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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

A Complete and Total Rant

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

A Complete and Total Rant

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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 :)
  • :/
  • *hugs*

    All that job talk makes me really afraid of what might wait for me in the near future.


    I hate those assumptions, too. I just love being able to tell people starting to talk down to me about my professional qualification... yes, I am qualified to work as a judge or an attorney or a lawyer... (OK, the state has no job for me and I think one lawyer in the family is more than enough, but I do have the qualification... and that really shuts up ppl very neatly... those endless years of misery were good for something after all...)
    • LOL! Yes, I used to like when I got the occasional guest at the restaurant who would find out that I was in college and asked what I did.

      "Well, I major in human services and biopsychology and minor in writing," I would tell them and watch their eyes cross as they tried to wrap their petty little brains around the concept of "biopsychology!"

      Actually, I had a lot of wonderful guests who left appropriate tips and asked after my school whenever they came in...I miss them and hope the best for them, wherever they are now :)

      But as for the others (you know the type, obviously!)....

      ::insert rude gesture of your choice::

      Well, it's their loss in the end. I have made wonderful friends by abandoning my assumptions when meeting new people, people that I might have written off otherwise. But I suppose that I am preaching to the choir on that one! :D
  • Ignorant coworkers...ye gods, I sympathise utterly. Not so much now, now I work at a craft centre and the rest of the time I make pretty stuff from silver, but oh boy, when I was a cop....

    Picture the scene: (edited, but the gist is there)

    I flick the blue lights on and pull a car over.

    Me: Good morning sir, I've stopped you bcause you have a rear offside stop light out.

    Driver: *looks me up and down* They let women your size in now, do they? (I'm 5'2")

    Me: Yes sir, it's more the size of my brains than the length of my legs, I'd like to see your driver's licence.

    Driver: Awww, c'mon, you're a sweet girl, you don't really need to see it, I'll get the light fixed. How's that?

    Me: Step out of the car please sir.

    Driver: What? You've got to be joking. *getting pissed off* Bet you're a real man hater, that's why you wear the uniform, isn't it?

    Me: *smiling politely* Out of the car, sir. Now.

    Driver: *not realising I have smelt the alcohol* Fine, what you going to get me for, scaring girls?

    Me: *grinning* I'm not a girl sir, my genitalia has nothing to do with it. I'm a police officer who is telling you to blow into this tube...

    *minutes later*

    Me: *as the light on the machine goes to red* Oh dear, I hope you're alright with girls who talk down to you sir.

    Driver: Why?

    Me: Because the custody sergeant is female and the booking in desk at the station is really high...

    Heh, heh, heh. My point is, it's bloody frustrating when people are too damned ignorant to listen to you and make assumptions based purely on appearance, as you say. I've only just met you, but it's pretty clear you're articulate, smart (you a Feanatic, after all) and a nice person who is able to express herself with more flair than many I've met. At least your immediate boss appreciates you, I love the sidekick bit.

    Eru save us from idjits!

    • My, you're a quick thinker! I laughed all throughout that exchange with the drunken asshole driver. I would not have been able to come up with half of those things. (But I tend to be a nervous speaker; I prefer to write, as you can tell!) One of our warrant officers (they are all retired police) and I are pretty good pals, and she got/gets crap sometimes for also being a smallish female.

      (She is also one of the best officers in the unit!)

      Your current job sounds lovely, by the way. Silversmithing? Sounds like a Feanatic's dream :)

    Holy, crap, Dawn, you've made me remember all the crap jobs I've ever had, and there have been a few! But eventually you get to where you want to be, or at least someplace better than this. If I could go back and do it all again, I would definitely follow my dream, and not just take a job that doesn't suit me "for the money". At first, you do need to work for money so that you can save it for what you want, so you just need to keep your eyes on the prize and don't sweat the small shit. I am thinking that with your background and talents, you should be able to land something better than Government, but I'm not one to push anybody into where they don't want to go. Honestly, in the past I worked for several stock brokerage firms, and not only did they pay really, really, well, but they have research departments where they need statisticians and even people with writing and editing expertise to work on the research publications that they put out. I was a research assistant, and I worked with financial analysts in preparing reports on mining and oil& gas companies that we researched in order to find out if they would be good investments for our clients. There are a lot of nice people in these firms, and they value people like you, who have good attention to detail, and do a really good job. That's just one example of what else is out there. And, to make you feel better (I hope) one of my friends who was the editor of the research department publications at one firm I worked for ended up writing a book (a biography of one of the businessmen we used to do research work on - he was president & CEO of a major food store chain), and is now a published author! Mind you, one of HER best friends ran her own publishing company until just recently, and ended up marrying a major American novelist. So I guess it helps to have contacts. But you know what I'm getting at? You can make valuable contacts at companies where you really fit in and where the work is closer to where your talents lie. Anyway, I'm sorry for such a long post, but I was trying to cheer you up. I just hope I haven't made it worse. My point is: there's better work out there!

