She’s got the crazies
What is worse than having an ignoramus prick for a boss is when that same boss has an unstable wife that also works with you in the same company. This was my case. I was glad when I had the chance to work in this trade magazine but my excitement faded a bit when I understood the dynamics in the office branch I was hired for. First of all, the boss made sure the members of his family and some friends were an essential part of his team. A Mickey Mouse Clubhouse kind of team. Brother, check. Cousin, check. Friend of the cousin, check. Wife, double-check (if his children were older, I am sure they would be included in the payroll, too). But hands down, the main culprit in the office’s distress was the wife. She had a job function (it was not just a front) and while the other “collaborators” were working from an office overseas, she was physically there with us. She was also, hum, how can I describe, oh, yeah… a freaking snitch. Who needs a freaking unstable snitch? You could almost feel her eyes bulging out of its sockets or her radar ears moving in your direction while you were having a conversation with a co-worker over the phone or in person… job related or not. The woman seemed busy working until she bursted some unsolicited comment or answered a question not directed to her. The only good thing about this was that we could use her Jedi skill to our favor, when we wanted our boss to know something immediately and we couldn’t reach him, for example. It worked every time.
If you didn’t know my boss well, you could describe him as a smart, easy-going, somewhat charming and likable dude. The backbone of his successful persona, however, was solely based on his ability to find the right people to do a good job… or someone to blame when things went wrong (that’s what a boss does, you might argue). Anyway, the truth is that the man was disorganized, inarticulate and evasive. It wouldn’t be wise to trust him. Luckily for us, Mr. Bossy Pants was not around that much, always on the road. His absence was synonym of smooth work… Hum, sort of, since the employees of that office – total of two, including me – were at the mercy of a smiley lunatic that happened to be his “better half”. Still, when I saw his wife for the first time wearing a Joker-smudged red lipstick, I gave her a slack… Creating a perfect pout with a cherry lipstick is not an easy feat for any woman. Yeah, I noticed the red flag (almost literally) but my naiveté got the best out of me at that time. Then the office wear and tear routine made the truth emerged. Something was always off-balance in our small office and when I say ‘something’ I’m referring to her.
Following are some of the lowlights of the office:
- After an argument over the phone with someone from the headquarters, she decided to send a fax to that person (at that time, a fax machine was a very useful equipment tool!) but she was so shaky and nervous that I offered her help to organize the pages. I don’t even recall what was written in those pages but when I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes… Holding my droopy jaw I could only mutter “Humm, I don’t think you should fax a letter with this font size”. The font size was gigantic. To be more specific, 96-size-gigantic. I am kidding you NOT: it was a scream on paper, which I am sure was her intent. I don’t know if the pages were faxed or not, I only recall that one page could retain less than one sentence.
- There were just three of us in that office: the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine; myself, the Editorial Assistant/Circulation & Distribution Coordinator/etc, and her, a subcontractor “responsible” for the translations. Every issue of the magazine was an ordeal as she would keep making changes of the already translated finals BY FAX – a word, a sentence, a comma – driving us crazy in her scribbles in what seemed an endless task, pages back and forth to her team. But we had deadlines, after all. Often modified deadlines, true, but at some point the magazine had to go to press. Eventually she had to sign the texts off, let them go. If we could only shake or slap her face to stop that translation trance, I’m positive things would go better. We were sym(pathetic) enough to know that she didn’t do that on purpose as it was an OCD kind of thing, but going through the mess required to finish every issue of the magazine was soul-crushing.
- Once she arrived with an Amway lady and made us sit during what it seemed forever, enduring an unfruitful makeover while she worked. We left like clowns, with work piled in our desks but she happily got her little referral gift from the sales lady… I don’t know why we went along with it, I even bought a lipstick (Stockholm syndrome, anyone?), for God’s sake! It was ridiculous, but you know when you are in a situation that at the time seemed “normal” and you are engulfed by it? She even mentioned the secrecy of the event, saying, between giggles, that it was better her husband didn’t find out… Well, he wouldn’t find out about the Amway lady but I am sure he was aware that his wife’s marbles were compromised.
- She would show up at the office dressed to kill (I’m glad not literally), or in a pajama-like outfit, the kind you wear at home and/or under the blankets.
- “Mrs. Boss” was also very flirtatious with any male figure that came into the office, especially the FedEx courier. The usual “Oh, Michael!” impromptu squeak was predictable and embarrassing and every time made our eyes rolled like a slot machine gone wrong. Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), the courier didn’t react with the same enthusiasm. Sadly, there were real consequences like the time a vendor was fired when she thought he acted inappropriately with her. As far as I know, the only inappropriate behavior came from her.
- In one occasion, her skirt served as a prop while she was “being helpful”, ironing an outfit for a photo shoot. Meaning she took off her skirt to do the job. What a vision: our dear co-worker in her underwear ironing a blouse. The antithesis of “Happy Hour”, right there, in front of our faces.
- Her biggest accomplishment in bizarre behavior, though, came to our acknowledge from her own smudged lips, and the title of the story was “The day I activated the fire alarm of the building to see if it worked”, signed by Office Cuckoo… Well, it did. The building was evacuated, firefighters set in motion… She even had the nerve to confess her stunt to the building’s office manager.
The fire alarm incident happened before my hiring so I was not there to witness that spectacle (fortunately, I must say, as it wouldn’t be my cup of tea having anyone looking at me with commiseration for having to deal with that kind of situation on a daily basis). I worked there until the office was officially closed three years later, and I can proudly say that I survived unscathed the worst case scenario of the boss/boss’ wife combination. And with a plus: now I can laugh about it.