Friday, September 18, 2009

Pickled in Eye Brine

Earlier this week, I had the most humiliating work experience ever. Really. It had been a long, frustrating day - nothing that I couldn't have handled with a full night of rest, but this was my third day in a week of working on just four hours of sleep. The dread of coming to work was keeping me up late.

The tipping point was a shitty customer, of course. Again, nothing I couldn't have normally handled with a sense of humor and some frigid courtesy, but I was just so tired. She made me cry, but that wasn't as bad as what followed. I would love to blame her for it, but she was merely the twist that flipped the tap on my tear ducts. It was the phone that wouldn't stop ringing and the utter lack of privacy in my workspace that made me sob at my desk for an hour straight.

In the old days, when a customer made you cry, you had a free pass to leave the room, take a walk, smoke a cigarette, break something - whatever you needed to get yourself better. But it was such a busy day, and I didn't feel like I could leave. All of my coworkers were having a hard time getting their work done. I suppose that's why five other people were able to sit with me in that one little room and completely block out my breakdown. That was the most humiliating work moment to date.

How did it all get so fucked up? I've had more "important" jobs where I've been paid an actual salary to deal with that sort of stress, but I purposely sought out an hourly wage one that I wouldn't have to think about when I was at home. Making "home" my real life is more important to me than money. And I picked this company because I knew they were known for treating their employees well.

Truly, for the first 14 months, it was a dream. It was challenging enough to keep me from being bored, I worked with really cool people, I always knew what was expected of me and I rarely felt overwhelmed. I had occasional bad days that left a sour taste in my mouth, but I got over those pretty swiftly. Actually, I often thought about work when I was at home, but mostly in a happy way.

Six months ago, my supervisor announced that he was leaving. Then came the drawn out hiring and training of a new supervisor. Most people hate change and react to it poorly, which was the case. On top of that, our sales plummeted and some of my co-workers were laid off. Now, we are very suddenly busy again, with even less staff than usual (the layoff plan didn't account for already-scheduled vacations and unforeseen illness). I've been trying to remind myself that these problems are temporal, but one big problem seems to succeed the next without any breathing space. And though I used to take pride in the fact that I never dreaded going to work, I find this one dreadful about 50% of the time.

I think the worst part is seeing myself become so negative. I'm usually the person who takes the dopey shit in stride and laughs it off, keeping my petty grievances to myself. I don't find commiseration particularly useful, yet I've been indulging in a lot of griping lately. It's just not the way I want to be. I make a point of not bitching about one co-worker to another (unless it's someone I really can't stand), but I've been doing that, too. Highly undignified, sorta like trying to talk to a customer about their invoice while choking back tears. A year ago, I just couldn't have imagined it being like this.


  1. That sitnks and you deserve better -- not 'deserve' ina a snotty entitled sense, but 'deserve' in an I-know-you're-a-dedicated emplyee-whom-employers-are-lucky-to-have sense. It *will* get better. But I wish we were in the same city so's I could buy you a beer in the meantime.

  2. Thanks, dude! I'm enjoying a two-day weekend, which help a lot. Just saw my mom, who told me a lot of fascinating family lore (including some tales about a redneck uncle who married two different women twice?!?). I am pleasantly distracted from work-related nonsense.

    On a completely unrelated note, has a recent change in your affairs made you think a lot about a certain bald, rotund math teacher?