Work Week

Tom appears at death’s door on Monday.

“Miss Jan,” he tells me, “I did not want to come to work today.”

“I understand, Tom,” I say.

Tuesday arrives with his long face. “Miss Jan, I did not want to get out of bed today.”

“I understand, Tom.”

A winter storm ushers in Wednesday with Tom’s greeting, “Jan – Jan, I might have to leave early today if the weather gets bad.” His voice is filled with hope.

With Thursday I see the first spark of positive energy on Tom’s cherubic face, though he still laments, “Miss Jan, I don’t think I can make it another day.”

“Give it a try, Tom,” I encourage him. “Give it a try.”

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Tom greets me as he bounds onto the floor, heralding Friday and the pending weekend as though Monday never existed nor will ever come again, continuing a thing reliable: “I did not want to come to work today.”

Late Again

I arrive well after many of my coworkers and leave long ahead of them, though my average workday starts at 7:30 in the morning and ends around 6 or 7 p.m. I don’t have time for lunch.

Yesterday my boss told me that as an hourly employee I must take a break at least once a day. I said, “It’s hard for me to get everything done because of all there is to do.”

“Like what?” he asked.

Like his pulling me into his hour-long morning meeting to take minutes, when I could have just copied the hand-out he’d received at his boss’s meeting – but I didn’t mention that.

Like the 20 minutes I spent in the Ladies’ Room discussing the cause behind the many leaks. Miguel flushed a toilet and yelled over the rushing water, “See? No water. ¿Sí?” He pointed at the dry floor.

“No!” I yelled back as he flushed again – and again. I pointed at the water trickling from the pipe running into the wall.

Tom, Miguel’s cohort, said, “We could change out the washers, I guess.”

Miguel flushed again.

“Okay,” I agreed loudly.

Miguel offered, “The women. They stand on the plunger. Or the big ones – they lean. They break the pipe.” He shrugged.

“Not the pipe,” Tom explained. “They break the seals.”

“Seals. Sí. ¿No?” Miguel flushed again.

I’ve never spent so much time in a public restroom in my life, much less with two men.

None of this did I share with my boss as to why my day is not my own.

I did tell him our phones were down – no outbound calls. I’d spent the last hour talking on my personal cell phone (which under normal circumstances would earn me a Non-Performance Violation) to Harshit in I/T, trying to explain a) what was wrong with the phone system and b) why I couldn’t call him back from a landline.

My boss had been so busy he hadn’t even know the phones were down.

In the 42 seconds he gave himself for a break, he went to the building cafeteria, returning 20 seconds later to tell me, “It closed early. Go get me something. Chick-fil-A.”

“Is this your way of making me take a break?” I asked.

“Yes. You can stay late.”

I said, “I already do.”

“You can stay late.” Not a question. Not even a suggestion.

“Sure,” I said, remembering what he only ever wants to hear: No conversation. No humor. Just “Yes.”

Upon my return with a spicy chicken sandwich for him – and a large lemonade for me; I let him treat – I received a PING (because a phone call or email is no longer immediate enough in this work world, and I haven’t allowed the tech guys to implant a phone node in my head yet for TRUE instant messaging) – a PING from my boss’s boss’s admin. You know: God.

She typed: Is Tenika W there?

Me: I don’t know her. She’s not on our employee list.

She: Embassy Suites bus waiting for her.

Me: Visitor? Sitting with?

She: Don’t kno. Find her.

I locked down my desk and went in search of our floors for this mystery woman. Sixth floor, fifth floor, fourth floor, third…lobby, where I found no Tenika, and saw no Embassy Suites shuttle. Nor had the security guard. Back to my desk I hurried.

I pinged the admin: No Tenika.

She: Bus waiting.

Me: No bus here.

She: Oh wait. – Long pause. – She: Never mind.

As she had neither the time nor the manners to apologize for sending me on a wild Tenika chase, I was left to assume the shuttle was waiting for her at some other BankBig location. Poughkeepsie, perhaps. God doesn’t have to explain herself.

The greatest amount of my time this week has been spent training my new co-admin, Jen. She’s a nice young woman. Bright. A perfectionist. Just my boss’s kind of gal. In the midst of my teaching her systems and reports – and spending time in the leaky bathroom and on the phone with Harshit, Jen shared that she has a five-year-old son whom she adores and an ex-husband who has anger issues, one of many reasons she left Arizona and moved to Maryland for a fresh start.

Jen said, “I guess I should have figured out a long time ago my ex wasn’t going to get better.”

I said, “Women, especially perfectionists, often marry the wrong man. We think we can fix them.”

“I tried,” she admitted. “I guess – well, I guess I had to learn my lesson the hard way.” She sounded so hard on herself.

I stared keenly at her and said, “We all learn the lesson the hard way.”

She looked up and met my eyes.

That connection alone was worth staying late.