Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Margarita Theory

Well, my mother asked me to help her with an errand one day, and because I was available at a time I routinely would have been working, she realized that something was amiss.  There seemed to be no explanation to give her except to tell the truth--that I had been fired.  Mom was very shocked.  I told her word for word what my sister-in-law had said when she terminated me, and thought it best to leave it at that.  Mom wanted to march down to my brother's shop and demand further explanation, but said that she had another topic to discuss with him that was even more pressing.  What she told me was even more shocking than my news!

You see, my mother had been very free with her advice (crazy, off-the-chart nagging) regarding their potty training for her grandson.  He is approaching 4 years old and has refused to potty train.  Well, she stepped on my sister-in-law's toes pretty hard and hasn't been asked to babysit in ages.  She was recently laid off from her job until springtime, so she offered to keep the child anytime now that she had unlimited free time to spend with him.  Well, my sister-in-law's parents, both being retired, are his usual babysitters.  They generally care for him 2 days per week, so that his mother can be free to work in the shop.  However, they often lament that if they weren't tied down to him they could travel.  Many times, they have asked her to make other arrangements for his care, but since he doesn't get along well with other children and he isn't potty trained, "other arrangements" don't last long and he ends up with his maternal grandparents again.  Even under this pressure, my sister-in-law refuses to let my willing mother watch him. 

Well, about the time my brother announced that we might be facing a temporary lay off, he and his wife were planning a night out with her best friend (and employee) and her husband.  I overheard them reminding one another several times throughout the workday to call my mom.  Neither one of them wanted to make the call, so I asked my brother why they kept avoiding the issue.  He said, "Oh, we just want her to watch the boy while we go out to [this certain] restaurant."  I said, "That shouldn't be any big deal.  Mom would LOVE to watch him; I'm sure she'll say YES."  He said the problem wasn't with mom and wouldn't elaborate.  I remembered that my brother once said that they never ate at this restaurant (he didn't like the food), but sometimes went there for the margaritas.  I thought no more of it until mom explained how the rest of that evening had gone.

Even on very short notice, Mom was glad to babysit that evening.  She and my little nephew (her grandson) had a blast until his 8pm bedtime.  She watched TV until my brother came home at...1:00 in the morning!  My mom never stays up after 10pm, so I thought that was very inconsiderate.  I told mom so.  She said, "No, I wasn't concerned about that.  Your brother came home alone.  He said that they drank at the restaurant until it closed and then moved the party to the other couple's house for more drinks.  At 11pm, my brother suggested that they go home to relieve Mom.  His wife refused, so they stayed longer.  Finally, at 1am, my brother decided that he could not impose on Mom a moment longer and headed home.  His oldest daughter (about 14 years old) got out of bed when she heard him come in and asked, "Where is Mom?"  He looked defeated, shrugged, and said, "You know your mom."  She pursed her lips, rolled her eyes, and said, "Yeah, I know Mom."  My mom was puzzled, so my brother said, "They offered to bring her home when she's ready to leave."  Their daughter said, "I'm not holding my breath; she's not coming home tonight."  Mom knew it was uncomfortable for them, so she left without showing any concern. 

So, Mom suspects that she stumbled onto a big family secret about some alcoholism, or possibly worse.  Since our father was an alcoholic, we are all very sensitive on the issue and have a low tolerance for the abuse of alcohol.  Mom theorizes that this might have something to do with why I was fired.  If my sister-in-law thinks that my mother told me of that night's events, it would be very difficult for her to face me daily, for I would surely think less of an alcoholic sister-in-law.  And she could not plan their next booze binge in front of me as she had done previously.  And that might account for the "walking on eggshells" defense she gave for terminating my employment.

Monday, February 20, 2012

When the Family Finds Out

I have been avoiding phone calls. For one reason, I don’t care to be available to assist the staff to cover my former job assignment.  Since I was fired, I can’t justify helping a former coworker locate files for example.  I don’t want to explain these events to anyone in the family.  I feel that my brother and his wife should have the first opportunity to defend their actions.  I expect my mother to stop in at the shop in the week or so.  Then, they can break the dreadful news to her.  She, in turn, will denounce their actions among the family, and I will no doubt picture the victim of their heinous treatment when she distributes the news.  And the ears will be in my favor, however she tells it. 

This will injure my brother, but I don't see how I can or should protect him from it.  He ought to exercise some control over his household, especially as it affects his business.  His wife has set things in motion to undo all the success my brother has made of their company (and not just by letting me go), and who will guard them from the consequences?  Even as a beloved sister, I can rightly say, "that is not my job."

