Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hormones or Homicide?

I'd sent an email to a coworker and copied my supervisor (as suggested by my co-worker, the woman who's training me). The subject was regarding an ongoing issue with a new client, and wording for a document.

My supervisor emailed me back to say that in the future I should just ask one or the other because it looked like I was "shopping for answers."

It's been crazy busy, I've been swamped, and I looked at this email, and it was the last straw.  I mean, really? I've robbed my emails of all personality, stopped asking questions unless they pertained directly to a task at hand (I'd gotten some roundabout feedback that my enthusiasm was great, but I had to remember I'd only been there a short time -- I assume this has to do with my persistence in trying to understand how things work in relation to my job, and since people there can't seem to explain how to tie a shoe without making it convoluted and obtuse, I have to keep asking for clarification. So I've stopped that, accepted that I don't understand half of what goes on around me, and have to resist the urge to. Because apparently my desire to understand is annoying.)

And now, a simple email asking for information from my own department members was somehow impolitic in a way I don't grasp, but there is no way in hell I'm asking why. Because I suspect that whatever condescending, verbose answer I get will be the one that sends me screaming across the table with a letter opener in my upraised fist.

So I asked my co-worker if she had any idea what I'd done wrong. After hearing my story, this sweet, 63-year-old Italian-American woman who says "boo" to nobody, screwed up her face and said, "I don't know what the fuck her problem is."

"Ok, just checking. I've had my leash jerked a few times already and I don't want to ask her. But if you don't know, then I don't feel so bad about not understanding."

Then when I followed the advice I'd gotten regarding my initial impolitic question, I got a call from a snarky insurance broker lecturing me on why the information on the form I'd sent in could not be accommodated. She went on and on  -- oh yes; she's English, so there was that one extra notch of haughtiness in her voice. I listened to her scold me breathlessly and Britishly, and I finally interrupted with, "Hi. Excuse me -- I'm not an Insurance Person. I've been here all of two months, and I was told by my supervisor that the wording I sent was correct."

So we decided that I'd set up a phone call with my supervisor and the broker. (I won't even go into the nightmare that ensues whenever I try to send my supervisor a simple Outlook invitation, because if I did, I think I'd cry right here.)

After lunch, I decided to tackle the copious files that my supervisor had instructed me to box up and send to offsite storage.  I was given a date parameter, and I began pulling files and logging them for storage. There were a lot of files. At one point, I asked the woman who oversees one of our programs whether she wanted me to include her files (they are in the same drawer).  This woman is a bit of a princess, and her manner can be infuriatingly condescending and rude.

"Those files were created before I took over the program."

"Yes, I know, but I don't know whether you want them sent offsite, or whether you anticipate needing them for reference."

"I didn't make those files."

(fighting the urge to wrap today's trendy chunky necklace around my hand and twist until her head came off) "I know. But since you now oversee the program, I wanted your input as to whether it was important to you to keep them here or not."

With a tone that suggested I'd asked her whether she wanted to shop at Old Navy, she replied that I could send them to storage.

I was continuing my chore when the junior analyst came over. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?"

"I looked at the carpet, took a breath, and gave her a smile. "I'm sending these files offsite per R---'s instructions."

"ALL  of them?!?!?"

"No, only these files through 2008.  2009 and 2010 are staying."

"Well, I went to the cabinet, and it's almost empty!"

(The phobia around any kind of change in this place borders on a sort of collective Autism.)

"Yes, there were a lot of old files. I'm clearing space for those." (pointing)

"Oh. OK."

It all reminds me of the time in first grade when my teacher was out unexpectedly, and the school didn't have time to get a substitute, so my class was divided up and sent to various classrooms. I ended up in the room of one of those sadistic women whose choice of career was baffling given how much they seemed to hate kids.

We were instructed to do our work and, when done, to go to the front of the room to the book table, select a book, and read quietly at our desk. Now, I was reading at a much higher grade level, so I'd pick a book from among the first-grade-level books, read it, return it, and get another. After the third trip to the table, the teacher singled me out and reprimanded me in front of the class for only looking at the pictures.

