Archive for September, 2007

This is What I Call A Meeting

September 26, 2007

*naughty cross post alert

Today one of my teams – the abominable one I generally fantasise about pushing under a train – started their usual drama. It really shouldn’t annoy me, it happens every time we have a major client meeting with this team, but each time, even as I watch it barrel towards me with the subtlety of a steam train, I still want to kill people.

“We have a huge client meeting at ten, can you get us ten copies of these eight, 70 page documents by then?” they bleat, pleadingly. (this is at 9:30).

No. No I fucking can not. I am doing other things for other people. You couldn’t do this last night maybe? Then no, screw you all.

The Guv is a little grumpy today.

All this while trying to answer phones and arrange emergency flights for my other boss and other last minute craziness.

Then, after I grouchily drop off the two color documents of the bunch at our print center, to be copied, this same revolting team thrust a Gold Amex in my sweaty palm and ask me to go to “Sports Authority” to buy “five sets of boxing gloves” for a noon meeting.

WTF?

I didn’t ask. But that sounds like the sort of meeting I want to be in! In fact, I demand a pair of those gloves so I can use them tomorrow when they start with their shit again. Ten copies, you say? *PUNCH* When do you need those? *PUNCH* “Never?” *PUNCH* “Good.” *PUNCH*

I resisted the temptation to take that Amex card, pick up a man-whore and fly to Hawaii and instead scooped up the gloves. The woman at Sports Authority looked at me like I was mildly insane. It’s five sets of boxing gloves, lady, get over it.

Oh, oh! Then? Noon arrived. I had ordered full lunch and beverages for eight as per their email request of the previous day. I have had this order verified, authorized and confirmed. However, they called me at noon from the meeting and whined, “We want twelve more of everything, there isn’t enough for 20 people.”

Well of course there isn’t enough, you blathering crotchmonkeys, you ordered lunch for eight. And of course catering yelled at you when you called them to demand twelve more of everything (I noticed you called me first to do it but I cleverly diverted your call straight to voice mail when I saw you on my caller ID) because a) it’s giving the catering department zero notice, b) there’s no one here to authorize the order, c) HELLO it’s LUNCH TIME and they’re all in the cafeteria working, and d) the guy who deals with the orders is out today. Oops.

Amazingly, after a delightful lunch out of the office, I came back to find zero voice mails whining about anything. This made me a touch suspicious that the world was off its axis or something, but it seems to be genuine.

Still, bring on those boxing gloves.

Papa and the Floozy

September 18, 2007

Papa Smurf, who I mentioned in the previous entry, was a strange little fellow. This in itself isn’t particularly unusual for someone at my ex place of employment – hell they’d prefer if you had something signifying your many anti-social quirks on your resume when you applied for a job there, just to speed things up – but his sort of strange was a particularly virulent strain.

He was also short and squirrelly with a white beard that gave him a falsely serene appearance, like a kindly uncle, or a particularly short and less portly Santa Claus. He was, at that point, in the process of flushing his second marriage down the toilet and had five kids ranging in age from early teens to mid thirties but he couldn’t seem to relate to any of them. That was ok though – he couldn’t relate to his colleagues either, so at least he was an equal opportunities incompetent.

He was bizarre in lots of different ways. He had no social skills but he spoke fluent Mandarin, something he’d picked up from his Army days. He couldn’t make a simple cup of coffee but he would sink into indignant furies over grammar mistakes in newspaper articles or people who couldn’t spell. He could be kind and generous and then five minutes later turn into the biggest asshole on the planet. He would never use a one syllable word when there was one with several syllables which would do equally well, a skill which resulted in him firing off elaborate, long, poetic emails to the entire office where people would scratch their heads in wonder and reach for their thesaurus before figuring out what the hell it was he was saying and the fact it could have been said in about three lines.

For all this, his handwriting looked like someone had taped a pen to a skittish chicken. For someone who was high on the correctness of the English language, his penmanship looked like that of a particularly active hospital chart when someone is having a heart attack.

