I abandoned my cubicle life today and have the day off to take care of some "personal business". That's what I called it in the email request I sent to my boss early last Monday morning. I apologized for giving such short notice and then crossed my fingers, hit send and waited for his reply.
All fucking ding-dong day.
Usually, wherever he happens to be, my current boss responds right away to anything I send him, whether it be a time-off request or reporting some kind of project issue or new idea. He's good that way.
How novel. An attentive boss that actually listens to me and pays attention to my needs. In previous time off requests he has said things like "Sure! Take as much time as you need. I appreciate all your hard work here".
What was taking him so long this time? I waited for his reply, squirming with discomfort and as the day wore on, wondering if I should write him back and call the whole thing off. He normally responds so quickly. What if something is wrong? What if he is putting it off because he has to tell me no? What if, what if, what if...
The next day he stopped by my cube and apologized for not getting back to me right away and said of course I could have the day off and then thanked me again for all my hard work.
I felt bad for silently cursing him (and myself) all day while I was waiting.
He's a good boss. And thanks to hideous, bastardly evil bosses I've had in the past, I'm apparently not able to trust or appreciate such kindness and understanding.
I am thinking in particular of the boss I had when I was still in school and working at my first official IT job, the guy would wait for weeks to reply to my time-off requests, even though he was in the next office and we saw each other daily. He even did this when I requested time off 9 months in advance for my wedding. We called him The Troll.
The Troll was a balding, pudgy, 50ish man, who wore his pants belted tight and high around his wide, gelatinous gut. He had big, mushy lips that looked as though someone had pasted two snails on his mouth and steely blue eyes perched closely atop a smushed, yet slightly turned up Hogarth-equese nose. Imagine if you will, that Tweedle-Dum and Jabba the Hut had a baby.
The Troll enjoyed intimidating people with his mental catalog of meaningless IT acronyms.
The Troll often made up his own acronyms, refused to tell us what they meant and would chuckle with glee when we guessed them wrong.
The Troll found it hilarious to schedule network hogging back-ups, system slowing updates and upgrades during his days off or his lunch hours.
The Troll thought it was amusing to make changes to the system or software upgrades without warning anyone. "See if anyone notices a difference", he'd snort. Thus causing my co-worker and I to spend our entire day fielding annoying, "my computer is really slow today" support calls that might have been completely unnecessary had he sent out an email or given anyone, including us, a clue.
The Troll was once overheard boasting to other department heads that he used a management style to keep us on our toes that he liked to refer to as "management by embarrassment".
I've never been one to judge a person based on looks, but when I first met him at my job interview I distinctly remember mentally wincing at the sight of his wide, waddling form coming toward me in the reception area. Oh you poor sad thing, I thought as he reached out to greet me with a handshake and the snails lifted their tails in a gruesome attempt at a smile.
He was a bit gruff and intimidating in the interview, but alas that is the nature of many an IT slug/computer nerd. They are not exactly what you would call People-Persons, so I gave The Troll the benefit of the doubt. But the more he talked, the less I liked this man.
I wasn't completely sold on taking the job until The Troll called in the other person on the team to complete the interview. She was the one I would primarily be working with. I liked her on sight. She was terrific, funny, smart and personable (and I think it goes without saying, much easier on the eyes). Unlike the troll, she had a face that was very expressive, all eyebrow arching, smirks, winks and smiles. We hit it off instantly and I knew that if she worked for this train-wreck of a man that it must be all right. I'll call her Sunny.
On my very first day of work it happened that Sunny was busy working on a project on the other side of the building, so The Troll briskly showed me around and then gave me a task that I was to complete by noon. Basically I had to take apart a desktop computer, replace the power supply and reformat the hard drive.
I bet you didn't know that I could do that.
Neither did I.
Although officially I had never done this professionally (that's why I was here, to get some experience), I had just aced a class on small systems hardware and I knew what and where everything was. No problem-o.
Or so I thought.
The power supply went in OK, but then when I tried to reformat the hard drive something was drastically wrong and I kept getting an error. And it's not like I was getting the error right away either. I waited and waited as bright text whizzed by on a black screen and then thump - error. This never happened in my class.
The time was ticking away and periodically The Troll would come in to check on my progress. When I told him about the error he came unhinged, got all red faced and blotchy and started yelling at me.
What kind of error?!
The blah-blah kind.
WHAT is your problem?
I don't know. I've never seen this error before.
I thought you said you could handle this job. If you can't do this simple thing then you may as well go home right now.
I started to cry. I'd had some asshole bosses before, but nobody had ever yelled at me like this. I was frozen, mortified.
And then Sunny came in.
The Troll then barked at Sunny, "see if you can fix her mess. Now!", and then he waddled out of the room in a blotchy red huff.
I explained the situation in a raspy whisper to Sunny who said it was no big deal and that she'd seen this error before on some of the other older machines and miraculously whipped out a new thingy-ma-bob that we installed together. Fixed.
Sunny was very reassuring. She said there was no way I would've fixed it on my own in the amount of time The Troll had given me to do the job, and that she too was flummoxed the first time it happened to her. She had spent hours back and forth on the phone with the computer company's hardware support to solve the problem and had ordered extra parts knowing that it was likely to happen again to the other machines. She said if she had known that he was going to make work on that kind of machine she would've warned me.
Speaking of warnings... when I asked her about The Troll's atrocious behavior and whether or not he was like that all the time she said, "I tried to warn you in your interview, didn't you notice me making all those faces?" I hadn't taken the hint. Then she said that if The Troll hadn't been in the room the whole time she would have told me to run away screaming and never look back and that she had been looking for a new job for several months.
I moved on eventually, but the scars remain.