A Complete and Total Rant
Following is nothing but me indulging in some random griping about my workplace and stereotypes. I am embracing my cranky, pissy attitude today.
Oh, and it seems that I use naughty words in this. You have been warned.
I have a coworker named Diane. One of the warrant officers. She illustrates to me the meaning of the old adage "like oil and water."
I used to think it was just me. Then one of the other warrant officers had a problem with her. As this other warrant officer tends to be a drama queen, I still thought it was just me. Then I found out that my boss has a problem with her, but for different reasons than I do. So I still blamed myself. Then I found out that her partner has the same problems with her as both my boss and me. So I know longer felt so blameworthy.
If you have not figured it out already, I believe I might be one of the nicest and most accomodating people in the world. I am a pushover. Utterly. My husband is the only reason that I have any gumption at all. (Thanks, Bobby!) Before Bobby, there was a welcome mat with the name "Dawn" on it and people smeared their muddy boots on it all the time.
So I was dismayed that I did not get along with this person. And it's for a stupid reason, really. She is rude. Uncompromisingly rude. I was raised with old-school manners--napkins on the lap, please and thank you, don't interrupt when others are speaking, etc--and she literally sets me on edge. When I answer the phone, I am required (of course) to state the name of our agency: "Warrant Apprehension Unit, this is Dawn Felagund, how may I help you?" When I fail to recognize her number and she gets the whole spiel (whole three seconds because I speak very quickly), she will interrupt me: "Dawn, Dawn, Dawn, it's me. Diane!" Excuse me, but how the fuck am I supposed to know that?
It is such a small thing, but it really sets me on edge.
Each of us in the unit--including me, the lowly research statistician--have State-issued cell phones. This allows me to go out to lunch and leave the office without worrying that some tragedy is going to occur in my absence. We also have a "base station" in the office that operates like a police radio, allowing me to direct connect with each of the warrant officers' cell phones and vice versa. This way, they can tell me when they have arrests or clear an arrest; they can also let me know when they're traveling into a dangerous area and want me to note their whereabouts, just in case.
The base station is literally two feet away from where I sit. I just reached over and touched it without moving from my chair.
So Diane calls my personal cell phone.
This wouldn't be a big deal except that we have a base station for a reason: I am not always in the office. I take off for appointments and vacations, and my boss works in my stead. The calling of the personal phone did not *really* start to irk me until I was off from work one day, and waiting at an appointment, and she kept calling and calling to have me fax copies of warrants to obscure police departments. Finally, I just shut my phone off, but one of the perks of this job is that I get to use my cell phone for personal use as well, and so it saves me the cost of having to pay for a phone each month.
I said something to her about it, and the behavior stopped. Then it resumed again. I said something again about it, and again it stopped. And today it resumed. Again.
So I shut off my phone and waited for her to get the hint and call the base station.
Finally, she did, but she was in a bad area for reception and kept breaking up. They had made an arrest, and I got the guy's name okay, but the destination broke up. So I asked her to repeat the detention center she was going to, and she yelled into the phone, "Caroline!"
So I yelled back, "Okay!" and proceeded to stew.
It does not take a genius to figure out that if you are in an area with bad reception, you can yell until your face is purple, and if the connection happens to break at that moment, the other person is not going to hear you. She is just fucking rude.
I got a bit of satisfaction the other day, though. I share an office with Johnny, who is my boss and the unit commander, and our boss, Mr. Vernon, who is the bureau chief. My title is "research statistician." It requires a college degree, for some odd reason, probably because they don't figure people without college degrees can run statistics. (I could certainly do all the stats that we run for the unit in high school, but then again I went to a magnet school for math, science, and comps and took stats as part of my required courses.) Anyway, the point is that I am not a secretary. In particular, I am not Mr. Vernon's secretary. He left that position unfilled for so long that the State took it away, so he does all his "secretarial" stuff himself.
I do help him out, though, with things like the bureau's credit card bill and the invoices for supervision equipment. The poor man hasn't even started on projects that were due last week, but then again, he let his secretary's slot languish for so long that this is partly his fault.
I mean in no way to insult secretaries or clerical staff. All jobs require a particular knack or talent--no matter how superficial they appear--and have their own difficulties. As my last post indicated, I worked as a server for a while, and it is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, but people look down on it. I do not wish to look down on clerical staff. I resent more that people hear a young, female voice on the phone and automatically assume "secretary," just like people used to see a young, blond female with an engagement ring on her hand approach their table and think that I didn't need a decent tip--I was only working for pocket money after all; surely, my husband took care of all those irritating things like tuition bills and books and car insurance. In fact, being a female, it is not likely that I can even drive, much less have a need for college!
