I haven’t been doing much else this week except working. The project that I’m working on is something that I haven’t done before. I was asked to write the text and compile the evidence for an accreditation document; a job above my pay grade, for sure, but I’ve enjoyed reaching for the understanding that I’ve needed to put it all together. It’s almost done; will be by the end of next week.
When I left work on Friday, I left a completed draft on the desk of the dean. It was just under 400 pages, and I know there are some missing pieces. I expect the finished document will run in the 500s. I’ve never made anything so big. It was an organizational feat in which I am still slightly in awe.
What else I am in awe about is the help that I received from the staff in the program in which I was working. I don’t work in this program, I work in another area of the Faculty, but they were awesome in maintaining a cheerful, helpful and humourous atmosphere while I asked for documents and gave them more work to do than the day rightfully allows. I could not have done it without their help.
The program administrator demonstrated a commitment to her work that was truly inspiring; students can reach her 24/7 with concerns. She can take care of anything with a smile and a good word. She did a huge amount of work getting together everything I asked her for. Some things she had to create. Her two assistants made time for my requests. I overhead one of them say: “I’ll do anything Margaret asks me to.” I don’t think anyone has ever said that before. I’m going to hang onto that phrase for a long time coming; it gives me a warm feeling.
What a difference it makes, working in a pleasant environment.
The first job I had, when I was 18, was an eye-opener, let me tell you. I was working in the automotive sector (we won’t name names, but if you think I’ve forgotten any of them you’re mistaken) in a parts department with another woman and the manager, a guy. This woman was about 35 and had been there for three years when I came on board as the computer operator. I worked in a little cubicle with the mainframe (it was in the olden days) and she worked with the manager just outside my cubicle. We were separated by a big glass window and a wooden door.
The manager decided he wanted to us to learn each other’s jobs. That was cool with me, I thought it made sense. She didn’t. In her eyes I was this perky 18 year old chickie, who’s hanging out with the guys in the parts room trying to take her job, and more, as we will see. As for what I thought of her, well, she talked about everybody in the place; I knew she was talking about me too. It made me really self-conscious with the other women because they seemed to love her
One day, I came into work, said hi with a big smile (because I really tried to get along with her) and offered to bring her a coffee down when I went upstairs. She said sure. I could tell she was in one of those moods she got in, the kind that led to a full verbal assault on someone not in the room.
I was in my cubicle, playing Star Trek. It was an early video game that I indulged in when waiting for work. I saw her get up, walk around her desk and come toward my door. Shit, I remember thinking….
When she came in through the door, she shut it carefully, turned to me and with her finger pointing in my face she proceeded to run up one side of me and down the other with her tongue lashing out all kinds of verbal nastiness. I was stunned, to say the least.
It went on for some time. I was trapped, sitting at my terminal while she stood in front of the wood door. And she didn’t let up. She accused me of trying to steal her boyfriend (who worked in the next shop). What a joke I thought, as his form flashed through my mind – yuk – did I say I was 18 and he was ancient – like 40. Are you f—- crazy? I thought to myself. But I just let her go on. She was on some kind of rant. What she didn’t know, though, was that the manager had walked into the outside office and could hear everything she was saying. I tried not to look at him while he stood looking over at the window. He waited for a few minutes then left.
She eventually stopped. She told me if I ever told anybody she would punch me in the face. Yeah, right, I thought, as I had this vision of her hauling back and hitting me. I made noises that were non-confrontational. I tried to defend myself, but how can you tell someone that you I think their boyfriend’s gross? I simply said she was mistaken and I was sorry that I must have overstepped my place. I had only the greatest respect for her relationship.
At the end of the day, the manager came into my office. Sly and crafty guy that he was, he began by talking nonchalantly of a project I was doing. He then told me I had to tell him everything that happened. I tried to defer; no, I said, she’s over her mood, and in fact, she could not have been nicer to me for the rest of the day. But he wasn’t having any of it. I heard what she said, he told me. Tell me everything.
So I did. And while I did, I laughed and laughed as a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.
My mother had been trying to get me to quit this job. She could tell that the way I was being treated by my co-worker was having an effect on me. She heard me in the night. And she was right. The only thing I hated about work was having to walk on shells and compensate for this crazy lady. I thought I was taking the higher road by trying to understand why she was such a bitch to everyone, who apparently loved her. Loved her because they were scared of what she’d say about them.
The next day when I came into work, she asked me if I said anything to the manager as she glared me in the face. I told her that I didn’t have to say anything and that he heard her but he asked so I told him. And right then, the manager and his boss, the controller walked into the room, told her to pack up her things and escorted her off the property. That stunned me even more.
Well, it turns out I wasn’t the first person she freaked out on, more like the third. The difference this time was that it was under a different manager and he actually heard her. He told me that she had been making mistakes for weeks and blaming them on me. On purpose. Can you believe that?
Welcome to the working world.
She was one twisted sister. I hope she found some peace with herself and security with her boyfriend. She must be about 65 by now. I wonder if they’re still together?