her do it to other people she has interviewed since I starter.  (Should I tell you now that they have already fired two guys the first six weeks I had been here?) I love it when she has me do stuff for her so she can go out to the shop and shoot the bull with the guys while I bust my ass.  Not.

Jan has a lot of health issues.   She makes sure you know it too.  Most notably though, is the fact that she has “severe anxiety” and cannot sleep.   And she tells you how tired she is, numerous times throughout the day.  Every day.  That, intermingled with a lot of “I feel like crap.”   Because she isn’t just tired every day; she’s also doesn’t feel well MOST days.   And I don’t know what she is on, but she is on something.   There are a lot of days, when she talks, her voice has that sound like a person on some serious pain meds.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I’ve just been around it enough with a lot of my clients in the past to know.   It’s kind of like it’s work for them to talk.  Some times Jan’s voice is shaky and down right falters as she’s speaking.  Sometimes her hands visibly and violently shake.   While I’m no expert and it’s only conjecture here, it’s my opinion the woman has a problem.  What I don’t get is, if she has access to all those drugs, why isn’t she sleeping?

Jan is moody as hell.  Maybe that’s not the right word.  To me,  being moody means you’re up and down all the time.  She’s not up and down, she’s just pissy; and she doesn’t really want to train me.   When things are quiet and she could be taking the time to go over things we with me, she goes and hangs out in the shop where she can smoke instead.  If I send her an IM asking her a question, most of the time, she doesn’t even answer me.  If I feel I need an answer on something, I have a better shot of getting one if I ask her face to face.   Of course, this is often times met with scowls and as short of an answer as possible.  A lot of the time, I don’t get all the information I need.   It’s frustrating.

The most frustrating part though, is that she will go out in the shop and smoke and laugh and joke with the guys like everything’s great.   Not a thing in the world is wrong.   But if I come around wanting to ask a question, she’s pissy.  Sometimes, if it’s a busy day and the phone is ringing a lot and I go find her and ask her if she’ll take a call, she will even go so far as to growl and throw things.  I kid you not.  That’s Jan.

To hear Jan tell it though, she’s in a good mood most of the time and she likes to say, “I’m pretty steady.”   She got the steady part right.  I just nod my head in agreement.  She’s on drugs, alright. 

Everybody LOVES Jan.  Of course, all they see is the sales woman, or the flirt.  The girl who does that fake laugh she does when they say something not all that funny.  Uh-heh!   They don’t see the Jan I see.  They don’t see the way she calls them idiots behind their backs or cusses them out after they hang up the phone with her.   They don’t see the way she throws fits when things get busy, or grumbles about everything.   Maybe a few of the guys in the shop see her for what she is, but I don’t think most of them do.  I seriously doubt they know the things she says to me about them behind their backs, either.  She will throw any one of them under the bus in a heart beat.  It amazes me how this one guy needs to go home sick or has some kind of issue where he has to leave at least once a week, and she seems to have no problem with it whatsoever.  Yet another guy, who was always there early, just like me; who rarely took breaks, and worked his ass off-was let go because he had to take his daughter to the doctor one morning and came in late.  She and Fred said he was “unreliable.”   Yep.  Drugs. 

Speaking of Fred.  What an ass.   I mean really.  He’s an ass.   I have never seen anything like it.  This guy says the most inappropriate things to his employees, and acts like it’s perfectly ok for him to do so.   The way this guy acts is beyond unprofessional, and reprehensible to me.

Fred is about 57 years old, and tall, with round, blue eyes.  He’s got a curvature in his back and he’s got a mouth that’s as foul looking as what comes out of it.  The man has no real chin to speak of, either.  He wears slippers that he won’t put his feet all the way into most days.  Instead, he walks on the backs of them.  While he can dress nice when he wants to, he mostly wears old T-shirts with holes in them and long shorts.

Fred has a typical narcissistic personality.  He can be very charming or funny when he wants to, but mostly, he’s just an ass and justifies it logically in his mind.  When he’s being nice, you have to wonder if he’s just being manipulative, because to him, everyone is an idiot, and he will tell you so.  When he pops off, he will apologize profusely and tell you how much he really does appreciate you and how sorry he is.   Total hogwash of course.

I had heard rumors about Fred talking down to the guys or bitching them out, but had never experienced it first hand.  That is, for the first two weeks.  But, as I suspected, it DID happen.

The first experience wasn’t really directed at me, but it upset me nevertheless.   He was backing a trailer out of the shop and was getting close to the wall.  So, a few of my co-workers, including Jan had yelled out “Whoa” to get him to stop.

Fred stopped all right.  He then turned around to Jan and another co-worker and yelled “Shut the f*ck up” at them.   I stood there quietly, just observing.  He didn’t like that either.  He pointed at me and said, “I don’t need an audience either.”  Jan looked pissed, and my co-worker blurted out, “Man, that’s disrespectful.”  They both went inside.   I walked over to the other side of lot to take my break somewhere further away from the fire.

Sure enough, several minutes later, Fred and my co-worker are in the hall and he’s apologizing profusely to my co-worker.  Telling him that Jan had no business being out there and points at me as I walk by and says that I had no business being out there, and he didn’t need an audience.  He tells him how he needed to focus and didn’t need all the people yelling at him and that he really was sorry and appreciated him. He went on justifying his behavior for a good five minutes.  He was making excuses, not apologizing.   It was pathetic.

I wondered how long it would be before he got ugly with me.  I had my answer within about a week, and let me tell you.  I didn’t even see it coming.

He walked into my office holding a roll of shop towels, and just starts talking.

“These cost me money, and calling a plumber costs me money, and I’m fishing these out of the toilet because they’re out of toilet paper.   It’s your job to buy the supplies, so get in your car and go.  Now.”   I looked at him bewildered.  I had no idea what he was even talking about.   He turned and left.

A moment later, he comes back with my co-worker, Mike.  He explains to me and to Mike, that when they are running low on something like toilet paper, he is supposed to tell me so that I have a few days to go and get what they need.   I point out that there is plenty of toilet paper stocked up in the shelf in the other bathroom; all anyone had to do was go get it.   Fred says they still need paper towels, and that he’s “over it” so I don’t have to go right now.  I can take my lunch first.

To Fred, everyone is an idiot, and he tells them to their face.  All the time.  He has no tact, no couth, and no class.   He isn’t even close to being professional.  He is so full of himself, it’s ridiculous, and he will flat out tell you that he knows it all compared to anyone around him.

The next week, he came in the office and seemed like he was in a good mood.  He made a comment about something inconsequential, and so I replied.  “I know!  At first I was confused, but…”

“Please stop talking.”   He interrupted.

I couldn’t believe he had just said that to me.  I turned and walked out of my own office.

Fred has no real interest in what anyone else has to say.  Especially me.  People think they are having a conversation with him, but they are not.  Frank also expects you to do what he says, and does not care what obstacles or problems you may have trying to do whatever he tells you.  He doesn’t care why you couldn’t do something in a New York Minute.  You just better do it.

One day, I heard him tell the guys in the shop, “I appreciate your input, but I don’t need your feedback.”   He goes on to say, that they need to be real men and admit if they aren’t sure about something and ask questions, or ask for help if they need to.  That way the job is done right.

Later that same day, Jan is in my office explaining something to me; and in walks Fred.  He interrupts us, like he always does.  Nothing anyone has to say is as important as what Fred has to say.

“I’m going to go to the house now.”  He says to Jan, as he starts picking lint off of her shirt.  “I should have been gone an hour ago, but these guys have all these stupid questions.”  Then in a high pitched girlie voice adds, “What if I stick this wire here?”

He rolls his eyes.  “Bunch of stupid mother-f*ckers.”

Then, he looks at me as if he just realized I was in the room.  “Maybe I shouldn’t say that.”  He adds with a boyish chuckle.  “I guess they are still a little green.”

I sat there somewhat amazed, but knew I shouldn’t have been.  He had just told them a few short hours ago that they should be man enough to ask questions.  Yet, when they did; he is annoyed and makes fun of them.   So, you want them to be man enough to ask questions; but you aren’t man enough to answer them. 

That same morning, I had been walking through the shop while Fred was having his meeting with the guys (telling them to man up and ask questions) and he motions at me, still not knowing my name.  “Hey, uh, come over here a minute.”  He says.

