Sunday, January 05, 2014

Crystal Buys A Condo

The boys in the pagination department hadn't been at work too long and were busy working their sections. Being a Thursday night they would need to close all of the Real Estate sections that would publish in two days on Saturday morning. It always was a hellish night and this night would be no different. Tumbleweed had already noticed two full page ads running in the same section that were in the edition meant for only the Northern Virginia zone. He couldn't understand why anyone would waste money like that and asked. When it was all said and done even the head of advertising herself, a no nonsense, all business Asian lady that didn't normally chat personally or fraternize with non managerial underlings came by to that him. She used managers when she needed to get a point across to the staff. She came over to Tumbleweed's desk to thank him on this catch. Only one version of the full page ad was supposed to publish in that section and another full page ad from an entirely different advertiser was supposed to go where the duplicate ad was incorrectly running. Tumbleweed saved the paper over a hundred grand and this was perhaps - his finest moment in  publishing history. From there, fresh off his Romanian debacle, things like his life and coincidently the Real Estate market, would all begin tipping south. But all of this wasn't apparent at that moment. Tumbleweed made the catch of the year in advertising and the Real Estate market could only go up. That's what everybody thought during those boom times.

Tumbleweed was still aglow from advertising department top manager, Kuny thanking him personally. Interrupting his thoughts Crystal passes by walking in low keyed manner then slaps her things down on her desk not far from the boys in paginating. She logs on then looks around. Her manager had already just warned her about being late and she'd gotten stuck in traffic the next day plus her eyeglasses were damaged. The poor girl was damn near blind without her glasses and normally the brass would be cool about such things. But recently, everybody had noticed a change in how everybody was being managed. The worker's paradise was becoming less Eden and more like hell. The practical joking had slowed to crawl. Mostly, jokes were reserved for employees as they left work like when Carl rolled out of the employee parking garage with the string of large paper binders and clips tinkling behind his SUV while Chris and Dave stood nearby laughing. Still, the work environment seemed more serious. The management had really been giving Randy a hard time with one manager absolutely having it out for him. He was close to being fired. Whatever actually happened, as Randy was never saying, he was suspended for a week and allow to take vacation for the following week.

So Crystal didn't want trouble and was glad she apparently made it in unnoticed. After a few minutes she rushed over to the pagination area obviously excited. At my desk she stoop low to be less obvious and says, "I'm buying a condo!" This is not what I needed to hear from Crystal who is in her late twenties and just getting started financially. "Ah, ya may want to wait and not do that right now." I warned with the serious looks coming over my face. But Crystal pays no mind my concern and begins describing her new condo and the amenities. I hear her but my mind is elsewhere and can only think about the Real Estate sections I've been closing every week and how the prices have exploded since 9/11. I understood that the markets go up and the market go back down again. I also, unlike most people in early 2004, had a good understanding of the Federal Reserve System and fiat money. The last thing a person needed to do was buy over priced Real Estate at the peak of the boom, lock in the bubble price with a mortgage then watch as the price of the property drop but not the monthly payments. "All I'm saying dear is it might be better to just wait a couple years then buy the condo." Try as I might to convince Crystal to hold off buying the condo in Alexandria she had her mind made up. She never heard my concerns about the economy.

But unknown to the two of us Vera, a frumpy middle-aged woman was following our conversation. She also followed the conventional thinking at all times, doing the appropriate thing according to the experts on all occasions. She eves dropped on our conversation and her anger built steadily. She couldn't contain herself any longer. "Tom you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Real Estate is a great investment for a young person like Crystal and you are older and should not influence her to do the wrong thing." I started to pipe up then thought the better of it. I still remembered the Liz incident where she repeatedly told me to shut up while I was speaking with another worker whom Liz, a spinster looking older woman, had a school girl crush on. Annoyed, I finally turned to Beth and replied, "No, I'm not going to shut up." Beth jumped up and shouted, "Do you want me to go home then?" I failed to see what that had to do with anything and responded, "What do I care? You aren't doing any work." She then stormed out and I forgot all about it. When I returned to work the following Monday I spent the afternoon explaining my "violent" confrontation that Liz swore I had had with her causing her to leave. Once the investigating was completed and all the parties on the floor were put through the Inquisition by Manager, Tom, establish both parties at fault and wrote up Liz and I. I was of course charged with "instigating a conversation" which led to Liz getting her nose out of joint and fleeing work which she didn't need a reason as she begged off all the time. Usually it was her allergies she complained of but always fired up a smoke the second she left the building.

So by then I knew better when being scolded by a woman at the paper. A man had to just shut up and take it or perhaps excuse themselves and walk away politely with eyes cast downward in shame. I looked at Crystal and we both realized Vera's little indignant tirade may cause attention that is unwanted by either of us and Crystal says as she gets up to walk back to her work station, "I already bought the condo. I signed the papers today. I'll talk to you later about it." She slipped away from Dave's desk. Vera had gone back to minding her own business but the incident reminded me I had to speak in hushed tones now. Everything had become so serious. Naturally, there were always Sarah type people around the paper. However, most were relaxed fun people who enjoyed a laugh. That's why when Carol, a tall woman with a viking figure, came by eating a pear for her daily visit with the boys in pagination, Dave didn't hesitate to say "Nice pear." Then after a second had passed he continued. "Good looking fruit too." Carol open her mouth wide pretending to be shocked while everybody began to giggle. Keith, Dave's supervisor at the time warned, "DAVE! Seventh floor, dude. Seventh floor." This was the floor where personnel was located though they had relocated recently. It's where one would be sent for major inquisitions.  Up till then everything was handled by the managers on the floor and personnel never got into the middle. Ronnie liked handling things in house as with the Liz and me dust-up.