Papa also had a thing for the ladies. After one particularly flamboyant office Christmas party, where he forcefully dragged our receptionist around the dance floor against her will, finally carouselling her into a group of tables and then slow dancing with another ball-breaking, dragonesque, very drunk female executive who kept licking his ear, rumors were flying around the water cooler about his love of the ladies and the liquor.

Also, as everyone knew, he did in fact have a fancy woman. She was in her late 30s, blonde, skinny as a pole and had the sort of high-pitched, irritating giggle that made you want to karate chop her to the floor then pummel her to a bloody pulp. She worked as an EVP within our company and she had Papa wrapped around her manipulative little finger. She would show up numerous times a day, twisting her perfectly blonde hair around her fingers while laughing that laugh and giggling coyly and they’d lock themselves in his office and flirt. At least, she’d flirt and he’d turn a dark shade of scarlet and do really uncharacteristic things like grinning for no apparent reason.

Everyone on the damn block knew about Papa and his manipulative blonde. No one said anything about them out loud but people’s glances and knowing nods said it all. She was young, fairly attractive and eager to climb the corporate ladder and she didn’t want to wait till she was gray and wrinkly to be powerful and influential. She had Papa hook, line and sinker. She also made sure to send timely gifts to Cruella when an occasion presented itself. PR was really the perfect job for her, since promoting her image was her specialty.

One thing she couldn’t seem to do, however, was any real client work. She had a team of lower titled account executives for that sort of thing so she would delegate one of them to scope out a project then she’d go to her yoga class for a couple of hours. People never asked if she was in the office, they asked if she might be expected to come in.

When she became pregnant with her second child, jokes were flying around the place that the baby would pop out of the womb with a beard and an attitude, probably clutching a Cuban cigar and a bottle of anti-depressants.

Which would’ve been unfortunate seeing as how she gave birth to a girl.

The Manipulator finally left the company around the same time I did. She started her own firm and took a few clients with her when she went, leaving a bitter taste in Papa’s mouth and a scowl on his face whenever her name came up.

I guess that was the end of that liaison.

The Real Psychotic Secretary

September 14, 2007

Back around 2000, while working as a “floating assistant” at a PR firm, right before Cruella came into the picture, I used to occasionally cover for the assistant to one of the other partners, a strange, quiet, demonically-possessed little man who looked like a cross between Imus and a Smurf, if you can conceive of such a being. In fact, we called him ‘Papa Smurf’, although not to his face or anything, we didn’t have a death wish.

Papa was quite the oddity. He was an ex-military man – small, bearded and fierce with a softer side which came out only occasionally on those days we had wine in the office.

He also had zero people skills, which for a man whose whole business is public relations and being a “spokesperson” is a little bizarre to begin with. He was known for an explosive temper, for smoking illicit cigars after hours in his office, for his love of long, multi-syllable, obscure words and for not being able to keep an assistant for more than three months.

Inevitably an excited assistant would start work, get weary fast and end up frazzled to the extent where she would either go bat-shit insane, quit or be fired for some capital offense like rescheduling a meeting on a day Papa Smurf had planned to go have a meltdown on the golf course.

One assistant was fired for amusingly sending him in a car to JFK to leave for an important client trip, when the flight actually was leaving from Newark. Oops! These things sometimes happen when you are multi-tasking. They are cringingly stupid even though they are somewhat important, but Papa wasn’t one for second chances, so she was out.

I heard stories of previous assistants who’d wound up crying in the bathrooms over his brutal treatment and others who’d ended up with therapist bills up the wazoo. I witnessed one fiery-tempered ex-assistant having a full-blown, screaming fight with him in his office – actually the entire block witnessed that argument – which resulted in her throwing a box of file folders clean across the room and stomping out. The last words I heard from her were, “you’re a despicable, bitter, filthy little man!” and then she was gone.

So anyway, on these occasions, I, as floating assistant, would be drafted in to cover the position until they found him a new permanent slave.

Now to be honest, he was always nice to me when I sat over there. It was only his actual assistants he treated like crap and as I was doing him a favor, he generally was agreeable.

