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.

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