So, I started to write this blog yesterday, a few hours after the events that happened at work, and it was pretty much full of hate and spitfire. Well, I think the best analogy I can think of is imagine someone being slowly poisoned for years. They keep getting sicker and sicker and they can't really figure out what's causing it, but they know when certain things happen it becomes worse, and that slow realization never really dawns on them because they think nothing around them could be causing them to feel bad. Eventually that poison sends them to the doctor who starts treating them for the symptoms but nothing is being done about the source. Then, one day, the person who has been doing the poisoning finally comes out in the open and then there's this moment when all of that bile and nastiness comes out and it takes a long time to get healed, but once the poison isn't being ingested on a regular basis, the person does get better and they will get away from that person doing the poisoning once and for all.
That is what has been happening to me for the past five or six years, but I didn't realize it. The worst part of all of that is the fact that I sort of knew it was happening, but since I wasn't in the direct line of the worst of the poison that my manager was spewing most of the time, I didn't get the brunt of it. Say, the cake was poisoned for someone else but I was still eating the crumbs off the plate...slowly but surely.
I've been in retail for more than 20 years and every place I worked had some kind of poisonous person. Just the other day I read about how fake smiling every day can lead people to drink, and it's that fake enthusiasm that hides all of the emotions people need to get out into the open once in awhile or it slowly poisons them. I've always been a cheery sort but the people I worked with were already to the point of being dangerously poisonous from all of this fakery. What's sad is that I doubt they even know they're doing it. My first boss had a tough time promoting me to assistant manager, and made me share the duty with someone else until they left the job and suddenly she had no one else. A few months later she started blaming me for how terrible her life was. It's most likely these people were all masochistic because she never believed her terrible life had anything to do with the fact that she had a child with a husband who quit his job and decided to take up life as a tattoo artist...nah, couldn't be the fact that she was basically carrying their entire family with this dead-end job as a manager at a small art gallery in the local shopping mall. She probably made less than $15/hr.
I got out of that job after she basically forced me to quit, and that day I got out and cried a lot, drove around a lot, and sang a lot, and then I took a long hard look at my life and realized that I was better off without being around her. Actually, it was a blessing in disguise because not too long after that she was gone and the store closed, and the company itself that ran it folded a few years later.
Skip ahead to the job I held for nearly 16 years after that, October of that year, I had managed to get on with my life and find a new job doing something different, but still retail. I was part time mainly and eventually started to work my way up but they kept doing re-alignments; basically cutting how many full time employees there were at the store. On the other hand, they also started opening up new stores and after one set back I was promoted and moved to another store.
All went well until they got rid of the manager who opened the store (well, moved her closer to her home to a bigger location which, good for her) but the one that took over hated me for some reason. Again, another poisonous soul out for revenge on someone she didn't like and probably had no real reason to dislike me, but there it was.
Thankfully I had started dating by that time and was able to transfer out of state away from that woman before she did me too much harm. I was so happy during those months, not just because I found someone I knew I'd marry someday, but also because I was out of that poison. I got promoted a few months later, transferring to my fourth location, where I had some of the best managers a person could ask for. They were hardworking, kind, and very supportive. Unfortunately, I would only have those managers for a year or so before we went through a round of terrible ones once again. Thankfully I had a position far away from management (literally, I was in the furthest corner in a frame shop so out of sight, out of mind, most of the time) and I did my job, made money, did what they asked me to do, kept myself out of trouble, and things went well.
Then the woman who was third rung at the store (and honestly I really don't remember talking to her at all, or she was such a small blip on my radar that I didn't really care) was all that was left, and she became the manager. But, there were other managers, operations, merchandise, receiving, etc, so everyone had their own thing to do. I was still head of the frame shop at the time, but a keyholder and in training to move up the ladder as needed. Again, this woman was so low on my radar that I didn't have an opinion of her and I was usually talking to other people in the store most of the time that I kept out of her hair. She promoted me to merchandise manager and things were okay.
I had no idea that when she started giving me reviews she was already thinking I was a bug that needed to be squashed. I'm not sure if it was my own assertiveness or whether it was her own weakness that made her think I was out for her. But time and time again I would tell her I wasn't after her job, that I was just happy where I was... She took that as weakness and when a new realignment happened after some 10 years from when I started with the company, she demoted me to keyholder and picked the third in command. A gal who had been with the company maybe two years by the time she got promoted to assistant manager.
