Saturday, April 28, 2012

A while ago

I heard things in passing, in very limited ways.

In June, when they were moving the office, and I was learning that I did not have the IQ (selective memory) for folding up flat-engineered file boxes into their 3D shapes of usefulness), I heard yelling. Profanity. Non-cooperative language, all in one direction.

Do any of you hear yelling at the workplace? Male to female?

Later, after it was July, and after I had, again, gained/lost another year and obtained a "new" job on or around my birthday, he and I were in his car. There were fast-food bags and evidences of children on the floormats, little bits and pieces, paperclips, toys, detritus. I learned that he was not about small talk, that he was not interested in any entertaining listening. He is charming and will ask, "How was your weekend?"-type questions, but more than once we've been talking at the same time, and I am no fool; I know that's not my place. It's not enforced, but, Thank God, I haven't made a mistake yet. I have heard what is said of others who do.

Lucky they, to have someone who is as brilliant as they are = me, to do their most tedious and boring tasks. They learned their lesson with two paralegal interns who were completely non-intuitive and also rote and, in one case, coastingly non-engaged.

When we were driving back from Courthouse Instructional Introductional 101, instead of leaving me any space in which I could ask whether he was aware of the 20-years-ago hourly wage they were paying me — and when, perhaps, I might expect an improvement from $10/hr. — he talked instead of how he knew was perceived as treating his wife.

He said that I shouldn't be alarmed, that sometimes he had to get harsh with clients who were not following probate directions, for example, and also with his wife, who, despite being able to "spot a penny in a million dollars" was distracted and started and stopped things too much, perhaps even had ADD.

During this monologue he brought up the person I replaced, saying that she had hard feelings about his relationship with his wife and therefore did not cooperate in return. Well, I know both of these women, and my predecessor is not wrong. She has been through things that have taught her, and so have I.

It's an amazing fact to see both sides of many things: the obliviousness on the one hand, the acquiescence on the other.

And this week, the wife has used her vacation time to come in and do a job that could have been hired out years ago. One that will be "soon" but is late again already.

He talks to her like she is stupid, and he uses the excuse that "she's used to it" — because the men (presumably) she works for at ____ [large company making food products] act far worse, react crazily, yell and demand.


At the moment I was hearing these explanations, I was in the car and newly "employed." I was much more afraid of bankruptcy and starvation … but within a quarter-year's time, the light is dawning.

He thanks me for whatever mundane thing I do.

He does not thank her.

I have learned that she does nearly everything for their two kids. And, it seems to me, based on things I won't mention, that he only has children out of egoistic legacy BS.

Someday I do hope to learn why they ever decided to be together.

But the other week when it was evident by his conversations that he was not at all supportive or kind. I have a grand talent of not being able to not hear conversations anywhere near me; however, doors should be closed BEFORE one says the most evident things like, "I shouldn't probably tell you this but …" (to the female lawyer he runs to for emotional support on things) or "How are you … did you start? SIGH … / I just want to know do I have to sue someone …" (to his wife over the phone).

I mean, COME ON, I'm a faux novelist, and he was first trained as a journalist. I just don't feel comfortable about being there.

I know I can't change him, and it's not my mission to change her.

Once, when I was teaching in Japan, one of the teachers berated some student within ear-shot of the whole town, it seemed, but only a few feet away from where I was hunched at a desk. Japanese offices are open places. The English-speaking teachers did not feel compelled to tell me what the transgression had been, but the verbal punishment seemed disproportionate to me, nonetheless. Men who scream profanities and condemnations at the top of their lungs make me puke.

Also, such actions expose a huge weakness on their part.

I don't feel personally threatened, but I also feel the solidarity of personhood, and I don't accept being near to such evil.

I don't care if he feels he's helping strangers. Yes, probate law is a necessary evil, and one needs counsel to navigate it. But as it's not a choice, it's not as if there's an innate nobility in carrying it out (for money).

I do know that the one time he did happen to be listening when I said something about myself his face changed. He felt risk. All I said was that I felt oppressed by the personal stories I received and had to carry as a journalist when I was with the weekly paper. He seemed to think I was expressing a weakness of sensitivity that could lead to flightiness that would lead, let's face it, to a bottom-line inconvenience for him (having to hire someone new).

At that job, I don't remember what I do there 10 minutes after it's out of my task-range. I don't forget things that need to be done, but I intentionally erase everything mentally once it's over. That is a dangerous new skill, intentional but unconscious forgetting.


This post's title is original, and it's about six months later still since I first drafted it. Since then, I have had the good fortune to be able to leave said underpaid job under three attorneys and be enfolded once again into a journalism-related position, one with adequate salary, paid vacation time, and benefits.

The "intentional but unconscious forgetting" is not needed as a coping mechanism any longer.

I did have to get over a period of anger (not nearly as long as the anger/sorrow at the betrayal issues at the longer-term last job) though, regarding my treatment there as a second-class brain. Also, after they had raised my hourly wage 25 percent 90 days in, with words of praise, about 90 days later, they sat me down to cut my hours to 25/week "because it's more economical." Not a tragedy in itself, if the ambush meeting hadn't been prefaced with words about how I seemed overwhelmed and frustrated (ie: not lavishing deferential). I pointed out that they were not communicating with each other and thus were expecting every job to be done immediately, something that is impossible, and that they each had distinct working personalities … and that I never left for lunch, and that it seemed strange that more would get done with fewer hours (no, not strange at all; one can sense when one is being edged out). So, yeah, I felt a little abused.

Anyway, the people I work with now certainly have their flaws, but at least I can respect them.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Courthouse Instructional Introductional 101


(one of the CAPTCHAs is 'alleve' - do you suffer from headaches?)