He was also a man distrustful of computers so he hand-wrote everything and gave it all to me to type up. Pages and pages of what looked like Apache code but which was actually just his crazy handwriting. A million times a day I would say, “What is this word here? Is it ‘pigeon’?” and he’d sigh as though it were obvious and say, “It says ‘Volkswagen’.”

When he finally got his act together and advertised for a new assistant, we had two applicants that HR called in to interview. The first was a very smart, pretty, impeccably dressed black girl, with a friendly manner, extremely polite and very qualified. She just exuded confidence, but not in an egotistical, insufferable way, she just seemed perfectly capable and suited to the job and was organized and together, which is what Papa needed most. Most of his assistants up to that point, apart from the fiery-tempered file thrower, had been timid, soccer mom types who spend countless hours talking about daycare and groceries and who would cry if he raised his voice. This girl was a definite step up. So he interviewed her and seemed impressed by her abilities and her cheerful personality. A second candidate was coming in a half hour later and he’d practically decided this first girl was “the one” but out of courtesy decided he should still meet with the second.

This was a fatal mistake.

The second girl showed up and before she even said a word I knew exactly where she was from – 1985 New Jersey. She was a tall, thin, white girl, mid-thirties, wearing a black and white checkered suit with pencil skirt, heels, short, blonde-frosted tipped hair held in place by so much hairspray she was probably a legal fire hazard and wearing possibly the most severe facial cosmetics ever witnessed on a human being not of the transvestite persuasion. Thick pancake make-up, lashings of ultra white powder, enough eye make-up to frighten Marilyn Manson and thick pale purple lipstick. Her blush arced to a peak on her cheekbones. It was like someone had written down every offensive trend from the ‘80s and applied it to one person.

In the ten minutes she had to wait for Papa Smurf to be ready to see her, she sat and chatted with me. In that five minutes I learned:

She was married for ten years but was now divorced.
Her ex-husband was her best friend.
He still wanted to be with her and was holding out hope she’d reconsider.
She just wanted him around for the ego boost.
She had just started dating her neighbor who lived across the street.
Her ex had no idea about this and she was never going to tell him.
She and the new boyfriend fought all the time.
He was sexy as hell but had quite the temper.
When they had a fight she would bring some other guy home and make out with him in her car in the car port with the car port lights on so her neighbor could see and get jealous.
He had a 14 year old daughter who she got along with just great.
This man would spend every other night with her then creep home before dawn so his daughter would think he spent the night at home.
He gave her killer orgasms.
These orgasms were so “killer” she had a belly ache afterwards for the whole day.
She still used the same cornsilk powder on her face she used when she was 13.
She was a very efficient executive assistant and there was no job she couldn’t handle.
She had to pee every half hour because her bladder was “compromised”.

By the time she went into that room to meet Papa, my head was swirling and I was looking forward to the horrified look on Papa Smurf’s face when she left, because if there’s one thing he couldn’t stand, it was a chatty woman, especially an inappropriate chatty woman.

She was in there for probably 45 minutes. The other girl had been maybe 15 at the most. When she came out she was laughing and he was grinning ear-to-ear and making jokes, which made me think she spiked his coffee or something.

“So…” Papa Smurf said, after she left. “What did you think of the candidates?”

“Well,” I replied. “I liked the first girl a lot. She was really smart and organized and professional. I wasn’t so sure about the second girl.”

“Really?” he said. “I liked her. I think she’s the one.”

And so, to my utter amazement, Miss New Jersey 1985 was hired. And so the famous saga of “the worst assistant ever” began.

I have so many stories about this woman your head is going to spin.

People And Machines

September 11, 2007

When I started working at my current job we were on a different floor of the building to where I am situated now, known as “the dungeon” despite its altitude. It was an executive floor, very corporate and quiet and somewhat drab. This floor housed the CEO and other top brass and their armies of ultra-serious, driven assistants and helpers having constant heart palpitations over minor details.

It also hosted, for the rest of us minions, only one Xerox machine, to share between the entire corporate finance department and the little group of eleven or so people in my two teams, who were stranded on the “undesirable” side of the floor, so war was obviously slated to break out at any second over dibs.

