To All the Bosses I've Not Really Loved Before
This shout out goes to my old boss Irene. If it weren't for her, not only would this piece not be possible, but I wouldn't understand how awful it can be when the wrong people are in control ( I would later fully understand this once Bush became president). Here's to opening up those old wounds and putting a little salt and lemon in there...
“Emily, sit up straight,” my boss whispered out of the side of her mouth as she nudged me in the ribs. Granted this was my first job in publishing, but I think my posture is my business. It wasn’t like I was walking in late to the meeting with a vodka tonic in one hand and a joint in the other and then I slumped down into my seat to take a nap(but wouldn’t that make meetings just fly by?).
I was working at, well, let’s just call it Satan’s Little Workshop. In the two years I was there (a year and a half of those looking for a new job), it’s not so much that I had one awful boss, as that I had four, and that’s not including our evil head of the department. It was like they were transformers and together they morphed into this huge being of destruction and awfulness (so I guess that would make them Decepticons).
I came to New York expecting publishing to be nurturing and rewarding. Even though the pay is low and the overtime is nonexistent, I thought this was my way of giving back to what I had grown up on, almost like giving books a big old kiss of thanks (and yes, that was with tongue). Holy mother of crap was I naïve.
At the helm of our universe of awful was a slight woman. She was red headed and freckled and she looked harmless. Let’s just call her "Fire Crotch". Word around the office was the she had managed to get ahead by using, how show I put this delicately, her vagina. The fact that she found enough straight men in publishing to sleep with is rather impressive, though.
It seemed it was her personal goal to make us, her underlings, miserable. If something went wrong, Fire Crotch relished in finding out whose fault it was and reducing them to tears. She insisted we get into the office at 9 but she didn’t get in until 10:30 which gave her an hour or so of productivity before heading off for her massage, the gym, and taking her child to a Baby Einstein class. During the course of the day, we were kept abreast of her moods and habits by the announcements that would reverberate from her office, like “I’m going to brush my teeth. Hold my calls!” or when things went wrong “Are you kidding me? Motherfuckingshit” she would scream. Yes, a role model to us all.
Fire Crotch also did community service, feeling it was her duty to help with our self-improvement. I overheard her say to one of my bosses “Eating chocolate, Kim? Are you sure that’s a good idea with your ass?” Or “An apple today. Much better choice.”
Even better, her first husband from whom she divorced and received a hefty settlement was Jewish, so she had converted. So now, this brassy, Irish lady with a strong Bronx lilt, would not only pepper her language with Yiddish, but she would do it incorrectly. I had an overwhelming need to throw that mishugana down some stairs on a daily basis.
In addition to dealing with Fire Crotch, there were the four bosses and five imprints that I worked for over my two years there. And maybe you’re thinking, “look at you with all your promotions!” Ah, no. Every couple of months, Fire Crotch would call all of the assistants into her office and discuss the changes she had decided to make. It was more like a very uncomfortable game of naked twister. It would begin with an announcement like “ Jesus. You assistants kvetch me! We need to reorganize things.”
As for my bosses, the first one (the one who corrected my posture) was forced out. My second boss was laid off on a Monday morning with 73 other people. Apparently the company executives had never seen Office Space. Then management made an announcement that there were still several more people that would be laid off that Wednesday. We all quaked in our boots for two days only to find out that it was only one person, who had been on vacation. Welcome back. And then we all got a pep talk that sure, we had seventy-four times the work to do for no additional pay, but “wasn’t it great to still be part of this team?”
My third boss liked to take credit for all the work he made me do. And he took credit for everyone else’s work. I was just waiting for him to say something like “The Bible? Oh, I edited that. Why do you think they call me King James?” He ended up leaving the company due to a nervous breakdown and opened a restaurant in New Jersey with his gay lover. Apparently there’s just something about New Jersey that brings out the gay lover in people.
And maybe now you’re thinking, just stick it out. You’ll get promoted eventually and it will all be an awful memory. It’s called paying your dues. But there was nowhere to go. Fire Crotch wouldn’t promote any of us, she’d just move us around. And I was starting to think: this was some bullshit. I moved to NYC for this? Timing my bills so I could live in an overpriced apartment in Murray Hill with all the other little trust fund babies (except I wasn’t a trust fund baby)? Taking a second job at Starbucks where people would actually walk out with their drink and the tip jar and shooing the homeless out of the bathroom? Going out drinking every night to shake off the day? (Okay, that part was fun. Except when I hooked up with my coworker. And it ended very badly. And everyone knew. And I always ended up in the elevator with him.) I mean, at least at Starbucks I could do whip-its with the whip cream containers when things got bad. (Does anyone else sense a pattern of substance abuse in this essay?)
And finally, after sending countless resumes, many miserable interviews, and much crying, I had a third interview at another publishing house. And the new head of my department looked me in the eye and said, “you know, we try to be very courteous to each other. We don’t curse and we're very supportive.” And I started to laugh a little because it was so far removed from my current situation. I felt like a battered wife. Like someone tried to hug me and my eyes got all wild and I flinched and yelled out, “I’ll cut you, I’ll cut you!”
And when I finally walked into Fire Crotch’s office to give my letter of resignation, I definitely felt like a lot more then $27,000 bucks. “You got goyim coming in here,” she said. “And how do you know how to copyedit, mazel tov?”
“You don’t even know half my skills,” I said, adding a neck swivel to try and make up for my lack of bravado.
“Obviously,” she said, before yelling to her assistant, “Jaimie! Hold my calls! I have to floss and get this piece of damn piece of lettuce out of my teeth!”
And that was it. I didn’t get to tell her all the things I wanted to say. Like “Why do you have to make everyone so miserable?” or “Thanks for bubkes, you stupid bitch.” or “Your face is a piece of lettuce!” But at least I passively aggressively got to rip her a new one in my exit interview. And I even gave less then two weeks notice. Instead, I gave a week and 4 days, because I’m a badass. And when I finally walked out of that building for the last time, it felt pretty good—slightly uncomfortable because I was carrying a big box of office supplies I’d stolen, but pretty darn good.