28 April 2008

Reticene

I am a gabby girl. Talkative isn't really the word, although it comes close. I'm gabby in my writing, too, notice how often I wander from topic to topic. You don't always see it, as sometimes when I'm editing, I'll realize how far off track I wandered, or that the length of the post is guaranteed to put the casual reader to sleep, so I shorten it up and say less than I originally intended.

Online, sometimes I am more brutally honest than I would be in real life. The perceived anonymity of the 'net leading me to say more than I ought. Outside of the computer, I've learned a few really tough lessons about over-sharing.

Once upon a time, in the Dark Ages, when I worked for Ye Olde Evile Bank, I joined an international women's organization that strives to better each community it exists in. That'd be a no-brainer for someone like me, you would think. One night, at a regular monthly meeting, after an abysmal day at Ye Olde Savings & Trust, I shared a few of the details of my horrible day with the group of "ladies" (I'm using that term as sarcastically as possible here) I sat with at a large round table.

I had been working on an estate with a large funeral bill, and the attorney for the estate had called me with a total number for the dollar amount on the check. The law firm promised to fax an invoice later, and assured me that the dollar amount they gave me verbally was the correct amount for the bill. Accordingly, I cut the check and sent it off through Ye Olde's back office operations.

Of course it was incorrect. And of course, it was too late in the day to get the check back from the processors who were in another city when the law firm called me to say, "oops!" (Ye Olde relied very heavily on a courier service.) And who looks like the asshole in that situation? Me. No one likes to be made to look like an idiot, and I was very upset over the whole situation, and angry with the law firm's lackeys.

From those details above, could you figure out who the stiff was? Who the legal firm was? What city or state the dead person lived in? No. No, you can't. And yet, some 'lady' from that table of women I sat with that evening proceeded to call not my boss, and not his boss, but one step above that, and tell the big honcho that I had broken banking secrecy laws. As you can imagine, working for a department that had the word "Private" in its official name, breaking banking secrecy laws was taken extremely seriously.

What, you thought my old department really called itself the Stiffs Division?

Anyway, I got hauled in to the head honcho's office and read the riot act. For a good hour. The honcho told me that the only reason this meeting was not to announce to me that I was fired was because this sort of behavior was not typical of me.

In my head during this meeting, my inner monologue sounded something like this:

Let me get this straight. You're believing some phone call from some random person about my public behavior over me? I've worked here for seven years. I can't believe that you're taking the word of some yahoo over me.

Or at least, that was part of the inner monologue. The rest of it wasn't as civil as that. Not surprisingly, Ye Olde wouldn't tell me who the caller had been, but as I sat around a table of 8 women the previous evening, and only one had the most tenuous connection to Ye Olde (she was in the financial services industry, and had met the honcho the year before) I wonder who it might have been. Gee. I dunno. Maybe the only one who knew the director? Wow, maybe, possibly, perhaps.

When I got back to my desk, shaken, angry, bitterly disappointed, nearly with smoke pouring out of ears, the first thing I did was draft a letter of resignation from the women's organization. Pounding the keys with all of the frustration I couldn't manifest in a cube farm, (like screaming "MOTHERFUCKER!" at the top of my lungs) the first draft of the letter was a bit less than polite. Eventually, I calmed down enough after I got home that night to hand write a very polite and prosaic letter, simply stating that the time required to belong to the organization presented a conflict with my current employment, and that I hoped at some future point to be able to work with them again. Warm regards, yada yada yada. The only thing that might have betrayed my irritation in that letter was the fact that the fountain pen I use for such missives made a nice FIRM indentation on the paper, so if you had turned the letter over, and you could decipher written words by touch, there was plenty of detail for you to feel. No, I didn't tear the paper, but it came awful darn close.

The truth of the matter was that Ye Olde's honcho who drug me into the office strongly suggested that I resign. An employer can't fire you for belonging to an innocuous charitable organization on your time off, but they sure can (and sometimes do) look for any excuse to let you go if you're doing something they don't approve of with your time off. I suspected at the time, and still suspect, that had I not resigned, my tenure at the bank would ended sooner than I intended, and not by my own personal choice.

That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me as far as Ye Olde was concerned. I had been hunting for another job, just not with vigor and purpose up to that point. After that day, I focused my efforts on getting the hell out of there before they made me into an old and bitter harpy.

