The Long Tale of The Jerk
I quit my job today. You remember: this one, the one I was so excited about?
Let me relate the chain of events. First, the manager who hired me got demoted the week after I got there. The store was a mess and The Numbers weren’t up to par. So, they bring in the guy who fixes broken stores. Because he’s there to fix them and then leave, he’s not around long enough to need to build a rapport with anyone; he’s rude, brusque, and outspoken. He talks about employees to other employees. Not to mention he’s unreasonable. Still, I tell myself to buck it up and work through the misery until March, when he’s scheduled to hand the store over to some mysterious other-person. I find I can be light-hearted with him, and as long as I stay on the surface, I’ll be okay.
I’m still in training after three weeks; I’ve been told how to operate two machines with their two different, yet connected, programs, how to open the printing lab, how to close it, how to print from two other machines, how to process film, AND how to create orders and charge them for the work I’ve done. However, The Jerk gets ahold of the schedule and decides to manipulate it himself when we were perfectly capable of scheduling ourselves. He schedules me as solo for the whole day, every other day, with no contact from my fellow lab techs. I still feel shaky on the details of how to do all this stuff, and not getting my questions answered doesn’t help. I realize that The Jerk doesn’t know anything about the machines I work with, and thus I have to make a phone call every time I can’t figure something out. I make a phone call at least once every day I work.
I should hope that this clues The Jerk into how untrained I am. Yet, he is often breathing over my shoulder, telling me I need to go faster, I need to get orders done on time. Why aren’t my numbers as high as hers? Never mind that she’s been working for a year and I’ve been working for a month. How dare you mess up an order of nine rolls of film with double prints, indexes for each roll, and CDs with their own indexes! Perhaps it’s because I’ve never done an order like this, nor watched it being done? Nah. That couldn’t be it.
Two of our employees have gotten out, one by a transfer and one by getting a new job. I’ve got everything down but something called Work Flow. It’s essentially time management and prioritizing, plus communication with all three associates who pick the time restraints for me. The Jerk picks a day, mid-February, to bring us all into the back and interview us individually. Mine is last because I’ve been swamped with orders all day. He writes me up for not attending a meeting (The week before: “A meeting? Am I supposed to be there?” Silence.), and for getting customer “complaints” from professional photographers who don’t want me to print their stuff (of course they don’t. They know I’m new and inexperienced, but they don’t think I’m dumb and incompetent. I don’t blame them, but who says you have to count that against me?). I break down and admit that I’ve had doubts of whether the job is right for me. He tells me that he’ll give me a week to call him and tell him I’m going to quit. If I do so in that time, he’ll give me a good recommendation; the other option is to be perfect at the job at the end of the week. He tells me he’s reasonable. I start working at both.
Half of that trial week goes by, and he puts the new schedule up. I’m not scheduled for the rest of that week. I tell him, “How am I supposed to work at being perfect if you don’t schedule me?” He blames it on labor budget. He promises to meet with the people who work on the first day of the schedule and “work something out”. I’m to call after that day for my schedule.
I call Tuesday. I’m scheduled for Saturday. Saturday is past the end of that Trial Week. I ask him if this means he thinks I’m perfect, if he still wants me to work for him. He says, “Oh, yeah. You’re good. Don’t worry.”
Today is that Saturday. These past few days I’ve picked up applications and pondered about going back over to that temp agency, but I don’t know what time availability to give all these people. Am I working next week? Does he only want me to work Saturdays? And for how long? This morning, I resolved to confront The Jerk about it. “I’m fine with working Saturdays; just tell me how long you plan to short me to meet your labor budget, and I’ll go find a second job.”
But he never came to work today. And so finally, I took my lunch. When I got back, I had two huge orders waiting for me. One due at 4:00 and another seven-rolls-with-lots-of-indexes due at 6:00. So, of course, I pop the rolls of film into the processor and start on the order that’s due earliest. At 4:00, I’m finishing up that first order and a few small orders due soon when Mr. Seven-rolls walks in. With five more rolls of film in his hand. He asks me, “You haven’t even started on my order?”
I shake my head. “If I take those, I don’t know if I’ll get the order done by 6:00,” I tell him. This is an honest statement; it’ll be a stretch as it is getting the original seven done by closing. Just the way he wants them. I realize he is one of the complainers that I was written up about. I realize he resents me because I’ve screwed up his orders twice before. But I don’t want to promise something I know I can’t do.
He says something I didn’t catch and storms out. I manage to shrug it off as I pick up the first roll of negatives. A co-worker, who is ever-sensitive to his customers because he’s ever the camera salesman, says, “Uh-oh. I better call [our manager].”
And the next thing I hear is that same co-worker relaying me The Jerk’s message: “If she can’t do it, let Tom do it.” I think to myself, “I’m not going to let Tom do it; he doesn’t want to do it.” I hear Tom saying, “What’re you doing now?” to our co-worker. “Going to call Mr. Seven-Roll and asking him, if he hasn’t brought them somewhere else by now, to bring the rolls back here and we’ll finish them. Somehow.”
And then I hear the desperate co-worker tell me, “Kate, [our manager] says, ‘Send Kate home.'” I’d just finished scanning the first roll. I threw up my hands and left. And as I left, I had two sympathetic faces follow me. And when I got to the door, I turned back to those two faces who felt sorry for me and gave them both good-bye hugs.
After standing at the bus stop for awhile, I let it sink in. “Send Kate home early” basically means “I’m going to fire her.” And I remembered waking up this morning feeling strangely like it was my last day at work. I was convinced I was going to be fired and told several people so on my way to work. I heard from them that I should quit first because it looks better on my resume. And I realized that I didn’t care if it looked better or not; I wanted The Jerk to look a little worse because I quit. I wanted him to stress over only having one lab tech when he should have three. I wanted to continue the chain of lost employees (I’m number three in the last two months) under his management.
So I called his phone. I was hoping to hear the surprise in his voice, but instead I left a voicemail. “Hey, this is Kate. I think you and I both agree that I can’t hack it as your lab tech. So I quit. If you want to debate that, call me back.”
I do feel sad for that remaining lab tech; I hope she gets the courage and the means to quit, because I know she hates the job more than I did. I do feel sad for Tom. I’m still working on the adjectives required for the “Reason Why You Left” box on applications. “Unreasonable Expectations”, and “Not Enough Hours” don’t feel vengeful enough.
But past all those vindictive feelings (or so I wish), I hope our dear manager examines himself in reflection with a sort of, “What did I do wrong?” I hope he tries not to be The Jerk.