Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I got tired of Los Angeles after twenty-something years, and New York's high energy started calling me. I confided with a friend at work, and it turned out she knew a guy who owned a business in Manhattan. I talked to him on the phone a couple times, then he flew me out for an interview.

I should have been suspicious that my immediate supervisor, Eric, "just happened" to be out, but I was excited to be there. Everybody was smart, the job paid well, and my office was sixteen floors above Wall Street. I flew home and packed everything I owned.

And one minute into my new workday I realized I'd made a horrible mistake. Turns out "my" office was really Eric's office, and I'd work in a corner. Eric wasn't thrilled about this, but he desperately needed an assistant, and there wasn't any other place to put me.

Still, there was a bright side. If I kept my computer monitor pointed in his direction, he could watch what I was doing every minute of the day.

"What's that for?" he'd ask every time I brought up a new window. "What are you typing?" he'd ask every time I'd tap the keyboard twice in a row.

After a couple hours I scurried to the coffee room to quiz other employees: was Eric really insane, or was he punking me? And five minutes later, when I got back, Eric asked me where the hell I'd been.

Eventually lunchtime arrived, and I went to a corner deli and ordered a sandwich, which the cashier informed me cost $14. I brought my culture shock straight to Eric. "Fourteen dollars?" I said incredulously. "For two pieces of bread, some chicken and lettuce? Idiots. I don't mind if some greedy asshole wants to get rich, but does it have to be today, off me?"

He shot me an irritated glare. "My brother-in-law owns that deli," he said.

"Oh," I said. Pause. "Well, it was certainly tasty food."

We sat in silence for the next couple hours, interrupted only occasionally by "What are you typing?" and "What's that window for?" Around three, I figured I'd try to lighten the mood. "You know what's funny?" I said. "Bagel slicers. What, like we should encourage people who are too stupid to slice round bread without hurting themselves?"

He stopped typing and stared at me open-mouthed. "My wife nearly lost a finger slicing a bagel," he declared.

I backpedaled as best I could, saying I was cranky because I hadn't slept. "All night long," I said, "trucks kept backing up past my apartment. All night long, BEEP BEEP BEEP, back and forth, BEEP BEEP BEEP. I mean, if you're too dumb to hear an eight-ton truck coming at you, you deserve to die."

Eric's face went crimson and he slammed his desk with his fist. "Goddammit!" he yelled. "My mother was almost KILLED by a truck backing up!"

I thought, "No way." And I said, "No way."

He nodded. He didn't say "Way."

And I packed all my stuff back into a bag and left.

As I walked through the rain down Wall Street, in a new city and newly unemployed, I realized I'd made a horrible mistake. Why had I been so quick to give up? I hadn't even gotten through a full day. Would it have been so hard to tough it out another couple hours?

I mean, I didn't even get a chance to tell Eric that people who put sticks up their asses are complete muttonheads, and his reply could have explained a whole lot.

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