When I got into work yesterday morning, I decided that I should finish what I had started working on yesterday. Since the woman who gave me that stack of work is someone who (a) I actually like and (b) is nothing but pleasant to me, I thought I should get it done in case the talk with the Big Boss that I mentioned yesterday didn’t go well.
Also, when I woke up yesterday morning, my anger and spite had diminished, and I really was at a point where I wouldn’t want to continue working there if I had to work closely with Andrea (as I almost certainly would). On top of that, everyone I discussed this with—friends, family, coworkers—agreed that, since I don’t really need this job and it’s really just a way station until I find something that I don’t hate, I should just say “fuck it” and quit. Even my father voiced this opinion, before I even told him about my plan to save face while ruining Andrea, and he was the one most critical about me leaving Los Angeles and most frustrated about me not finding a job within three minutes of getting back to Chicago. These opinions reenforced my original gut reaction, before the spite took over and I felt the need to ruin Andrea’s life—for fun!
With that in mind, I reshaped my mental talk with the Big Boss to reflect my newfound maverick attitude: I didn’t care about saving my job, although I did care about being outright fired, so within that small limitation I could say whatever the hell I wanted. If it forced me into a position where all I could do is quit, boo-fucking-hoo. If we couldn’t possibly work out some sort of compromise to allow me to continue working without having any interaction—even just, say, running into her at the printer—with Andrea, I’d take a walk.
That perspective can lead employers to bend to your will if you’re valuable enough—remember how I accidentally became a legend at Borders?—or it can explode in your face like a trick cigar. And I’ll have you know, I was wishing it would be a trick cigar that doesn’t fire people after the explosion.
The work I had left took me a couple of hours, and when I finished I handed the stack back to the woman who gave it to me. Then, mustering up my courage—yes, despite my carefree attitude, I was nervous about getting caught in a web of Andrea-spun bullshit that would result in my getting fired and looking like a jackass—I marched to the Big Boss’s cubicle, mentally preparing myself for the gambit.
“Big Boss,” I said, “we need to have a talk.”
She gave me a semi-frustrated, knowing look, and nodded for me to sit down. I sat and explained that somebody—I wouldn’t name names—had made me aware of a conspiracy to get me fired, and that I knew the Big Boss knew the two people who had formed this conspiracy because I had already been ratted out. I said that while I admit (very vaguely) that “on occasions” I would “sometimes” leave “a little bit” early or “once in awhile” take a “slightly longer” lunch, I appreciated her giving me the benefit of the doubt and, essentially, telling the conspirators to go fuck themselves, but the conspiracy itself cropped up certain issues that we needed to address.
“Such as…?” the Big Boss asked, seeming genuinely unaware of any problems that could come from my knowledge of the conspiracy.
“If Andrea comes within 10 feet of me, I’ll have to fight an uncontrollable urge to shout obscenities at her,” I responded. “And that, to me, presents a problem because nearly all of the work I do comes directly from her, and unless you start shuffling around everybody’s responsibilities so I don’t have to work with or anywhere near her—which obviously isn’t fair to anybody else in the office—or you can think of some other compromise, I think I should give my notice.”
She sat for a minute, her head cocked to the side like a puppy that’s just noticed a long line of ants marching on a sidewalk, then looked me straight in the eyes.
“Okay,” she said.
“Okay”? That was it?! No “maybe we could can the temp and have you go back to doing what you used to do,” no potential solution of any kind, no “when you calm down, we should have some sort of discussion to resolve the issues between you and Andrea,” just “okay, I accept your notice, now leave me alone”?!
“Okay,” I parroted, then added, “Thanks,” for some reason, before I went back to my desk. Thanks for not firing me on the spot, I guess.
After fucking around for a little while—remember, a significant chunk of the problem is that I don’t have anything to do, primarily because Andrea doesn’t give me anything to do, even when I ask her, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask her now—I thought I should brave going somewhat near Andrea in order to thank Athena, who both saved my job—I guarantee you if she hadn’t come to tell me, I never would have figured out the conspiracy for myself and would have ended up getting fired within a few weeks of hardcore spying on me—and gave me the courage to finally quit, even though I have very little on the horizon.
When I left my desk, I thought about going to the temp and saying, “You can let Andrea know I’m going to Athena’s desk, then I’m going to use the can; I shouldn’t be more than five minutes, but if I am, feel free to alert the Big Boss.” And yes, I am that mean, but I decided against it. Why be openly hostile to her when I could save my anger and frustration for Andrea?
I thought I should thank her subtly, because even though I didn’t give a shit if Andrea knew I knew about her little plan, I didn’t want her to hold it against Athena because she told me all about it. Maybe I should have even taken her out to lunch or something, but I didn’t want to give her ideas. Not trying to sound like the office stud (I assure you, I’m not), but I know for certain she’s attracted to me, and it’s not that I don’t feel the same for her—she’s another single mother looking for a surrogate father. And much like her kids’ actual father(s), it’s Splitsville for me when I hear the siren squeal of toddlers.
