Friday, January 17, 2014

I Can't Leave Fast Enough

Everyone I had worked with over the past decade was gone. It seemed like I was the last man standing from a time that no longer existed. Be that as it may, I still had to hang on for the remaining weeks and not be fired or I would get nothing but a hand shake from the guards out the side door. I probably wouldn't even unemployment. This wasn't going to be as easy as it was in the past. Operations had been a fun place to go to work because there was plenty of work to do with a bunch of jokers. With no ad revenue everybody's job was in doubt. So the days of joking around were over and I kept having to remind myself to speak in whispers, at least to the few people I trusted.

I was looking over the Style section that I was closing. Of the few ads was a rare full page ad for woman's apparel. The more I looked at the proof the more the outline of the model revealed more than the paper allowed. However it was a close shave as to whether this breeched the standards. So I took the ad to Bill, one of the last old managers to get his opinion. After looking it over Bill agreed. "Oh yeah. Take that over to Gordon to have him touch it up." I grabbed the ad jacket then headed for Gordon's desk. I threw the jacket down on Gordon's desk with the offending graphic facing up. "You wanna fix that Gordon?" Gordon looked at the ad for a moment then asked, "Fix what." Rather than speak anything aloud in the subdued, hostile working environment that I found myself in I grabbed the ad then wrote over the face of it, "Lose the Toe." Gordon immediately understood this to mean the camel toe and noticed the devil's triangle of which I wished to refrain from evening mentioning. I could hear the complaining if I said vagina or labia or God forbid little man in the boat. Rather, even though time was not of the essence as there was little to do for anyone, I simply wrote "Lose the Toe."

Shortly thereafter my manager, who's name escapes me now, walked by my desk and said, "Tom can you step into my office for a moment, please." That never sounded pleasant especially now so. "Sure." I responded and followed head hung low behind my manager into her office. "You mind closing the door please." She requests as she sits behind her desk. "Okay." I respond though asking to have the door closed is never a good sign either. That's when I noticed the recently flagged vagina ad jacket sitting on her desk so I relaxed a bit. I figured my manager is going to thank me for the good catch keeping the revealing pose out of the paper. She begins addressing me as she points to the ad. "We can't have that Tom." I look down and agrees. "That's right boss. That's why I flagged the ad for Gordon to fix." Now I'm anxiously waiting for my "good save" when drops the bomb on me. "No Tom. We can't have toe. You can't say toe at the Washington Post." I look at the word toe and time slowed to a crawl. A black cloud fell over me and thoughts raced through my head. Was I to be fired for writing the word toe? Not even the words camel toe but toe? Obviously after Gordon was done with the ad someone on the crew, and I have my suspects, had complained about the word toe. "We can't use the word toe?" I ask feeling my anger building. "No not at the paper." She answers and it's obvious she's actually serious. I wanted to delve into what scenarios where it would have been appropriate to use the word toe.  But I thought better of the idea. "Oh yeah boss. Now I see your point. I'm sorry about the screw up but I'm grad we didn't let it run like that." Nodding she replies, "Yes I am too. That's all I had to discuss with you Tom. You can go now." That was a relief for me as I felt I was safe from being fired for used the word toe. However, it also put me on high alert of how these last few week would be.

I sat back at my desk with a look that said I wasn't having a good night. Crystal picked up on this as she passed by and stopped next to my desk. "Hey. Everything okay?" I hadn't noticed her until this second and turned. I smiled shaking my head. "Don't say toe." Crystal was perplexed by my comment. "What?" She asks. "Toe." I respond. "You can't say toe. It's against the policy of the Washington Post." Crystal is more confused than ever. "What the fuck are you on about boy?" I explained my recent infraction and run-in with my manager. "Oh my God. I can't believe it. They've got to grow up." Crystal concludes laughing then walks away toward hers desk. I can see Crystal shaking her head still in disbelief as she turns back towards me with an expression that asked "really?". Then she disappears below the cubical divider line. My phone rings. I grabs it. "This is Tom." "What if my car needs a tow? Is that against the policy of the newspaper?" I realizes it's Crystal on the line joking about my toe scolding. "Honey you better watch it on the company phone throwing the T word around." We laughed then hung up before drawing any notice. All joking aside, it was not a time to draw attention to one's self doing anything other than working hard and smile like a happy shoe shine boy.

The following week I was reading an article in the paper about Jimmy Carter feeling that most people who did not support Obama's health care proposal were actually racists. I found that odd since how could Carter know what was the motivation for anybody's position on anything? Speaking to Gregorio nearby I remark, "It says in the paper that Jimmy Carters think people against Obama care are actually racists." Gregorio looks up and asks, What?" I repeat was I just read in the paper. Then Lavinia speaks up and challenges my statement saying that not what Jimmy Carter said. So I assured her he did at least according to that day's Washington Post. Then a began reading the article out loud to prove to her that he apparently did say these things. As I was concentrating on the words of the article I took no notice of the anger building within Lavinia. Suddenly she exploded. "YOU THINK YOUR SO DAMN SMART. YOU'RE AWAYS SAYING SOMETHING AGAINST OBAMA OR DISCUSSING RACISM. I HATE YOU. I REALLY HATE YOU." I don't know how long she stood over me screaming vile hatred at me but Costa hearing the screaming came running out of his office. He hush her up then ushered her into his office. The door closed behind them and I wondered what would become of Lavinia?

The two remained in Costa's office for around half an hour. Lavinia still had several hours remaining on her shift. Would she be written up? Would she be suspended for screaming at me on the floor like she did right in front of the head of ad operations? Certainly of the tables were reversed I'd have already been escorted out the door sans my badge to ever get back in. But when Lavinia emerged from Costa's office she walked over to her desk across from mine, never making eye contact, gather up her things and left for home. No she wasn't getting fired or suspending. She got the rest of the day off for screaming loud enough for everybody on the ad ops floor that she hated me. Great! The Washington Post is all about fairness and equality. Some are more equal than others.

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