After Joshua Tree, things at Doggie Daycare got volatile. Now, a hostile workplace is something that is difficult to pinpoint without sounding petty and the more you let things slide, the more things tend to escalate.
That said, I have not learned personally how to handle it or communicate it properly, because I always end up in the hot seat, being the one with the problem and inevitably perceived as overly emotional.
There is a core group of people that have worked at this Doggie Daycare for years, since it opened as a business. These people are all very young, it was their first job, they pull in overtime, they spend the night on holidays, and they have made the company their life.
That is their choice, of course, but they tend to bully the other employees. When I say bully, that is even hard to justify without sounding paranoid and (cough) immature.
Dora, my roommate, will take any opportunity to feel superior over me. Understandably since she isn’t as developed or accomplished yet she IS highly competitive in nature. Am I sounding petty yet?
She is a cute girl, but young, short and just not in my league. She will never be.
Whatever her motive, it was easy for her to corral the 22-yr-old veteran who practically lives there since he has a history making things difficult for other employees. Perhaps its territorial, but I would rather not spend time trying to understand him.
I am not taking it personally, though my argument might mislead you so far.
There are people who used to work there and quit because the “core” made them uncomfortable. There are people who still work there that can’t be on the same playground as he is due to tension. So when their focus went from Rachel, who recently quit because she felt people were “talking about her” to me and Sacha . . . I wasn’t surprised.
For months now, they have delightfully invited everyone at the company out to social gatherings, while deliberately ignoring me and Sascha. Now, Sascha and I have a very busy life. We work other jobs, we have other responsibilities but we also have baggage from high school that makes the whole scenario disgustingly awkward.
We ignored it.
Dora would greet me on our muddy excuse for a courtyard with, “I don’t know why he doesn’t invite you guys. I said, you should invite them and he said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because they took me to the funeral.”
That’s right. The only ones that stood by Dora’s side at Danny’s funeral was Taylor, Sascha and Me. Just the way she posed this argument made my blood boil.
Then she said, “He is obviously hurt. I don’t know why, but his feelings are hurt.”
Dora is one, little fleshy box of bullshit.
I confronted the Dog Veteran, we can call him Hal. I said, “Dora thinks I hurt you . . . is that the case?”
He said, “No. How would you hurt me?”
I said, “I don’t know. She said that’s why you don’t invite me or Sascha out?”
He said, “She is confused. We just didn’t have room for everyone.”
I said, “Ok, well, it would be nice if you didn’t deliberately exclude us, because it rubs some sensitive nerves. Just the invite, as a courtesy, would be nice.”
He apologized, and then held another event inviting everyone on the shift but me and Sascha, once again.
Other co-workers started asking me why we weren’t going to any of the events, and I said, rather coldly, “Well, we aren’t invited.”
It annoys me that I have already devoted a page and a half to this childish garbage on my blog, but I must lay the foundation.
When I think of Hal, the first thing I think about is how he taught me to use a calming nature with the dogs. He is a wizard with dogs, especially troubled ones. He laid down the methodology I execute to handle difficult dogs using a soft voice and slow energy, and now I try to use it on people, too.
He did say, “You can’t be emotional with dogs, then they win.”
On closing shifts, Hal would ignore Sascha’s requests or instructions, despite the fact that she was managing. Dora would confront her about whether or not she was hurt with the social events. They were stirring it up.
Hal is very close to HR. I can’t go into HR because somehow she has access to my Facebook and she has helped me quite a bit over the last 9 months with money, with the roommate who killed himself in my bathroom, with everything.
At some point, my hours were cut. I was given the 5 hour shifts at the end of the night, which kill me because I don’t get paid enough after taxes and gas to justify an entire day of potential other work I could book just so I can wait around all day and haul ass to Doggie Daycare for $30-$40. I could have made $100 doing something else that day. I have explained that to HR, so I was surprised when I saw my name on the schedule, sharing those shifts with the new employees.
HR has a reputation (justified or not) for cutting hours and upsetting employees with reasons that are arguably personal.
I nipped in the bud. I was moving to Washington and didn’t know financially how I would fare. So I asked her why my hours were getting cut.
She responded passionately that I asked for 3 days off for Joshua Tree and those were the only days available. I said, “Ok.”
She said I could come in early and pick up more hours. I hate feeling like an extra hand on the playground. I did come in early, but feeling useless for 3 hours doesn’t make the day seem any more productive, and, in general, I feel like the company under-utilizes me.
The next week, nothing changed. Once again, my hours were reduced and I was working several shitty shifts.
