How do you take your tea?

I put in my notice at my work-at-home job so I can get ready to apply for teaching jobs. I have a ton of things I need to do to prep for that, and not a lot of time in which to do it, so I'm ready to be phased out. Anyway, I'm not cut out to work at home, I need to socialize more. 

But right after I put in my two weeks notice, the gal I work most closely with had a true emergency, so I had to fill in for her while she took some time to deal with that. No problem, I understand, that's fine. However, this meant working as the right-hand-person of the owner of this company. 

He's...a lot.

Super intense, extremely impatient and totally wired kind of guy. If you take a deep breath on the phone, he's annoyed at the delay.  That's not an exaggeration. It happened to me. He makes you so stressed out that you actually make more mistakes because your mind gets muddled from having him like, barking at you. A real piece of work.

I do my best to practice nonviolence, of course, but every once in a while somebody makes you wanna put on your biggest boots, roll up a pack of Camels in your t-shirt sleeve, and pay them a visit in the parking lot after dark. "I'll file this invoice... with me FISTS!" Roundhouse kick. To the face. Bow to your sensei. 

Me-ow, got a light? Just kidding, kids, don't smoke, it's bad for your skin. Also, like, your lungs or whatever..

And I'm pretty sure I could do it, too. I took ballet as a kid and four months of kickboxing lessons in 12th grade. I accidentally made my friend's lip bleed one time in class, she underestimated my fists of fury. In other words, I got moves, yo. I mean, I'd probably have to like, ice my entire pelvic girdle for 45 minutes after doing a series of sweet-ass kicks, it's been a good eighteen years since my last lesson at Master Apollo's Kickboxing Academy. But you don't get raised by a special agent without learning how to do things with your elbows and thumbs that will make somebody sing for ya real pretty, capisce?

Anyway, so my coworker's back now, and I just gave her a nice pep talk about how she has every right to stand up for herself and set some real firm boundaries with that guy. I had to stop myself from starting every sentence with, "You can tell that snot-nosed punk from me, that if I ever see his face again..."

If you ever get the chance to take one of those DNA tests, do it, because maybe there really is something to genetics and personality? For example, I'm like one percent Italian, it turns out, and I feel like it comes out when I'm angry because I swear to God, if I get to the point that I yell (like, my definition of yelling, not my normal brand of loud when I'm just irritated) I sound exactly like Al Pacino. It's like, my rage voice. Al Pacino is my patron saint of rage. My rage totem. I have no idea where it comes from, just somewhere deep inside I start spitballing these graphic threats where I'm like... Am I currently possessed by 1940s Brooklyn gangster, like where am I even coming up with this stuff? "Don't make me put in a call to my boy Tony down at the tracks. Cuz he gets real irritable when you interrupt his lunch, am I making myself clear?" "No, literally none of us know what the hell you are talking about, you're a medium-sized Nordic woman with small bone structure from the suburbs, where is this coming from?" "I'll show you where it comes from, hang on a second, I got it right here in my pocket, PA-POW!" Also, I feel like, compelled to cross myself whenever I see a statue of the Virgin Mary. That Catholic ish runs deep.

My sister, on the other hand, didn't get any of the more surprising (for our family) DNA, like the Middle Eastern or Jewish (that all funneled over to me), she got basically all Scandinavian, German, and French. And she's way more mild-mannered than I am, so... *shrug* 

So, anyway, that guy's a prick. He talked down to me, and it pisses me off because, like, I worked directly for the CEO of a major corporation back in my glory days in old San Francisco, and he was super nice and always treated me respectfully. We were in the TransAmerica Pyramid right downtown, the very top floor was our board room. I was fresh out of AmeriCorps and had made zero dollars for a whole year, so I took the first job I could get so deep in the corporate world, I didn't care what the hell we were doing, I just needed a paycheck and health insurance, stat. 

Home sweet home.

So I showed up every day in my business professional attire, the tailored suits, the whole nine yards. Big names from the 1% (before that was a term that people used, that's how old I am) came into my office all the time. Generals, CEOs, people who only fly on private jets, that crowd. I was the receptionist and second assistant, so I was the one who received the guests and answered the phone, super polished and on my best behavior at all times. The boss was British and Australian, and he drank a ton of tea, so I had an electric tea kettle at my desk and a stash of this very expensive Japanese green tea we had to order by paper check and a printed out order form through the mail, because the company that sold it didn't even have a way to buy it online. It got to the point where I had a sixth sense about when he would need his tea. Like I'd be in the middle of typing and then suddenly, like Lassie, my ears would prick up and I'd sniff the wind and just know that he needed his tea. 

