Some would say she was a determined leader, and that was true. She had to manage many employees, and one catastrophe could pull the rug out from her perfectly orchestrated day at any moment. I could hear her shoes stomping down the hall before she made an appearance.
Her expectations were extremely high, from the dress code to the volume of your voice. If she found a person’s choice of clothing for the day distasteful, she would engage them in a lengthy conversation and then tell that person’s supervisor she disapproved of their appearance.
She was not above producing a ruler to measure where the hem of a skirt fell in relation to a knee cap. She mainly did that to the younger ones she wanted to see wearing apparel from the Victorian era. If anyone questioned this, we noticed they disappeared shortly after. Yes, just like the mafia.
It left us all wondering who her next unsuspecting victim would be.
It was done with the purpose to maintain her position of authority. Literally, she threw her weight around by being intimidating.
The place didn’t run on respect for her; it operated on fear. When I heard her heels coming and saw her entering my office, I knew it usually meant we were about to get reprimanded for some unwritten, vague infraction.
She had at least thirty years on me. Her speech was like a machine gun going off directing, telling, and commanding. As fast as she whipped into a room, she flew out onto her next mission of ridding the place of any peace.
“You are stealing money from the company if you are socializing when you should be working.”
We were forced to attend monthly meetings with that kind of team-building inspirational speech.
“It is considered theft.”
Hypocrisy at its highest.
At one time in my career there, I had worked in the kitchen when I was a teen in high school. At least twice a week, this individual would walk into the cooler and devour the chocolate pudding ordered explicitly for the residents. I never saw a spoon in her hand.
Because the floor was tile, I could hear the cadence of her approach quite clearly. We all would freeze, hoping she didn’t stop to inspect our hairnets and purse her lips as she took in our appearance. We all breathed easier when she disappeared.
“The sergeant is here, I see,” said one of my coworkers who was putting water glasses on a cart.
Once she had ducked into the refrigerator to eat to her heart’s content, an older woman I worked with would always whisper to me,
“It must be her time of the month again, dear. She’s on the rag.”
“That’s what you said last week,” I would reply in a hushed tone.
When she came back out, we knew she hadn’t been in there to run an inventory. Not with pudding as lip liner.
“Make sure you check expiration dates. I think I saw some that were outdated.”
“Okay,” we would say, going along with her game. The clicking of her heels signaled the departure.
Once I moved up into a higher position, the office I worked from was right next to hers. I was fully aware that she was your ally one day, and the next, you were on the hit list.
How did I deal with the madness? I found my sense of humor. I didn’t realize what a great coping mechanism this was. God will have your finest gifts come to the forefront when trying to survive a horrible situation.
When she would swoop in acting uptight, I would say something that would diffuse her anger. Instead of getting her wrath, I would make her laugh, and she would find someone else to chew out. It was a part of me that I had never known that I possessed.
Soon, she was coming in to sit down and rest. She no longer was showing up to rattle off orders but to take a few minutes to talk about life issues that were bothering her. I still would make her laugh, but I also asked her questions to try and build a rapport with her.
It never got to where I wanted her as my best friend, but I understood her better. She conversed about the pressure of her job and the stress of her home life. I got a better understanding of who she was, but she never was a staff favorite. I had learned how to circumvent her tirades and tongue lashings.
I often would walk into the gossip of those she had run over with her harsh behavior. The worst complaint about her was that she would make life miserable behind the scenes if someone weren’t up to her expectations. Every discussion always seemed to revolve around her eventually. She had planted herself firmly in all of our minds by way of bullying.
If a decision had to be made about anything, it always came down to if she would give it her stamp of approval. It had to be strategically laid out step by step, looking for landmines that could trigger a volatile reaction. Even a man’s best-made plans can still be for naught. I heard many staff weeping through the thin walls of my office and hers. Walking on eggshells doesn’t always guarantee bypassing a wicked reaction.
I had watched from my desk people get escorted to their cars after being fired. This wasn’t a gesture of courtesy. It was like watching someone on death row go to the executioner.
We were drilled on state requirements and prepared for drop-in inspections. We were always told to act calm when a state inspector showed, and if they suddenly came, every one of us knew who to contact so the entire facility was aware. There was a chain of command to follow. Her ultimate badge of honor was to be deficiency-free no matter the carnage of staff she left in her wake.
The idea was not to let them see us sweat. She thought if we showed any nervousness, this would go over as guilt. Like we were hiding something.