I had that sudden realization that she hated me and I really had no idea why. Is it because I didn't have children? Is it because I was good at my job? I haven't the foggiest. She told me that I couldn't be friends with any of my 'underlings' and I was ousted back to the frame shop after well over a year as a manager. Still a keyholder. But I was put out of sight again in my corner.
I was furious but my co-workers were more so, and by that time I had started to make friends with them. I treated them as equals. I explained to them how things worked around the store, I let them in on things that were happening when my manager wouldn't tell a soul. I read up on all of the handbooks and guides so I knew the rules and I was always kind when I had to tell people things. It made me liked. And I think she caught wind of it because she certainly didn't like me, so why should anyone else?
But I was hidden away in my shop and eventually the assistant had started to get all managery and the district manager decided to move her to another store to be promoted. Only, it backfired because he got fired himself a year or so later and the assistant just plain quit because she never got promoted and she couldn't handle the store she was at. Suddenly, I'm interviewing again for a job I thought I'd deserved the whole time and even the other people who were just as qualified said, yeah, let her have it.
My manager waited for well over four months to finally promote me. We all think she was waiting around for her precious assistant to come back, but by then she'd gotten another job that she said she loved so much and made more money. So, she was 'stuck' with me, and I really feel that's how she looked at it. The fact was, I think I knew what kind of assistant she wanted me to be - a kiss-ass who did whatever she was told and crawled behind her wherever she went saying 'yes, ma'am, right away ma'am, you're the greatest, ma'am." But, she never said it in so many words, except for when reviews came around and she kept going "I don't think you're living up to my standards" but she'd never set standards, so I'd follow orders and keep my head down and try to be my best.
I had made friends though. I would have made friends with her, but the one time I was invited to her house she treated me rather like an offensive bug and ignored, so I was really just sort of turned off of it. I even invited her over to my house once, I had a house warming party and only one other person showed up, but I figured it was because everyone else was too afraid of getting caught 'carousing' or something. I pushed on though, and it took another year or two before I started to realize just how many people were there because I was there, because I would calm them down and help them deal with the poison this manager was slowly feeding all of us. (See? I'm getting there!)
The first time I realized that I had a calming effect was when I'd go on vacation and would come back and someone would have quit. It was almost like clockwork. I did two main vacations a year, one in May, one in October, and at least one we'd lose someone I liked. Maybe I was the antidote to this poison? I can't claim that I was, but I never lost anyone during the time that my manger was on vacation...
Except that for some reason she told me to 'get along with everyone' when she'd leave on vacation and I'd be totally stumped by what that meant. There were only a few people that I didn't get a long with, and usually it was because either they were just as masochistic as she was, or because they had been so poisoned by her that I really hoped they'd leave just because they seemed so miserable.
About two years ago my poisoning really began. I'd secured the assistant manager spot and things went well from around March through Christmas. Then her precious old assistant was starting to beg to come back. She tried her best to get her back, but she'd need a raise, you know, couldn't have her working off of minimum wage, now could we? But she didn't get her way, I kept my job, things went back to normal for a little while. Then she forced out one of the other managers right before the next Christmas and immediately put that precious assistant in that spot. Now they were together again - but oh no! Someone was in the way of her master plan! ME!
They seemed to be okay with me for awhile. After all, it was the Christmas season then and we were too busy to really think about how to try to get me out, you know? But the moment Christmas ended and she'd taken her first vacation - I'm fairly certain now her best thinking of revenge on me came during her long cruises she always took - she came back and started hounding me about the fact I'd made friends. She threatened, and when I found ways to still hang out with them, she started writing them up, trying to get them to quit instead. We were strong together, and we managed to pass through to Christmas time once again. Which leads us up to just a few months ago.
Things started wrapping up from the holidays but we had inventory to handle so she was preoccupied. But soon after she started having these conference calls and meetings and keeping them under wraps yet again. I started figuring out that when she kept things quiet she was plotting something. She'd breeze over the importance of things, take vague notes and expect me to understand what they meant, and corporate had already started sending out emails directly to managers so that assistants like me were at the mercy of whatever the manager told us. And she rarely told me anything, even when I asked.
Then she went on vacation with the same "get along while I'm gone" nonsense. But already her precious assistant started to ignore me and wouldn't listen to orders. She did her own thing the entire time - which, honestly, wasn't much because she was always just a lackey, and nothing more. So I tried to get along and ignore her and move one with my life and waited for the manager to come back.