A few months later, I handed in my notice when I got the non-profit job. My direct supervisor, who was a wonderful person, knew that the dust-up with my volunteerism had a lot to do with my quitting, but I was careful to not vocalize it to anyone, lest it bite me in the ass one day. Because it was only one out of literally hundreds of reasons I wanted the hell away from the bank.

A difficult lesson. On many levels. It taught me a bitter truth about working with women; sometimes we work even harder than the boys do at dragging each other down, which is a dammed shame. It also made me more reluctant to trust, and a bit more reserved in social situations for a good long while. Eventually, that wore off, and today I'm just as boisterous in a social situation as I always have been. I'm just usually more circumspect about what I say. I keep my venting about miserable days to a trusted few friends, people who I know would never work behind the scenes to get me fired.

It has also left me with a mystery that I suspect I will never solve, until and unless I ever confront the perpetrator. Which would, in a town this small, be social suicide. What on earth did she hope to gain? Was she after my miserable nineteen thousand dollar a year job? I find that nearly impossible to believe. Did she hope to curry favor with the honcho? I really can't imagine what favor the honcho would ever show her, given the negativity of this event. Even people who thrive on the misery of others don't remember events that were awkward and difficult for them with relish, and lemme tell ya, AWK-WARD isn't even close to the tension that was in the honcho's office that day.

I have made a new friend through my current job, a nice woman who has a wicked sense of humor to match mine, and shares some of my complaints about the place, but I've had to obfuscate and be less than 100% truthful with her in conversations I've had with her, because I'm afraid that she'll run to the employer and tell them how serious my job hunting is.

And isn't it sad that an event that happened more than four years ago still affects me that way? As women, we need to stick together and look out for one another. The powers that be at the top of almost any business are men, and even in this day and age, as a professional woman, I've run into more bozos than I can count who think that women belong at home, barefoot and pregnant, or if they are in the office, they certainly shouldn't be in positions of power, being the fragile and emotional things that we are. If I live to be a thousand, I'll never understand chauvinism, or what makes certain people tick.

On the other hand, what a dull world it would be if we were all 100% alike.

The reason I'm thinking about this today? I've been invited to join the organization again, and I'm wondering if I should jump at the chance, for the major networking benefits it offers, or if I should walk away, seeing as last time around it nearly cost me my job. I'm reluctant on one hand, and excited about the possibilities on the other. A bunch of cliche`s, useless and unhelpful, keep running through my head. Once bitten, twice shy. Everyone deserves a second chance. You don't shit where you live. Make hay while the sun shines. Hard work is its own reward.

None of which is helping me make up my mind. Welcome to the street where I live: Indecisive Way!

3 comments:

Dawna said...

Hrm, methinks you should join up. Why not? But be clear about what you want to talk about when you're there. Work issues should always stay at work.

But you can easily vent your issues in a different way- by being wonderfully eccentric!

Okay, you don't need to be eccentric, but it is always a good idea to channel your frustrations into your activity au courant. It is a win-win situation unless there's some no-no clause in the employment/social networking game that I don't understand.

I loathe the stupid mind games and jumping through hoops trying to assume what the person on the other side of the table is thinking so that I may thwart him/her in his/her assumptions. Personally, I prefer to be myself, which is a very unpredictable flight!

No, no one hires me. *shrugs*

Lucy Arin said...

D-
you crack me up. I'd be willing to bet that "eccentric" is one of the more polite things that casual acquaintances have to say about me.

I too would rather be myself. I hate having to conform to an ideal, or something else to 'fit in' and often rebel against fitting in. I'm proud of my unique-ness; if someone doesn't like it, that's their problem, not mine.

Unfortunately, putting a lid on my gabby self is a necessity sometimes.

jazz said...

Well if its a small town then you already know how its gonna be. If the org is a large then do it. I dont know I have a hard time kissing ass when people are asshole just because they can be. Maybe because I'm black and cute I can get away with that, but I usually say what we're all thinking and I'll tell you to your face instead of talking behind your back. I mean if I'm complaining about something that much is it really gonna break me up to get fired? anyhoo go and see what kinds of people your dealing with, for me I like to deal with people that I know are on my page