The phone I have clipped on my jeans pocket started ringing, but I know if I answer it, he was going to be pissed.  So I walk over and he tells me that the guys need the work order for their next project, the cart.   I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I tell him ok, and go to Jan’s office to ask her.

Jan is pissed because I didn’t answer the phone like I was supposed to, and quickly jerks the paper in her hand towards me.  Great. 

I take the paper and walk back out to the shop and hand it to Fred.

“What’s that?”  He asks, annoyed by my presence.

“The work order you just asked for.”  I tell him.

“I don’t want that right now.  Follow procedure.”  He snaps.

I drop my arm and turn and walk away.  What procedure?  No one’s told me anything about any procedure.  So, back to Jan’s office I go.

“I tried to give this to Fred and he said he didn’t want it, and to follow procedure.  Only I don’t know what the procedure is.”  I tell her.   “What am I supposed to do?”   I plead.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Jan says annoyed.  “Just hang onto it for now.”   She says.  Well, this is fun.  Not.   I head back to my desk.

A while later, I go into the shop for something and Jake asks me for the work order.  I go back to my office and get it for him.

“Do you know anything about this procedure I’m supposed to follow?”  I ask.  “I don’t have a clue what Fred was talking about, and I asked Jan, and she said she didn’t know either.

Jake walks me over to a work bench and tells me that I just have to lay it on the work bench, and then once they get going, they will tape it on whatever project they are doing.

It’s a windy day, and both of the huge bay doors are open to the shop.  I don’t want the work order to blow away, so I turn to go look for a clip board.  About that time, Fred walks up.

“Where’s the work order that’s supposed to be sitting here?”  He snaps.

“I have it right here.”  I say holding it up for him to see.   “I am looking for a clip board, so it won’t blow away.”  I add.

“Just give it to me.”  He says, jerking it out of my hand, and shoving it into a pile of other papers he has in his hands and puts them on a bench in the back of the shop.

I walk away deflated.

I begin to do my best to avoid Fred as much as possible.  He’s like a hurricane, only inside the building; going a hundred miles and hour, and wreaking havoc as he goes.

The week after that, Fred pulls another doozie.  Given that Jan can’t be bothered to work a full day, she has gone home early.  In fact, it’s the Friday before Labor Day, and she’s leaving even earlier than she normally does.   She leaves around 2:00.   Given the fact that she also can’t be bothered to train me, I am still a bundle of nerves every time she leaves me there.  I pray that I don’t get a call I don’t know how to handle, but I know better.  There’s very little I can handle.  Because there’s still so much I don’t know.

Sure enough the phone rings, and it’s a man who first asks for Jan.  I tell him she’s not in.  I ask if there’s something maybe I can help him with.  He tells me he is having trouble with his machine.  I obviously have no idea what to tell him.  I consider asking Juan, but I know he’s busy working on something else.  The man on the phone then asks for Fred; who just happens to walk into my office.  Even though I have been instructed not to bother Fred with phone calls, I am desperate, and Fred seems like he’s in a good mood.  So, I ask him if he could maybe help talk this guy through a problem he is having with his machine.

“No.  I don’t do that.”  He said.   I am once again defeated.  One of the guys from the shop walks up and start talking to him, and I ask the guy on the phone if I can have someone from tech support give him a call.   A few moments later, Fred is back with Juan, and I can hear him telling Juan that he needs to try and help me when he can.

“Hey, why did you ask me if I would take that call.”  Fred says to me.

“You were standing right there, and the guy needed help and asked for you.”  I said shrugging my shoulders.   Far be it from me to actually think you might be willing to help one of your customers. 

“Well, everyone is going to ask for me.”  He retorts.  “Did Jan tell you that I don’t take calls?”   He asked.

“Yes, she did.  My mistake.  It won’t happen again.”  I smiled and tried to act as nonchalant as possible.  “I just thought I’d take a chance and see if you might help the guy, cuz the guy needed help and I didn’t know who to ask.”   I should’ve known better.  He wouldn’t even take a personal call from the exterminator who was at his house the other day.  Crap. 

“Yeah, I don’t take those calls.”  He reiterates.  “Even though I do know everything there is to know about those machines.”  He adds.  “I’m the guy who makes all the money to pay your checks.”  He finishes.  Emphasizing the word checks, like it’s a distasteful word.   Right sir.  Got it.  You are much too busy and important to be bothered by helping a customer in need.  Even though, as you say, you do know how to help him.  And since you are making so much money, why can’t you be bothered to turn the air conditioner on?  Huh?  I’m sitting here sweating like a pig in all this heat.   Fred waves his hand towards the shop next and says, “I shouldn’t even have to be out there training those baboons.  That’s not my job either.”   They brought Bruce in a few weeks ago as a company transfer from the upper north west.   He had come to help out before I stared and went back to get things ready to make the move out here.  We were all glad to see him, cuz that meant less getting yelled at by Fred.

The next week, Jan took the opportunity to throw me under the bus.   She had left early, as usual, and I got a call from a guy who placed an order and wanted it shipped overnight.  He had the part numbers for me and everything.  Only we didn’t have everything he wanted in stock.  So, I’m texting Jan, asking her what to do.  She tells me I have to order it from Texas.  I had only done that once before a few weeks beforehand, as she quickly talked me through it, and I was pretty sure I could do it.   Problem was, the system wasn’t accepting my PO numbers.  So, as long as the system wasn’t accepting any PO numbers, I couldn’t make a sales order to send to TX to send out.

I text Jan again, telling her I can’t get the system to take a PO number.  It keeps saying the number is already been used, even though I haven’t used it, and when I do a search for that number, nothing comes up.  She asks me if I tried this and that, to which the answer was always yes.  She says she’s on her way home, and will check when she gets home.  Well, I don’t know if she did or not, but I told her that the guy wanted his stuff shipped overnight, and she said, “We’ll worry about it tomorrow.”   I remind her again that he wanted it shipped over night, to which she only writes back, “We’re screwed.”

The next day, Jan spends a good hour or more trying to figure out what’s happening with the system not taking our PO numbers, and finally discovers Arizona had been using our numbers.  We scramble to enter in all my sales orders from the afternoon before that I couldn’t put in, and get the order for the guy who wanted overnight delivery to Texas.  I ask Jan if she’s going to call the customer to let him know it couldn’t get shipped out, or if she wants me to.  She tells me that she’ll do it.  She didn’t do it.

Later that day, he calls, wanting to know about his stuff.  She tells him that it should be there.  Well, that’s a big fat lie if there ever was one.  It won’t be there until tomorrow, and you know it.  Obviously, you didn’t call him and tell him like you said you would.  It was an honest to goodness out of our control situation.  Why couldn’t you just tell him the truth? 

The next day, he calls again, and he’s not happy.  He has received his package, but is not happy that it has taken two days.  He wants a refund for the overnight delivery charge.  We have to eat it, because it was shipped overnight, but it wasn’t shipped when it should have been.  Jan is pissed, and she accepts no responsibility in the matter.  Instead, guess who she blames.  That’s right.  Me.

This week, Jan started showing up for work on time.  I have yet to figure out what that’s about, but she has been.  She still leaves early, but whatever.   Well, I can’t say “week” since she didn’t work every day this week.

On Tuesday, she and Fred were in my office, which had been moved to the other side of the building, and were trying to figure out where to put some shelves for products that Fred had just bought.  He has had me place them up against the wall behind the used jewelry counters Fred had bought cheap somewhere.  There was now only a small walkway back there, and Fred was talking about how the fire department would probably tell him it had to be 36 inches, and it was not.   I look at a section of wall that’s completely bare, and say, “Maybe we could just put them over there.”  Pointing to the spot I have in mind.

Fred doesn’t even look at me.  “You need to shut up now.”  He says.  I quietly stick my tail between my legs and go back to my desk and sit down while the two of them decide to leave the shelves where they are behind the jewelry counters.

A little while later, I ask Jan, “Was Fred being serious when he told me to shut up?  Or was he joking around?”

Jan looked at me awkwardly and apologetically.  Stumbling around with her words, not really knowing how to say it, but he was being serious.  The bat rastard. 

A little while later, Jan comes in my office holding a brass fitting and begins to tell me that she needs me to go to Lowes and get one like it, but that the square end of it needs to be 3/4 inches.

