The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I Vant To Be Left Alone

Due, at least in part, to the ever-dwindling numbers in our office, I've become a magnet for office problems. Well, this has actually been going on for some time, but it appears to be getting worse. As I'm now one of the few remaining "old-timers" (at just over 4 years with the firm), I must appear to be Yoda-like in my power.

I mentioned, some time back, that my work area is at the very back of the studio of Rupert & McElroy's office. I like working back here by myself. My job duties are such that I don't have to have a great deal of involvement from the rest of the staff and the privacy this location affords me has a substantial number of benefits.

Given that I have zero respect for architects, I prefer not to work around them whenever I can avoid it. I can respect their artistic talent. Honestly, I can. But, it's simply impossible for me to put up with their arrogance when it comes to the integrity of their work. I'm sorry, but they are human, just like everyone else, and just as capable of making errors. When you bring something to their attention ("Look, Steve, it's a nice looking roof detail, but it's just can't be built in the basement."), they just turn their noses up at you as if you were a cur ("You are construction. You are beneath us and we don't answer to you.").

I'm not one to generalize (except when it comes to republicans), but in my lengthy experience with them, it is the rule. There have been a few notable architects (primarily women, and maybe that means something, too), who have been willing to take another look at their design, when construction simply could not make their dream (as they have drawn it) a reality.

You may trust, as well, that the architects in my office are intimately familiar with my philosophy. They know I will pull their jobs through, but I will remind them, every step of the way, of all the avoidable problems that they (and their architectural ilk) should have caught before it got as far as it did.

Consequently, given my curmudgeonly attitude, and my proximity, I'm usually not in the gossip loop. Which works swell for me. I just want to get my work done and go home. Sometimes, that works better than others.

We have a couple of architectural interns working for us right now. They are primarily drafting, but do have a few other duties from time to time. They seem to be relatively nice kids, but, well, they aspire to be architects, so they must be damaged somehow. Let's call the interns Rauol and Lexus. Raoul is a very handsome, very quiet and unassuming young man of latin descent. He is EXTREMELY religious.

Lexus is a twenty-five year old black woman, who has some issues with the rest of the architectural staff. I suppose because she knows how I feel about them, she likes to confide in me. I really would rather she didn't. I don't want to be in the middle of it, but also, I don't like being the person advising her on employment issues.

So, when Lexus came to me the other day, and advised me that she was being racially harrassed, I wanted to crawl under my desk and pretend she wasn't there.

I can't SEE you!!!!

"Tammy, I'm not sure how to handle this situation and could really use your help." Oh, they suck you in like this every time. Lexus has come to me before about issues with her car insurance company, dating questions, laundry issues, unusual rashes, all kinds of things. I didn't realize we were doing "work stuff". So, foolish me, I said, "Sure, what's up?" That's when she proceeded to tell me about all the problems she was having with her immediate of the architects.

She has more education than he does, and therefore, believes that she shouldn't be taking direction from him. His twenty years of experience in the business is not, in her eyes, a trade off for her degree. Oh, brother, these people get on my nerves. The petty bullshit just drives me nuts.

Better. He made some kind of comment to her and used the term "fried chicken" and she wants some guidance on how she should handle his racial remark. Now, she didn't share the entire conversation they'd had. So, I'm not sure if he said, "Hey, Lexus, you fried chicken-eatin' darkie, get that drafting done and quit lazing about like a house niggah." or if he said, "Hey, Lexus, I'm hungry for some fried chicken for lunch today. I hear this place down the block makes good slaw, too. Would you like to grab a bite with me?" So, I don't know if he intended it to be a racial slur, or if she may have taken it out of context. And most important of all...It's Not My Place To Respond To This Kind Of Stuff!!!

So, I double-checked to make sure no one had stuck an NAACP sign over my desk (and they hadn't) and I referred her to the vice president (who also manages employment issues) and told her that if she was having any type of problem, she should bring it up to him. And then I didn't say to her that they don't pay me enough around here to deal with the crap I'm dealing with, let alone THIS crap. But, I was thinking it. Big time.

Two days later, someone else made a "watermelon" remark to her. What does she do? She comes back to report it to me. Again, I didn't witness the incident or hear the conversation, so I have no idea about context, and, once again, I route her to the vice-president.

This is the south. And there are a lot of stupid men working in this office. But most of them are the sensitive artist types, and usually they aren't the kind to make such politically incorrect statements. But, you hate to give some men more credit than they should have. You know?

I don't know if just saying 'watermelon' or 'fried chicken' to a person of color is a racial slur. Is it? I certainly try to be careful not to hurt someone's feelings (unless they are a contractor or an architect, but even then I keep strictly to professional talents and not appearance). Maybe I'm not as good at that as I thought. Now, I haven't said 'watermelon' or 'fried chicken' or 'Colt 45 malt liquor' or 'baby daddy' or any of that shit to Lexus. I try not to talk to her much at all, if I can help it. She's not very bright, and certainly not very wise, plus she's an training to be an architect. Ugh! But, with so few women in this office, I guess she feels comfortable with me. It probably doesn't hurt that I'm so damned motherly, either!

So, I'm sitting back here in No Man's Land, kicking all the personnel problems back to whence they've come, trying to do the job they don't pay me enough to do and just get by until I win the lottery (or make it to quitting time, whichever comes first on a daily basis). And wondering if I've said anything racially offensive to her, too.

I should hang a photo of Greta Garbo over my desk. Instead of the sign I really do have over my desk...


Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

I've worked with architects, too, as I used to be in Marketing for a lighting manufacturer, and they come in a close second to lighting designers in the ego department. Oh, my God, there was so much stroking going down we could have opened a massage parlor.

And I had my office, too, which was great. But there were always a couple of people (and more and more, the longer I stayed) who thought it was a confessional booth. If they called and I didn't answer (caller ID is a wonderful thing...saved me from many an "important question" from some of the engineers about what kind of digital camera should they get their kid for Christmas or what's the best inkjet printer for home use...what am I, the Staples Help Desk?) they would just march right in and wait for me to get off the phone or finish editing something, whatever. Although they didn't stop the interruptions, I learned two techniques to get them to leave:

1. Stand up. Unless they're totally clueless, they'll get the hint.
2. If #1 doesn't work, grab your coffee mug and walk them out.
3. If all else fails, get a lock on the door or put up a sign, something like you're on deadline and won't be able to talk until 2 or whatever. I have to admit I've used all of these techniques from time to time.

4/06/2006 11:32 AM  
Blogger Highlander said...

SuperSoaker. Full of urine.

People will get the hint quickly.

4/07/2006 7:22 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

That's what I did wrong! I should have requested ideas of ways to run people out of my office!!

H -

I would hate to thinking our typical morning routine would be...

H: "Did you get your cellphone, Baby?"

Me: "Uh huh. And I packed your lunch. It's in the fridge."

H: "Thanks! I peed in your Super Soaker for you."

Me: "Thanks! I guess I'm all ready, then. Gotta go."

Opus -

I wish I could say that they haven't walked me all over the place. The only haven is the ladies room. And I have used it. But, even that is no haven from Lexus. I've literally had her follow me in there before.

To add another interesting layer, Lexus lives directly across the street from us and just last weekend, as we were all sitting outside enjoying Saturday afternoon, she walked over for a chat...about work.

4/07/2006 7:51 AM  
Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

Oh, yikes. I used to go to lunch every Friday with a group of ladies from different departments, and we had one rule: no work talk. (except for gossip about other coworkers) Even though pretty much all of us are out of there now, we still meet...and still never talk about work (except for gossip about former coworkers)

4/08/2006 11:00 AM  

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