Saturday, January 15, 2005

what I didn't tell my co-workers today

Our boss at the local EC branch, Imelda (not her real name), called me in today (Friday) for a meeting. As before, the meeting started in English and ended up in Korean.

Man, that woman's a fucking piece of work. She actually tried tears on me today. "Kevin, I couldn't sleep at all last night," she said. Dramatic pause.

"Why?" I asked, playing the part of Big Oaf.

"Because of you!" she said, eyes reddening. As she talked to me about how much she wanted me to reconsider my decision to leave... on came the waterworks. I sat there and said nothing, did nothing while she wiped away tears and blew her nose in a tissue. This shit doesn't impress me; I was a high school teacher in America and saw plenty of crocodile tears. If Imelda thought she was going to prompt a sudden show of sympathy from me, she was wrong. And if you think I'm being a cold bastard about this, well... fuck you. This woman's one calculating player. Spare your sympathy for the starving children of meat-packing plant workers.

Imelda's keen to know my true motives for leaving. (My stated reason, money, wasn't enough for her, even though it's part of the truth.) To that end, she asked a probing question:

"Is it because K [EC's founder] is moving into our building?"

I was tempted to answer, "Does the Pope shit in the woods? Do bears wear funny hats?", but then something better occurred to me. Dodging her question, I asked:

"How do you feel about K's coming to our building?"

She was surprisingly forthright. She's not looking forward to it. Then again, it's no secret that K's been giving his branch managers grief. Like any CEO, he wants those numbers higher, higher, higher! No sane branch manager would look forward to having the Big Boss sitting right over his or her head, where he's then free to inspect the branch at will simply by walking down one flight of stairs. So Imelda's forthrightness isn't all that impressive, either: of course she fears the arrival of K. It costs her nothing to confess the obvious.

Imelda kept asking me whether the monster schedule had anything to do with my departure. I said yes, it did-- something I'd already told her during our previous meeting. Earlier today, one of my co-workers, a guy named J, mentioned that we should have at least three guaranteed breaks in our schedule. I passed this on to Imelda without mentioning J (no need to get the guy in trouble). Imelda, still wiping away tears, warbled lamely that-- get this-- she had no idea things were so bad. The mind boggles at this woman's nerve. She even went so far as to claim that she'd asked some of the foreign teachers whether everything was all right, and they'd told her that things were just fine. I refuse to believe that any of my co-workers would have said that with a straight face, but let's do a bit of speculating.

1. Assume none of my co-workers claimed that everything was fine. This means Imelda's a liar-- something that wouldn't surprise me one bit.

2. Assume some of my co-workers did tell Imelda that all was well, no worries. I can see plenty of prudential reasons for saying that to Imelda, not least of which would be to keep from being fired. I wouldn't blame any of them for wanting to cover their asses while they hatch their private escape plans.

In either case, Imelda's still the bad guy in this. With K on the way, Imelda can make whatever promises she wants about improving life at EC, but it's unlikely she'll keep those promises, whether she means to or not. K will see to that.

I suspect that Imelda's tearful display was the first move in another game of chess at the office. I can imagine any number of dirty tricks coming my way-- mysterious penalties assessed, early firing, refusal to pay a single won after I leave. I'm mentally preparing myself to roll with any eventuality; for me, the point is merely to get out.

I should also note that Imelda does have a reason to cry: a teacher will be leaving right under K's nose. And it's possible I'll be the first of several. Imelda's own ass is on the line. So, a question for my audience: do you think I feel much sympathy for the woman?

Our meeting ended with a plea for me to reconsider, to think about what I was doing. I told Imelda that, if I'm to get a university job that starts in March, then I'd better think fast, eh? Imelda's not stupid. She knows I won't be changing my mind.


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