Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday, July 3, 2015

Is it me, or do all jobs suck these days?

Recap: After the temp-to-perm job didn't work out because the woman (not) running the company was bipolar and it was taking all I had to keep my tone civil; I had a three-month maternity-leave cover job was fine, if airless and depressing; the echoing silence from the job market was getting frightening, and then I got an intro from my neighbor to a job at the major Boston hospital where he worked. It was as the Executive Assistant to a Senior VP; her assistant was taking a job closer to home.

I loved the folks at my interview, the departing assistant told me it was a "really great job," and they offered me $5K over my top asking price.

I shared a small reception area with two other, younger admins, and the Boss Lady and her Chief of Staff sat in offices facing us. The CoS used to be the Boss Lady's assistant back in the day.

I started, I loved it, I was thrilled. Sure, the commute was a 1:45 each way, but hey! I had a real job!

It was great -- busy but great. The calendar-control alone was a full-time job, but I seemed to be picking it up. I was pretty much left to my own devices aside from weekly meetings with the CoS.

At one meeting, I asked whether she had any feedback; anything I should work on.

"Nope; you're doing a great job."

And then.

Sigh. I'll spare you most of the boring details. CoS comes back from vacation, and things are off. I notice that people aren't talking to me or making eye contact.

CoS and I have our meeting.

"So tell me what happened with this meeting you were supposed to schedule."

"Um, I asked her to look at her calendar with me because I was having a hard time finding a time that worked for everyone. She pointed to a couple of days and said that if the visiting person couldn't make it on these days, to schedule for another time he was in town. She said, 'he's not that important to me.' So when I couldn't schedule a time, I sent a message to all the parties suggesting we schedule for another time when he's in town."

"Why didn't you email me?"

"Because there wasn't a problem. I did as she said."

"Yes, but you don't know that between the time she spoke to you and the time you sent the message, there were other conversations."

"How would I have known that?"

"As I said, you should have contacted me."

"Why would I have ever thought to contact you since there was no apparent problem?"

By now I was more than perturbed, because I sensed An Agenda, and I sensed that I could not win for losing.

"OK, if you are telling me that if, regardless of the circumstances, I cannot get a meeting on her calendar, I should come to you, I can understand that and follow that. But that hadn't been made clear, and I did exactly what she asked."

Didn't matter. She already had the FORM FROM HR where I'd been written up. For doing what I'd been asked. Also tacked onto this was a laundry list of petty crimes that included singing (to the music blaring from Boss Lady's office), talking, and wiping off my desk when an executive was in the Big Boss's office. ("It looks like you have no work to do.")  Also My Tone (she overheard me talking to someone and saying "Yep Yep Yep," When I explained that it was with another admin and we were having a jokey conversation because we got on really well: "You haven't been here long enough to presume that kind of relationship." So how long do I need to be here, exactly, until people are allowed to like me?)

The best part was that the form began with, "We are very concerned that we are having so many problems with you so soon after your hire."

So many problems. Good Lord, Jenkins, she sang along to "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?"! She established rapport with other admins, and she organized her desk after working on a 100-person event so that she could think straight! And she did it while an executive was visiting her boss and totally not giving her a second glance!

Oh the humanity!!!!

I knew what was going on. Boss Lady, who I'd now realized was irrational, was pissed over the meeting (having completely forgotten her directive to me), and so CoS, whose job is to toe the party line, was building a case for my dismissal. The irony was that I wanted them to fire me at that point, because the dislike was now palpable. (Nothing like a tiny office and having people carry on conversations all around you while studiously not making eye contact with you.) When I spoke to admins I'd grown to know in other departments about my situation, they were aghast (my being written up for singing has become legend), and volunteered that there was no way they could work in my department. I'd also learned that nobody in the hospital wanted to work there; the reputation was well known. Go me.

