Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This Phone Is Tapped

At the social work center where I spent my days for a couple of years, I worked at a desk in the midst of controlled chaos, people coming and going. It wasn't just my desk -- other people used it too. One of my co-workers had taped up a frayed xerox copy of "A Letter To You From Satan," a poor man's Screwtape Letters for office culture. Satan Live From Detroit, Michigan, folks! It cracked me up, but I never said so since I wasn't entirely sure who had decided to hang it and didn't want to offend any of my friends. The worst note was from my passive-aggressive psycho of a boss which said, Personal Calls Are Strongly Discouraged. My boss had the bearings of a Nazi dressed like an elementary school teacher with a touch of Martha Stewart crazy thrown in for good measure. I'd catch her at the end of the day in full schoolmarm gear, riding the lone stationary bike we had in the rec room for the mentally disabled while smoking a cigarette. She looked far more mentally disabled than any of our clients (Remember professional language -- another note. Alas, nobody was a patient anymore!), riding alone in the gathering dark, puffing on her cigarette while exercising fully dressed in primary colors.
Like most places, there was a hierarchy in the office. Personal calls were only discouraged when they involved the poorest people who worked as aides for the dementia clinic. The bosses were free to talk to their real estate agents and nannies, free to tie up the phone line with the business of their days. I could call out if I was discrete about it as could my fellow office workers. But the aides got the shaft -- they'd have to beg to use the phone and pretend it was urgent, which it almost always was since nobody wanted to face the wrath of the Lone Bicycle Rider. Sometimes I'd watch her when she didn't know anyone was around. She could ride for a long time before I stepped out of the shadows and let her know she wasn't alone.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"There is, as any sane man can see, no real satisfaction at suceeding at something you loathe." Jerry Stahl
Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Dirt Track Date Southern Culture on the Skids
Benedictions and Maledictions
Five more days until The Sopranos airs!


Tony Soprano said...

I always have to be careful on what I use to make a call and where I call from. The FBI could be listening. They even bugged a lamp in my basement at home, a place I thought I could talk in private. Lucky for me, my daughter Meadow took that lamp to her college dorm room.

Cardinal Spellman said...

Five more days until we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday!! Alleluia!!

Harry Caul said...

I dismantled my entire office piece by microscopic piece because I thought I was being bugged in Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant film "The Conversation."

Laura said...

I'm not much for phone usage, so I guess I really don't worry much about the making personal calls at work thing. I only make necessary phone calls, I'd rather talk in person.

paul said...


the unsleeping bachman said...

Very funny entry. "Personal Calls Are Strongly Discouraged" would be an ecellent title for a story. Or just part of that, Personal Calls, say. Very Nice!
Nazis and home making divas; excellent juxtapostion to fill out an employer's personality.

Susan Miller said...

Ahhhh yes, passive aggressive people were an odd thing to me when I first stepped out into the real world. Of course, I was a bit odd to them, also.

I love picturing her on that bike in her primary colors smoking a cigarette. Of course, I adore the image of you stepping out of her shadows and providing some startle. Great little video there, Michelle.