This normally wouldn’t be a terrible hardship; The CEO’s army had their own machine which they guarded like a kidnapped child, so we didn’t have to compete with them, however, the communal copier was a problem of military proportions. We were the new kids on the block; a floor jammed full of veterans who’d been there since Noah docked the Ark. These fine folks were just thrilled to have more people use their precious Xerox and eat up their paper supplies. Delighted they were. OK, maybe furious was more like it. The machine was situated in their territory, at the end of a corridor in a tiny room/closet.

They would monitor our every move. How much paper we used, or toner. If a paperclip was out of place it was our fault. They would tell us off for copying decks with more than ten pages, they would sigh with frustration if they came in to copy an invoice to find one of us Xeroxing an expense report. It was enemy territory and we knew it.

One woman in particular was the main culprit. She was the Copier Nazi, a multi-chinned, scowling, older lady who was built like a brick shit house and had the personality of steel wool. “Do you work on this floor?” she would always yell, with a scowl that says “YOU BETTER!”.

She would literally ask me (and the rest of my team) this question every time we went near their side of the office. “Do you work on this floor? Because if not you cannot use our Xerox machine or be on this floor!”

“No!” I said one day. “I actually work on the ninth floor, I just came all the way up here because I like to touch your stuff!”

She worked at the opposite end of the corridor and she had ears like a wild cat. If you so much as touched the linoleum covered floor with a foam flip flop, she would hear and come charging down the corridor, like an angry bull in Pamplona, to make sure we weren’t doing anything amiss with her precious machine. Every day she’d question us; what were we copying, how long would we be, did we know that the machine belonged to her department and we shouldn’t really be using it at all because they were important and needed it much more, blah blah blah.

We learned to be super-sneaky, slipping in and out of there and closing the door so as not to alert the Copier Nazi to our whereabouts, thus risking the third degree. We would take a look-out with us to the copier and we had elaborate signals should she suddenly appear – things like shrieking, “Oh my God, she’s coming, run for the hills!”

To make matters worse I broke that copier. This is nothing new, I break machines daily. I broke it so badly they had to buy a new one. In my defense, it was old, rickety, and I only kicked it after it had swallowed most of my incredibly interesting Powerpoint presentation on Tampons, validating my actions since it started it.

I went to the only other copier on the floor which is closer, but guarded by even fiercer Copier Nazis – the Copier Nazis who work for the CEO! One must be really stealth when trying to evade the Executive Copier Nazis else they will chew you out like a five year old who’s been naughty, despite a very clear sign in there that states we can use their copier if the other copier is busted and none of the CEO’s army of administrative help are using it to copy their many schedules, party plans or suicide notes. Since I’d newly busted the other machine, I felt I was entitled to work in the lion’s den.

On one occasion I went in there to make ten copies of a short presentation and of course after about 5, it decided to eat the remainder of my copies and caused the grandmammy of all paper jams. Normally, I’m expert with paper jams, because I’ve caused so many in my time, I know just how to take the thing apart to get at the rogue paper. Not this one however. This one was the Alcatraz of paper jams. This one came with a miniature Jean-Claude Van Damme inside, guarding its innards jealously.

So I busted the executive copier. I had to hide under my desk the rest of the day because I was convinced they were all out there with their flaming torches, trying to smoke me out…

It was all so comical. It’s a PHOTOCOPIER, people, deal with it.

Where Bitter Begins

September 6, 2007

If you wonder why the Guv’ner – in real life a fun-loving, silly sort – is a cynical, bitter shell of a human being in journal form, this earlier glimpse into my early job history should clue you in on what got the ball rolling. It basically comes down to this: People are asses, the Guv’ner is God.

After college and before my days wiping the asses of the rich and corporate, I did a stint working in a greetings card store. It wasn’t a planned vocation, it just sort of happened. I had just returned from traveling nomadically in Europe (20 countries in four months – 21 if you count the UK, which really, who does?) and needed to find a fast way to make the rent while looking for a “real” job.

