Thursday, March 12, 2009
Growing up Catholic, I was taught two major things in life: Guilt and forgiveness. They’re two sides of the same coin, actually.
The whole feeling guilty about getting into so-called “Trouble” never really registered with me. But on the other hand, I’m often way too forgiving for my own good. And it was because of that, that I’ve had some of the meanest, shittiest bosses one could ever imagine, and put up with them for way too long a time.
The first crappy boss I had was named Glenn. I should have known not to work with him, for I sold my soul the moment I walked in the door to interview to be his assistant. See, Glenn was the head of the Engine Manufacturers Association, the lobbying organization that tried to convince people that SUVs and Hummers were environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient.
Glenn flew all over the world spreading the organization’s questionable science and spreading lies that no doubt resulted in pollution you could choke on in half the cities on the planet. I handled his travel schedule, faxing and copying. And then one day, he got the bright idea to have me – a guy who might be verbally skilled but has tested as “functionally retarded” in science and math – to have me redesign the association’s entire filing system.
We’re talking 40 years, four FULL DECADES, of files covering every engine and environmental regulation known to man. And he explained to me over a lengthy lunch the scientifically complex way he wanted them rearranged. The problem was a) I’m functionally retarded at science and math, and b) I’m 300 pounds and way more interested in the steak on my plate than I was in his formulas.
So I rearranged the files, alright – in a strict alphabetical system. It took forever, nearly his entire two-week business trip, but I got done in time to present to him my…well, my colossal fuckup.
When he came back, chipper and happy from two weeks of destroying the planet while nestled at a conference in the Alps of Sweden, it appeared nothing could destroy his good mood.
Then he checked out the filing system.
“So did you finish redoing the filing, Carl?”
“Yes, sir!” I beamed with glowing pride.
But then I suddenly noticed he was gradually less happy. In fact, he looked gradually more and more concerned, and then pissed off.
“Where’s the TC70 report, Carl?”
“In the T section,” I replied, not aware that there was never supposed to BE a T Section. I had taken the work of men with PhD’s in engineering and combined them in the same fashion that the writers of “Sesame Street” would. It seemed simple, but in reality, my boss was due to face Congress in Washington the next day and the TC70 report was now a needle in a haystack of 20,000 folders to him.
And then it happened, in front of God, myself and thankfully about 50 witnesses since we were part of a giant corporation where the hundreds of Dilbert-style employees were assembled in grids of cubicles: Glenn lost it. I mean, really lost it.
His eyes squinted shut, and his face turned so red I thought he was gonna have a stroke. And then, as I cowered for my life, he picked up a giant red folder filled with a pile of documents the size of the Chicago phone book and THREW IT AT MY HEAD!!!!
I’ll never forget the next two seconds: the way the folder spun through the air, spinning like a helicopter blade as it shot out papers pell-mell in every direction, the shrieks of the female employees around me and the yell of another boss screaming at Glenn, “What are you doing?!” And then I ducked fast, leaving the folder and its remaining contents to smash into the glass of the window behind me before dropping to the floor. That moment gave me an even greater appreciation than most for President Bush’s shoe-dodging skills.
Then, as all hell was breaking loose in reaction to Glenn’s throw, he panicked, ran into his office and locked the door. He refused to come out for the next two hours.They had to bring in HR, then building security and finally the Chicago police in before Glenn came out. But I had the ULTIMATE revenge satisfaction, because he was forced to go on a two-week "Vacation" at an anger-management clinic in the Arizona desert, and when he came back I got a raise and he had to kiss my ass for the next 3 years.
The ridiculous point is, I stayed. And I forgave him. In fact, we became friends and he took me to dinner last summer when I visited Chicago, and I didn’t even have to duck once to avoid having silverware, dishes or a glass thrown at me.But even Glenn wasn't the worst boss I had. That was a woman named Ruth Ratny- you know she's evil just by hearing her name. RATny. She was actually featured on "Oprah" as one of the 4 meanest bosses in America. I will love Oprah FOREVER - and would even vote for her as President - because everyone on staff was able to tape that episode and send copies to their friends and families as ultimate proof that we really were working for a megabitch.But she got her just rewards a month or two later – ironically, after she drove me to a mental breakdown and wouldn’t even give me the day off to recover. So I had quit that job and went on the road performing standup with my best friend Tim for two weeks. And it was when I was checking my messages from Eau Claire, WI that I heard the shocking news from about 50 friends on my answering machine:
Ruth had actually fallen down an elevator shaft and LIVED. She fell two stories onto the roof of the car, which she used to get around the building she owned, and then it careened another five floors SMACK into the basement. She actually SURVIVED. That's when I KNEW she truly had a pact with the devil. Eventually I was desperate enough to come back to work for her and she talked me into a pay cut in exchange for my not having to see the hematoma on her leg. The lowest I've ever sunk though was the time I applied for work at Easter season. The interview consisted of two questions I never thought I'd be answering after getting a college degree: "Are you looking for full, or part-time, work as a bunny?" And, "What shopping mall do you see yourself at in 5 years?"I also applied for a job cutting trees in the Christmas tree lot at Target. They warned me I'd be covered in sap at the end of the night, and I told them I've had worse things happen to me at college parties. But they didn't give me the job, so that means either I failed a drug test without taking drugs, or my credit's so bad they wouldn't trust me with a chainsaw.