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“My” New Girl

I hate my job because it doesn’t pay me what I’m worth, on plenty of levels it’s degrading, and it has nothing even remotely to do with my theoretical career path. However, I did like a few things about it, mainly that I never had enough to do so I could fill the void by doing more important things like blogging. I didn’t get the chance to do much blogging, though, because right around the time I decided to dust the ol’ blog off and start ranting on a regular basis, my boss announced he had hired my replacement, and she’d be starting Monday. This was three weeks ago.

“What an unusual set of circumstances,” you are undoubtedly thinking. “I couldn’t imagine anybody who writes so much about cinema and masturbation being anything but a model employee. Why would your boss fire you, then torment you by forcing you to train your replacement.” Well, way to put the cart before the horse, buddy. This all stems from a Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding. To wit:

They hired me part-time, initially. When they found I grasped the job pretty quickly, they asked if I’d up things to full-time. My health insurance had just expired, so I jumped at the opportunity—at first. I dropped straight down in mid-air, Wile E. Coyote style, when they told me I’d have to commit to a full year before they’d pay benefits. I’ve had worse jobs, but at the end of the day this is a shit job that I won’t look at as anything other than temporary (even though I’m not exactly moving on to bigger and better things). I wouldn’t commit to anything, deciding if they wouldn’t pay benefits if I didn’t commit, I just wouldn’t go full-time and I’d buy my own insurance. I could have used the money, but fuck them! This is an example of my anti-corporate indignation hurting me.

Eventually, my boss came to me and said, “We really need you full time.” They didn’t. I was running out of things to do working half-days. “So what, do you think you’ll be here until, like, the end of the year maybe?”

“Maybe,” I said, coming closer than ever before to making an actual commitment.

“Well, if you’re full time you’ll get benefits no matter what,” he said, slyly pretending he hadn’t said something totally different the week before.

“Fine,” I said. We arranged my new schedule and I filled out the insurance paperwork.

Somehow, this conversation led him to believe I had conclusively stated I’d be out the door at the end of the year. He also decided it’d take three months to train the next person; this is based on his previous experience training people to do the job. I picked up most of it in about three weeks, and it’s not because I’m some kind of clerical genius. If you’ve had any office experience, you’d have to be a complete idiot if you couldn’t do this job. He seemed to disagree, so he started interviewing people in August, ostensibly to start on October 1st.

Instead, she started halfway through September. I was a bundle of nerves the weekend before she started, for three main reasons:

  1. I had just trained somebody from a different branch how to use certain online systems, which is the easiest method to use when it’s available, and it’s the easiest one to start people on when you’re training, but because of him I used up all my paperwork.
  2. What if she was really hot? What if I stuck to my usual routine around really hot women and said something stupid, lewd, and/or unknowingly sexist that created some sort of legal catastrophe?
  3. What if she wasn’t really hot—what if she was just hot enough? Like, nobody I’d stumble and stammer around, nobody who would physically repel me—the kind of person who, after many weeks in close quarters, isolated from the rest of the building, would end up helping me turn my shitty little office into a full-blown Sex Cauldron.

There is also the matter of my daily job routine: sit around on the Internet for six hours a day, iPod blasting, ignoring every single other person in the building until they occasionally break up my day by making me do actual work. A new person, sitting next to me all day, every day, would drastically shake up this routine. I can’t sit around looking for other jobs, chuckling at inane blogs, chatting about porn on Hotline, or—most detrimentally—use the time to write, be it an inane blog entry, an obscene blog entry, or—most shocking in its rareness—something worthwhile. It’s hard to talk shit when the person you want to talk about is reading over your shoulder. It’s also hard to write hilarious incest stories and pornographic elegies under the same circumstances. The job doesn’t leave me much time for anything constructive except on the weekends, so I liked having the freedom to do what I liked when I liked (within reason).