It started to turn into spring and I realized immediately that things were going to turn bad for a few months. Maybe her vacation helped turn her venom stronger? Each vacation she had was terrible in some way, so maybe all of that hate and misery congealed into a stronger poison that would effect everyone around her. Eventually it would start to thin out, but that first couple weeks she was a hissing, spitting cobra of all things terrible. Oh wait, no, she made no noise, actually she was more like a Black Widow spider who sneaks up on you in the dark and bites you when you aren't looking. Yeah, that's more like it.
She was in and out all last week dealing with the fact her husband broke his elbow (remember I said something always happened to her when she went on vacation? He had a stroke the year before, and a year or so before that she slammed her finger in the safe and broke it) and so I didn't think much of it because I had a lot of work to do and was trying my hardest to get things caught up while she wasn't around.
Then a strange thing happened. There was an off-hand reference to someone getting maced at another store by following a shoplifter. So, no more leaving the store, okay? Okay, no problem. But you should keep an eye on them, you know? She'd been having us follow people for years - literally years - keeping track of them, talking to them, "helping" them, and it was thoroughly ingrained in us to do as she told us. So on a day last week I did just that, but stayed far away because we weren't to 'follow' them you know? I kept a far distance and when she left the store I stood near the door to write down a license plate.
Little did I know that that would be my undoing.
Something so innocent, something that we had been doing for years. I didn't hear barely a peep out of my manager as she was in the office the entire time that it was happening. I just reported it over the headset and thought, guess nothing came of it, oh well. I went back to work, finished my day and the next day I had off, so yay! Away from the poison lady.
But then I got a phone call from corporate, then a second and an email. What the heck? Maybe someone had finally caught wind of things going on with my manager doing things that weren't quite kosher. (There are a long list of things that should have gotten her fired years ago, but I could never pin her on them, and also kept feeling bad because I'm a nice person.) I called them back only to be questioned on what happened yesterday with the shoplifter?
Okay...that was Tuesday over a week ago. Nothing happened. Life moved on. Okay, don't do that again, okay? Fine. Don't suspect someone who you really don't know for sure. Don't report it if you do because you're going to get called by corporate about it. Again, when I told her about it she sort of just shrugged it off like it was nothing and barely spoke a word to me as she left to work at another store for a few days.
I avoided going with her this time as I had the time previously, and she was probably furious about it. I had no idea though. She brought all of us presents from her cruise. (I'm going to throw them away though, I'm afraid they're actual poison now.) But things were okay, I was getting things done, no one was having issues with me, and then when I was on my own as manager one day, two guys blatantly started to steal things. And, after years (need I say they actually would praise us for stopping them?) of doing this same thing, I got the basket of t-shirts they were stealing, no harm came to anyone, and they left and all was well.
But I'd made a huge mistake.
I had no idea.
Just in passing I mentioned I'd gotten merchandise away from two shoplifters to the keyholder that was coming in to close that day. I thought we were on good terms. But I'm pretty sure she had been holding a grudge too (another masochist who used to be nice but her other job was slowly poisoning her as sure as this retail job was and she would come in spitting hellfire - like that cobra I mentioned for real - and want a pity party). I didn't give her pity that day as she complained about how bad her day was and how horrible everything was and how much she just wanted to go home...but I didn't have time to listen to her cry and mope for fifteen minutes, I had plans that evening.
So, of course, she reported me to the manager. Another spy for the enemy.
I had a terrific night. I hung out with my work friends, we had a ball at the science museum adult program and it was awesome. Honestly it doesn't matter now, but the whole thing was fantastic and I really didn't care if she found out anymore because she'd been treating her own precious assistant and her other spies so well over the past year that I just needed a final release from that poison.
I came home to find out I had to go in early the next day for a conference call.
I didn't know what it was about, but I'm almost positive that she did. And as the topic came to light, I was hit with the sudden realization I was getting fired that day.
They had instituted a new policy that forbid anyone from following, apprehending or even doing anything at all to stop a shoplifter. They never spoke of why this had come about, did someone sue? Did someone get stabbed? What happened? Completely hush-hush. Surely it couldn't have been because of one person getting maced, could it? How would that suddenly turn the whole company on every single employee.....could it?
But it continued. This was ZERO TOLERANCE. It didn't matter if you had been with the company for years, if you were outstanding, if you were good at your job....if you did this, you were done. They'd already fired some 12 people in the past few weeks.