The same day I saw the schedule, another employee told me HR was upset I was bringing both Esther and Brad into Doggie Daycare. The company policy allows for only one free dog per employee, despite the core bringing in up to three. One claims to have been “grandfathered in” which is another word for favoritism, and the other says she pays for her extra dogs. We all roll our eyes when we hear the excuses, because it is widely known extra dogs are not paid for by minimum waged workers (except, now, for me).
I have been bringing both of them in for months, and now another employee had to tell me something HR should have informed me in private.
As I was walking to take my break, I passed Hal and HR in the hallway, both often descend from her office after lengthy one on one’s, and she looked downright disgusted with me. As they stopped to let me pass, her eyes wide and her mouth open, I turned just before passing and saw Hal look at me, laugh and shake his head.
You just reach a point where you get fed up with the bullshit.
So I knocked on her office door and asked her if there was a problem?
Now, when I am upset, I talk fast, my eyes get wide and I get fairly intense. I don’t curse or yell. Its just that whirlwind of emotion that I can generate from just talking about something I have strong feelings for.
She sat me down, stood over me and asked me to explain why I was so “paranoid.” I explained the above reasons, they are all feelings that are created at the workplace, nothing highly factual. That is the trick with hostility though, you can’t quite identify things without sounding like a 12-yr-old crying over spilled milk.
I told her I once loved my job and now I hate it.
She told me it was all in my head. She said lots of things I wish I could illustrate here, but the truth is, she helps me. And I can not dissect the conversation without upsetting her. So I will let it be.
She noted herself that we lost Rachel because of this “paranoia” going around and she wanted to confront them about it.
No matter what I said about the whole conversation being just about my reduction in hours and privileges, it came back to me feeling socially alienated. I am sorry for that, and partially at blame for being too candid, too personal and even welling up some tears when I confessed they had hurt my feelings.
I said Hal was “evil” about three times. Oops.
Shortly thereafter, the three core members of the clique were confronted. One of those members has always been kind to me, and, of course, she is the one who has completely shut down with me. Now she is uncomfortable working with me and will not enjoy even the slightest bit of conversation. The one with the heart is always the one that suffers.
Dora was unaffected.
Hal decided to punish Sascha and take his time with tasks to the point where it slowed down our closing procedure. Sascha had to step on the playground and finish simple cleaning tasks because he was taking so long.
That night, he had a confrontation with Sascha. She texted me. Hal called me.
He wanted to apologize for making me feel uncomfortable, and asked that next time I talk to him about it. I was fairly cold with him. I was in a Ralph’s, picking up a late night dinner (aka a Pellegrino, cheap vegan cookies and day old French bread), 11pm on a Saturday night.
I told him I had one conversation with him and Dora, and one conversation is all I feel its worth. I emphasized my complaint was about hours not about “hanging out”.
Blah fucking blah. He said he was sorry he hurt my feelings but he and Dora are close friends now. I said, “I am glad you are friends. That isn’t the point. It wasn’t what you did, it was the way you did it. It was sinister.”
I could tell he was forcing nice. I never trust people who force nice, because if it’s that difficult, something is fundamentally wrong with them.
I will spare you the details of the conversation. He made an effort to be friends, I wasn’t interested but accepted his apology.
Then I spoke to Sascha. She said, “Why don’t they get it? I don’t want to hang out with them. I just want to do my job.”
They keep making it personal. They facilitated the personal effect, and I played into it. I am sorry for that.
Shortly after all of this went down, I got sick. Both Sascha and I came down with a terrible fever/flu.
When I am sick, I tend to fight off a multitude of negative thoughts that range from childhood all the way to my hair that day.
So, right as I became almost totally incapacitated, I got a call about a possible job in France.
That’s right . . . FRANCE.
Not only France, but the biggest film festival in the world- CANNES.
The job was forwarded to me in an email from Lana. I respond to her little leads and always try to keep several pots boiling for opportunity. I responded on a whim, not expecting much. The email lead to a conversation and things started to happen.
This job requires I maintain a level of professionalism so I can not describe what I will be doing there. Though sometimes I do a poor job of it, I would like to preserve my anonymity.
I was sick and stranded at Frank’s. I had a paid photo shoot, a phone interview and work. I tried to do all of them, but Hal of all people, ended up taking over my shift at Doggie Daycare. I was so grateful, I almost cried.
The job covers all expenses but my airfare. When I confirmed that with my contact, I was discouraged and told her that I would give her a definite answer at the end of the week. How was I going to make up the $500 in airfare I didn’t have? I really felt like there was no way to make it happen.