All that was gone when the new girl started. Most of my fears were allayed pretty soon after she started—she didn’t care much about being bored out of her mind, she wasn’t even close to being hot, and she talked nonstop about the baby she just had and said a lot of really fucking stupid things. The combination of the two work like an anti-boner, ensuring flaccidity and a total lack of sexual ruminations regarding this girl. She had no problems with me using filthy language, as I often do when badgering people for money, had no music preferences whatsoever aside from “no rap”—she didn’t even care about the comically sexist lyrics permeating 90% of the music I enjoy. I thought things were going to work out fine, until I continued to peel back the onion and discovered one important flaw:

She’s really just…she’s so stupid I’d laugh if I weren’t forced to sit next to her all day and try in vain to teach her. Worse than that, she thinks she’s really smart. She doesn’t understand much of the job, and it’s not because I’m such a terrible teacher. I’m not a good teacher, but I did do one useful thing. I compiled a “book” of standard procedures, how to navigate the archaic AS/400 system, how to do everything online, how to do everything by hand—basically, instructions on how to do everything I have ever done with this job, written in terms so detailed and explicit (yet simplistic) that anybody could follow it.

Her problem? She doesn’t use them. I went through things with her verbally, and she relies on her malformed memory of my teachings, rather than the hard copies right in front of her face. Because, like I said, she thinks she’s smarter than she is, so she never thinks she’s wrong. When she says something to me that leads me to believe she’s misunderstood or misinterpreted something I’ve sad, which happens frequently, initially I’d correct her. She doesn’t accept corrections. Instead, she’ll pause, look at me like I’m the idiot, then say, “No, what I’m saying is [rephrased version of her confused interpretation].”

At the peak of frustration, I replied to one of those with, “What I’m saying is, ‘You’re wrong.'” I believe this is the exact moment she and I both knew we wouldn’t be friends. This doesn’t stop her from talking incessantly. In fact, if I thought she had enough cunning and self-awareness to pull of such a feat, I’d swear she talks nonstop about trivial bullshit just to drive me insane. She seems to choose moments when I’m trying to concentrate on anything but her to start talking about her baby or telling hard-to-believe stories. I surreptitiously increase the volume on the speakers to drown her out, but she just talks louder.

Then, on Thursday the 27th, I thought I had finally won. She didn’t show up for work, with no warning or explanation. I relived the glory days of sitting around, relaxing, and had a great time doing it. Then, she showed back up for one of the worst Fridays in American history—and she personally contributed to the badness of my day.

Here’s the thing: on Wednesday, my boss forwarded an e-mail from FedEx saying his online account would be deleted in two weeks because of inactivity. On Friday, I decided to deal with this, thinking it’d be a nice, light problem to tackle. How wrong I was…

I tried their standard password recovery tool. They said they’d e-mail the password to the registered e-mail address. Sure enough, my boss got an e-mail—

— giving the username. The username we already had. The username I had entered and clicked “E-mail password.” Yeah.

So I tried clicking the other link, the “Forgot password?” link, which asked me the security question: “Where were you born?” My boss barely knows how to work a computer, so he insisted he didn’t set up the original account. He tried putting in three different possible places he was born, to no avail. He figured one of my predecessors entered the place they were born, so we were at a loss.

I said, “Fine, I’ll just call them up and have them reset the password.” No big deal, right?

The FedEx CSR took me through the whole thing, asking for the username and e-mail address, and then she asked the security question—the same security question. “Funny story…” I chuckled, telling her what had happened.

Her less-than-enthusiastic reaction? “I’m sorry, we ask that question for security purposes, and if you can’t answer it, I can’t proceed.”

I hung up and said, “Fuck these motherfuckers! We’ll just use Holland.”

The new girl shrugged: fair enough. We moved on to other things, and after awhile she excused herself. This is pretty common; I assumed she was either going for water to use the can. I continued to work, happy for the momentary peace.

I noticed the new girl had been gone for a long time, but I didn’t give a shit. About 20 minutes later, I went up to the front office to make some copies, and there stood the new girl, at the desk of a girl named Debra. Technically we’re equals, but she did my job for seven years before moving on to sales—she knows more about it than anyone else, she trained me, and she’s really funny and cool. I’d hang with her if she wasn’t 10 years older than me and in possession of two kids. I wouldn’t bug her with trivial shit like, say, recovering the password on a FedEx username we could just as easily let lapse and re-register. She’s the kind of person who will take the bull by the horns even if she really doesn’t have to, then complain about having to yell at so-and-so from a particular company, and how much time it takes out of her schedule.