I know the blood drained from my face and I started to shake.
Did they know about yesterday?
I didn't see a sent email about it. Maybe no one said anything? It's my word against theirs, right? No one would tell on me that it happened, would they?
When the conference call ended I stood up and my manager asked me what I was headed to do - and she basically sent me to my 'corner' - but before I could leave I asked if they'd said I was going to get fired. She deadpanned, "well, maybe not about the thing from last week, but last night... I had to report it."
I'm sure I turned white as a sheet as all of the blood drained down to my toes and I closed the door and headed straight to the backroom and started to cry. That's it then. She'd found her way to get rid of me. She'd used her teeth to suck the blood out of me and replace it with her poison.
And to make matters worse, they started calling from corporate. We need you to write a statement about last night. What happened last night? Didn't matter. I knew it didn't matter. I changed the facts ever so slightly. I knew they'd see what was on the film, that it wouldn't quite match up to what I told them, but did it matter? They'd already made up their minds. I had no case. This new policy went into effect swiftly and like a hot knife through butter (I like these analogies) I was going to be cut from this company.
But she had to bleed every last drop from me. She left right after the call, and when she came back she disappeared into the office and I kept my eye on the phone because I saw it was lit for a very long time... And I kept on working and she left to go home for 'lunch' because everyone would be leaving me at 5pm so I have to get home... And she reappeared and went into the office again.
One hour before my shift ended I got called to the office.
One freakin' hour when she probably knew from the very first moment she was going to fire me that day and could have sent me packing without giving me another day's pay - and she let me suffer the entire day.
The lady from corporate was on the phone. The one who questioned me the week before. "You there?" You know what you're here for, right? We are terminating your employment with us at this moment as of section AS100... I read that flippin' thing, it was right in front of me that morning and no where did it say that you'd get fired immediately. But they'd found a way to cull the herd. Instead of doing a massive layoff, they decided they'd find the easiest way to fire everyone - follow a shoplifter, get fired.
And my manager had found her way to finally get rid of me. She'd plotted it from the moment she heard that new thing went into effect and her spies expedited it.
As they spoke I basically blanked out. I wasn't angry. I was expecting it for seven hours. I'd plotted a dozen scenarios in my head, but I couldn't land on just one. So I pulled the keys from my pocket, set them down on the desk and walked out.
She didn't company me into the breakroom to make sure I left, she simply walked out and got back to helping customers. I threw down everything I could think of that I had that was property of the store, grabbed all of the things that were my own, clocked out and with one desperate (I hoped) look at my friend who was at the register when I left, I walked out.
I could have screamed.
I could have cried.
I could have done anything else then what I did, but I had realized in that moment that it didn't matter.
I was free of that thing that was poisoning me.
I texted my chain of friends and told them what happened so she couldn't do the same thing to them. One decided immediately she was going to go Jerry McGuire on her and actually leave with me and it was amazing. I would have felt bad but she was also planning on leaving anyway. I didn't ask them too, but I know they all knew she had been draining our life away one day at a time by slowly poisoning all of us.
I went home and sobbed with my husband for a long time.
It was both because a chapter of my life had ended, but it was also because I was free.
Maybe if you've read any of my other blogs in the past you'll realize how miserable I'd been. This poison that she had been injecting into my life for so long had driven me into a terrible depression. I would be so drained by my job that I'd do minimal things around the house. My husband started doing most of the cooking because when I'd get home I couldn't bear to get going to feed us. If he hadn't started cooking for us I'm sure I would have subsided on chips and PB&J sandwiches because that's about as much effort as I could put into it.
They only reason I found to cheer up were the friends I'd made over the past few years playing D&D. I had a group of my coworkers who talked me into becoming their DM (for which I am ever grateful) and another group that taught me how to play. And another that I shared the responsibility for the game and it was awesome. They are awesome. Every single one of the people I have been playing with for the past few years were one of the only reasons (besides my husband and cats of course) that would get me to clean the house, get me to get up and cook big dinners and getting me writing again. I had almost completely stopped writing for a few years and I think that was taking a very big toll on me emotionally and physically because I had no outlet, and this gave me time to think, time to plan, and time to enjoy myself.
