Press ‘0’ for the Attendant

If anything cemented my decision to ditch the last job it was an incident with H three weeks back. One of our board presidents is a financial control freak who had interfered with the sale of a unit at a historic building downtown (the vice-president of the same association refers to her as “that fucking ball-busting harpie,” though I, personally, found her to be a sociable and pleasant ball-buster). This go around she was eager for the sale to go through so that the association could recoup some money, and if it failed she was clearly looking for a scapegoat. Luckily, the attorney proved an easier scapegoat than myself since, over the years, I have learned to use email to cover my ass scrupulously.

That afternoon, H shouted at me to come into his office with the attorney’s phone number so that we could have a conference call and browbeat her. I asked him, “does she know we’re calling? do you have an appointment?” “No! If I had an appointment, I wouldn’t be asking you for her number.” I already knew where this was going to go, because, of course, the attorney would be in court.

H dialed her number. It rings we get her voice-mail. H presses ‘0’ for the attendant. He tells the attendant that Kerry isn’t there and that he wants to speak with her. The attendant transfers us. H shouts, “You fucking ID…” but she’s already off the phone. We listen to the message again. He presses ‘0’, we get the attendant. He demands she page Kerry. That’s against company policy, and we get transferred again. As H is cursing at her, Kerry’s message is already playing again. I shake my head just watching him. This is exactly what he does, but I can’t believe it’s happening before my eyes and I’m trapped in his fucking office having to watch it. I rolled my eyes at the girl who sits outside his office where I used to sit. She, in turn, reached for a bottle of Tylenol and impressively dry-swallowed three capsules. H and I get the attendant again and he asks if Kerry has a secretary. Of course we get the secretary’s voice-mail. H presses ‘0’ again and demands to speak to the person in the office NEXT to Kerry’s. Of course we get that person’s voice-mail.

Finally he gives up and starts up a conversation with me about the board president. “You know there’s something wrong in the head with her, right?” “Really, H? For some reason my sense of scale when it comes to mentally ill behavior is off these days.” “Well, she is! She queered the last deal and now she’s looking for a scapegoat.” I, of course, noticed his word choice but decided I didn’t want a fight. We chit chat for a few more minutes and then this smirk appears on his face. “It occurs to me that I used a euphemism a few minutes ago that may have offended you.” I didn’t take the bait. “I didn’t notice. What was it you said?” [note: with normal people, euphemisms are neutral and not actual provocations, but H would use “queer” as a euphemism]. “If I repeated the euphemism it would definitely be offensive and inappropriate.” “Don’t worry about me. I’m pretty unflappable.” At that point I couldn’t look at his fucking smirk any longer without smashing his smug face, so I just got up to go back to my desk as I lied and explained, “I don’t really think there’s anything you could say that would offend me.”

I think what actually offended me was his puerile attempt to offend me. I don’t care about word-choice. I’m no language purist. But it was obvious he was trying to get under my skin, and the childishness of it was the last straw on this camel’s back.

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