So for two months I sucked it up, responded with "Thank you; I appreciate your guidance" to every snarky CoS email, bit my tongue while CoS held extraordinarily  loud, rowdy conversations about vacations ("BEST. CALAMARI. IN. MY. LIFE."), and basically stopped giving a shit. I was polite, I was responsive, but it was clear that I was phoning it in. I'd been invested, and been stabbed in the back, so now they got the very polite, flat affect that is my version of Fuck You. And they knew that's what they were getting, but I was polite. And I wasn't singing.

And I frantically called recruiters. I was to the point where I was applying to dog-walking companies and housecleaning organizations.

So I got a job as office manager with a startup. Less pay, crappier benefits, but hopefully less hassle. I've been there for two days, and it's OK. All guys, all much younger. Early days. They gave me access to the HR files but neglected to remove the notes about hiring for my position. (Basically, I was not their first choice, but the other person wanted more and had other offers. Great.)

What I like -- and as a feminist I hate to admit it -- is that coming from a mostly-women environment, I don't anticipate dealing with the emotional take-everything-personally BS I had to put up with from women who ran crying if they didn't feel validated enough by me in a phone call, and I will not miss the godawful cliquishness. Or the lack of a sense of humor (when I pointed out that it was amusing that OB/GYN had put in for money to change their carpets, I got blank stares).

I'm not at all excited about my new job. My only hope is that I don't get pains in my stomach as I travel to it each day. The bar is now that low.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

It's spring, I'm working, I have a car.

Yeah, yeah, I need to start a new blog...all the clever Boston or Yankee or whatever names are too cloying, so I'll take suggestions.

So. Been at the new job for a month and a half. Going fine, I'm doing the job, head of department seems to like me. Also working through the apparently inevitable social bitchery that happens with a mostly female office.

I'll explain: I'm not oppressed. I'm not mistreated.

I sit in a reception area with two people, male and female, both around 30. Everyone else is closer to my age. They go to each other's offices, and colleagues visit their offices, and they chat and laugh and howl, and have a generally good time. The times I had information to deliver or tried to make small talk, you would think it would bring the walls down for them to relax or smile, and the invisible force field of the clique that only women can create holds strong, especially when it involves someone like me, who's outgoing and funny and threatens them with potential upstaging. Fine. Again, I'm not mistreated, and when people address me, it's perfectly polite, mostly. But in an office this small, the lack of initiation on everyone's part is hard to miss.

Interpersonal power dynamics fascinate me. I'm sensing from the admin director, who is very bright and very competent, an unwillingness to share a stage. So the rapport I thought I sensed during my interview is something that occurs randomly and on her terms, on her mood. When she needs an audience.

My uncle and I have been watching Mad Men on Netflix, and I'm learning a lot from it. I'm learning how a Peggy Olsen can either cave, or persevere through her pariah status and let her mistakes make her wiser and stronger. I'm learning from Don Draper when to talk and what to say. Or not. I'm a compulsive over-communicator; it's my way of bonding. I'm learning to be judicious in the social overtures I make, and to keep my cards close to my chest.

Lest I sound unhappy,I'm not. I'm so worn out from crazy people at dumb jobs that I'm happy to just come in and do my job and have people save their interactions for each other. There are other people in the place that I get along with well, and I get plenty of social contact there.

Socially, I pretty much hang out by myself. I find I have little desire to make efforts at friendship. People tire me. There are plenty of nice folks at the clay studio, and seeing people there is enough. I'm fine. My uncle helped me buy my very first new car, so I have wheels. Wheels and quiet and a job that will help me get out of debt, and Mad Men on Netflix, and spring is here. I'm doing just fine.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

First Real Day

Yesterday was orientation, where I sat in a room all day and listened to necessary but dry presentations broken by short but moving videos that yes, had me teary, dammit,  and glared at the backs of the heads of people who couldn't bring themselves to put their smart phones away for any length of time.

Today, the person I'm supporting was out in meetings all day, so I met with other supervisors on the team, who warned me that my boss does not tolerate looking at phones during meetings.