Anyway, I was walking past the store in question and they had a badly spelled sign in the window that announced that they were seeking “candydates” for a store assistant. “Really?” I thought. “That sounds like a hellova good time since I like candy and I like dates and…”

Well anyway. I had rent to pay and no job so I went inside to inquire about application forms and such and they decided to go ahead and interview me on the spot as either they were “desperate” or I was just a fine specimen of humanity they couldn’t allow to slip through the net of top notch “candydates”.

Actually, it must have been desperation since there were no knees in my jeans and I hadn’t washed my hair in about a week although I was hosting a quite spectacular (for me) European tan. So my sun addled brain obviously got confused and I accepted this job paying 3.25 UK pounds an hour (bear in mind this was the mid-nineties, not the stone ages so even then this was slave labor). Even the kids in the Virgin store down the road made at least two pounds an hour more than me, I later learned.

I’m digressing…

So I got this job. At the greetings card store, working for a boss about four years younger than myself, although seriously, she might have looked twenty, but I will swear that goddamn woman was born forty-five years old and mean. She thought she was hot shit. She was married to some sucker who’d lost most of his faculties (clearly) and who was pussy whipped to such a miraculous degree that it was amazing he had the fortitude to leave the house unassisted. She talked about him all day long. Good and bad. I never met the guy but honestly, I plotted his demise the entire time she worked there.

We also had a district manager who was based 40 miles away and came to the store twice a week to check we’d restocked and had the latest deliveries and to chastise us for just about everything. Quite frankly, her main reason for gracing us with her evil presence was to criticize everything we did, anywhere, ever. She was little, blonde, mean, bitchy and would stab you in the back as soon as look at you. Probably literally too. I always hid the scissors just in case.

She baffled me totally because she was pure, unharnassed evil yet she had this live-in boyfriend who would come in to the store sometimes to see her and he was the polar opposite of her in every way. He was a huge, six feet two black guy, built like a brick shit house and the sweetest guy you will ever meet. What he saw in a tiny, frizzy blonde, dwarf witch totally escaped me. Later she let him impregnate her with Satan’s spawn and then kicked him out.

The owner of the store and its four sister stores she “district managed”, was a sleazy, obnoxious, money-grabbing little prick who looked uncannily like a younger Tony Blair if Tony Blair bathed in canola oil, wore pistachio colored suits and talked out of his nose (as opposed to out of his ass). Every now and then he’d show up and complain loudly about everything in a pompous manner that just said to me, “Someone key the sides of my car immediately!”

After a few months, the annoying harpy and her pussy husband got pregnant and she quit. My fellow slave laborer and I debated opening all the tins of silly string in the store in celebration and decorating the place with all the candy colored rubber.

The downside to all this? They made me manager.

Most people with an ounce of sense would realize that making me manager would be an idea as stupendously moronic as having a cat baby-sit a school full of mice. The only thing I liked about the job was bullshitting with customers and playing pranks and making fun of management, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t want to be responsible for cashing up at the end of the night, working holidays, carrying large sums of money to the bank and working long hours and other annoying tasks for zero money or reward. I didn’t want to deal with Miss District Manager (‘Bitch-trick manager’ we called her) and Mr. Oilypants or the older lady who worked part time and had halitosis so bad it was like a garlic-eating dragon was breathing on you.

I ended up spending two years in that job (I call it my “lost period”) hating everyone and everything. I hated the whiny customers, I hated the senior management, I hated the photocopier that never worked, I hated the cards and the paper cuts they gave me, I hated the schmaltzy cards with their saccharine verse, I hated the goddamn, nasty pop tapes we had to play of session artists covering real artists songs, I hated the stupid card reps, I hated the counting and recounting of the money every night, I hated the fact our basement was part of a system of underground caves that the whole city was built on, that smelled as damp as a whore’s drawers and I hated that we kept all our stock down there, and that these caves, completely unknown to city inspectors, who frown quite heavily on such things, were full of giant, not-at-all-afraid rats.

Most of all I hated myself for putting up with it all.

Shortly after I left that job, filled with the joy of knowing I was never going back, I did find out that city inspectors are quite happy to act upon such information should that information happen to cross their paths.

So, really I did learn one valuable thing from that job. Revenge is indeed “sweet”.