I just recently landed a job at a video/copy center. It seemed like the perfect job for me. There is an elderly woman who manages the whole place, I'll call her Ruth.
Ruth is sixty-four, she has been running the video place for eighteen years and she leaves a pair of her flip-flops behind the counter (which is two feet wide by four feet long). She has short grey hair, glasses, her pointed nose and her chin stick out about an inch farther than her mouth. Her perfectly squared fingernails are painted an electric green to match the car of her favorite racer. She has blue eyes that sag at the bottom. Her body type: dumpy.
Ruth is my boss. She seemed as sweet as key lime pie when I first met her. She seemed to take a liking to me. A twenty-six-year-old working in a video store? Now that's somebody I can trust. It didn't take long for her to turn me against her. She would ramble on and on about small town gossip. She would tell me things about the customers that I didn't want to know. She would tell me personal details about the customers that I didn't think anyone should know. At first I would entertain her and ask questions, but after only a week I tired of her incessant negativity. I would nod, and then walk away and pretend I was straightening movies.
Things got worse the second week. She would come in on a rampage about one of my fellow employees who rented a movie to a "bad family". She would yell and scream about it. So much so that I got nervous that something bad was going to happen. I found out that week that she was as dry as a dead tree branch and could ignite just as easily. If she wasn't yelling at a customer, she was yelling at you. And if she wasn't yelling at you, she was writing it all down.
I'm not kidding. She has a three ring binder full, FULL, of things that employees have done wrong. She prints out the invoice where a common mistake might happen, circles your ID number, writes out your name in red or pink ink, followed by a vile paragraph. Her paragraph might read something like this:
You shouldn't have opened up an account for this woman. She already has an account and she is not supposed to rent here anymore! The whole family is a bad family! Didn't a message pop up telling you not to open this account?
My natural response would have been, sorry, Ruth, I just started working here and I didn't know that Connie was part of a "Bad Family", and by the way no such message popped up . PS how the hell do I open an account, you never trained me how to do that?
One time she wrote that a high school student, who shall remain nameless, had messed up so badly that he ought to be shot. This is just the kind of environment that I want to be working in.
Not only does she keep this nasty book, but she encourages every employee to read it. She told me, "I can't get all five of you together just to tell you 'don't do this', so I put it in the book." Wow. Nice management style, and a healthy way to communicate to boot. It might actually work if phrases like deserve to be shot or are you stupid? Weren't sifted throughout the pages.
I thought to myself, sure this old broad is crazy. And mean. Oh yes, she's mean. But I can work for her. I can stand it. I need a job, why not this one. She'll never treat me bad. She'll never yell at me like that. How wrong I was.
I was working tonight. Ruth was behind the counter chatting to some kooky old lady who had hired a pet psychic to find her lost dog, the second psychic because the first told the kooky lady it was dead. She was going on and on to Ruth about this. And Ruth kept feeding her questions so they talked for nearly twenty-minutes. In between Ruth would snap at me, "Clean those movies!" or "Put those away!" She didn't ask kindly. She snapped. So I was out on the floor putting away movies, as I was ordered drill-sargent style. There was a girl waiting to rent a movie. Ruth was behind the counter, but couldn't be bothered. She snapped at me again, "Matt, you have a customer!" Jesus, what was with this lady? I thought.
I handled the customer, who was pleasant and smiled at me. Then Ruth rounded on me, with a store full of customers no less. She yelled, two feet from my face, "You don't need to get all flustered when a customer is waiting!" She said this loud enough for everybody in the dumpy little store to hear. I was at a loss for words. Nobody had ever treated me like that before. If I was flustered before it was nothing compared to what I was right then. I hate conflict and confrontation, it's my least favorite thing to be a part of. But I knew if I backed down than this old bitch was going to walk all over me.
I said in a calm, but assertive voice, "Ruth, I really don't like the way you are speaking to me." I cold feel my face flush red with embarrassement. She looked away from be and said, "Well you were!" She stretched this last word out like a child would when they are trying to annoy their siblings. She then did an embarrassing, vaguly accurate impression of me being embarrassed. CUNT! I was out for blood, but still wanted to be professional.
"And now you're belittling me in front of the customers!" my voice was raised now too. She took a step back. "Well, I don't mean to. But we can't keep the customers waiting like that." Her voice had dropped considerably. She scurried off to shelf movies and left me behind the counter. Why was she screaming at me about a customer who had smiled at me and left the store completely satisfied?
After that outburst I longed to go outside and smoke a cigarette. I don't even smoke. I either wanted to do that or go punch Ruth's old, fat, bumpy, pink neck. I stayed and waited on customers, who heard my public humiliation, and tried to keep my fingers from shaking while I punched in their phone numbers. When they had all left Ruth came back behind the counter. I still hated the bitch, but I wanted to keep it professional. I said, "Look, Ruth, I'm sorry about what happened earlier." There, I apologized. Now it was her turn. Then I would tell her that if she wanted me to do something that yelling at me was a bad motivator. But she said nothing. She ignored me. She wanted to pretend that it never even happened. Fine!
She told me minutes later that she the kooky lady with the missing dog drove her crazy. Her mouth pursed up like a dog's puckered asshole and her eyebrows fused. So all this rage that she directed on me was because this kooky lady misses her dog so she hires a pet psychic to lie to her and Ruth has to listen to it only because she is inquiring about the dead dog? This bitch was volatile!
Bitch! She was about to leave when I noticed that she left me with a register that didn't contain any five dollar bills. I mentioned it, and she did her sweet as key lime pie voice, and went to go get some from the pizza place around the corner. Good!
She was gone for close to an hour. I couldn' help but picture her lying in the back of the parking lot, blood trickling from her mouth with a huge welt on her head. The twenties that she had taken to exchange for fives were all missing now. Some vagrant teenager, probably a previous employee, had clubbed her on the head on her way to the pizza place. I would probably be the one that found her, lying helpless on the asphault. "Matt," she'd croak, "call an ambulance. I can't move." I'd stare down at her and smile. I'd get into my car and burn rubber in her ugly face as I blared "Instant Karma" by John Lennon with my windows rolled down. She'd most likely die in the parking lot. Cold and alone. When asked if I saw her, I'd say "No, officer. She left to get fives and she never came back."
The door swung open at eight thirty and Ruth came back with a fistful of fives. So she was alive! I felt disappointment creep into every cell in my body. "Sorry it took me so long, I ran into my sister-in-law and we got to bull shittin'. I ate half of her pizza and my neice's salad." She let out a guffaw to let me know that we were on good terms again. Then she grabbed her things and went out the door. I wished her a good night.
There was still a chance that maybe she'd get coldcocked in the parking lot without the incentive of money. I kept my fingers crossed until closing.