But the new girl hasn’t been there long enough. She doesn’t understand “nuances” like that; she doesn’t understand that—for the moment—I’m basically her boss, in the sense that she’s clueless and everything she does ought to have approval from me until she knows what the fuck she’s doing.

Also, what possessed her? All I can think is she knew she was doing something wrong, or knew I’d be mad about it or tell her not to do it, which is why she said, “I’ll be right back,” rather than, “I’m going to go ask Debra about this.” But what motivated her to even bother, after the finality of “Fuck these motherfuckers”? Did she think this would help? Was she trying to somehow get me in trouble, get me out of the way? Had I misunderestimated this stupid act? Turns out, I hadn’t. More on that later.

All told, Debra spent over an hour on the phone with various FedEx people, all of whom jerked her around. Apparently, FedEx.com recently merged Ground and Freight accounts into one entity, which has created some kind of chaos. The account for our branch, they say, has a bill-to address in Florida, which makes no sense because we receive and pay the bills. At one point, my actual boss noticed the pow-wow around Debra’s desk and asked what we were doing. Debra gave him the gist of it, and he wrinkled his nose and said, “Fuck them. We’ll just use Holland.”

See? I’m no genius, but I know one thing: he doesn’t care how we transport freight, as long as it gets the fuck out. It’s not an issue of rates or courting carriers or going through a broker or anything like that—he just wants the shit to get gone. I feel the same way, and I felt vindication the instant he said that. I announced that I’d said the same thing before the new girl forced Debra to call them, and she didn’t seem to enjoy that. I thought maybe it’d force her to realize that hey, I know how to do this job, and until she’s at my level, she should keep her mouth shut and just shadow me.

I can’t explain her motivations for what happened next any more than I can explain anything else. It’s either stupidity, a desire to usurp my authority, or perhaps a mental decision she made to try to do something right that day. I kinda think “stupidity” covers the other two, though, because (a) what authority? and (b) she doesn’t know what she’s doing, so even if she wanted to do it right, it’ll end badly.

The incident involved more bullshit. Some fun backstory: I came in Friday the 21st to find a FedEx Ground package on my desk with a call tag. At the time, I didn’t know what the fuck a call tag was; I just knew we didn’t do FedEx Ground, meaning it was a collect shipment, so I had no idea what to do with it. The return address was to Debra’s attention, but she wasn’t in on Friday. I figured it could wait until Monday; I figured wrong (see what I meant about not being a genius?). I asked her, and she said, “Didn’t someone come to pick that up?”

“Uh…no.”

“Huh.”

That was that, until the 28th rolled around and I just wanted the fucking thing off my desk. I asked my boss what the fuck to do with it, and he said, “Oh, that’s where that package is!” He grabbed it and ran excitedly to the FedEx driver, who by coincidence happened to be delivering stuff. And there it is: the call tag alerts our delivery driver to pick something up. End of story. I would have guessed that if the call tag had said something like, for instance, CALL TAG on it. It had nothing but a barcode and two addresses. Way to help, FedEx!

The driver said, “Oh yeah, they canceled that call tag. Here’s what you do…” He gave me the phone number for their nearest distribution center, gave me a department to talk to, and told me to tell them I need the call tag reinitiated.

I did exactly what he told me to do…and got VoiceMail.

“Goddammit,” I grumbled. “I’m just going to wait for Debra to get back from lunch and see if they’ll take it back if we send it UPS prepaid. I don’t give a shit about paying for it. It’s going to Minnesota. That’ll be like $4.50.” I also hate knowing things like that off the top of my head, but whatever. “Besides, if it’s collect, that means Mitsubishi needs to re-initiate the call tag, not us, which means Debra is going to have to get in touch with them. We can’t do anything.”