But at the end I was becoming so wiped that I was starting to not even be able to do that. For anyone who has read this far who wanted to hang out with me and I cancelled plans with you - it's because of this. It's all because I was so emotionally drained, so stressed out, so anxious and depressed, that I couldn't handle being around people. I couldn't focus anymore. I'd sit for hours on the couch watching TV. I wouldn't pick up my laptop my husband gave me so I could sit here and type like I used to do (and like I'm doing currently) because I couldn't focus. My mind kept going back to work, back to being miserable, and only when I had a few days off in a row could I concentrate on being happy for a time but the moment I had to go back I was so anxious I almost quit my job multiple times - I'd literally shake and find it hard to breathe.
The sad thing was, I had an idea I knew what was happening, but I still thought I could overcome it.
I started talking to the doctor and she prescribed me all sorts of anti-depressants. Then just a week or so ago she upped the type and when I told another coworker I considered a friend this, she looked at me wide-eyed and said something like, "Oh no...that's terrible stuff." It honestly freaked me out a whole ton.
So yesterday I got fired from my job of 16 years. And all of that poison came out hour after hour of scrolling mindlessly through Facebook. It rolled around in my head as we went out to dinner, as we took a walk at the park and my husband talked to me about other things and I tried hard to pay attention to him. I'd been so poisoned by this woman that I couldn't even stand helping him anymore with his convention - I think that was evident by some of my blogs too.
I didn't want to go to bed last night because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. I tried to stay up as late as I could so that I'd be too exhausted and fall asleep, but it didn't work. I tossed and turned for hours - all of that poison rolling around, spewing from every pore (figuratively).
This morning I awoke and went to the bathroom and as I came back to lay in bed a bit, it hit me again what happened. I still needed to process more. But DAMN IT - I WAS going to do what I had planned to do on my day off before all this crap hit the fan. So we did. I still thought about the stuff that I have to do, but it's the weekend, and I can't call the doctor to cancel my appointments or my dentist (I was just a few weeks away from my 6 month check up, dang nabbit!) But thankfully some of my prescriptions were renewed right beforehand... But that stuff could wait a day or two. Of course I need to go job hunting and of course I'll need health insurance again, but for a few days, things will be okay, and I really needed to enjoy this momentary freedom.
And guess what?
I looked at my backyard again for the first time and realized how green it was. I appreciated the little birds that were at my birdfeeders, realized that I hadn't cleared out the garden out back yet. Looked at the sky and saw how blue it was. I looked around my house with a new sense of purpose - something I hadn't been able to do in awhile.
I didn't take my anti-depressants. I took an allergy pill and I moved forward.
I realized that I no longer had to worry about the stockroom piling up. I didn't have to worry about my manager never giving me any help to accomplish things any more. I didn't have to even see or talk to her ever again!! That certainly brought a smile to my face. I'd never have to deal with those people secretly loathing me while smiling at my face. It was gone. All of it. The only thing I had to worry about is myself.
I hadn't had that blissful relief in a very long time.
And even though I know tomorrow is another day, and that I'll have to deal with all of the annoyance of having to go out and get a new job and deal with new things, at least I can decide.
Want to know something else?
I still have a supportive husband. I was able to listen to him talk about his convention with an open mind again. It didn't feel like yet another heavy weight on my shoulders that I wanted to throw off. (It felt like he was adding bricks to my back every time he talked about it because I already had loads and loads of other bricks there and didn't realize it.) And that made me happy.
I still have supportive family. I told my mom and she was very positive - you know, if God closes a door, He'll open a window! I feel like in this case though, God opened the door and said, "GET OUT OF THIS PLACE NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" And I'm outside of that place and here's this wonderful new world just waiting to be explored. I don't know where to start yet because I'm still adjusting to the light that I haven't seen in so long, but when I regain my focus, I'm sure I'll be fine.
I still have supportive friends. These people are magnificent. Every single one that was enraged or shocked when I posted online about what happened - there was a massive outpouring and each one gave me a massive blast of fresh air that I hadn't breathed in that poisonous atmosphere.
And I have a D&D game planned for next Friday and maybe Tuesday as well.
So, that's about it for now. I am going to let the rest of the poison drain out of my system. I'm going to take a breath of fresh air. I'm going to look around me for the first time with fresh eyes and throw off the burden that I'd been carrying for so long it was breaking me.
And I'll pick my next path.
Because somehow, I've escaped.
They didn't break me. They've freed me.
And I know this next chapter in my life will be better - because once you're at the bottom for so long, there's gotta be a way up.
See you again soon!