"A person after my own heart," I said.

My boss, it seems, also subscribes to the theory that nobody is that important, and that it's reasonable to expect people to pay attention.

We then talked about how it was hard to find people who, although they they know how to text with their thumbs, don't know how to use a keyboard, and once again I had a vision of how easy it will be to take over the world one day.

So right now I get up at 5:30 to catch a ride with the neighbor, who works in the same building as I but whose schedule begins an hour earlier than mine. So no quality nap time on the train or subway for me.

This arrangement is basically because public transport in Boston has been less than reliable. At this week's traditional pre-St. Patrick's Day parade breakfast, a local politician spoofed the MBTA with such slogans as, "The MBTA: 100% on time 20% of the time," and "The MBTA: where every day is a 'walk to work' day."

So until some things change, like me getting a car, carpooling it is. I know my neighbor doesn't want to do ti forever and I get that, but I think I've grown on her and why not? I'm delightful.

This morning I had my first taste of Ideal Meets Real. One of the public hallway bathrooms was out of  toilet paper, so I took the number assigned to the toilet, as indicated by the plaque on the wall, put a Post-It to warn people of the dearth of TP, and called Maintenance.

"There's no toilet paper in bathroom 26A," I said.

"Where is the bathroom?"

"It's 26A."

"Yes, but where is it!"

Confused and somewhat taken aback, I gave the building, and the office number next to the bathroom.


"I just told you where the bathroom is!"

"That office number -- so it's on the 2nd floor."

"Tell them the hallway," one of the other assistants whispered. So I did. That seemed to work.

"What is the purpose of numbering your bathrooms if you're not going to maintain a directory of them, searchable by their DESIGNATED NUMBER?" I asked the assistant. And if you need something more specific, why don't you say, "Is it in an office, a hallway, what?" if that's what you want to know, rather than just asking the same question, phrased the same way?

World Domination. I tell you, it won't be hard.

Friday, March 13, 2015


"Please be advised the JC has completed the initial medical clearance for employment."

Thus read the email I was copied on, informing the powers that be at the hospital where I start Monday that I am an unlikely vector or potential victim of disease.

I had had most of the childhood diseases: mumps, measles, chicken pox, the first two when I was three and ten, respectively, and the last when I was about 15.  I'm pretty sure I've since had the MMR vaccine afterward  to cover the remaining "German" measles.

I contracted measles the same week they were vaccinating kids in my school, back in the days when keeping kids from contracting and spreading horrible and potentially fatal diseases was more important than satisfying paranoid college-educated parents who equate unfounded conspiracy theories and willful medical ignorance with esoteric and secret truths. When I hear of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids, I want to force them into a week of neck and throat pain so bad they can't open their mouth, followed by a week of a fever so agonizing they feel like their bones are smoldering under their blistered flesh. And then have someone open a shade, because then they get the fun brain damage.


Because I had no record of childhood tests and/or vaccinations, I had to go into the Employee Health Office for a TB test and a blood draw for the MMR titre. I did this the day before yesterday, and was told to return any time today so that they could look at my TB-test site.

I decided to use today as a test run of my work commute. To be at work by my appointed 8:30 am start time, I'd cross-referenced bus and train schedules to see, happily, that if I took the first bus of the morning, it would bring me to the commuter train by 7:03, giving me ample time to make the  train that arrived in Boston with enough time to pick up the subway line to work with time to spare, Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Here's what really happened.

I got up a 6, was out the door  and at the bus stop two blocks at the end of the street with plenty of time to spare. Caught the bus, got to the train station, and five minutes before the train was due, the sign flashed that it was going to be delayed and arrive in 30 minutes. I walked to a new coffee shop, had a muffin and coffee (both vegan!!!), then walked back to the platform, caught the train, then the subway, and arrived at my destination a full three hours after I'd left my house.

As I checked in with the same woman I'd met the first time, I suggested that maybe Skype would be a good alternative.