      Thank you, Digdigil!

      You should know by now that I love long posts! :)

      Yes, Government is tiding me over until Bobby and I get our college debts taken care of and we can put money into our business. It is very hard to get financing for a restaurant because so many of them fail, and so I don't kid myself that I'll be putting a lot of my own hard-earned money into the endeavor. It is just hard, to be motivated and stuck doing nothing. I just rest my nerves to think that I have delayed gratification before, and it has been worth it, and it will be worth it now too. In the meantime, I am learning lots about what not to do as an employer! :D

      And I do enjoy my time here: It gives me lots of time to write and work on my groups, for example. I have met plenty of good online friends through my forays induced by boredom at work. Once the business starts, I will not have this luxury for many years; I will be working all day, everyday, sometimes, and I will long for these moments of relative peace and minor hassles.

      A lot of it is me, too. I cannot work for anyone else. Even Johnny, who is the loveliest boss in the world, gets on my nerves sometimes because I do not like being told to do things one way when I think they should be done another. I have an entrpreneurial spirit, but that bodes well for my dreams, I think!

      Thanks for the encouragement :) ::hugs::
  • So that's something that you can do with statistics, eh? That sounds pretty fascinating. Are you allowed to say a little about what sort of statistics you use? Mom Pony is a stats teacher at the university level and is always keeping an eye out for real-life stats problems to throw at her classes.

    When I was little, I secretly wanted to be thin and blonde and Nordic, because the general assumption was that thin, blonde, Nordic little girls were much more worthy of notice than zaftig dark Jews and should therefore be paid more attention. I've long since grown out of this desire, and from reading about the crap you put up with for being thin, blonde and (presumably) Nordic-looking, I think I'm quite happy the way I am.

    I'm also fairly fortunate in that I've spent much of my life in environments where people either don't think to question the way I live my life, or they're dumb enough to do so only once. No one who matters really seems to mind that I prefer to be unmarried and not have children (especially once I point out the financial advantages to being single), and I think my advisor actually prefers it, since I don't have a family to prevent me from doing homework at odd hours. My parents aren't rabidly eager for grandchildren, and my bosses have all figured out pretty quickly that I was smarter than they were and the best thing to do was to let me go about work the way I wanted to do it and not interfere.

    I guess I'm just lucky that the most common prevailing stereotypical assumption people might make about me (I'm Jewish and therefore from a family that values education) happens to be true.

    Sounds like you need to get into the ice-cream business fast. Then you can drop a cold scoop of Rocky Road down the pants of the next mamzer who makes assumptions.
    • Are you allowed to say a little about what sort of statistics you use?

      Sure! It's all embarrassingly simple, actually (hence the fact that I sit around most of the time and write or talk online) because no one but me has the faintest clue of what it all means. I told my boss one time that we should do our arrest data as a median instead of a mean because the data is so skewed and.... ::blank::

      So I mostly do measures of central tendency (fancy word for different kinds of averages :D) about the amount of time it takes to do things: How long it takes to get warrants, from the moment they're signed until they're assigned; how long it takes the officers to go knock on the first door; how long it takes until they're served, cleared, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of this stuff is just internal checking because government employees tend to be lazy unmotivated heck, there's no nice way to say it ;D

      I run a lot more stats than I am required to run because I am an ubernerd and like playing with numbers and watching the trends on things.

      When I was little, I secretly wanted to be thin and blonde and Nordic, because the general assumption was that thin, blonde, Nordic little girls were much more worthy of notice than zaftig dark Jews and should therefore be paid more attention.

