Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Manatee, Part I

Dooce recently had a post up about the second anniversary of losing her job, and asked people to write in with the most insane thing your boss every said to you. Well, I couldn't resist that one, and if you want a really good laugh (and a sense of complete disgust for the sexist assholes that work in the average American workplace), you should plant yourself in front of that post for a good read. It's fascinating.

Besides prompting me to join the fray and add my contribution, her post got me thinking about all of the insane, sick, unfortunate things that have happened to me at work over the years, and I have to say that hands down, the sickest boss I ever had was the one before the current sainted one. (Sometimes, friends or acquaintances will even comment in a bitterly jealous tone about how lucky I am to have such a great boss, and how I don't know how good I have it, to which I immediately shut them down by reminding them of the long line of sick bastards that came before her coated with the name "Boss", and I finish up by saying, "I EARNED her, dammit!" And boy howdy, did I ever. Ahem. I digress.)

The one before the sainted one was some piece of work. A mess of narcissism, self-entitlement, "Daddy never loved me" blues and nymphomania, all rolled into one incredibly short and unattractively tight business suit, cut up to here and down to there. She was just a little too old and a little too heavy to be heaving her ample figure into such form-fitting and overly sexual garb for the office, but I wasn't about to be the one to tell her that. The best way to describe the effect was coined by my brother, who would refer to her as "The Manatee" behind her back. Mean, but fitting. Picture a manatee on high heels, all long lacquered nails and overdone eye makeup, splashing coffee all over the floor on her way into the office late every morning.

It was weird to be so much younger than her, and yet feel sort of dowdy by comparison. I mean, I believe that during the work day, it's a smart move to dress as close to the company culture as possible, and so I was much more in line with the rest of the place than she. Lead with your skills and ideas, rather than your bosom, I say. But it wasn't nearly so much what she wore that made her trashy, but how she behaved, and that was as an out of control egomaniacal bitch.

Oh, where to start on the stories? How about the time that she decided to have an affair with her best friend's husband? It seems that she and her husband socialized with her best friend and her husband fairly regularly, and much of this socialization was lubricated with alcohol. Alcohol plus nymphomaniac equals lusty chat with her friend's husband suggesting some wife-swapping fun for all four. When their respective spouses balked at the idea, The Manatee and her friend's faithless husband The Cad decided the idea was too delicious to let it drop, and so they went ahead and swapped anyway.

I know all this for fact, because The Manatee seemed to love to tell me all about her sexcapades, even when her partners in crime were doing their darnedest to be discreet, a word not in her vocabulary. The Cad would stop by to see her at work, they would chat like close friends for a little while, and as soon as he would leave, she would turn around and dangle the hotel room key he had slipped her and laugh towards me, as if I would join in and be happy for her that she was going to go step out on her husband later. I mean, her husband was no prize either, a real sad sack with a crappy disposition and an apparent inability to be friendly, but still, he didn't deserve her gleeful and completely unremorseful cackle over her room key prize.

After one or two of these trysts, she decided that she had better keep her affair kit here in the office, so she'd be ready whenever The Cad might stop by with a key. The affair kit consisted of a crumpled brown bag containing some red lingerie and a bottle of cinnamon schnapps, so she could take a few slugs in the office to get her fire going, before leaving for the hotel where she'd be getting his fire going. I remember thinking at the time how appropriate her choice of drink was, Sin-ammon. The affair kit was stuffed in a cabinet right in front of my desk, and after a while, The Cad's picture actually showed up on her desk in a small frame. I often wondered how she had the nerve to keep this up while the two couples continued their socializing.

The jig was up, however, when her husband caught a whiff of something afoot, and found her car in the hotel parking lot one day, next to The Cad's. Or was it that he hired a private detective? I can't remember which, and I might be mixing it up with another of her affairs, but either way, she was snagged.

Now, here's the part that killed me. She decided, in her richly convoluted way, that since she was caught dead to rights in the affair, that she was not going to swing for this misdeed alone. She thought that if she was going to get in trouble, so should The Cad. In their co-dependent dementia, both The Manatee and Mr. Manatee thought that was a good idea, and one of them called The Cad's wife and told her about the one-sided swinging. The Cad denied all wrongdoing, and the wife chose to believe him. Well, this infuriated the Manatee to such a degree, that the only reasonable course of action was to get revenge on them both.

Apparently, Mr. Manatee had done the accounting for one of the wealthy Cad's businesses, and knew that he was actually keeping two sets of books. Since Mr. Manatee made the mistake of mentioning that to The Manatee while they were still on good terms, she decided that all was fair game, and she called the I.R.S. and told them everything she knew about The Cad's creative accounting. Interesting strategy, huh?

Can you imagine from an employee's perspective how this story would make you sit up and notice your boss' interesting rational for handling a self-inflicted crisis? I had no love for any of the players in this scenario, but my palms were sweating for my future dealing with that creature, for certain. What if she got into trouble? What if she did something wrong at work? Would she try to drag me into her problems? Oh, you betcha.