“Wait.”  She stops and stands there trying to think.  “Hold on.  I can’t remember what size he said he needed.  I am just so exhausted.  I can’t think.”   She walks back out to the shop.  Me too lady.  Me too.  But I don’t get to be excused from the expectation of remembering everything and making no mistakes like you are just because I’m tired.  Hell, I’m not even excused for issues that were completely out of my control.   

I retrieve the part at Lowes and bring it back; and Jan rushes to take it to the new Production Manager.  ‘They stand there at the work bench while he measures it with a tape and nods, indicating to her that he thinks it will work as she looks on.  Standing just a little too close.

I walk over and set the example part I had taken with me to the store on the bench.  “Here’s the other one back.  Is that going to work?”

“Yeah, Jill says.  “But we need one more.  You’re going to have to go back.  We needed two, but Fred only said one.”   How can this be?   You guys make no mistakes!  It’s not possible!

Jill tells me that since it’s almost lunch time, to go ahead and go to lunch and stop at Lowes on the way back.  Which I do.  When I get back to work, I take the part and place it on the work bench next to the other one lying there.  Fred is standing nearby and says, “Did you get ’em?”  Ok, you need to shut up now.  What does it freaking look like, genius?  Here’s your sign. 

“Yep.”  I say, and quickly walk away.

On Wednesday, I get an email from Jan that leaves me a bit unsettled.

We had a $180,000 plus inventory issue last month after researching it came down to the Lowes LAR PO

Items 113032 & 113082 need to be put in by the foot not by the roll.

Example:  Receipt shows 1 qty 113032 our PO input needs to be 250 113032 (each roll is 250′).

Let me know if have any questions.

Jan V. James

I read the email over a few times.  I have trouble understanding it at first, since she obviously felt no need to make sure she punctuated properly.   It took me a couple of moments to even figure out what she was saying.   Yeah, I’ve got a question.  Why the hell didn’t you tell me this info in the first place?  Last month was my very first LAR, so why didn’t you check it to make sure I was doing it right?  Let me guess.  You didn’t feel good?  Or were you tired?  How bout both?  Or maybe you just couldn’t be bothered.  I knew it was stock, but that’s as far as my knowledge of it went.  I thought the guys just went and got what they needed and did what they needed to do with it.  I didn’t know it was calculated by the foot, nor that each roll was 250 feet.  How was I supposed to know this?  And why are you sending me an email speaking to me as if you actually trained me on this stuff and I screwed up?  Ha!  Not only did I screw up, but I screwed up to the tune of over a hundred and eighty grand!  Wow lady.  Yeah, I see where this is going.  Thanks a lot. 

I print out a copy of the email for future reference.

Yesterday, Jan left at about 3:00, but it was an uneventful afternoon.  I put away product from shipments that had come in, and then spent some time on the internet reading up some more on the machines we service and sell, and tried to make more sense of all the parts.  I actually found something quite fascinating while playing around on the computer.

As I punched in the sales order numbers, to see what Jan had used, and wrote down which customer they belonged to, I happened to notice that one seemed weird.  I just wrote it down and didn’t give it much thought until later.  I’m not even really sure what make it click inside my mind.  But it did, and I went back and found it.  It was a sales order for fixing Fred’s Hummer H2.

A few weeks ago, we had some flooding in the area, and I guess the tanks at the gas station got some water in them.  Fred was one of the unfortunate souls who was gassing up when someone came out of the store and told everyone to stop pumping gas, since they had just discovered the gas had large amounts of water in it.  I wasn’t there, but apparently, Fred was barely able to make it the few blocks from the station to the shop, and rolled in stuttering.

I wasn’t told any of the details by Fred at all.  He just came over to me and told me to get on my computer and find a couple of car repair places close by, and not some Jiffy Lube place, and get estimates on what it would cost to have his gas tank emptied and spark plugs changed out.  “I don’t want them cleaned and put back in, either.  I want new plugs.”

I get on the computer and begin my search.  I can see addresses to each place, but since I live out in the mountains and drive nearly an hour to work every day, I have no idea how near or far away they are from the shop.   Aside from a quick stop at a place on the way to or from work, I don’t drive that far for shopping or other needs.  In fact, I had only been that far north just once since moving here.  I open Google Maps and start plugging in addresses to find out how far away they are, and call and get two quotes.   I am told that the tank will have to be removed and all this other stuff, and that it’s going to be a difficult task.  The cheapest quote I got was nearly six hundred dollars.

Fred had been busy and was also not in a great mood, so I had not interrupted him to tell him what I had found out.  I decided when he wanted to know, he’d tell me.  And he did.  Just as I was trying to leave for lunch.  He stops me in the parking lot and wants to know what I found out.  I turn around and go back towards my office to get the piece of paper I had written everything down on.

“You don’t remember?”  He yells behind me.

“Not off the top of my head.”  I say loudly back over my shoulder.  Yeesus.  I don’t know this town, the name of those places, or nuthin.  Why would I remember everything you want to know?  I’m an idiot, remember?   

“I remember it’s gonna cost you about six hundred bucks, though.”   I yell backwards again.

Fred and Jan are now on my heels, following me back to my office.  I find my notes and begin telling him what I found.  Where I called, how much they wanted, how long any warranties would be, if any, and when they could get him in, etc.   I wasn’t reading fast enough, apparently, because Fred asked me to give the paper to him, and he and Jan made their exit to go to lunch.  They go to lunch together pretty much every day; and about once or twice a week, they put it on the company credit card.  Must be nice to have perks like that.  My mind goes back to when I worked for a big corporation that owned a bunch of prisons.  For some reason I never understood, I would get sent a copy of the monthly credit card statement from some lady.  They were based out of Texas, and so there were plenty of people I had no clue about.   Normally , I just ignored them.  I knew they weren’t really for me, and had even replied, telling the sender that I thought there was a mistake.  She kept sending them, and I kept deleting them.  One day, for whatever reason, a charge for over $600 caught my eye.  It was to a local bar & grill.  I looked at it again, thinking surely I had just read it wrong.  But I soon realized that not only had I not read it wrong, but there were many other charges, just like it.  Every Friday.  Same bar and grill.  Hundreds of dollars.

You do the math on that.  Must be nice to have a big ol party at the bar every Friday after work and put it on the company card!

Fred’s Hummer sat in the lot a few days, and he drove the company truck to and from work and wherever else he needed to go.  Some mornings, Jan would pull in the lot and have Fred with her.  She would drop him off, then go to Sonic or wherever she went every day to get breakfast, and then making another stop at Starbucks.  I wondered which place he would choose to get it fixed.

Well, he chose neither.  One Friday he had the shop emptied out of current work projects, and pulled the Hummer in.  Mike crawled underneath it, disconnected the hose from the gas tank that leads to where you actually put the gas in behind the cap; and then siphoned out all the gas.  He changed the plugs and whatever else Fred decided should be done.  It was done and ran good as new.

Fred always pulls the guys from the shop to go over to one of his rental properties, ( I know he has at least five) and has them do the yard work; so why shouldn’t he have them fix his Hummer too?   I don’t know if doing  stuff like that is legal, but even if it is, it sure doesn’t seem ethical to me; that’s for sure.   But, that’s Fred.

Some time last week, Jan asked me if Fred had given me some kind of paperwork to fill out for this whole situation.  I guess the deal was, that the station/company was willing to pay for all the vehicles who had to have repairs done on their cars; but they had to pay for it out of pocket first, and wait to be reimbursed.  I told her that I had not seen them.  I was asked to get a couple of estimates, and that was all I knew about it.

Then I saw the sales order that made no sense to me yesterday.  The company name was not one that seemed familiar to me, and the whole thing was just different that what I normally saw.  So, I started looking at it more closely yesterday afternoon and it clicked.  Holy Hannah! 

I was looking at what was basically a receipt for Fred to submit to the gas station to pay for having his Hummer fixed!   We aren’t a place of business that fixes, cars, but whatever.  The total bill was for nearly five hundred dollars.  It had two charges on it.  The first line item was for “fuel filter, spark plugs, flush material, gas tank removal, fuel.  $193.00.   Ok, first of all, I know for a FACT that tank never had to be removed.  Secondly, I also know that the spark plugs and other “materials” Fred needed cost him MAYBE $80.00.   I walk over the filing cabinet and put up the receipts for NAPA auto Parts, where Fred has a company charge account AND gets discounts, since we often buy motor or other parts we need for compressors or other machines.  I find the receipt I am looking for, and the price discounts for a company discount they give are significant.  I wish I could get discounts like that! 