*sniff sniff* He thirsts. 

When I eventually left and was training my replacement, I showed her how I made his tea like I was handing over the holy grail. "Use this spoon to measure the honey, then stir it continuously so it totally dissolves, don't let it settle on the bottom of the mug. Let it steep until it turns exactly this color, then bring it in to him and set it on his desk." She stared at me like I was crazy, and I said, "I understand the look you're giving me right now, but trust me, he's really nice and in a week's time you're going to find yourself really caring about making sure his tea comes out just right. You'll see." And later she reached out to me and told me that she understood now, haha. 

He got a kick out of the fact that I'm half-Icelandic, and I used to highlight my hair really blonde back then. The other assistant told me that sometimes after I left the room, he'd smile and say to whomever his guest was, "She's Icelandic!" Super sweet. 

Between you, me, and the lamppost, sometimes I think he used me as a psychological weapon of sorts during these high-powered meetings? I honestly don't know what exactly we were did as a company, but I think I wouldn't want to because we had a lot of military contracts. One of the things that I know meant a lot in the job interview was that I assured them that I could be discreet and not divulge any company secrets, especially because of my upbringing with my dad's line of work. So I really did just used to not listen when I walked into meetings or read any of the paperwork. I just thought, hey, he's nice to me and I really need this job right now. The less I know, the better. 

One time I went into the executive conference room because they needed me to bring him something, and the mood in the room was very tense. My boss was a total gentleman, he looked like he stepped out of an episode of "Downton Abbey" or "Foyle's War." Three piece suits, the works. He was totally at ease and very charming in meetings like that. But he was sitting across from like, a wall of frowning men in high-ranking military uniforms, who all looked very stern. I handed him the folder I brought with me, set down his cup of tea, and turned to go, but he said, "Wait here just a moment, Inga," as he read whatever was in that folder. So I stood next to him with a pleasant look on my face and just kind of glanced at the wall of large frowning men, smiled at them, then looked out the window. Throats were cleared. Seats were shifted in uncomfortably. I just kept my expression neutral but pleasant, wondering what exactly was going on without letting it show. Then he put the folder down, thanked me, and I left. 

Foyle's War

I shut the door, thought, "What the hell was that? Never mind, I don't want to know." But I did make sure to smile extra sweet when they said goodbye to me as they left. I figured, hey, if I'm gonna sell it I might as well put a little extra sauce on top, just for fun. 

My point in all of this is, people who are powerful and are secure in their power don't act like dickheads. Every single person who came to my office treated me with respect. They smiled and cracked jokes with me, but they were all like my work dads. None of them ever crossed the line. 

There was one exception, but he was not an executive, he was some shameless sycophant who worked for us. He was always trying to kiss the big boss' butt, so he decided that chatting me up would somehow get him closer to his goal. Wrong. 

One day, he had a meeting with the boss, and he checked in with me because I was the gatekeeper. But boss-man had stepped away for just a moment, so instead of taking a seat or making polite small talk with me, he started like... Well, I think he thought he was flirting with me, but he just came across really smarmy and gross. I was giving him nothing back, just trying to do my work and ignore him. When I saw my boss finally stroll around the corner, I was visibly relieved and it clearly showed in my body language. The boss noticed and started walking more briskly and shooting daggers from his eyes at the moron hanging on my desk. The guy actually had the nerve to say, as his idea of a joke, "Oh hi, I was just harassing your assistant while I waited for you." He marched right past him and said, "Yes, she doesn't like it." Then they went into his office and closed the door. My hero!

That guy never disrespected me again.

So, see, that's why I can't put up with bullshit from small-time bosses with Napoleon complex. Nothing wrong with being small-time. Not at all! I'm proletariat and proud. But don't go throwing your weight around and acting like an asshole just because you've got people on your payroll. Everyone needs their job, so don't abuse your workers because you're in a shit mood and they've got rent to pay. That's not power. It's exact opposite of power. 

End of lecture.

"Stay thirsty, my friends."


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