Mr. Vernon works with a woman in our agency, and somehow, she got the idea that I was his secretary. Probably because when she calls the office for him, I answered the phone. Yes, I answer the phone. There are three people in our building. That doesn't leave a lot of options. If I don't answer the phone, my boss does. Yet I don't hear people saying, "Oh, are you Vernon's secretary?" to him.
One day, I got an email from this woman about a "mandatory two-day retreat" in Ocean City. Now, I don't protest a free trip to Ocean City, but I was puzzled as to why the attendance of a statistician for a tiny warrant team would be mandatory, especially since neither my boss nor any of the officers received the same email. I asked my boss about it. He called the woman and asked her, and her answer: "No, Dawn doesn't have to go! We just sent it to the secretaries of all the people who will be in attendance so that they can make note on their calendars."
My boss and I roared over that. We thought it was hilarious! Stupid, ignorant woman--what an assumption!
I kept receiving such emails, chuckling over them, and deleting them. Then, one day, I got a rather scathing email from her along the lines of "When you do this for Vernon, make sure you do it that way." I wrote back to her that I didn't even know what "this" was, much less do it "that" way or any other; had she maybe sent it to the wrong person? There are several people with my last name and the first initial of "D"; maybe it should have gone to one of them? (All sweet and innocent, you know.) And I made sure to sign it, "Dawn Felagund, Research Statistician, Warrant Apprehension Unit."
A few days ago, the woman called me. "Are you Vernon's secretary?" she asked.
"No," I said. "I work for Johnny. I'm a statistician."
"So who is Vernon's secretary?"
"He doesn't have one."
"So do you handle his mail?"
(I just said that I wasn't his fucking secretary, woman!!!) "In the sense that I occasionally pick it up from the mailbox and put it on his desk, yes I do. Do I open it? No, he takes care of that himself."
She got really quiet, said, "Oh," and hung up.
I was elated for the rest of the day.
It seems such a small thing, but assumptions are very hurtful to me. I have been assumed to be this or that my whole life because I'm a woman or because I'm blond or because I'm skinny. You must be anorexic, right? No, I am a vegetarian and active with a high metabolism.... You must want lots of children, right; it's abnormal for women who don't?! Then I'm abnormal because Bobby and I made the choice years ago to be child-free because we see nothing "normal" about bringing children into an already overpopulated world if you haven't the time or desire to care for them.... You must be stupid, right? Well, if a near-4.0 GPA is stupid, then yes, I am. I'm very stupid. Yes, the color of my hair and the size of my chest are the deteminants in my intelligence. Fuck all the tests and classes that I had to sit through. I smile a lot and I'm not missing any teeth, so I must be a flake. Right.
Oh, and I'm married, so I can't take care of myself. So if I'm waiting on your table, then you don't have to leave me a tip. Maybe a buck for appreciation. And if I ask you to give me a raise so that I make more than my fiance because I am his supervisor, then you don't have to take me seriously. What the hell does a purdy lil' thing like me need money for?
Sorry, I am really ranting. It seems that all the shit from many, many years of putting up with this is coming out now. One of the only reasons that I stick with this job is because of the appreciation of my boss Johnny. Johnny has never talked down to me or made assumptions. He won't call me his secretary (because I'm not) and finds it confusing to call me a "research statistician," so he identifies me as either his coworker or his sidekick. Yes, sidekick--like we're superheros or something :) Or coworker, like we're equals, when really, he's my boss and makes twice what I do. And he is working on having me reclassed as a higher level of statistician so that I can make more money--and I didn't even have to ask!
My other boss Mr. Vernon cannot talk to me without leaving five seconds between each of his sentences, like I need that long to translate from English and into Blond. On one hand, I recognize that this is from years of dealing with State employees who are a charming blend of stupid, lazy, and incompetent, and tell myself not to be hurt or insulted. On the other hand, I know that he knows my work and knows that I am neither stupid nor lazy nor incompetent. Yesterday, he had me do a spreadsheet for him, and it took him longer to explain to me what he wanted than it took to do it. It was an Excel document with six columns. I didn't even have to put in any ::gasp!:: data. It took literally two minutes to do, and most of that time was spent going through the awkward process in my version of Excel to merge cells.
I normally love Mr. Vernon; he is a kind and generous boss. But he needs to learn how to talk to people without sounding condescending. Johnny and I make fun of him when he's not here, but it's still hurtful that I could do so much perfect work for a person and still be regarded as unintelligent enough to understand simple conversation.
What it comes down to is that I simply cannot work for other people. Johnny is the best boss I've ever had. After that is Judy, who was the General Manager of The Piece through most of my years there. But I am twitching and going crazy to start my business. I keep thinking of all those moments that are being wasted--like this one right now!--when I could be doing something I love. Today, I had finished my work for the morning by 8:01. My day starts at eight. This is sad.
And I won't have to answer to anyone else's stupid ideas, nor endure their stereotypes and assumptions.
Sorry. Rant over :)