I should’ve known better. It was all too good to be true. My Home Healthcare job that I loved so much? Believe it or not, despite the best efforts of the hag next door, I really did love my job. I got to do word processing, preparation of written proposals or “bids” for contracts, some accounting, some secretarial and every other day I sat at the phones over lunch. It broke up my day nicely. Always something different going on, never 3 boring days in a row. And it was DOWNTOWN.
Sure, it was costing me a fortune to park within a mile radius of the building. Yes, it was a pain to spend over an hour getting somewhere that on light traffic days took 25 minutes. And of course, I had to put up with Godzilla, but at least I felt productive. I learned to pack a lunch. I did my make-up in the car. I economized wherever possible and my bosses took notice. Joanne, the president, routinely called me in, just to thank me for doing such a good job, or for cleaning off her sty of a desk, or driving her to the airport.
Sandy, the Vice President, was hardly ever in the office, as she was setting up a new branch in a suburb an hour from the downtown location. But all of the proposals I wrote, were for her. On her rare days in the office, she would stop by my desk and spend 2 hours talking to me: about motherhood, what a blessing it would be to stay home and raise children, and she gushed over what a wonderful job I did for her latest presentation.
I felt truly appreciated.
One day, after about three months, Koleta came to talk to me. She thanked me for hanging in there. I thought she meant with the harpy across the hall, but she didn’t. Turned out that more than a few of Joanne’s assistants had just “up and quit”, some leaving at lunch and just never coming back. Strange, I thought, given how much I really enjoyed my work. I liked it so much, my boyfriend, who later became my husband, and I started looking at condos to buy. We even put in an offer on one we liked and started the loan approval process. I planned to keep that job for as long as humanly possible.
Initially, I had been hired on as a temp, but they renewed me as full-time when that contract was fulfilled. On my first day, Koleta had informed me about Sandy’s ex-husband. He apparently was one of those “psychos” who lost all custody to his ex-wife and could not even be told Sandy’s phone number or whereabouts for fear he would physically come after his kids. Being divorced myself after a short, painful marriage, I could totally relate.
I kept my word, Sandy’s secrets were safe with me.
Until…I came in one cold morning in January to Sandy sitting on my desk, fuming. I tried to make polite conversation, but all she wanted to do was scream. Evidently, whilst I was manning the receptionist’s desk the day before, someone back in the offices had answered a phone call on Joanne and Sandy’s direct line. It was Sandy’s mother, and she needed to be picked up at the airport. No one gave me the message. No one gave Sandy the message, and due to the no contact rule, no one would give out Sandy’s number over the phone, either.
Of course, she assumed it was me. But as I sit here today, I honestly did not talk to Sandy’s mother. I have wracked my brain for any recollection of that phone call and frankly, the woman had to have spoken with someone else. I could not even recall having a conversation like it. Every call I took was business, not personal, especially since the VP was never there and kept her cell on her at all times for personal calls.
Why she didn’t mention that her mother was coming to town, I don’t know. Why she didn’t know what time her mom’s plane was arriving at the airport, I don’t know. Why didn’t her mom have her daughter’s cell phone number? I don’t know. Who the dipsh*t was who actually dropped the ball on that one, I DON’T KNOW. But try telling that to an irate VP who wants somebody’s, anybody’s, head to roll. And it would have been fine, if she had stopped there.
A one minute tantrum over some imagined wrong I could handle.
But, she started to shriek about how incompetent I was, and people started to stare. She screamed about how I hadn’t done one thing right since I started that job, and people found excuses to open their office doors to peek out. How could I be such a colossal idiot? Now folks were leaning out of their cubicles and straining to hear every word. Thirty of them. Once again, I was as embarrassed as I could be. I could feel my face getting hot, but not with shame, with anger.
Finally, I said, through clenched teeth, “You have an office. With a door. If you have something to say to me, shouldn’t we go in there, like professionals?”
“DON’T TELL ME HOW TO DO MY F**KING JOB!”
I was literally shaking by this point. She would not be consoled for another five minutes. I stood there and took it, believing everyone was against me. They were standing in doorways, lingering in halls, walking by on purpose with stacks of paperwork, just to get a better look. But, no one was smiling, no one was laughing, some had looks of pity on their faces, but most were just waiting for the other shoe to fall. My shoe. This is what had happened before, why all those women “inexplicably” got up and left.
“I quit”, I said to Koleta as she stood, looking helpless, in her doorway. She followed me to the elevator and tried to convince me to stay. I wanted my job, I wanted my condo, (which never made it through to approval because I was suddenly unemployed), and I felt for her, I really did. Now she had to begin the hunt all over again, for the next poor soul who could not be told the truth, either. God only knows how many times she’s filled my position before, or since. But I have an inkling. We simply weren’t getting paid enough to be anybody’s doormat. There is no price-tag on that.