I've also wondered that if she felt stifled in my presence, then what will be said and done without me there as a restraint?  Odd.  I have never involved myself in any conflict of theirs, marital or otherwise (although they divulged much in my company).  I've actually jealously guarded their secrets.  Early on, I determined to behave as an employee, not as a big sister.  The cause of her fear can only stem from a guilty conscience.  I certainly never gave her cause to fear being exposed. 

In some ways, I suspect that my sister-in-law has purposely maneuvered events to alienate the last member of my brother's family.  Nearly everyone has expressed concern over my employment with them over the course of the last year.  They wonder how I can tolerate her.  I did tolerate her--with some difficulty.  I even wanted to like her, but then I was motivated by a paycheck.  I know that she has poisoned my mother's relationship with my brother to such a degree that she is nearly forbidden to see her grandson.  This she did over trifling offenses committed by my mother (complaints about the grandson's failure to potty train and his consumption of sugar).  My sister has such an aversion to the sister-in-law's competitive nature that she lost interest in them both soon after they were married.  With Grandpa dead, Grandma is easy enough to ignore.  With my dismissal, she may have successfully cut every family member out of their lives. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dreadful Dreams

I've been reeling from the shock of being fired.  I can't help but dwell on the topic.  After all, I am headless in all of my dreadful dreams, and I have a massive amount of idle time on my hands that comes with being unemployed. 

Perhaps I should go back to the part about being headless.  Yes, the dream I had the night I was fired was a dream where I had to wear a prosthetic head in public until my own grew back.  I blamed my sister-in-law for my headless state, but my mind did not expand on the idea.  In the course of the dream, I was applying make-up to the blank head and thinking that it was still ugly and I would be ashamed to leave the house wearing any head but my own.  It was very disturbing indeed!  In subsequent dreams, I have been part of a search party looking for the heads of dead family members which inexplicably disappeared in the middle of the night.  My sister and I comfort each other as the only survivors of the massacre.  When we are struck with dred that the murderer and head robber might return for us, I awake!

Perhaps my dreams are hyper-vivid because I don't allow myself to dwell freely on the termination of employment during the day. 

In the moments that I let myself examine the events leading up to my termination, I find myself asking many questions.  For instance, why didn't my sister-in-law choose to use their financial difficulties to explain it?  They were already threatening to lay off workers.  If they would have laid me off, then they could tell the family a sob story about how sorry they were to have to let me go.  They would have been the victims, and I would be collateral damage.  I think it noteworthy that my sister-in-law chose to stand toe-to-toe with me and fire me to my face all the while claiming that I am intimidating and unapproachable.  Perhaps she lacked the courage, until this manic episode.

The timing was very odd. Another coworker had just remarked how well everyone was getting along, and how smoothly things were running.  I had to agree.  Though I wasn't particularly happy with my sister-in-law, her mood seemed to be better than usual (characteristicly manic).  The day before my termination, my brother was even altering my workstation to accomodate my petite build.  The alterations would make it very difficult for any of the others to work there comfortably.  They had recently included me in a staff photograph that they're having published in a sales flyer.  I have 1000 new business cards with my name and contact information on them.  No, there really was no sign that they had planned something this drastic for long.  Something happened between 6pm one night and 1pm the next day.  I think I can properly disown any causality. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lying in Wait

I arrived to work today, to find my desk covered with items not belonging to me.  The pile was so high, that I could not reach my monitor.  A voice behind me says very seriously, "We need to talk."

I spun around and my sister-in-law said very calmly and deliberately, "I feel like I have to walk around on eggshells because I can't deal with you.  I find myself asking everyone else to do what I'd like you to do which isn't fair to anyone."

I asked, "What have I left undone that you asked me to do?" 

She explained, "Well, that is just it, I didn't ask you to do anything.  You're not approachable.  I should be comfortable around my own employees.  I'm sorry, but it just isn't working out."  With that, she handed me my final paycheck and asked for my key. 

I was completely shocked!  For a moment, I thought I would lunge at the throat beneath that smug expression.  Just then, my brother appeared in the doorway behind her with a mortified look of embarrassment mixed with empathy.  I poked around the desk for a few personal items which I loaded up into my bag.  My brother said that I could come back any time for forgotten items later remembered.  A moment later, I found her at her station and turned in my key.  She muttered something unintelligible, a syllable or two.  And, I left.  In Colorado, you can terminate employment for any reason, or for no reason.

