Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Knives Come Out

From that day forward the attitude for most of the staff changed toward their fellow coworkers. They were now the competition. Many feared losing their health care benefits if their were fired like Ann whose husband had a bad heart. Soon it would become apparent to those who feared losing their jobs most that, should something happen to seven other people to get them fired, it would be just a pity. If one of the staff tripped up, then putting a foot out to help them on their way out the door might just save one's job. I sensed this uneasiness in people's faces at work but simply wrote it off as them worrying about losing their jobs. He never suspected where and by whom I could be stabbed. I only knew things were different. Seeing things from my perspective I didn't feel desperate so I never focused on the desperation of others on the ad ops floor.

When Gregorio showed the piece of paper from across the room to me and I understood was that it was some kind of joke on Tumbleweed. Gregorio was the new supervisor for pagination. He had beaten out Tumbleweed who naturally had also applied for the position because he was after all "the senior paginator." So when the younger, less experienced Gregorio got the nod over Tumbleweed there was some bad blood between him and his new boss, Gregorio. Therefore in hindsight, perhaps playing a practical joke wasn't the brightest idea Gregorio ever had but it was another slow night in the middle of September. That was supposed to be the busy season yet by nine in the evening everything was done. Still I was busy drawing on the computer and didn't pay much attention to Gregorio. Being hard of hearing didn't help matters either. Being a bit proud about admitting I'm getting older and more deaf, I generally would give some confirming gesture or acknowledgement to make someone believe I heard them rather than make them repeat themselves. Tonight was no different as I smiled at Gregorio's prank on Tumbleweed. Perhaps if he'd have grasped the nature of the joke I may have advised Gregorio against it.

The joke consisted of a fake letter created by Gregorio supposedly from the owner of the paper. In it the letter chastised Tumbleweed for his poor work habits then says he's fired. To most people this would be an obvious joke as why would Donald Graham soil his hands firing so lowly an employee as Tumbleweed. He had multiple choices of henchmen for the job. Tumbleweed, not being the sharpest tack in the box, thought the letter was actually real and that he was being fired. He called his mother at home because Randy wasn't around to talk with now and it was too late to call his house.

"What?" Was his mothers stunned response. However, after a few minutes of him explaining how he found a letter delivered to his desk supposedly from the head of a national newspaper she knew it was only a joke. Then she thought of a way this could help her son keep his job. "Look David." She advised over the phone. "You need to file a complain with personnel immediately. Anyone involved will most likely be fired and that's going to improve your chances for remaining on the job." Tumbleweed felt a bit uneasy about the plan but followed his mother's instructions nonetheless and shot off an email to personnel.

After sending the email Tumbleweed started having second thoughts. He walked over to my desk and began talking to me from out of nowhere about the prank. "Hold on man. What are you talking about Tumbleweed?" I broke in not understanding what Tumbleweed is mumbling about. "I think I screwed up, Tom." Tumbleweed replied looking very worried. "How did you screw up, man?" Dave asks turning towards Tumbleweed. He explains the whole prank and about when I was going to stop him to assure him that he's not been fired - and the editor has bigger fish to fry Tumbleweed says, "So I complained to personnel." My mouth dropped open. "You did what? How did you contact personnel." Tumbleweed replies, "I just emailed them. I'm sorry Tom. I'm sorry." He sighs. "Well it's too late now. Nothing good is going to come of this Tumbleweed. Think about it. All this is going to do is get your boss in hot water but I doubt they will fire him for it. So from now on you are going to have to work with Gregorio everyday. He's going to assign you the really hard jobs just hoping you'll screw up. Man nothing good is going to come out of this." All Tumbleweed kept repeating over and over was, "I'm sorry man. I'm sorry." It would not be very long waiting to find about what was really meant by the apology.

In the mean time the gave the heads up to Gregorio who saw the fake letter still sitting on Tumbleweed's desk. He walked over grabbing it before ripping it into pieces. When Tumbleweed finally returned to his desk Gregorio had a few choice words for him before storming off. Tumbleweed looked over to mee. "I'm sorry man." I shook my head and responded, "You just better tell personnel tomorrow that you got all worked up for nothing and over reacted." Tumbleweed nodded signaling to me that this would be his intentions. So I relaxed hoping I had defused trouble for both Gregorio and Tumbleweed.

Sadly for all parties this would not be the case. I had expected personnel would contact me to get his take on the incident and sure enough within days he received a call to go to personnel. When I walked into the office, sitting there with the young woman in personnel was the head of operations, Costa. Hmmm, I thought to myself sitting down after introductions. Interesting. At first I'm asked about the prank. I explain what I knew about it and tried to forward the idea that Tumbleweed simply over reacted. However after giving my statement something quite unexpected happened.

Costa went about explaining that he and personnel had come to the conclusion that the prank was all my idea and that I'd put Gregorio up to doing it. I at first dropped my jaw stunned by this nonsense. Were they going to fire me over this? In addition Tumbleweed had claimed I had repeatedly sexually harassed him by calling him gay. Naturally I had done this many times joking back and forth just as Tumbleweed had done to me. After listening to Costa and the woman from personnel saying they used secret evidence to find me culpable I didn't know what to say. It appeared Tumbleweed was trying to get me fired too! I thought about all the food I'd given Tumbleweed and the times I'd fixed his car plus the Fourth of July invites. The more he thought about that and the kangaroo court being used to find me guilty the angrier I became. When Costa handed me the paper signifying I was being written up rather than fired I took it and said. "I'll take that money to leave. You can believe that." Costa responded not to do anything rash even though they had already written me up before even hearing my side of the story. They had already made up their minds citing such evidence as me laughing when Gregorio showed the fake letter from across the room. I was the oldest person in the room and the only one who was hard of hearing. It never occurred that deafness might have something to do with why I would laugh about a gag I'd never actually heard of when told from across the room. I knew I wanted out and the sooner the better. I took his little paper and left the personnel office.

When I returned to pagination I saw Tumbleweed sitting there wearing a smirk across his face. He had the look of somebody who felt they finally had the upper hand after a long time being on the bottom. I sat at my desk and began working. From behind I heard Tumbleweed say, "Hi Tom." I didn't even bother to turn around to acknowledge that Tumbleweed was alive. Things were pretty much the way I had warned and that was before he knew Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired too. I knew the paper would not get many chances to fire me now because I was taking the money and leaving. I knew I had to keep my mouth shut and watch out because a cannibalistic attitude took over advertising operations. Now everybody's face took on the look of fear and doubt about the future. Gregorio had kept his job and he hated Tumbleweed now were his words could express. In addition, just as I had warned, Tumbleweed claiming that all of this sexual harassment was occurring right outside the office doors of the head of advertising operations, Costa, looked rather bad. Nobody came away happy except temporarily for Tumbleweed. He wore the stupid grin for several more weeks until he began to see where I might have been right about the outcome and his mother very wrong. He had tried everyday to make chit chat with me but I pretended Tumbleweed wasn't there. In my mind Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired and now he wanted to be buddies again. To me this demonstrated how out of touch Tumbleweed was and that he was liable to do or say anything. So it was better to have no contact with him as far as I was concerned.

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