“They” say that everyone ought to pay his or her dues working at jobs that they can’t stand. “They” also told me that when I was in college, every day I spent working at a doofusy (word) clothes store in the mall that I was one day closer to never doing it again. “They” said all sorts of things.
I thought retail was hell. And in many ways, I was right. I wanted to throatpunch (before it was a cultural phenom) the snotty women that came into the snotty clothing store five minutes before closing. Because…those same snotty women would stay anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. Why the store manager didn’t manager up and tell them politely to “get the heck” out is beyond me.
I thought retail was hell. And I was wrong.
In my last semester of undergrad, I got a job working as a bank teller. Now that, is hell. I’d done an internship at a credit union the summer before, so obviously, if I worked at one credit union, I’d be able to work at another right? Wrong. I’d interned in the public relations/marketing department. I knew nothing about being a teller. What was worse is that I had zero interest in learning how to do it, nor did I particularly care about doing it right. To those people whose transactions I may or may not have screwed up, as a working adult now, I am deeply sorry for not giving a rip one way or another. Really, I am.
I quit before I got fired. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I hoped every single day that I would get canned. It was my dream.
Then, I went to work at a surgery center as a front desk receptionist/part time insurance biller. When I started there, the job was perfect. I worked from 5:30 am to about 2:00 p.m. My grad classes were at night, so on the days that I didn’t have class, I had the afternoons free to catch up on reading, do homework, and write.
The women I worked with were great, I got to know some of the doctors, and before I knew it, I had worked there for over a year. Then, the new girl happened.
I went to school with her and her sister and I were friends when we were younger. I thought everything would be fine. Better than fine! I would have a pretty good friend there with me.
It got ugly.
The office bully began to take her ugliness out on me and took my former friend under her wing. Suddenly I began getting phone calls when I was off asking me why something wasn’t done or where I’d “hidden” my work from that day.
They wanted to swap schedules with me and work “the good shift” during the summer when I slogged in at 5:30 every morning in the nasty months, which in Michigan could be September through June, given the right set of circumstances.
They bullied me. They bullied everyone. And the workplace became a place I hated.
I ate because I was stressed, and when I quit, I was thirty pounds overweight. Plus, it didn’t help much to have the office manager, a man (of course), tell me “your ass is way too fucking big for those scrubs.” Thanks. I needed that. Every twenty-two year old needs that? Every woman needs to hear that? Particularly at work. And from a man that had no business even looking at my rear, much less commenting on it. I wish him no ill will, but if his toupee ever fell off in his soup, he’d have it coming.
I finally quit at the near pleading from my family. They saw what that place was doing to me. They brushed off my “but I need to pay for school” and “I have responsibilities”. My mom’s exact words were, “we are a family and families help each other out.”
I quit without another job to go to and didn’t look back.
It took several months, but eventually two of my actual friends from work left as well.
Within a year, the “friend” I had as a kid, the office bully, the office manager that called me fat, and the administrator that let it all happen, hell, she encouraged it, were all fired. From what I understand, through the grapevine, that they were escorted out of the building. Part of me laughs. Part of me genuinely feels sorry that they are that truly pathetic.
I was unemployed for a few months before I got up the nerve to call on a job I was offered. One of the doctors I had gotten to know offered me a front desk position, basically doing the same thing, at his office. I didn’t want to take it. I was worried about the same office horror show that I’d just left.
It was summer. I was walking and doing yoga again. I was losing the stress weight that working in Satan’s waiting room had packed on. “Your ass is too fucking big.” I’d hear that and work just a little harder.
But I finally called on the job. I was hired on the spot.
On the first day, I went in nervous. I knew that my former office bully, if she’d gotten wind that I would be working for one of the surgery center’s doctors, would call and bad mouth me.
She told the office staff at my new place of employment bold-faced lies. Apparently, according to her, I wore short skirts and “slutty” shirts to work. We wore scrubs and even when we didn’t, I was far from short skirt and “slut” wear. Whatever that is anyway. I didn’t do my work and I hid it in drawers. I lied. I did everything but kill a patient. And I’m sure that with a little more imagination, which she had in spades, I could have accomplished that if given enough time.
My new co-workers weren’t going to like me. I had concocted a menagerie of horrible first day scenes in my mind.
“This was a mistake.” I thought as I walked in. I had on a pink dress with a white sweater. I looked like I crawled off of the pages from a 1954 Women’s Wear Daily. The dress hit me about mid calf, just under the knee. That had been one of my “slutty” dresses?
I met my new co-worker.
Within an hour we were laughing and telling each other jokes. Thankfully, she told me all of the things my former work bully called and said about me. I was able to dispel those falsehoods quickly.
“I saw you for three seconds and talked to you for two when I realized all that was garbage.” Thank goodness my new co-worker had taken the time to actually get to know me before she believed everything that came out of my work bully’s mouth.
We hit it off and work was, for once, something that I didn’t hate with every fiber of my being. Every day was full of laughter and we made the monotony of our front desk responsibilities something to enjoy.
But the day that would bond us for life is the day we scarfed down Luna bars.
As usual, we had hit a 2:00 slump. It was three hours before closing and we were losing steam.
One of our other coworkers noticed and asked if we wanted an afternoon snack. Snack? Duh! Of course.
She brought us each a Luna bar.
“Have you ever had one of these?” I asked.
“Nope, but they say whole food and protein. What they hell?” She replied.
What we didn’t know would hurt us. We became violently ill within thirty minutes of eating them. We traded off doing the work we had left for the day. And when we could, we each brought the other water, thinking that the more we drank, the quicker we could flush the Luna out of our systems. But, we were wrong. Yet again.
Once you hold another woman’s hair back as she throws up a Luna bar, you are immediately bonded for life. This is female code. Don’t question it. Just know its power and truth.
After that day, our joke became “do you want a Luna” or “today can’t be nearly as bad as Luna bar day.”
We were fast friends. I felt like I had known her for years.
We found everything funny at work and our patients commented on how well we worked together.
We laughed like loons when I slammed my trunk, leaving my purse, phone, and car keys all nicely tucked in. I was there to capture it all when a spider fell from the ceiling and landed down her shirt.
Peas and carrots.
After a year of working together every day, I quit to go teach full-time. It was a move that I was desperately scared to do, but I decided to take the chance.
Not working together didn’t slow us down. Not one bit. She’s still one of my close friends, and we’ve added onto our many laughable moments. But “want a Luna bar” might still be number one. Seconded by the day we renamed ourselves as Spice Girls. (To this day, I am still “Melbie, Melbie Toast.”) Or maybe the day that we hosted a bachelorette party together.
Luna bars are still the most disgusting things that I have ever eaten, but I wouldn’t take back that day even if I could. Luna bars brought me closer to my friend. The Aries Queen and one of the kindest souls I know.
“They” say you must pay your dues working through college, and if you choose to go, through graduate school as well. I hope no one has a workplace bully, but I hope everyone finds their own “Little Lorrie”. She’ll be crazy and the work itself might be tedious (particularly if you work for a surgeon), but coming in will be fun.
Then you’ll graduate. And you’ll get the job you’ve always wanted.
You’ll cry when you leave because your work friends, and they have seen you through it all.
But with a little luck, you’ll have a friend that will never let you down. She’ll also be there to remind you:
“Luna bars make you sick. Eat real food before you go to class.”