I look at the total for all the stuff he bought.  I was right.  It came to about $83.00.  Not even close to no $193!   Maybe, just maybe, the fuel cost would get him close, IF they were replacing a full tank of gas he had just purchased. Which I doubt.  Even if he had, given today’s gas prices, he’s still about $50 too high.  What a lying bastard!

I look back at the sales order at the next line item.  Labor, 3 hours at $85.00 per hour for a total of $255.00!!  Come on!  Yeah, our company charges customers that amount per hour to fix their machines.  But the machines we fix are not cars, and I seriously doubt that any shop I called for an estimate charged $85 per hour for labor.   No one would ever be able to afford to get their cars fixed at that rate!  Not only that, but it didn’t take Mike 3 hours to fix it.  I wonder what the definition of profiteering is?  He’s making a pretty hefty profit out of this deal, that’s for sure. 

Fred charged the company account for the parts and other materials he needed, and had his company employee fix it, costing him absolutely nothing out of his own pocket.  He has the company pay for his regular oil changes and maintenance, and all his gas, too.   I suppose that since he does go to Lowes and pick up some things needed for the shop on occasion, he can consider it a company vehicle, even though the company already has a truck for said use, and the Hummer is really for Fred’s personal use.  Here again, maybe it’s legal; but I sure don’t think it’s ethical.   Why would he overcharge the gas company, and lie about removing the gas tank or how long it took?  I would also venture to guess, that even if it’s all legit and perfectly legal as a company vehicle, he will pocket the profit “the company” makes on this deal.  This guy is a total shyster! 

The phone rings and it’s a customer who has been having problems, and we have been working with him all day, along with Bob at tech support.  He has now decided he needs a pressure transducer, but wants to make sure the one we have in stock will work on his machine.  Bob had told him to make sure he asks us specifically if our transducer will work on a reactor two.   Uhhhhhh I don’t know!

“Well, Jan told me that the same transducer works for pretty much all the machines before she left, but let me ask Juan and see if he knows.   I walk the sixty feet across the lot to the trailer he’s working on and ask him if he knows.

“Let’s see.”   He says, and starts walking back towards the shop, with me bringing up the rear.  He uncovers one of the machines and starts messing with wires and trying to loosen them.

“Actually, no they won’t.”   He says.  His machine has a plug kind of like a phone jack. The part we carry is one that is threaded and screws in.  Great.  Now I have to figure out what part number this customer needs and who has one, cuz we sure don’t.  Only, I have no idea where to start.  Juan has no suggestions, either.

You see, there is no system, that I am aware of, that allows you to just type in, for instance, “Pressure transducer for E30 Elite machine” that will tell you the part number.  Not only that, but a lot of the stock we have around the shop and in the small store set up in my so called “office” are not labelled with part numbers either.   The store itself has over 50 hooks of items hanging on walls of things we sell; none of which are labelled with part numbers.   Many items we sell in the back are in bins, or on shelves that are also missing labels.   And sometimes, there are tiny parts in bags, (like O-rings or side cartridges) hanging on a hook that do have part numbers on them, but you are supposed to grab one or two out of the bag (depending on the item) and put the rest back on the hook.  The odds of me getting it right, are stacked against me.

I could deduce what the client needed by what the part actually was, at times, I supposed.  That is, if I could be sure what a manifold, or a transducer looked like.   That is also if we don’t carry more than one type or brand.  I could get the part number off the bin that way-IF the bin is labelled.  Sometimes, it is not.   In the small inventory room behind my office, for instance, there are two boxes that open up containing five little bins each, of drill bits customers use for cleaning out some of their chambers.  One box has labels that are faded, but you can at least make out what it says.  The problem is, it only says the size of the drill bits in that bin.  There is no way for me to know if the customer needs a #53 drill bit or a #68, and even if the customer knows what he needs-the part number to do the sales orders aren’t there.  I discover just a week ago, that there is a sheet you can cross reference, telling you if the customer uses a 20 tip, he needs a #53 drill bit.  That helps. Still no way to find the part number in the system.

Since Fred has preoccupied himself with setting up this new “store” with his cheap used jewelry counters he found at a rummage sale somewhere, he has also gone out and bought a new box with little bins in it for the drill bits.  He hands me a labelling machine and tells me how it works, sort of.  He isn’t entirely sure, but tells me I can figure it out with a wave of his hand.  Indicating that this is also something he can’t be bothered with.  I take advantage of the opportunity to make Jan help me figure out what part number goes with each drill bit.  Fred wants me to label the new box, after all.

Since Jan doesn’t really like to be bothered, trying to catch her at an opportune time to ask her questions can be tricky.   There have been times my questions have been met with her growling, throwing her pen down on her desk in frustration, grimaces, or her telling me she’ll get back to me later.  Usually, she at least gets back to me.  Sometimes, though, she won’t.   She just goes and does whatever I was trying to do herself.  Thus, I learn nothing.

Jan has been doing this job for almost fifteen years.  She can tell you a part number off the top of her head with astounding accuracy, and if she’s wrong, she’s close.   She’s close enough that she can type in a couple variations of the number in the system until the description of the part comes up within under a minute.  There are some things she has to look up.  I don’t know where she gets the info, and she doesn’t tell me.  But she is able to do it quickly and bring me the part number I need to complete a sale or order, and walk away.

I remark to her how impressed I am that she can remember all those part numbers.  She smiles and feigns modesty.  “I don’t know why it’s so easy for me.”  She says.  “It’s just the way my brain is wired, I guess.   I just remember part numbers.”  She pauses for effect.  Then looking towards me for sympathy adds, “I wonder sometimes if that’s why I get so many headaches.”   I nod.  Not sure how to respond to that.   “I suppose anything is possible.”  I shrug.

Jill had told me about the time I started that she had a degree in accounting.  But given some of the things she says, I wonder sometimes if she’s not just full of sh*t.    She is always saying to me, (or a customer) “I’ll get that took care of.”    She will reply to a Slack IM I have sent her letting her know someone called and wanted a call back with, “He’s took care of.”  This annoys me.  I don’t like to admit that I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi, but sometimes, I am.    Especially coming from someone who proclaims to be an “educated and refined” person.  I of course, claim to be neither.  I feel no need to point out, or mention to anyone that I have a degree, or mention a happenstance when I was in college, thus inferring I do either.  People are people, as far as I am concerned; and I am just one of them.  But, I still try to use correct grammar when I speak.

Jill also contradicts herself, which I find to be the most damning in my assessment of her being full of sh*t.  One day we are talking about dogs, and she tells me she loves Pit Bulls.  I remark that I think they are great dogs too.

“Yeah, I have about…”  She looks upward and squints her eye as if she is counting in her head.  “About four Pit Bulls at home.”   She finishes.

“Cool.”  I reply.  Why do you have to stop and think about how many dogs you have?  Most people just know how many dogs they have.   I think you have….one.  Maybe.  Maybe you have ONE dog.  Maybe it’s a Pit Bull, but I’m not even sure of that. 

Jan has never in all the time I have been there mentioned any of these dogs she supposedly has, except the one she refers to as the “65 lb dog” that hogs her bed at night.  Who, with the help of her husband is part of the problem as to why she doesn’t sleep; according to her.   She also purports to have EXTREMELY SEVERE anxiety, and that’s why she can’t sleep.  Adding that doctors refuse to give her meds.

A week or so ago, I asked Jan if she was sent to any classes or trainings on how to use the machines, spray guns, or how to trouble shoot issues.   I ask her specifically what the secret is to finding part numbers for parts.  She shakes her head and tells me, “Nope.  I just had to learn it and picked it all up.”  Smiling at me like she thought I was basically screwed and she didn’t think I could do it.  And, she was happy about it.

This week she is talking about a program they no longer use called Fish Bowl, and how great it was.  She tells me how it kept track of inventory for you and all these other things, but none of the other branches used it, so they were having to duplicate work entering certain information into Fish Bowl, and then again into the system everyone else used.  So, they don’t really use it any more.  Did I mention she told me you could also use fish bowl to look up part numbers?