I wanted to bring the house down with a fit of immense proportions, but my brother would suffer most.  Besides, she really did take the lion's portion of blame by admitting that she is intimidated by me.  And, if I treated my husband as she does, I wouldn't want his sister to be a daily witness to it either.  She ought to fear what a family member might relate about her behavior. 

And then there is the possibility that when her manic episode (I am sure she suffers from bi-polar disorder) is over, and she quits--which she frequently does--I might be asked back.  Remember, she fired me once before, but recanted within 10 minutes.  And she doesn't like to do actual work.  Yes, she likes to barge in and shout orders, but primarily, when she is at work, she is watching videos and socializing and encouraging the staff to do the same.  Everyone of us has been known to admit that nothing really gets done when she is there.  Of course, most of them enjoy the fact that her presence brings on a holiday of sorts.  I think that my brother and I were the only ones ever bothered by the lack of accomplishments on those particular work days. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Possible Lay Off

My brother announced to the staff that we may have to lay a couple of people off for a week or two.  Year end taxes nearly broke the bank.  There is plenty of work scheduled on the horizon, but after this payroll, there won't be any money left.  Everyone started brainstorming about debts we could collect and customers we could approach to increase our sales opportunities.  It was just the response he wanted to hear, and everyone left the meeting feeling rather hopeful.

Just then his wife arrived, collected the staff together, and began haughtily, "We have let you people slide for too long!  We're all going to have to buckle down--."  My brother quickly cut her off, saying that he had already addressed the staff on this matter.  She was disappointed because she had prepared quite a tirade.

I didn't care for the fact that her tone seemed to suggest that the fault lie with us, when she manages the money. 

Later, it slipped out that me and the new guy were the ones they intended to lay off, if it came to that.  I thought that somewhat odd, since my sister-in-law's skills are geared toward accounting.  Yet, somehow, the girl caring for the day to day accounting, buying, and billing (also her best friend) was in no danger of being affected by the lay off. 

I set to work with sales as my goal.  What did the boss's wife busy herself with?  She pulled everyone off of their projects to reorganize the warehouse, move furniture, change stations.  Clearly, she is less concerned about making money than she is setting things in order so she can manage without a staff! 

Anyway, enough monies could be collected from past due invoices to more than cover the rent and payroll.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Setback

My boss's wife pushed for several trademarked items to be listed on a certain online site where we were selling some merchandise.  I ignored her as long as I dared, but she insisted more adamantly.  And when I thought that my job was in jeopardy, I did as I was told.  Immediately, I received warnings from the site administration and the content was removed.  Her response was rather flippant, and she insisted that we push the issue and relist the items.  As a result, our storefront was shut down indefinitely.  This set back my department one whole year and set our online sales back to zero.

She had always thought another venue would be more profitable, though admittedly more expensive.  So, I began to build a second storefront on the new site.  Well, the cost was overwhelming, the results underwhelming (as I had predicted).  But I had started a third and forth store on some lesser known sites that began to see steady results, so I felt that my job was secure.

She commissioned a new employee to build a stand alone website, and work on that began.  I thought once of feeling threatened by this, but since the task was rather outside and above his skill level, it would take time.  Lots of time.  And they had ignored my warning that the site could not draw much traffic with the planned approach.  It has been several months now, but the stand alone website is scheduled to launch next Friday.

I don't know what this will mean for my future with the company.  I have only been consulted on the new project occasionally, which is odd since I am the Online Sales & Marketing member of the team.

Also, this week, all of my assigned tasks have been very menial.  For instance, a phone was placed at my work station.  I was told that the morning shift will share the responsibility of reception as always, but when my shift begins, that task will fall exclusively to me.  Hmmm.  Okay.  Also, from now on, it is my job to take out the trash and clean the warehouse every Friday.  This used to be a shared responsibility that was rotated.  I suppose, that since my department is struggling financially through no fault of my own, these tasks justify keeping me on to free up other members whose endeavors are currently bringing in more money. 

The day after being informed of these changes, I was busy with a customer and was carrying a heavy load from the rear of the warehouse where there are no phones.  The phone began to ring.  And ring.  And ring.  I looked around to find that all the eyes of the entire staff were fixed on me.  I made a dash to the phone, knowing full well that it was a test.  I was nearly to the phone when the new guy reluctantly picked it up.  I swiped it from him hastily, threw a look of displeasure to everyone, and said, "no, that is MY JOB!"

A few minutes later, my brother noticed that I had started to cry, but he dared not interfere.