"Oh, people send us pictures," she nodded.

"I could have sent a picture?" I asked. "That would have been cool."

"Where did you come in from?" she asked,

I told her.

Her eyes bulged. "You came all the way here from there just for a read?"

"Yep. I was also using it as a test run to see whether I could avoid involving my uncle, but given what happened today, I'll need to plan on taking the earlier train since any delay on the one that would normally be perfect means I'm screwed in terms of getting in on time, and the buses don't run any earlier."

A nurse had poked her head around the corner of her desk cubicle. "I come in from the South Shore. It happens to me all the time. Everyone who works here commutes. They understand."

"I know, but for starting a new job? Working for [name of person]? I don't want to be That Girl."

"Oh [my boss's name] is AWESOME," said the first woman.

"That whole team is great," said the nurse.

This was great to hear. But still. I don't want to worry about being late. I need to find a better way. There are condos right near where I'll be working. A 1-BR costs only $495K.

I got back to my home town, and, thanks to the amazing transit planning of whoever designed the local system, the bus I needed left the station as scheduled, three minutes before the commuter train arrived. So back to the cafe for some black-bean soup and a conversation with the owner. Then back to the bus stop and home.

I walked in the door exactly five hours since leaving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Heaven is a place with lots of angels, fluffy clouds, and no paperwork.

Because I'll be working at a hospital, the pre-employment screening is fairly extensive. I'm having flashbacks to the sea of forms my then-husband and I had to fill out to get him legal entry into the U.S. Like then, my reaction is a mix of "none of your business!" and "Yeah, I see why you need it, but who the hell has records of their last TB test?!?"  My only recollection of a TB test was being about five years old and watching the pediatrician draw a smiley face around the spot on my arm where he'd done the pricking thing that was the test. So if I'd come back positive, the smiley face would have looked leprous. (Also, what kind of a chump was I that I could have my flesh pierced and be placated so easily.) I can tell you the doctor's name, the town his office was in, but the exact date? Maybe my mother has records in some dark recess of the clutter she's accumulated over 70 years, but if so, the likelihood of her finding it by tomorrow is somewhat lower than her quitting smoking.

The badass in me takes some pleasure in responding to questions about measles, mumps, and chicken-pox vaccinations. ("I got my immunity the Old School way -- I had the diseases. My immunity? SURVIVAL, yo. That's right -- Holla!")

One of the drawbacks to the kind of peripatetic life I've led is that the documentation that defines me is fragmented. The number of doctors and medical centers that have to be involved increases with the lookback time. "Yeah, I now have this doctor, but we only met once. The doctor who really knows me, knows my soul, is two doctors back. We had a good run together, until an HMO drove us apart. Oh, and she's in another state."  You'd think the online patient portals they have now would solve this, but turns out my main records site is being closed down and replaced by another, for which I may or may not have been sent the access code. I've got digital and paper records, but I liked thinking that I could always access my records from a site legally obligated to keep them under top security.

I'm also not good at remembering things like the dates I traveled. I can remember the weather and approximate the time of year, but geez. I've even tried looking back through blog posts, but I disappoint there, also. I'll call SP, since he was there for most of it. He is much better at these things than I. I attribute this to his genetic German love of precision.

Monday, March 9, 2015

And her record remains perfect.

Because of a planned taxi strike in San Juan between 9am and 1pm  in response to the Uber situation, we decided to leave much earlier than originally planned, so that we could take an early taxi and avoid the possibility of missing our flight. In front of my sister, I set my phone alarm, and told my uncle I'd set my alarm for 6am.

In the dark the next morning, I awoke to my sister's hand rubbing my arm.

"JC. JC."

"What is it Jane."

"It's almost six o'clock."

"It's not six o'clock yet though, is it?"


"OK. My alarm is set to six. It will wake me at six."

"Oh. OK."

"Thank you for letting me know, though."

"You're welcome."