Even on the way home yesterday, I knew I was so sick of my new boss already that I didn't know if I could bear going in for more abuse again today.
Yes, it is abuse what she does, and I have never suffered abuse for long. Not nowhere, not no how. Bosses do this a lot, and I've never figured out why, not that I haven't tried. I'm sick of trying to figure it out; I just want a mature boss, for a change. Where ARE they?
Obviously, the work has rarely been interesting enough to overshadow the personalities I've had to cope with. Such seems to be my fate. God knows, poor long-suffering Mr. Squarepeg has been through umpteen versions of the same movie: Me, miserable in my job because of a screwed-up power-tripper of a boss, trudge home every day and spend the evening trying to psychoanalyze the bastard/bitch in the office.
But never, before now, have I had a boss who has spent so much time trying to psychoanalyze me.
This one's a Scientologist, and she's got some twisted stuff goin' on. Since the day we met, I've been hearing about her Scientology shrink (I don't know what he is, but she refers to him the way people refer to their shrink: "My therapist said I need to start taking responsibility for what happens in my relationships." etc.) The first day I came for an interview, she spent much of the time trash-talking the young man who was hovering around, doing her bidding, which was nit-picking and endless, saying he was seriously damaged, was constantly going into his "victim dramas" (an expression I was to hear a lot of) and making hard work out of every little task. She had sent him to her Scientology shrink, though, and was trying to help him come out of his many problems. The guy had an obvious physical disability, the result of a childhood car accident, she told me, and when she spoke to him, it was in a sharp voice, the sort one might use with a stubborn child. She told me right off that I shouldn't be bothered by the way she speaks to him, because it's the only way to nip his "victim dramas" in the bud. A little doubtful, I said, "Just as long as you don't start talking to me like that." She assured me that wouldn't happen. But it turns out grannie's got a bad little habit there.
I'm going to skip all the blood-boiling crap I endured in days 1 and 2, and cut right to juicy day 3. By this morning, I'd decided to keep all conversation to a bare minimum, not answering anything that didn't require answering, nor prolonging any conversation with niceties. It was going to be strictly professional: she jumps, I say how high. Stoicism. No personal or emotional involvement.
And then the first thing she says to me is that she wants to start every day with us doing an exercise together where each of us says what's not working for us, and what is working for us today.
O MY FUCKING LORD, SHOOT ME NOW.
I don't need to give any personal details, she said, and it can be as mundane as "The traffic was terrible." ... just so we get off our chests whatever doesn't relate to the here and now, or something to that effect. This is supposed to clear the air so that we can work with less baggage, I suppose. "Does that make sense?" she demanded.
"uuuuuuhh, not from rational point of view ... maybe from another point of view," I choked out, because all I could think was, "YOU are not working for me, you sad, hostile, angry, arrogant bully!!!"
Since I wasn't forthcoming, she started talking about what "wasn't working for her" -- like the fact that she'd be with the ScientoShrink until after midnite and hadn't gotten to bed till 1:30, so was operating on less sleep than she'd like.
OOOHH YEAH, now I get it. She's spent the evening discussing me with cultguy and they've cooked up some groovy solutions to the challenges I was presenting with my clearly dysfunctional behavior.
I kept hoping the phone would ring and she'd forget about the game, but finally she put me on the spot. And already knowing how this bully operates, I knew it was a no-win situation. Anything honest I could say would be met with defensive attack. So I tried diplomacy on a subject that was bothering me since day 1: "It's not really working for me that we have these long, wonderful lunches, and then you don't want me to leave at the time we agreed on." Immediately she shot this one down (Hey, is this really the way the game's meant to be played by the ScientoCult book?) with, "The long lunches have nothing to do with how long I want you to stay; we've just got a lot of work to do; one thing has nothing to do with the other!"
Uh. Okay. These lunches are command, by the way. She pays for it, she obviously wants the company so she can feel comfortable going somewhere nice, and I'm actually afraid
to say I'd rather not go with her, because I know I'll be met with an interrogation about why. Gracious, she ain't.