She brags about herself all the time.  How everyone tells her how young she looks, even though she’s forty.  How men always come on to her.  How when she was about eight years old her mother died.  How when she was a young adult she was addicted to meth, but she got pregnant and turned her life around for her daughter-so she calls her daughter her life saver.  How even though she’s exhausted after working all day, (and not sleeping at night) she never makes things like TV dinners, or frozen pizza for her family for dinner.  How she hasn’t taken a vacation in 13 years.  (But she’s not a workaholic.)  Much of what she is telling me is making a statement.  One that says, “I’m a kick-ass bitch.” While I by no means wish to minimize any of Jan’s trials, or successes; I must also keep in mind.  Jan is full of sh*t.

I sit at my desk contemplating how I am going to find a transducer for this customer.   Texting Jan would be pointless.  She has already tried to tell me to give the guy the wrong part.  I considering trying to look it up in a manual, but I don’t even know what the transducer looks like, or where the manual for that machine is.

I get on Slack and ask Bob on tech assist if he might know the part number the customer needs, since he was the one helping his trouble shoot the problem.  Bob doesn’t respond right away, but Trevor does.  He gives me the same part number Jill tried to give me.  I respond that from what I could gather, that part won’t work on the particular machine this customer has.  Trevor confirms this is correct.  Then finally Bob responds with the correct part number the customer needs, and also lets me know that Texas has five in stock.  I rush to get the sales order done and assigned to Texas in time for it to ship out next day air, hoping I am not too late.   They confirm they were able to get it out, and I breathe a sigh of relief.   One more attack on my incompetence avoided.

You know, through all the struggles and crap I have been through with my work situation, I have not cried.  I have kept a stiff upper lip and tried to just keep plugging along.  Doing the best I can. Even in the instances where I believe I was personally attacked, and for no reason; I have not cried.

Today though?  I cried.  I guess it was inevitable.  It had to happen eventually, right?  Everyone has a breaking point.

Jan took the day off, knowing full well, I wasn’t ready to be on my own a full day yet-but insisting Fred was making her, because she was like a time bomb about ready to go off.   I couldn’t argue with that…except we DID just have a three day weekend for Memorial Day.  AND she left at 2:00 the Friday before.  In fact, Fred had let everyone leave by 3:00, with pay.  Everyone, except me, that is.  I had to sit there and listen for the phone that never rang, and the door that never opened.  It was a very long two hours.

Jan had told me she would be taking the day off Thursday afternoon, and that she is also leaving early that day.  Then she adds that Juan has taken the day off too.  I ask her who I am supposed to ask for help, if I need it.  She shrugs, making it clear she doesn’t really want me to bother her, or anyone in the shop.  Great. 

I slept very little last night worrying about how the day would go.  I also prayed a lot that it wouldn’t be too busy, and that there wouldn’t be a bunch of issues I was helpless to solve.  My prayer was answered until about 11:00.

Fred comes into the office and goes into the back section where he sits and makes a call to Jan.  This is about the third or fourth time he’s called her already.  So nice of you to insist she take a day off, then keep calling her, buddy.  They are on speaker phone and I can tell they are now talking about me.

“Where is she?”  I hear Jan ask.

“I don’t know.  I think she’s in the bathroom.”  Fred replies.

I’m right here on the other side of this dividing wall!  And you think I’M stupid??

I try  not to eaves drop, and can’t really make out what they are saying anyway.  Then the phone rings, and as I answer it and begin to try and help the customer. Fred walks through and goes out the front door.  As he is walking I can hear him say, “Maybe you could just text her and tell her, you know, ‘you really need to address these issues.'”    I begin to wonder just what issues he thinks I need to address.  Something I have no idea I am even supposed to address, no doubt.  Or have no idea HOW to address, either.  Can’t wait. 

The call I have answered is from a customer who wants to know if he can use a Graco repair kit on his PMC drum pump.  How the hell am I supposed to know that?!?!    I tell him I am going to have to do some research on that and ask for his name and number to call him back.  Juan isn’t there for me to ask.  What the hell am I gonna do? 

I decide to get on Slack and ask tech support if they know.  They don’t know for sure, but say they highly doubt it.  Finally with no other option I can fathom, I text Jan and ask her.  She writes back she doesn’t think so.   I call the customer back and tell him that it doesn’t appear he can.  He then wants to know if I can give him a price quote for upper and lower repair kits.  I ask him if he knows the part numbers, and of course, he doesn’t.  I apologize profusely and tell him I am going to have to do some research again to find part numbers in order to get pricing, and will have to call him back.

I text Jan and ask her if she knows, and she tells me she doesn’t.  She tells me to find a manual and look it up.  I begin scanning the files of manuals in the common drive.  There isn’t one for a PMC pump.  I write back and tell her as such.  She tells me to call PMC.  So, I Google the number and get a recording, and when it tells me to press one for customer service, I press one, and the phone just beeps.  The recording continues with the options.  I keep pushing the one button, and nothing happens.  I call three times, and yield the same results.   Seriously???

I remember that I had seen emails from the gal who had been there before me between herself, and a lady who had a signature line and emblem indicating she worked for PMC.  Desperate, I take a chance, and shoot her an email, explaining that I needed to give a price quote to a customer for an upper and lower repair kit on a drum pump and asked her if she could help me with part numbers and pricing it out.

Abut that time, I get two emails from Jan forwarded to me from customers who were placing orders to be sent out.  She reminds me that one of them is requesting overnight delivery, so I have to request a pick up in the FedEx system on that order.  It’s now 11:30.  She is at least kind enough to include the part numbers, and I quickly go find the parts and start making up the sales orders and preparing them to ship in the FedEx system.  I did the overnight delivery first, since I wanted to ensure that if anything came up to distract me, it was done.  I get it in a small box, tape it up, weigh it on the scale and enter all the information into the FedEx system-including the weight.  Choose the option for overnight delivery and schedule a pick up.  Print the shipping label and take the box and the label back out to the shop to tape it on the box and set it by the bay door where we leave our shipments that need to be picked up.

I go and find the part for the other order and it takes me a few minutes to find it.  I see that it’s now 12:00, and forward the phones to Jan so that I can take my lunch.  At least she was willing to do that much. 

I decide that I am going to go ahead and get the order done up for shipping, and then go to lunch.  At least that way, I can work uninterrupted and be done with it.  I lock the door to my office and sit back down at my desk preparing the paperwork.  I fail to notice that even though I have clicked the button for a new shipment, the FedEx system has left the setting for next day air.  I won’t realize what happen until the FedEx man comes to pick up our stuff.   I’m sure I’ll catch hell for that one.  Jan will shoot me dirty looks all day when she discovers that. 

Bruce walks in from the shop and asks me if I will be leaving for lunch, and I tell him that I am planning to.  He says ok, and goes and closes up the two closest bay doors and then gets in the company truck and leaves for his lunch too.  I go back to the break room and put my frozen dinner (that Jan would never) eat in the mic, and decide that I have time to use the restroom and wash up while it cooks.

As I am leaving the break room and heading for the bathroom, I see a guy walk in the door to Bruce’s office.  Great.  Bruce didn’t bother to lock up his own office door. 

I walk into the office and ask the guy if I could help him.  Hoping it’s something simple and he can leave.  He tells me he needs a full face mask and some filters for it.  I tell him if he wants to exit and walk over to the other side, I will unlock the door for him and try to help him.  I find the mask with relative ease, and grab the wrong filters.  I tell the customer he can come back in the back with me and show me what he wants.  Easy enough.  Except when I go to do the sales order, there’s no part number for the damn mask.  I start punching in some of the numbers I can find on the box.  Sometimes that works, but not today.  I apologize to the guy, noticing him shifting on his feet and sighing while he waits for me to try and figure it out.

“I know you were probably hoping to be able to just be in and out of here.”  I say trying to let him know I understand.  “I’m so very sorry.”

Finally,  not knowing what else to do, I write down on a piece of paper the part number for the filters, and the type of mask the customer was taking, and had him sign that he was taking the stuff.  I ask him if he is Jeff, which is the name on the account, and he tells me that he is Justin, Jeff’s son.  I decide it’s probably ok, as there are a lot of family businesses like that we serve; and send him on his way.  I will deal with the paperwork and figuring out the part number later.