Liz did managed to at least try to get her 30 pound of flesh against me several months later. She was a highly intelligent woman with an IQ off the charts. On the opposite side of the coin, she was emotionally retarded. Liz never saw anything except from her perspective. It obviously irritated her that I had not been fired by the paper and instead she and I both were written up - the transgressions placed into our "permanent records!" So Liz devised a plan, naturally seen from only her childish perspective, where she would claim she witness me and Randy having a heated argument and that it made her feel "uncomfortable." Being made to feel uncomfortable was a hanging offense at the paper especially if it entailed a man supposedly making a woman feel uncomfortable. From Liz's perspective it would not matter that me and Randy never had any heated arguments. This ruse would be what Liz needed to get her foot in the door of personnel so she could broach the subject of the earlier incident. Once she finished telling her story about the fight between Randy and I she remarked to the woman in personnel Glenda, that "Oh by the way there was this other incident that happened blah blah blah - this Tom character is a real violent nut ready to go off." Liz had made her complaint late on a Friday afternoon. The following Monday Randy started his two week vacation and wouldn't be available for the inquisition. Liz took off that Monday hoping by Tuesday I would be fired.

The moment I set my things down I heard the phone ring. I noticed Glenda's name on the caller ID. I thought 'That can't be good' then grab the phone. "Hello Glenda. How are you doing?" Glenda responded pleasantly as she always did. "Fine, fine Tom. Could you come up to my office now for a few minutes? I'd like to talk with you." I agreed and set the phone down. As I made my way towards Personnel I wondered if this talk would have anything to do with the Liz incident from several months earlier. "Nah." I assured himself getting into the elevator. However, Glenda described very quickly this alleged violent argument I had with Randy which made me laugh. "It never happened Glenda." I knew the earlier incident would make no difference now since Liz had just shot all her credibility to hell with this phony story. When Glenda mentioned the earlier incident I defended myself saying this was just another made up claim. I explained how I was written up for instigating a conversation which I knew wasn't any sort of crime at the paper in the first place. It was just a conviction to appease Liz which it obviously hadn't done. "I think they were trying to show Liz they were somehow being fair even though I never did anything to her."  I explained. Liz was written up for leaving her shift early which was a crime at the paper, which to be truthful everyone was guilty of from time to time. Probably Glenda as well. Knowing the Daily sections had to be closed while I was in the talk with Glenda and that Ronnie would be raising hell about my whereabouts and why weren't my sections closed - I kicked back with Glenda and allow my gift of gab to settle in for the long haul. Before what turned into a three hour talk, I discussed kids and family, boating and the Chesapeake Bay, general scuttle butt about the paper, whatever I could think up to extend the conversation and milk it dry. When I finally left Glenda's office and returned to the advertising production floor I made a B-line for Ronnie's office. Walking into his doorway Ronnie looked up a yelled, "Where the hell you been?" I quickly replied, "Sorry boss. I've just been with Personnel for the last three hours discussing the fight at work that Liz complained Randy and me had two Friday nights ago." Ronnie voice got louder. "WHAT? You and Randy didn't have a fight two Friday nights ago! I was here the entire night. It never happened!" I nodding my agreement, "I didn't remember fighting with Randy either, boss." Then held up the paper Glenda had given me about the incident. Ronnie snatched the paper from my hand and said very business like, "I'll handle this. Get to work."

Handle it he did and I never again had a problem with Liz. In fact the manager who wrote up Dave for the conversation instigation eventually confided to me that the incident happened because Liz was a bit nutty. I never spoke another word to Liz even when at times I was forced to sit directly across from her. Dave believed her to be unstable as well so it would be safer avoiding conversations with her. Even Glinda suggested not speaking with her which Dave and I both found an easy task.

As a result of the drama with Liz, I knew not to press his luck. Bob had warned me about the harassment policy at the paper. It was a lose lose situation if you were a man, especially a white man. You were guilty until proven innocent and I had already been through it enough in my life. The process was tilted unjustly and I had been fortunate Ronnie cleared me. Vera was more politically savvy than Liz but not as brainy. She was very adept working the emotional side of the coin. I definitely had no interest in crossing her which is why I clammed up when Vera had interrupted my earlier conversation with Crystal to scold me. Everybody got back to work. I wasn't happy Vera had dressed me down and time would come to prove her absolutely wrong about what I was trying to warn Crystal about.

I had a few minutes later on that evening and walked over to Crystal's desk touching her shoulder. She whirled around then pulled off her head-set. "Hey. I'm so excited about my condo." I smiled and said, "Well I hope everything works out with it. When do you move in?" She replies, "Next month I go to settlement. It's a done deal, dude!" I try to smile and listen to Crystal describing all the amenities like garage parking and being close to downtown Washington. I heard her talking but I was wondering how this Real Estate deal would end up for Crystal especially since she paid almost a quarter million for the condo on an adjustable rate loan. It was the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century and the economy was rolling along. Maybe I could be wrong. However, seeing prices on everything soaring I knew things would have to go bust sometime in the near future.


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