I went to go let my boss know what was going on, and in that time the new girl took it upon herself to go talk to the driver and let him know what happened. He told her how to get to the switchboard operator to be connected with a human instead of VoiceMail. First, the apathetic FedEx person told the new girl they threw out the call tag and couldn’t reinitiate it, and when the new girl tried to accuse her of bullshit, the FedEx person told her it’s a moot point since Mitsubishi would have to do it.

New girl: 0; Me: 2.

But still, I don’t understand the motivation for her random bouts of misguided assertiveness. I think she’s too stupid to want anything other than to be nice and help, which is noble, but it’s less helpful when you take initiative without knowing what you’re doing. I don’t like battling windmills if I can avoid it. Sometimes they look at me funny and I have to, but normally…no.

Speaking of moot points, I decided the whole thing wasn’t worth worrying about when she didn’t show up on Monday. Or Tuesday. On Monday, my boss said, “She’s not coming in today.” On Tuesday, he said, “She said she’d be off Monday and maybe Tuesday, but she never confirmed so I don’t know what’s going on.”

He called her Tuesday afternoon, and she said she’d be back on Wednesday at noon, so, he said, “I guess if she doesn’t show up, she’s not working here anymore.”

So Wednesday morning rolled by. I got back from lunch at noon, and…she wasn’t there. Thank fucking God, I thought, collapsing into my chair, relieved that the long personal nightmare of training this girl had finally ended. I could show the boss the “procedure manual” I had created and tell him, “Look, I don’t need to train anyone anymore!”

And then she showed up at 1:45.

When I acted surprised, she got all indignant and said, “I never told him noon,” which I knew was bullshit. Even if I hadn’t, I would have known as soon as what she told me next:

“I caught pneumonia from my baby.”

Pneumonia?! Even if I believed she could present with symptoms and have it mostly run its course in four and a half days, she simply baffled me when she announced the reason she was so late was because she was at the doctor’s office, after spending four days with pneumonia! in order to get a diagnosis. For pneumonia! And that she only took the days off so she would no longer be contagious with pneumonia!

So, okay, she caught it from the baby, which meant the baby presented with symptoms first, which meant he’d get diagnosis first, which meant she could pretty much infer when she started presenting that she had caught it. Which basically means, if true, the baby showed symptoms and she waited a week or more to take him to the doctor and find out for sure what was wrong with him. She’s already proven to be the most apathetic mother in the history of time, so this is more reasonable than you might think.

I wanted to laugh because it was so fucking moronic, then I wanted to cry because she thought I’d actually believe it. She didn’t even have any kind of congestion or cough; even if she had had the fastest bout with pneumonia ever, at the very least she’d have shown some symptoms before taking time off work, or had some residual symptoms after she stopped “being contagious”? She didn’t even act tired or worn out—no change in demeanor.

Do I care that she lied? No. I care that she thinks anyone would believe it. I’ve made up more plausible lies to weasel my way to the front of a Dunkin’ Donuts line.

Nobody’s going to call her on it because, the fact is, nobody cares, which is extra reason not to lie about it. The only concern anyone ever showed was over whether or not she’d ever come back.

After my two and a half days of blissful solitude, I decided to take a different approach to her endless talking. Whereas before I’d tried to engage her in conversation as I tried to get to know her, in the hopes we’d get along pretty well, I now know enough about her to know I don’t like her. At all. (And it’s not just the lying and…whatever was going on with the FedEx stuff. There’s the maternal apathy, the ignorance-while-insisting-she’s-right, her unsubtle racism, unabashed-yet-uninformed Bush support—I could go on, but do I even need to?) I want her to go away, but I don’t want to be turned into the bad guy and get myself in trouble. Solution: respond to everything she says with a series of noncommittal grunts. No banter, no “I can relate to that retarded story by sharing one of my well-crafted tales of woe and sadness”—nothing but coldness and unenthusiastic acknowledgment of her existence.

I don’t know if this will “stifle” her enough to make her want to quit, but it’s not even just about that. If I could just get her to shut the fuck up, I’d be okay.

Or, even better, if I could get a better job, I’d be better than okay. More on that next week, hopefully.

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