I go to the restroom and wash up and grab my TV dinner from the mic and scarf it down.  At least it’s still relatively warm.  I still have 20 minutes left to run to the convenience store a few blocks away and grab a soda.  I need a boost, the way today is going.

As I am pulling out of the parking lot, a truck pulls in.   I quickly debate pulling back in and helping him; but decide not to.   To hell with it.  If I had already been gone, he would have had to wait anyway.  It’s not my fault Fred can’t bother to staff the place with enough people to stagger lunches in order to help customers at lunch time.  Jan even pointed out begrudgingly the other day that the Texas office has about eight girls working in their office.  I am only going to be gone a few minutes.  He can wait.   

Traffic  was a b*tch, but I still manage to make it back with five minutes of my lunch break to spare.  The guy is standing out in the lot talking to a couple guys who work in the shop.

I realize who it is and actually feel a little bad.  He’s a good customer who comes in often to buy parts.

He sees me pull in, and starts walking to my office door to wait for me to let him inside.  I unlock the door and we walk in and he points out to the parts hanging on the wall he needs.  He’s an easy customer.   He can never remember the PO number to put on their invoices; but he always knows the parts he needs and they are always marked with a part number.  He is basically in and out, but I still can’t help but begrudge a little that he took up the last five minutes of my lunch break before I had to deactivate the call forward feature on the phones; which I had done halfway through the transaction, because I didn’t want Jan mad at me for doing it late.

I take a deep breath and start looking for the part number for the mask I had sent out earlier.  I find one and add it to the invoice.  I am rather proud of my self for figuring it out.  I then pull up the system to run credit cards to see if there is one saved in there for the company he worked for.  Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t.

I am in luck!  It’s there.  I enter in the amount and all the other information needed and push the button to make the transaction.  I am afraid, but I am not sure why.  I remind myself that Justin had said I could run his card later, and did it anyway.   I get an error message that I didn’t put in all the needed information.  I look it over carefully, trying to figure out what was wrong, then notice the year for the expiration date had not been saved.  I can’t process the card without it.

I don’t have a number to call Justin that I can find, but I find one for his dad, Jeff.  I pick the phone up and call him.  When he answers, I tell him who I am, and that his son had come in to pick up a mask and some filters.

“Don’t sell them to him.”  He says gruffly.

I sit there frozen.

“Well, he’s already left with them.”  I say timidly.

“And I suppose you want me to pay for them.”  He snaps.

My mind races.  The bill is over $250.00.  Jan is going to be so pissed if we have to eat that.  Sonofa biscuit eater. 

I scramble for something to say, knowing that in all likelihood, if he decided not to pay, it wouldn’t matter what I said.

“He told me you sent him.”  I say half apologizing.


I can feel my skin begin to tingle all over my body.  I am so screwed. 

Then, a short, muffled snort. So quiet that I can barely make it out.  I am not sure if I heard what I thought I did or not.

Then it happened.  It was like a rushing river I was trying to wade through.   There were rocks and pebbles covered with years of slime and moss below my feet and I have no sturdy footing, nor anything to hold on to.  I feel myself losing balance and fall in, as the river overcomes me.  I was helpless and it was out of my control.

“Please tell me you are messing with me.”  I plead, as my body starts to heave from deep in my chest and tears race down my face, splashing on my shirt.  “I have had a really rough morning, and this is not an issue I need right now.”   My voice is cracking now, and the words are split apart by sobs.

The man is silent another few seconds, then tells me that he is; and he is sorry he upset me.   I can tell he wanted to laugh, but now he had no idea what to do or say with a crying woman on his hands.  Too bad I can’t say that I was just messing with him, too.  But the tears and the breakdown were real.  There was no way to hide it, or deny it.

I try to do what little damage control I can do, as if it would make any difference.

“I’m sorry.”  I say, trying to take deep breaths and calm myself down.  “It’s just been a very rough morning for me.”

Jeff has no idea what to say.

“Anyway, yes.  You are right about why I am calling.  I was going to run this credit card in the system, but there’s no expiration date.”

He tells me that card saved in the system is an old one, and that Jan can just put it on their account.

I tell him ok, and thank him, and hang up the phone.

I put my head down in my hands, and the tears and the sobs come without resistance now.  What the hell was I thinking?  I can’t do this.  There is no way I will EVER be able to do this.  The help and the information I need just is not there.  It’s impossible.  Why did I even move here.  So far, every place I have worked has been full of assholes.  I never should have left my job in Colorado.  What am I going to do?

I allow myself this moment to have my little pity party, and then grab a tissue and dab my eyes and face.  I pull myself back together and set this account aside.  I still have to figure out part numbers and pricing on that pump for the other customer.  I must move on.

I check my email and see that I have gotten a response for the part numbers the customer may need.  But no prices.  I take another deep breathe.  I try to call PMC again, and still can’t get a call to connect.   I go to the website address I found in the footer of the email, but see no buttons to push that will lead me to a place where I can enter part numbers and get a price.  I click a few options here and there, but I am basically just spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.  I email the lady back and ask if she possibly knows the prices.   I explain those part numbers won’t come up in our system, and that I can’t find anywhere on line to price them out, either.   After a call to her as well, she tells me in her  in her North Eastern accent, that she can only send me an email contact info for distributors who may be able to help me, because they are in New Jersey and closing in 45 minutes.   Thankfully, she had copied a Mr. Rivera on her first response to me and he had been included in the correspondence.   I see he has copied and pasted a little graph for me, and explained that the first column for each part is the distributor’s price, and the other column is the list price.  I reply to him and thank him from the bottom of my heart.  I am sure he has gone above and beyond what he normally does to help me.

Now, I just have to figure out which price to quote the customer.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get the distributor’s price, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to quote him list price either.

As I stare at the computer, half dazed, Fred pops his head in the door and asks me how I am doing.  I muster all I can to appear as normal as possible, and hope there is no evidence that I had just been crying.

“Fine.”  I tell him.  “I’m just trying to find some info for a customer.”   I add.  Using that as an excuse to look at the computer instead of him.  He says, “Ok” and goes about his business.

I realize I have no choice but to call Jan.  As the phone rings, I hope that she is at least happy that I have  managed to get this far on my own.  I tell her that I have managed to find the part numbers and that I now have prices on the parts, but I still don’t know what price to quote him.

She tells me to take 15% off the list price and quote him that.  I ask her what to do if he wants me to get them for him.  She tells me I will have to order them from PMC.

“Yeah, but how do I do an order through PMC?”  I ask.

She explains how I have to do a sales order for the customer, and a purchase order for PMC, with the PO number ending in the last five digits of the sales order, and all this other stuff.

“But how do I get the order to PMC?”  I ask.  I can tell she’s a bit annoyed.  The feeling is mutual.  There are leagues of things she hasn’t bothered to teach me.  Like how to do an order for PMC.

“You email the purchase order to the lady you have been emailing in New Jersey.”   She tells me.

I thank her for the help and apologize for having to bother her.  I feel like a worthless piece of crap.

I  call the customer back and apologize that it had taken so long.  (Only 3 hours – give or take a little.)  I tell him we got really busy, hoping that will make up for something.  I tell him he can buy a repair kit for the whole pump and the price I had calculated for him that had been figured subtracting 15% and for the upper and lower if he still wanted to buy them separately.   I throw out there that the full kit was the better deal.  He tells me that he appreciates the information and that he now knows what he can work with.  Whatever that means.   I him it’s no problem, I lied-it was a HUGE problem, and he bids me a good weekend.  I tell him he same and we disconnect the line.

I am thankful I don’t have to do an order for him, but I also feel somewhat cheated.  After all that work just trying to get the information he needs, and he doesn’t even order it.  He has no idea the trouble I’ve gone through.  That’s not his fault.  I’m not angry with him.  I am angry with Jan for putting me in this position in the first place.

She texts me a while later asking me how it’s going.  I tell her that I am trying to find the part number for the same mask I had sent out with the customer from lunch time, as I have now gotten another call from a guy wanting a price on it and have realized that the part number I thought I had found earlier was for a different, more expensive mask.  Thank goodness I could not process that card.  He would have been over charged, and then had a real reason to be mad at me. 

She asks me which customer wants to know and I type it back.  She finally gives up the part number, and I thank her.

