(Photo of THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE stolen from Ingrid Kerma & Kate Palmer)
I hardly ever see her. She isn't there when I show up to work; there's no message or anything. She'll call sometime in the morning. Sometimes she calls the front desk, sometimes she calls me, sometimes she calls The Other Guy.
On a Monday I'll say, "Hi, how was your weekend?"
The response is usually, "Oh, I've been sick all weekend." or "I must have come down with something." or "My plumbing broke down and I've been mopping up water all weekend."
When she calls me her voice often sounds thick or raspy or weak. "I just woke up - I couldn't sleep all night and just dropped off at dawn. I just woke up now." or "I don't know what I did to my knee, but I can hardly walk." or "I'm really dizzy, so I'm trying to telecommute from home." or "I threw my back out last night."
Sometimes she says she's staying home to "work on the budget" or "work on that RFP that's due," or "have a couple of phone appointments."
She says she'll be in at eleven. Or twelve. Or one. Inevitably, that time passes and she's not there. Or she'll call a half hour after the designated time and she'll say she's "on her way in."
She always asks, "How's it going? Is there anything going on? Anything pressing you need me for?" Well, there are lots of little things, usually, but never pressing. And she always sounds so ill, or stressed, or rushed, so you think, well, why take her time up on the phone asking whether she read my email asking her opinion on some trivial matter - even though she's a control freak who has to be involved in every decision.
Once, she was supposed to speak at a morning ceremony honoring a retiree. I couldn't attend, as I had another meeting. At the last minute, my meeting fell through, so I decided to go, being a friend of the retiree. I arrived at the ceremony, and my boss wasn't there. Just before the meeting started, someone handed me a note. She had awoken that morning and "lost her voice" - would I give the speech for her? I had ten minutes to make something up. I didn't see her until the next day.
When she finally comes into the office, usually her blood sugar is low, so she has to have lunch/lie down/ice her twisted knee/have a Coke to settle her stomach. She microwaves her Lean Cuisine, then goes into her office and closes the door.
Then she's got a few minutes in case you need her on any pressing matter - although her mailbox is full of the payment approvals, documents to be signed, invoices to review - a bottleneck you just hope she'll get through today or you can't do anything with those pieces of business.
That document you asked her to review? She lost the copy you put in her mailbox, can you print her another one?
So-and-so up in Finance sent her the latest budget document, but she can't open the attachment. Can she forward the email to you and you can open it for her?
She couldn't input the numbers into the box - she doesn't know what's wrong with her computer - she's printed the sheet and wrote in the changes by hand. Can you type them up for her? She tried to print something last night but she couldn't get the printer to work.
The other day she asked for me to submit a list of blahblahblah, but when I go to gather the info I find that it doesn't quite conform to what she thought it did, so I need clarification on what she really wants. But the list is in preparation for a meeting, and she's cancelled the meeting. So do I interrupt her to get clarification, or do I forget about it?
She's scheduled a meeting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with me and The Other Guy to discuss Some Very Important Thing. We actually had other commitments, but we called and shifted them, because her schedule was so tight. So 3 p.m. comes, and she's on the phone. So we wait and it's 3:30, 3:45, and finally we all go into the conference room.
But she's waiting for another phone call, so after we've been talking for five minutes, she hears her line ringing and says, "I've got to take this call." So we sit with our notebooks and poised pens, waiting.
She comes back and Some Very Important Thing has been given a lesser priority. We're told things are changing and we need to prepare for an increased workload. A meeting will take place sometime next week with more information, we're told. "What can we do to prepare for the meeting, is there any info we need to gather?" we ask.
No. So other than imparting an ominous sense of stress, she's done nothing for us this afternoon.
She only has an hour remaining, she has an appointment at 5:00. She leaves the office. Will she be in tomorrow? She'll call in the morning, she says, and let us know when she's coming in.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
(Graphic stolen from this site)
I was once a part of an on-line forum. The subject matter isn't important, nor is the back door reason I joined the group. I joined this social media group about five years ago, maybe a little less, back when Facebook was not an issue and the only people on MySpace were teens.
I joined this on-line forum, made up mostly of women, though not entirely. We had a great time: joking, sharing photos, starting new threads (both germane to our overall topic and not), discussing things, planning crazy stuff we knew we'd never actually do, and getting to know each other personally. And fighting. You would NOT believe the fighting.
Or maybe you would believe it. Have you ever gotten dozens of women together for any great period of time? It's a frightening thought, I know, in the best of circumstances. Throw in one or two shit disturbers, maybe a troll or three, and the whole forum would go up in smoke in minutes. The site was shut down for days (once weeks) at a time fairly regularly.
But I almost always stayed out of it. I don't like fighting, and I'd either find someone neutral to play with or I'd leave. Unless, of course, I felt like stirring some shit myself, by poking at an intellectually challenged troll with a stick. Go ahead, Troll -- send up another lob for me. SMASH! Some things are just too tempting to resist.
Then one day I jumped into the fray with both feet. As I watched what was happening on the forum, I was so angry I was shaking. One very dim-witted poster (I'll call her Saint Ann) was passive-aggressively pushing a very painful button for another poster. Push, push, push. We begged her to stop. I e-mailed Saint Ann privately to say that I thought she might be unaware of what she was truly doing, but there was a lot more to the story and would she please stop? All of our efforts were not only dismissed by Saint Ann, but also actually served to strengthen her relentless attack.
Why do I care? I wondered. Why can't I walk away from this like I've ignored most of the others? Because someone is being hurt by this attack, someone I care about, was my answer to myself.
Nothing I knew to do was working. It was time for something drastic. I opened a new thread and typed in the title:
Dear Saint Ann: I Don't Like You
My head hurt, my throat hurt, my stomach hurt. Yes, I know how that thread title sounds, but I had a very specific reason for doing it: I was changing the subject. Now the focus was on ME, and how awful I was, or how brave, or wow, I never knew she was such a turd in the punch bowl or Really? Because I always knew she was a turd in the punch bowl!
I sacrificed my integrity on the board. Did it work? Pretty well. The pinnacle of nastiness was soon reached, and then died out. I was tarnished, but the focus had been removed from my friend. I certainly didn't do it alone, but I felt the need to throw myself under the bus for a friend. Dear Saint Ann: I don't like you. The follow-up words I chose were unheated and straightforward, with no name-calling or swearing, but they had to hurt, and I intended them to hurt. Yes, I was definitely a turd that day. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
I later apologized for my tactics, but not for my words. I made sure Saint Ann knew that I meant what I said. I held my tongue and kept my distance after that.
I left the forum a few months later, never to return. I miss a lot of friends there, but I do keep in touch with some of them. One or two read my blog and comment, occasionally.
The friend who was the original target of all of the ugliness quietly passed away last year, of the disease she had so fiercely guarded -- the same disease Saint Ann was trying so childishly to expose to the world. Wounds have healed with time but forgetting doesn't come so easily.
And this is why war will never end.