I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. – George Bernard Shaw

“Maren, you’re killin’ me here!”

This was the daily mantra of Justine,* my old boss, more than a decade ago, back when I lived in NYC and worked at New Pharma.

Justine was a short, stocky woman with close-cropped hair, who wore striped button-down shirts and slacks to work every day. She spoke quickly, with a light New York accent that became thicker when she got angry or sarcastic. Her short stature gave her a Napoleon complex, and her position in the company as CFO only fed her tyrannical delusions.

I had started out at New Pharma as a temp, but soon became a permanent employee as the Executive Assistant to the CFO. I was 25, still young with much to learn, but Justine was hardly a good mentor; in fact, she took it upon herself to belittle me as often as she could.

If I didn’t accomplish a task fast enough, I’d hear, “You’re killin’ me!” If I accomplished a task before she was ready, she’d say, “You’re killin’ me!”┬áBy her count, I must have committed figurative homicide at least five times a day. And that didn’t count all the times she would set me up to fail just so that she could tell me how much I was killing her.

“What did I do this time, Justine?”

“How many times do I have to tell you? You need a passport and a social security card for this.”

This was an I-9 form she was waving in my face. We had just brought in a new employee, who had furnished a passport for the federally-required identification.

“We don’t need a social security card if they provide a passport.”

Justine’s face began to get red. “Yes, you do.”

“No, you don’t. It says so in the instructions.” I pointed to the last page on the form. “If you have a document that establishes both citizenship and identity, you don’t need anything else.”

“Let me see that.” She snatched the paper out of my hand. Her face was now beet red, and her eyes were glittering dangerously.

My heart started to pound. In other situations, when I saw her getting angry, I would back down. But I knew I was right this time. There was no getting around these federally-approved rules.

Justine smiled. “No, no, no,” she said condescendingly. “You see? It says you have to have something from List A OR List B AND List C.”

“Right,” I countered. “Either one document from List A or two documents, one each from List B and List C.”

“You’re killin’ me!”

I could feel my own face starting to get red. “But your way doesn’t make any sense.”

“It doesn’t have to make sense! Just do it, and stop arguing!”

My brows furrowed in consternation. “But…”

“Maren!” She shouted. “It’s very simple. You always get two documents, either from Lists A and B or from Lists A and C.”

My jaw clenched. It was all I could do to throw the form back in her face and storm out of the office. But I needed that job. It paid well, and I liked everyone there. Well, everyone except her.

I took a deep breath…and folded. “Okay,” I said in my best bimbo voice. “I’ll go back to Nancy and get her social security card.”

I withstood only six more months of abuse before I quit.

*The names and places in this story have been changed to protect the mostly-innocent.

This was my first post for Red Writing Hood, another writing challenge that I discovered through some of the writers on the Indie Ink Writing Challenge. This week we were supposed to write about a fight, the reasons behind it, and the repercussions.

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  • Wow. She sounds horrible. nReally enjoyed the writing.. I could feel the anger, and also the hesitation in confronting it in order to protect your job. Lovely! Stopped by from TRDC

  • Thanks! She *was* horrible. I could have written more, but we were limited to 600 words.

  • What a power-tripper! I want to say that you should not have let her get away with that, but then I know we all have to deal with some crap or another in the workplace. Understandably, you had to ask yourself which was more important, your pride or your job?

  • Saw this on my Google Reader and once I started reading it I couldn’t stop. You should have left all the names as they were, to expose the mostly-gulity. n