I call the customer back and tell him the price, and he also tells me he appreciates the information and hangs up.  I pull up the sales order I have put the wrong part number on, and fix it for the mask purchased earlier.  I also grab the label maker and print out the part number and go stick it on the shelf where those masks are, since Jan could never be bothered to take the two minutes that took to do it.

A short while later, Jan calls me.  Wanting to know how I am doing.  So, I tell her all the happenings since she had told me I had to look information up on the drum pump.  The walk in customers and not really getting a lunch, the inability to find a part number for the mask, and, the fact that when I had called to discuss payment with his dad, he had started to tell me he wasn’t going to pay for it…and that I had cried.  He was more than likely going to mention it to her anyway-if he hadn’t already-thus prompting her call in the first place. 

Jan made a groan when I said it.  She apparently didn’t think it was cool for me to cry on the phone with a customer, regardless of what was taking place.  I’m not happy about it either, lady!  Trust me! 

We continue talking and I tell her honestly about all the issues and obstacles I had encountered and that I had just gotten overwhelmed.

“What are you going to do when I’m gone for a week?”   She asks.   She had already told me that she and her husband were planning a week long vacation in August.

“Hopefully I will be more up to speed and know a lot more by then.”  I say trying to chuckle and hide my fear that I might not.  Especially since you can’t be bothered to train me.

Jan says nothing.

Finally, she goes, “Hmmm…”

I am unsure what to say.

“You just can’t leave.”  I add.  Laughing nervously, trying to joke.  “I’ve decided.  I have abandonment issues.”   I say, hoping to lighten the mood of the awkward situation.

“Oh, I am leaving.”  She says with warning in her voice.   “I have three weeks vacation coming this year, and I am taking them all.”

I sit there with my head down, glad that she can’t see me.  I have nothing to say.

Again, she goes, “Hmm…”

I sense a bit of warning and disbelief in my ability to “cut it” in her tone.  Frankly, I was no longer sure I could now either.

I think about how just yesterday, Jan was telling me a story about all the things wrong with her and she needed to have surgery.  She throws in there that she had just hired a new girl and only had six months to train her before she was going to be out.  Implying that she really needed more than six months.   Yet she is planning on going on vacation in August.  If I am still there, which I really hope I’m not, I will have been there a whopping four months.  I have now only been there two, and she is acting towards me like I should know the job already.  Like I said, she contradicts herself all the time.  Not that it really matters.  I realize that for me to think I could do this job, was probably a huge mistake.  I have to take responsibility for my own part in this.  The fact that Jan is being the way she is, just adds suckage to the already sucky problem.  I don’t know if it’s me personally she doesn’t like, or if maybe I’m just truly not doing very well.  Whatever it is, she is obviously disappointed in me, and that makes me feel like crap.

I had suspected that my job would not be safe early on.  Jan and Fred were never happy with anyone’s performance.  In just six weeks, I had seen two employees get fired, and for no real reason that I could find.

The first to go was Jake.  He started a couple of months before I had, working through a temp agency also.  I liked Jake, and aside from the fact that he was a flirt even though he was married, he seemed like a good guy.  He was always there early, rarely took breaks, and from everything I saw of him, a knowledgeable, hard worker.

I listened to Jan rant on to me about how he was always late, and had called that morning saying he was going to be a few minutes late (again-she says with exasperation) on her voicemail, but didn’t show up for over an hour.

“He said he had to take his daughter to the doctor this morning, but as far as I know, his wife doesn’t work, so why didn’t she just do it?”  She looks at me, expecting me to find reason in her thinking.  I happen to know that his wife actually does work cleaning houses, but decide I had better keep my mouth shut.

“I called the temp agency and told them we didn’t want him to come back.”  She says with irritation.  I don’t know why he still showed up.

I could see Jake out in the parking lot by his car talking on his phone to what I could only assume was the temp agency.   He paced and motioned his hands as he spoke and I could tell he was angry.   I felt bad for the guy.

I thought about all the mornings that Jake and I had been the first two there, while Jan and Frank waltzed in around 8:30 or 9:00.  We both commented on how strange we thought this was.  I told him I had never worked anywhere like that, and he tells me he hasn’t either.

Juan usually pulled in right at 8:00, or sat in his car until then; and he had a key to let us all in.  Juan was the only one who had been there over a year.  He was pushing a year and a half, maybe two.  I figure his job is pretty safe, since he’s the only one who speaks Spanish and we have several customers who spoke very broken English and are difficult to understand.  They are a significant source of revenue for our business.  Juan’s not going anywhere soon.  Which is not to say that Juan is only there because he speaks Spanish.  He’s a very hard worker, and knows how to repair and clean the machines.  I actually like Juan.  He’s a good guy.

Jan rattles on about how Jake is just unreliable, and how he’s a temp and he means nothing.  “There’s a million Jakes out there.”  She adds.

She looks out the window at Jake in the parking lot.  “He better get the f*ck out of here before Fred gets pissed and makes him leave.”  She says.  “Why is he even still here?”  She asks, incredulously.  Not really expecting me to answer.

On my lunch break I call Jake and ask him if he’s ok.  He tells me that is he, but that he was really thrown for a loop.  I tell him I didn’t understand it either.  I point out to him that Kent is off sick at least once a week the whole 5 or 6 weeks I had been there, and yet they fire Jake for being unreliable.  I tell him it makes no sense to me.  Jake tells me that if I was ever out in the shop while Jan was out there taking one of her many smoke breaks and could hear the way those two talk, it would be much easier for me to understand.   He tells me some of the things that had come out of Jan’s mouth as she blatantly flirted with Kent, and I couldn’t believe how inappropriate she was being.  Why am I always surprised when I shouldn’t be?

Jake tells me that he has surgery scheduled on both of his hand in a week and a half anyway, and that he had told Fred about it and Fred had said he wasn’t going to waste his time teaching him anything new since he was going to be out for at least a month.   He thinks that Fred just decided it was easier to let him go now than to wait another week and a half.  I told him it was entirely possible.

He tells me that Fred also came out in the parking lot and told him that once he has his surgery done and gets all healed up, to come on back, because Jake was a hard worker and they could really use someone like him.  I point out how Fred makes absolutely no sense.  Firing him for being unreliable, then telling him they could really use someone like him later on.  Jake tells me that he thinks Fred was being sincere and that he will try to come back.  That despite having to put up with Fred, he really liked the job itself, and he really thought Fred might take him back.   I wished Jake luck and told him to keep in touch.

Jan had been interviewing people for a week and a half or so before they let Jake go.  I assumed it had been to replace some other guy who had just walked out and not come back before I had started.  I couldn’t really say for sure.  Jan complained about them all, and how they weren’t right for the job.

One day this tall black guy came in, and Fred hired him on the spot.  He was just a punk kid really.  I overhear Fred telling him and Jan that he will start at $11 an hour, and if he makes it the first week, he will bump him up to twelve.

Perry was pretty quiet, and polite around me.  But when he would talk to the other guys in the shop, not knowing I was around, he’d say some pretty disrespectful things.  I take into account that I am in a shop environment and this kind of thing is going to happen.  It doesn’t really bother me all that much, but I am also not all that impressed with Perry, either.  He drives a white Audi, with a black convertible rag top.  I wonder how he manages that on what he makes, and later find out his mom gave him the car.  Perry spent a lot of time just standing around watching the other guys work.  He was supposed to be helping them, but either wasn’t real sure what to do, or saw no need to do much.  During down time, when all the others would pick up a broom to sweep the shop floor or take out trash and put away tools, Perry would always be hiding back in the corner of the shop behind the shelves of boxes where no one could really see him.  But I would often see him peek around the corner, looking at me as I went about my business preparing orders for shipment, or what have you.

It was interesting to watch how manipulative Perry was and how the dynamics of the group changed after he came along.  When the radio was always set on a country or classic rock station in the past, it was now always set to rap.  I honestly didn’t care what they listened to, I just noticed.  Except when I had to be out there counting the bolts and screws, and sorting them out.  I find rap to be misogynistic and degrading towards women; and I made a point to tell him so.    He didn’t take the hint.

A little bit later, I see him and Kent talking about I tell them more firmly, once again, that I don’t appreciate them playing some of the music they had been playing.   Kent jumps to Perry’s defense.

“Man, that’s todays music.”   He says to me, acting like I had just slapped his wrists or something.