So yeah, I didn’t want to give her ideas. I thought about taking her aside, maybe inviting her to go “on break” with me, and then thanking her once we’ve reached a safe distance from Andrea, but to be honest, I thought as I walked to her cubicle that if I just said something vague like, “Thanks for your help yesterday,” she’d know exactly what I meant but Andrea would remain clueless.
So that was exactly what I ended up doing. She gave a knowing smile and told me it was no problem at all.
“Stan!” Andrea piped up, noticing my tremendous carriage blocking the entrance to Athena’s cubicle. “Did you finish that work in your ‘bin’?”
Yes, this is the same work she referred to last week, the work that started this whole conspiracy mess, the work that I didn’t do two months ago because I didn’t know how to do it then, and I still don’t know how to do it because she never taught me. At this point, two things happened in my brain:
- I realized that quitting and blaming her was the right move. On Tuesday, I decided not to quit because I figured that would play right into her hands—she wanted me fired, so if I quit she would win. Now, I realized what a good night’s sleep had force me to suspect: she never wanted me fired—she wanted the Big Boss to threaten to fire me, or maybe even to say she would fire me but then Andrea would come and rescue my job (at which point I would be beholden to her), because she wants a toady. She wants me ot sit there for eight hours, doing nothing if I have nothing, but certainly not sneaking out. When she says “Jump!” she wants me to be there to say “How high?!” But I’m usually sitting in my car, in a parking lot two miles away, reading a Chandler novel. So my quitting is actually the worst thing for her.
- The anger and spite came back. Oh boy, did it ever come back.
Everybody who knows me is fully aware that I have no skills at all, but I have one magical power that, when used for evil, can simply destroy a person. You talk about emotional scarring—this is emotional disfigurement. Okay, maybe not. Maybe it’s just scarring, but it’s usually something people remember. Maybe not on a constant, I-have-to-kill-that-Stan basis, but definitely in a periodically-flashing-in-their-mind-and-reopening-the-wound kind of way.
I can, most of the time, size up a person and, within minutes of observation (even if I’m not talking to the person—just watching them silently fidget from across a crowded auditorium) size up their character. I say “most of the time,” because on occasion I learn from others (often when bitching about a person I barely know and grossly mischaracterizing them) that I’ve been wrong, but usually I’m so right it’s spooky. And I don’t usually use this power for evil—much like Harry Block, I just exploit it for creative gain—but sometimes I’m prompted or feel compelled to rip into a person, and that’s when it all comes out.
The problem is, when I’m angry at a person, and the compulsion to start yelling at them overwhelms me, I just destroy them. Because part of the instanalysis of their character includes full awareness of their fears and insecurities, and that’s what you hone in on when you’re mad.
So obviously, as I lumbered around to her cubicle and spoke very quietly and rapidly to her, I started laying into her about her insecurity about this job—how part of the reason she wants to “control” me stems from the fact that she’s fully aware that I could do her job with my eyes closed and still sneak out for five hours a day—and ended, through a long procession of obscenity-laced browbeating, launched into a tirade about her fear that her husband is cheating on her with—gasp!—an American woman (she’s Filipino). I didn’t even know about this fear in any specific way. I could just…tell.
And the way she looked at me when I started talking about that, especially her prejudice against “white” people, made me know I was dead fucking right. At the same time I felt triumphant, I knew I was the worst person in the entire world. Incidentally, this magical power is the reason why I instinctively dislike almost everybody on the planet.
After I finished speaking, Andrea said nothing. She just sat there, jaw agape (especially at the end). I turned back to go to my desk and caught a glance at Athena, who I could tell was looking at me the same way I looked at myself: with a combination of pride and horror. Then I turned back around to say what I realized I hadn’t even gotten to—the actual response to her question—so I said, “I haven’t done the shit you gave me because, as I’ve already told you three times, I. Don’t. Know. How. To. Do. It. Okay? You have the invoices, you’re the one who never taught me—you do it!” This was the only time, during a tirade that felt like half an hour (it was more like two minutes), that I raised my voice.
I went back to my desk and, once again, fucked around for a few minutes, at which time the Big Boss came to my cubicle. She told me that I’d made Andrea cry (I figured…) and perhaps I should just go. No hard feelings, she wouldn’t give me any black marks or even give me a bad reference (this led me to believe that the Big Boss felt Andrea deserved what she got from me), but she’s not going to put up with two weeks of me making other employees cry. It was interesting to me that she said “other employees,” not just Andrea. Did she know there were a few other people I really didn’t get along with? I don’t have to work directly with any of them, at least not on a regular basis, so I’d really have no reason to say anything to them, but that’s fair enough.
I thanked the Big Boss, took my cabinet keys off their chain and set them on my desk along with my ID badge. I shut down my computer, grabbed my jacket and slipped away down the stairwell next to my cubicle, as I had done so many times while sneaking out over the past several months.
I doubt I’ll ever see any of these people again—disappointing, since a couple of them (like Athena) seemed pretty cool—but if I see Andrea, I doubt our next encounter will be any better than our last one.