Finally we move on. Another crisis, this time involving her bank. She angrily demanded that I listen to the voice options on the bank recording and tell her what they said. I told her I have trouble with those myself, and am often guessing at which button to push, can't translate that fast while they're already giving the next option, and in many cases don't even know what they're saying. This was too much for her. She was having a bad week, and I was the scapegoat. I tried gently suggesting she tell me what she was looking for, and I'd try to guess which option it was, but she demanded that I JUST DO WHAT SHE'D ASKED ME TO DO AND STOP MAKING IT INTO A HUGE DRAMA. This woman is sick. She's a child with a constant tantrum, nicely covered up in that Dame Edna veneer when she's talking to anyone who she's not expecting to be servile to her. Very
I kept my cool, and eventually we, that is I, figured out which button to push. And so the hours passed.
At 3 pm she said let's go to lunch. I decided not to fight it, but that's the last one. We drove to a nice seafood place and she ordered the "seafood platter" (incredible array of crabs, shrimp, squid, octopus in a to-die-for wine-garlic-butter sauce). Even before we began mopping up the yummy salad starters with their fresh focaccia, she started in: "So, how do you like it?" I knew she wanted me to talk about the job, and I so didn't want to, not over this beautiful lunch. "Well? Well? How does it feel?" Like a jackhammer. I had to find something authentic yet non-inflammatory to say.
"It's unremitting pressure," I said very carefully. The big mistake with this woman was to give her any ammo, and, a major-league deflector, she certainly isn't capable of handling any honest criticism. I learned that on day 2.
"So," she said, very pointedly, "Does that mean that I should start looking to recruit someone else for the position?"
Wow, the time had come to tell the truth, so suddenly -- like ripping off a bandaid. "Yes, I think so," I nodded. When asked a direct question, I cannot tell a lie.
This knocked the wind out of her, but her immediate response was, "Thank you very much for being honest." But then she seemed to come to her senses and realize how wrong she must show me I am for apparently having been so dishonest as to take on the job in the first place. I reminded her that we agreed to a trial of two weeks, at the end of which either of us could call it off -- knowing full well that if she wanted me to stay, it would be a terrible blow to her plan. She kept saying, "But I told you it would be high pressure and you thought you could handle it! What happened?" How could I tell her the hard truths about her ugly side? I will leave that task for others. She already has a strong-willed daughter who has "disowned" her, and she's living with that guilt and remorse -- though no doubt cultguy is giving her a hand with that.
Her anger began to build up a head of steam. I was giving her very little ammo, so she seized back on my previous comment. "Unremitting pressure," she echoed heavily. "That's very heavy. Unremitting pressure." She was going in for the kill. "What is pressure? What is this pressure for you?"
The waiter came, brought some plates, removed some plates; another waiter brought the platter. How I hoped she would just eat.
"What is pressure for you?" she bored into me.
"This is a perfect example of it: you're on me all the time." What I really meant was, I can't take being in a closed room with your volcanic energy anymore, but I was TRYING to avoid a personal attack.
"I'm all over you? I'm all over you? What does that mean?" I knew this wasn't going anywhere except explosionville. Staying calm, but feeling completely trapped -- the cockroach in the corner, and here comes the pointy boot -- I quietly asked her if we could please not do this over the food. I mean, what really was the point of ordering this amazing repast and then having a poisonous stinging session over it. Really, is she insane?
The curl of her lip said it all, but the poison flowed anyway. The stream of invective was shocking, but it was all the words I'd already heard her use over the past few days -- her repertoire is not very broad -- so I could hardly take it personally. I stayed quiet, and eventually I think she heard herself and stopped. As she ate, she made a phone call to You-Know-Who, and left him a voice message. After awhile, I made a comment about how delicious the sauce was, and she finally started talking normally again, and we made nice conversation.
And when we went back to the office, whaddaya know? She was a perfect lady all afternoon, no tantrums, no bullying. We just worked together smoothly. It was clear to me that she knew she needed me desperately (until she finds a replacement), and that if she continued with her abusiveness I might not even come back to the office. But how could she have changed her behavior if she didn't have some awareness of how she'd been before and the result it's had?
Just now, I was thninking about her past, all I could feel was a wave of tragic sadness for her. She was one of those very unlucky children who, at the tender age of four, was sent away from London in 1943 with trainloads of other children whose parents were trying to protect them from the bombing of the city. She was the youngest child at the children's camp somewhere out in the country, and didn't return home until the war ended, when she was greeted with a younger brother (who she never got along with until they reached their sixties). That angry child is still living through this grown woman, and the wound is so painful. When I think about it, I can imagine myself putting my arms around her in an attempt at comfort, to stop the suffering bully from lashing out.
All the lonely people, where do they all come from?