JoAnne and I had our first
fight this week.
Until now, my nice lady boss
and I have enjoyed an amazingly smooth and rancor-free relationship:
highly unusual for two middle-aged alpha females thrown into relentless
proximity, day after day. There is no mudslinging with JoAnne. No
back-biting. No bitchy remarks or cat fights in the Ladies Room or
subtle competition over the attention of the Testosterone Units in the
office. As a matter of fact, I was starting to believe that JoAnne and
I were the
gold standard by which such relationships should be measured: the
perfect pairing of employer and employee, mentor and apprentice,
partner and partner. The Cagney & Lacey of the Dirt Company, as
it were. At least, our relationship felt that way until the staff
meeting on Monday -- where some things were said, and some things were not
said that should have been said, and some dewicate
widdle feewings were hurt -- and the next thing I knew I was sitting at
the front desk furiously fighting back tears, rewriting my
résumé in my head, wondering if they were still
hiring at In & Out Burger.
Meanwhile JoAnne was quietly
slipping into her office and closing the door.
In a lot of ways, it was like
fighting with my husband: brief, absurd, overblown, ridiculously
one-sided. Usually when David and I "fight," only one of us is ever
of the fact that we are fighting. (The other one of us is left standing
in the middle of the kitchen, wondering what on earth he did to get his
wife so twisted up
in knots again.) My husband and my boss are a lot alike,
temperamentally: they're both calm, rational, reasonable human beings
... slow to anger, quick to make amends, always on the look-out for the
most effective form of conflict resolution. With David, the "conflict"
is usually resolved in one of three ways: 1.) He apologizes profusely
for whatever it was that he did or didn't do, and then I get my feet
rubbed, 2.) I apologize profusely for being a big stoopid emotional
baby, and then I get my feet rubbed, or 3.) I get my feet rubbed.
Obviously a different form of
conflict resolution is required with my nice lady boss.
After a day or two of muted
noncommunication and eye contact avoidance, JoAnne finally approached
me late in the afternoon yesterday. She stood in front of my desk,
fiddling nervously with her pen. "A couple of people have mentioned
that you seem ... uhhm ... grumpier than usual," she said. "I guess you
were pretty upset about the office move falling through, huh?"
I stopped alphabetizing
timesheets in mid-shuffle and looked up at her. "I was devastated," I
said to her simply.
anyone understands how important the upcoming
office move was to me, it should be JoAnne. She knows that the only
reason I took this job in the first place, over strong reservations
about the crappy location and the scary surroundings, was because I was
promised that the office would be moving within six months. That was a
year and a half ago. She knows how difficult the commute is for us,
every morning and every evening, and what a logistical hardship for our
household. She knows how unsafe I feel in this neighborhood: how even a
ten-minute walk to the BART Station is fraught with peril and menace.
(It's a fear that everyone in the Dirt Company office shares.) Most
importantly, she knows that David continues to postpone any sort of
career move -- basically, he is staying put at a job that he hates, a
job where he is criminally overworked and underpaid, a job that chews
him up and spits him out, day after exhausting dispiriting day -- until
we are both sure that I am working someplace safe and familiar and
accessible ... preferably someplace I can commute to on my own, without
having to rely on David all the time (and without having to wonder
whether I should be carrying my Benchmade in the bottom of my purse).
It was the thought of finally moving our office out of the remote,
crime-ravaged Coliseum area and into nice 'safe' downtown Oakland, in
another couple of months, that was keeping both David and I sane.
But hearing JoAnne announce
that the move had fallen through, at the staff meeting on Monday,
wasn't what upset me the most.
"If our positions were
reversed," I said to her quietly -- meaning, if *I* were the boss and
*she* the loyal adoring Administrative Ass -- "I would have met with
you privately, before the meeting, and let you know that the office
move deal fell through before I announced it to everybody else." The
way she did it, I said, left me feeling completely blindsided.
"It didn't give me any time to
pull myself together," I said. Everybody in the meeting saw me leave
the conference room in tears.
She blinked a couple of times.
The look of surprise on her face was 100% legitimate. "I'm sorry," she
said. "I guess I didn't think about that." This, again, is where JoAnne
and David are similar: when they say 'I'm sorry,' you know they mean it. It is one of the
things I love most about my husband AND my nice
"That's OK," I said. "I'm over
And that was pretty much the end of that. JoAnne went back
to her office to call the real estate agent again, and I went back to
alphabetizing timesheets, and the order of The Dirt Company universe
was more or less restored to normal for the time being.
I doubt that I'm going to get
my feet rubbed, though.