“Maybe for some people.”  I agree.  “But there are still a lot of different types of music out there, and a lot of people who won’t listen to rap.”  I say, with my jaw set.   “I’m sorry, but when I’m out here working, I just don’t want to hear it.”  I tell him.  “It’s disrespectful.”  I walk away and get back to sorting the bolts and screws in their bins.  They are all mixed up, and I am annoyed that they can’t be bothered to put them back where they belong if they grab the wrong ones.  I remember the day a few weeks ago Fred had told me I had to go through them all and make sure they had the right things in the right bin.

“It’s not your fault.”  He says.  “But it is your problem, and I expect you to stay on top of it.”

Even Mike, who professed to only like country, and Jan, who only listened to the hard alternative rock at her desk would make comments in Perry’s presence that they liked this song or that.  Good grief!  I don’t like it, and I’m not going to pretend I do just to please you, buddy!  Watching how the dynamics of the group changed was interesting indeed.

A couple of weeks ago, Fred breezes into the office and announces loudly to Jan, “We gotta get rid of Perry.  He’s slower than f*ck and he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  He’s messing everything up and costing us money.”  I chuckled, not really taking him all that seriously.   But, a few days later, Perry was gone too.  The paperwork to the temp agency I saw merely said the job was completed.

I can’t honestly say I was all that sad to see Perry go.  But I knew the way Fred and Jan had done it wasn’t right.   I felt bad about that.   The reason Fred was now going around telling a few people that he fired Perry for, was not a legitimate reason at all.

“I just couldn’t understand a single thing he said.”   I had heard him tell this person here, or that person over there.  That’s not a legitimate reason to fire anyone, in my opinion.

Of the guys, Mike had been there the longest.  About a year.  Fred likes to yell at Mike, a lot.  Mike does seem to have trouble staying on track at times, and I wonder if the fact that Fred is always on his ass has anything to do with it.   It’s hard to function well when you’re under that kind of pressure.  Jake had told me once that he didn’t understand why Mike puts up with it.  Mike later tells me that at one point not all that long ago, Fred had yelled at him and he had walked out.  He smiles and tells me that Jan had called him later to find out what happened and he told her, and Fred said he was sorry; so he came back.   He tells me that Fred can be a real ass, but that he also did some really nice things out of the kindness of his heart.  He interjects that he believes this is genuine and a side of Fred that just takes a while to see.  He smiles and says he just doesn’t take Fred to heart any more.

Jan had said basically the same thing.  Telling me how about once a year, he will be acting like his normal disrespectful self and she will tell him off and walk out.  I wonder if this is how she gets her yearly raises…

That place certainly would not run without Jan.  There’s no doubt about it.  Fred knows about the machines and has the mind of an engineer.  Jan knows everything else about the business.

I am beginning to think Jan likes it that way.  I think she likes feeling like the company can’t run without her-and the job security that provides.  She makes her own fair share of mistakes, but a lot of them, she is all too happy to blame on someone else.  Not only that, but where else is she going to find a job where she can smoke all day long and wear short shorts and spaghetti strap tops?!?  While she insists that she needs help and complains constantly, she goes through girls pretty regularly too, I have learned.  She complains about how Stacey, the gal before me, had messed up this or that all the time.   I try to make mental notes not to make those mistakes.  Latrisha was there before Stacey, and Margarita before her.  I don’t know much about them; except they had to be incompetent too.  Because in Jan and Fred’s mind, everyone is.

When I had been there about a month, Jan had asked me how I was liking the job.  I told her I liked it a lot.  It’s the truth.  If it weren’t for the fact that there wasn’t a better system or systems in place, and if Fred and Jan weren’t running things, it would be an awesome job.  I didn’t tell her that part, of course.   I like that I’m doing something different.  I was burnt out on social work.

I asked her in return how she thought I was doing.

“Ok” she said.  Not all that enthusiastically.   “I mean, you’ve never done anything like this before.”  She adds.   “At least when we send you to the store to get something, you come back with the right thing.”  She says.  “So you have that in your favor.   I swear, Stacey could never get it right.”   Sorry I asked….

I don’t feel all that encouraged somehow.  Today, I feel even less.

I am beginning to think that I am now actually in danger of losing my job.   I consider how Jill bitches about everyone else who works there (except Kent) and loves focusing on their mistakes.  Why would I be any exception?

I shouldn’t be all that sad or disappointed about losing this job, and I’m not .  Except that I don’t want another spell of being without work.  I can’t afford it.  And, to date, this has been the best paying job I have been able to get.   I wasn’t making what I would like to be, but I was at least making more than Perry, even after his raise for surviving a week.

Quite honestly, I think the only thing worse than working for crummy bosses is looking for a job.  It’s one of the most excruciatingly painful processes a person can go through, and can crush your very soul.  It seems like everything leans more and more in the employer’s favor every day; while people who just want to do a job, go home, and pay their bills are completely miserable.  I think a lot of companies would rather have robots do all the work that needs to be done if they could.  But for jobs that need a human touch, they have no choice but to hire people.  So they just suck the life out of them instead.

I heard a couple of HR people discussing candidates when I was working for the chicken company.  I found it amazing how one was dismissed because they had worked for a temp agency and had not been taken on by that employer permanently.  Could that guy who thinks he knows everything really be that naïve? 

There seems to be this attitude that people who work for temp agencies have something wrong with them and can’t find a “real job.”   That they are just not “hiring material.”   They are not “stable.”   Yet, how is one supposed to be “stable” in such unstable circumstances?  I find that interesting, because I am pretty sure that I should be able to find a “real job” pretty easily…in a different market.

Not only that, but while there are companies who use temp agencies for legitimate reasons; there are plenty of companies who use temp agencies to hide their high turnover rate.  They like the fact that they get an employee who has been tested and should meet their quals, and then they can easily dismiss them whenever they want to without the complications normally involved if they had actually hired them.  They don’t have to be bothered with screening through applications and interviews, or paying for testing or background checks.  It’s already been done by the temp agency.  The company has a set amount of time to either hire the employee on as their own permanent employee, or pay extra fees to keep them there under the temp agency if they want to keep said employee but don’t actually want to hire them.  Or, they can simply find something wrong with them-even if it means making something up, and just move on to the next one.  I am of the opinion that is what Fred and Jill do.  They use you for whatever they can, and then throw you away.  Whether you are doing a good job or not.

Not only that, but they also lie to the temp agency, and to the temp about the possibility of permanency, when in truth there is none.  This is what happened at the ambulance station.  I was told by my temp agency and in my interview that they would like to be able to add another person, if at all possible.  But within a week and standing around with no place to sit and no place to even set up a temporary station, I realize they can’t hire me on even if they wanted to.  Where would they put me?

I think they say this because they want someone in there who is motivated and will do a good job.  They know that a person will be more motivated if they think there is hope in their situation.  So, they are all too willing to provide false hope.

I had this hope when I started here too.  I have my own desk, and office and no one is out on leave looking to come back.   Over time, however, I begin to see that it means nothing.

I left work today knowing I better ramp up my search for a “real job.”   I realize that it’s not wise for me to assume I have even one more day where I am at.

I also realize that working for a temp agency is most likely not the best place for me to be.  I think perhaps it could be doing me more harm than good; and I might be better off at McDonald’s if it comes to that.  More importantly though, the jobs I have gotten through the temp agencies have been the worst jobs I’ve ever had in my life.

I begin to wonder what it would be like if they gave out awards for the worst bosses around the country each year.  Only they don’t get actual awards, they get a roll of toilet paper, because they’re so sh*tty.

Who would I choose?   You’ve heard my story; who would you?

I heard back in my early twenties that there was this business that provided a type of revenge type service.   They carried things like black balloons, bouquets of dead flowers in ugly and sometimes cracked vases; toilet paper rolls that said crass, insulting things on each sheet…and they would deliver these thing to people for you, anonymously! Maybe I need to work there!

I have no idea what I am going to do.  I’m not quite old enough to work at Walmart as a door greeter, but I’m no spring chicken either.   I am at that point in my life where I feel I honestly don’t have the time or the inclination to put up with this kind of thing.  And since I’m going to need to retire in less than 20 years, the time part of the equation is really important.  Whatever I do, it needs to be something better than this.  I am just not sure how much more I can take.

Maybe I should keep the toilet paper for myself, cuz I’m too old for this sh*t.  I just may need it!



One thought on “The Toilet Paper Award

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