Monday, March 15, 2004


Comfort foods. I cannot possibly impress upon you the value of their existence, the necessity of their existence. Or the extreme measure of certainty I hold that life would slowly crumble in upon itself, without these foods' ability to do as they are commanded, to comfort.

Everyone has their list. Mine is exhaustive, so here is just a smattering, in no particular order:

  • Popcorn with lots of butter and salt
  • Rice pudding with Raisins
  • Bananas
  • Tea with honey
  • Swedish fish
  • Raisinettes
  • Caesar salad and a baked potato
  • Kahlua and cream
  • Shake 'n' Bake pork chops and apple sauce
  • Krispy Kreme donuts

  • Friday, March 12, 2004

    The Fog Rolled In

    I am so tired lately, a bone-weariness that permeates every fiber, every bone, every muscle. It's not exactly depression, which has been an uneasy companion of mine for many years, but it seems like a close cousin to it. There is a fog around my head, and this unbearable and embarrassing sloth that keeps me from catching up with everything - work, bills, laundry, correspondence. I have only enough energy for the things I feel I need to do, and as soon as those things are done, it's right back to napping for me. But it's never enough sleep before it's time to drag the carcass out of bed or off the couch, and face the endless "to-do" list that never gets done.

    What's strange about this is that I can't put my finger on when it began, nor can I point to any one thing that is the cause. It's a little of everything, and this depression, or whatever ails me, rolled in like a fog, quietly and imperceptively, until I was completely surrounded and lost in it.

    The depression I was used to before was a little different. I became adept at recognizing the symptoms when a depression was coming on, because I experienced it as a nearly a physical sensation. Tendrils of doubt and loss would begin to sprout in my head, around my ears, and snake their way into my brain. I would become aware of whisps of thought intruding into my train of thought, reminders of problems, failures, and a sensation of guilt, shame and helplessness. I'd push away the negative thoughts and carry on with whatever activity I was engaged in, but over a period of days or weeks, the tendrils would grow and start to intertwine inside my forehead, until I felt almost a pressure pushing inward, and a dull ache behind my eyes. The pressure would extend downward, and I became aware of an invisible mask covering my face, causing that "flattening of affect" that psychologists like to refer to, making it difficult to express myself with facial gestures. I image that it must be similar to the facial paralysis that can be brought on by too much botox. It was so much like a sinus headache that I would have thought it to be just that, were it not accompanied by the spiral of sad thoughts.

    In recent years, I figured out the difference between a momentary unhappiness, a hormonal swing, and the "real deal". This wasn't an easy feat, mind you, and it took years of therapy, both talking and pharmacological, to get me to the point where I knew when to ask for help.

    But this is different. While in its grip in years past, I wasn't able to find amusement in anything, and the idea of going on some of the outings I've been on very recently would have been unthinkable. The strange thing here is, as soon as I am done with the amusement, or I am left alone, the fog rolls right back in, and I am in the soft grey cushion of sadness again. Were I not the one experiencing this, I would hear all this and think that someone was just making excuses for being lazy. But I am not naturally a lazy person, which only adds to the degree of frustration and humiliation I experience with myself for giving in to the sloth.

    What made me realize that I was in this state, besides the mounting laundry and need to nap at all hours, was the discovery of the body of Spalding Gray in the East River. I did not know him personally, and although I was impressed with what little of his work that I had been exposed to, I was not exactly a scholar of his monologues. No, what drew my interest, besides the obvious tragedy for his family and friends, was the fact that I didn't think his death was unusual.

    Others, far better versed in his craft and life, have commented that he had a long history of depression and at least one previous suicide attempt, so I am not breaking any new ground here. But after a co-worker commented on how she couldn't understand why a person would or could do such a thing, I realized that I was perhaps in the minority. I can completely understand why he chose to end his life.

    Now, I am not nearly on the same plane of desperation that Spalding must have been on that evening that he left his home for the last time. But once, years ago, I left my home for what I thought would be the last time too, so I guess I could say that I am closer to understanding his mindset than some. When you are feeling fine, and have a little perspective, you can look at your life objectively and see that there is always hope, that there are options, no matter how difficult some of those choices might be. But when you are in the throes of depression, that sort of clarity of thought is simply not possible. It's as if your mind shuts off access to creative problem solving, and runs an endless tape-loop of misery and despair where hope once resided.

    It's particularly perverse that so many creative people seem to fall prey to depression, for whatever reasons. You would reason that a creative person, who is by definition more likely to see things from a different perspective than those of a more linear bent, would be able to think themselves out of the funk. Too bad that isn't true.

    As for me, I'm hoping that if I trudge along through the mire, this fog will lift, and I will go back to feeling as good as is possible for me. But for the meantime, if my posts are not as frequent as they had been, don't worry that I've gone the way of dear Spalding Gray. I'm just not in the right frame of mind to write at the moment.

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