      Yes, I was much blonder as a child than I am now, but I was also really...ummm...awkward looking? Okay, fine, I think I was ugly. I was really skinny and didn't have the best taste in clothes.... My husband and parents insist that I was *not* ugly, but I was. Anyway, the pretty girls in the class got most of the attention. I had a PE teacher who was downright nasty to me and the two other ugly girls in the class (one of whom was my best friend--we ugly girls had to stick together!) and declared us incompetent and made us take "special gym." I lost such confidence in my physical abilities until my mom talked me into skating at the age of 11, but that is a rant for another time :)

      I'm also fairly fortunate in that I've spent much of my life in environments where people either don't think to question the way I live my life, or they're dumb enough to do so only once.

      LOL! Yes, both my parents and my husband's agree with our decision. They know that with the kind of job he has and the kind of business that I *want* (plus the fact that both our heads start spinning at the sound of a child crying) would not be fair to the child. And they put up with us waiting almost nine years to get married...they are an understanding lot! Most of the criticism comes from strangers, which never fails to amaze me, having the gumption to question the family planning choices of a total stranger!

      Sounds like you need to get into the ice-cream business fast. Then you can drop a cold scoop of Rocky Road down the pants of the next mamzer who makes assumptions.

      LOL! Marshmallow + peanuts = revenge!
      • Nifty. I shall be sure to pass that info along to Mom Pony if she needs new stats problems.

        And sometimes I wonder if the total strangers who ask about family plans aren't just trying to make conversation. It's rude, certainly, but I don't think they necessarily mean anything bad by it. Maybe they think it's unusual and want to know. In any event, it's those people that, if they ask, I think up some really creatively far-fetched lie (if I can work in the phrase "transvestite biker nun" at any point, double score for me) and tell it with an absolutely straight face. I'll never see these people again anyway, and it's fun sometimes.

        Anyone who says that all kids are beautiful is lying through their teeth. Babies look like Queen "We are not amused" Victoria, and some kids are ugly little mieskites. Thing is, though, that the mieskites a) tend to grow into their looks, and b) tend to be the most badass people when they're grown and consequently the most interesting.

    LOL!!! I forgot you said you & Bobby wish to remain childless. You go girl! And that's from a mother of 3!! Sometimes (a lot of the time) I wish I had remained childless. There was a time when Ed and I had decided to, and then I got pregnant by mistake. There are definitely pros and cons to having children, except when they just enter their teen years and then all hell breaks loose. The hardest thing for a parent is to lose control of your kids, but ya gotta! It's harder for some than for others, especially for a control freak. My daughter says she is NEVER going to hav kids, and I keep telling her, "Good"!

      I have a lot of admiration for mothers (of course, I have one myself, and I love her dearly!) and I think that it's an underrated job. One of my other LJ friends ::waves to 1lady_so_divine:: has two small children and has made them the center of her life and gives them such love and care...I can't do anything but admire her for that. Unless I would be willing to do that myself, then I would not commit to having a child.

      The kind of work Bobby does can take him away at a moment's notice, in an emergency. The week of the London attacks, he worked a 19-hour day followed by a night shift so that we could keep our weekend holiday plans intact. It is hard enough on me, as his wife, to deal with that knowledge, knowing that we can never guarantee a vacation or time together, but I admire his work and deal with it. It would be an entirely different thing, though, to explain to a child why his/her father cannot be present at a school concert or a birthday party, and I am not willing to do that.

      When my store opens, I will be much of the same. If a manager or employee gets sick and there is no one else to cover, then I must do it. Bobby and I joke that this is probably going to cause hard feelings and arguments between us one day, and it probably will...but he knew this was what I wanted when we married, just as I knew what his job entailed. A child, though, would have no say in this matter, and that, to me, wouldn't be fair.

      I admire mothers enough to know that I could never be one. And for me to say I can't do something must mean it is an insurmountable task indeed :)

      I am surprised how much support some people show to my decision. When I told my grandmother that I wouldn't be making her a great-grandmother, she said, "Good, you don't want children; they're a big hassle." I nearly fell out of my chair. She, I expected, would be the hardest on me. Well, I take after her in my (sometimes) mouthiness, so maybe I got my tolerance from her too!
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