Someone close to me offered me the remaining funds for the air ticket, and I accepted, informed my French contact and faded.
I planted my seeds and then slipped into a feverish coma.
When my health, work hours and consciousness was restored- I put the full court press on my French contact to confirm the job.
She was reluctant to confirm, and the more I pushed, the more she put me off.
Finally, she told me she thought she had all the positions filled but would like to meet for coffee.
For two days, I kept repeating out loud, “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” As my mother had just returned from Thailand on vacation, she coined a new favorite saying, “Think of the Thai people. They have nothing.” Then she would later say, “The internet is down again, nothing works.”
I would follow up with, “Oh Mother, but think of the Thai people.”
For some time now, Fate has been pushing me out of LA. I can’t ever seem to make enough money, I can’t ever land a gig that gives me some breathing room, I can’t find a stable boyfriend who will combine income with me . . . its swimming against the current and I can’t do it anymore.
The last thing I want to do is lose my footing and sink, so I have to flip over on my back, spread my arms and let the waters carry me where they have wanted all this time.
If nothing else, I was leaving Doggie Daycare, not at a time when I worked closely with my best friends, but when things soured to a point of no return. Taylor was still in Florida. Jude was trying to whittle his time there down to only training new employees and when other managers call in sick. Trent was at another Doggie Daycare, as were all my favorite receptionists. Mitch still remained but is a closer peer to Dora than me.
It was time to say goodbye to Doggie Daycare. At least for now, until I could figure out how to save myself. The goodbye would be easy now and there was no mistaking that leaving was the right thing to do.
On a rainy morning, I drove out to Culver City and waited with a latte for my French connection.
When she arrived, I kept telling myself to talk slow. The way I speak is becoming progressively more manic. It is hard to decipher what I am saying sometimes, or even expect someone to keep up.
I forced my mind and mouth to slow down and briefly caught a glimpse of someone walking in the cafe behind her. She searched my eyes and brought me back into the conversation. I locked in and told her what I thought about the film industry, as a professional who has worked as an assistant, as a former film student, and as a woman.
I focused on the green swirl in one of her brown eyes. It was prominent and highly unusual, so it was easy to let it hypnotize me. She was a beautiful woman and couldn’t be much older than me. Petite, blonde and with a rich, French accent.
She must of liked me because 4 hours later she sent me an email confirming that I was on-board.
I AM GOING TO FRANCE!!!!!!!
I found out while I was on the playground at work. There was no one to shout to or hug. I just raised my arms in quiet victory.
On my break, I texted Lana that I was going. She called me back immediately.
I told her, “You should have applied. You need to come too.” She was my partner in crime. We were unemployed video journalists together, then we were assistants together, then we were fired around the same time together and somewhat (rough patch) creative partners.
She is the one female friend who hung in there the longest with me, after trying for years to encourage me to leave the Prophet, after I disappointed her on the project we invested in, she stayed. To say I love her just doesn’t seem to cover the appreciation for everything she has taught me about friendship.
She said, “Well, I would go but I am kinda making a baby right now.”
To take all the joy of finally going to France, finally feeling like someone saw my potential over a small cafe table and tasting total, unabridged freedom then combine all THAT with the magic of a baby in Lana, my freckled, gorgeous, witty, brilliant Lana . . . its a fucking beautiful miracle.
I was shaking. My eyes stung. And something like a laugh erupted out of my stomach. It was the best four minute conversation of my life.
I said to her, “We win. We win!!” She laughed, “Yes, we win.”
This was perfect. Paris was calling. After a few weeks working in Cannes, I am going to take a side trip to Paris. And, most importantly, this opportunity perfectly fit into the timeline I set out long before I knew my life would take this turn.
Two weeks before, I gave my notice to Dora that I was moving out of this shitter by the end of the month. She asked me to think about staying until I had hard plans, but I knew the longer I stayed, the more miserable I would be. I was just paddling to keep my head above water here.
I wasn’t saving money. I wasn’t making any headway. And I was living in a slum.
My therapist said, “Make room for the unexpected.”
So, now I will leave the first week of May (after my last photo shoot for a skin care line I am modeling in). I will leave my dogs with my parents at their house in Southern Washington. Just around the time they will get on my nerves, 4 or 5 days in, I will fly out for three weeks in France.
Can I just say it again? France.
Fuck the job. Fuck the ex-boyfriend. Fuck Sylmar. I am going to France!!
Then what would I do?
Make room for the unexpected.