"No, I'm reading the books," I'd explained.

"No, you're not. You can't be reading them that fast."

"I am. I am reading them," I'd said, standing in front of the class,  horribly embarrassed.

"She does read that fast," one of my regular classmates volunteered.

She became enraged, screeched that I was lying. I saw where the power lay, so resignedly, I took a book (they were those paperback books whose shape was cut in the shape of the cover picture and had ten pages or so), and went to my desk. I read it. then I read it again. Then I looked at each picture. Then I read it back to front. Finally, I tentatively put the book back and picked up another.

The teacher had been watching me like a hawk, and she smiled a smug smile. "That's better," she said.

That's kind of how I feel now, except I'm not 6 and don't feel like it's somehow my fault that I'm more capable than I should be.

If I can just keep up the facade for the rest of the year. I just need a year.


Carey said...

I feel your pain. I work for a TV lit agent and am also a writer. It's currently staffing season, so it's a nightmare, so busy that I had to take a break and read a quick blog. It's nice to know I'm not the only creative person going through administrative hell! You're a beautiful writer, by the way.

JC said...

Thanks, Carey; I hope I was worthy of your break time! (My earlier entries are actually more interesting, I think - Chicago was fresh and new and I wasn't in a rut).

I just don't understand why it's so hard for people to be a little bit flexible. My theory is that too few people seek out change in their life, so they see change as a threat rather than an adventure, or an opportunity fr s nice surprise.

What is a "TV lit agent"?

Lee Murray said...

Hi again,
I agree that it's fear of change, but just to a point. It's also lack of imagination, inability to think outside the box, (combine the two and have inability to even imagine there is a box), also most if not all people imagine they're smarter than all others. People like your boss or teacher combine all of the above,I think, probably plus others. I had a fifth grade teacher that yelled at me for reading the dictionary when I'd go look up a word, but she also rewarded me with a Heath candy bar for spelling a arithmetic correctly, not all are mindless buroughcrats. Fortunately. Hang in there...

Lee Murray

JC said...

This woman and the department head took the other admin and I to a belated lunch for Admin Professionals Day. As usual, I was animated and chatty, and we talked about kids (I don't have any, by choice), and my supervisor muttered, "Yeah. You are way too hyper to have kids." I resisted the mighty urge to throw my salad with feta and dried cranberries (delicious by the way) across the room and yell, "DO I REALLY THREATEN YOU THAT MUCH?!?!?" Cripes, how unhappy do I have to pretend to be, how uncomfortable in my own skin does she need me to appear, before she can stop worrying? I've had my high energy and chattiness mistaken for immaturity and lack of discipline before, and I'm done trying to mollify people who can't stand that I actually demand to be happy in my own life.

(And not for nothing, since when is being low-energy a good thing when dealing wiht kids?)

karen said...

I. have. been. there. in that same office, only on the west coast in Vancouver.

I. have. been. there. in a kindergarten class where my teacher told me I wasn't ALLOWED to read (though I could read and comprehend my mom's magazines). Kindergarten students do the alphabet.

I. am. there. My kid's kindergarten teacher is so stuck on programs and rules that all the kids are still reading the "An orange is orange, the shirt is orange, the arrrrrrgh! I tried to talk to her and she's really NICE but she is doing her job.

anyway. what can you do?!?

and ;-) easy on us autistics ... sometimes we're the ones who read early, or beyond our age ... check THIS out:


love your writing btw ...

JC said...

Hey Karen,
Thanks for the post. It's nice to know there are other sane people out there dealing. And great clip! I've read some of her stuff, and I love her. Its great to see and hear her! I believe my sister has autistic traits. I like that she presents autism as just another way of thinking, often a gifted way of thinking.

JC said...

Oh, and your kid is lucky to have a mom who gets the need to expand the mind.