I was on the phone gathering information on a potential client, and over the loudspeaker, I heard her scream,
“They are here! I repeat! They are here!”If she would have had a nuclear button on her desk, she would have hit it with a hammer.
So much for serenity. I heard the familiar beat of heels getting their workout as she ran for the front door. The atmosphere changed from tense to unbearable. This would be a week of intrusion that we all hoped would result in the news she wanted to hear.
None of us wanted to get a poor result, but the added layer of how she could potentially make us pay if we did was foremost on the minds of all.
As an assistant, it would be rare for me to go head to head with anyone representing the state. Usually, the supervisors of each department were introduced to batten down the hatches. It was one of her worst nightmares to think that one of us underlings would be able to handle a situation and say the right thing.
It was viewed like the segment in the Miss America competition where we had to give answers on the spur of the moment. Minus the swimsuit or evening gown portion. She didn’t want anyone to stumble over their words and appear uneducated. She feared that someone would babble.
Imagine her coronary arteries going into an uproar when I was suddenly greeted by one of the inspectors from the state.
“Can I come in?” He asked, knocking on the door. My supervisor had just left for a few moments, and I had to be her substitute because that was the rule. They could quiz all of us at any given moment.
He extended his hand and introduced himself. Sitting down, I knew from training, I was to close the door. This is when I saw her look at me through the window. Eyes wide and a hard swallow, with a slight head shake, were signs signaling that she thought I was about to blow her perfect record.
I heard her go into her office next door. Probably with her ear to the wall to be sure I was the perfect Stepford Wife.
He started to ask me a series of questions about finances and how payment was processed. I went through each type, pulling out examples of paperwork, explaining each one. About halfway through, I realized he had no idea what I was talking about. He seemed nervous.
“Could you repeat that?” He would say as he took notes on his sheet. So I asked him,
“Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medical Assistance?”
“Not at all. I’m new to this, so you are helping me learn.”
I went from feeling put on the spot to being his mentor in seconds. I knew what it was like not to understand something complex but necessary to perform well on a job.
By the time our interaction was over, he left like he had attended a seminar on the subject and thanked me.
She immediately vaporized in the hall.
“How did it go?”
She had listened through the wall, so she already knew.
This is how I remember her all these years later. I don’t think it was necessarily a personality disorder as it was a drive for perfectionism and power. She conducted herself in a way that left mental scars on many. Some of us could withstand it, while others escaped, often feeling like failures.
No longer able or willing to undergo her temper tantrums, they departed with awful memories of her. For those of us who somehow managed to stay aboard the Titanic, it was for a check. None of us had any loyalty toward her.
Her life stressors didn’t excuse her brutality.
She never considered the pain she inflicted on those around her. While she was so consumed by being monitored by the government, she never thought that God was watching. Every unkind word, act, and power play was being observed by heaven. She didn’t just break the Golden Rule. She crushed it into the ground under her mauve-colored pumps with many spirits attached.
No one is God, so her fate is in His hands.
The other day I saw this advertisement by a fast food restaurant looking to hire:
Why work for a clown when you can work for a King?
I knew the reference, but I saw it in another way.
In many church circles I have been in and out of, one of the repetitive phrases has been that we are “daughters and sons of the King.” So often, we slave under conditions where a message is sent loud and clear. We aren’t valued for what we do.
You might hear a thank you once in a while, but you are very aware of how ungrateful your boss is the rest of the time. You are made to feel that your paycheck is a gift, not a given. While you put in your best effort, you are subjected to the cruel nature of a dictator who is on a power trip.
When you wake up to it because your self-worth increases, there really is no going back. You are done with what was accepted by you before. Boundaries are put into place where there had been none, and you no longer can sit under the weight of someone else’s darkness and be suffocated by it.
You have this epiphany that the fear no longer holds you down. You don’t have to settle anymore to play the punching bag at the office. God has shown you the way, and He is your source for all you need.
You throw all caution to the wind and walk away, freeing yourself from the false tyranny.
In Psalm 37:18-19, God’s character is revealed,
God keeps track of the decent folk; what they do won’t soon be forgotten. In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full. (Message)
Further in verses 25-29,
I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer or his kids out roaming the streets. Every day he’s out giving and lending, his children making him proud.
Turn your back on evil, work for the good, and don’t quit. God loves this kind of thing, never turns away from his friends. Live this way, and you’ve got it made, but rotten eggs will be tossed out. (Message)
The choice is yours—Trade in the clown for the King.