I’ve had my fair share of jobs over the years, and have had my fair share of reasons for leaving these jobs. In high school I quit my job working at a grocery store because they asked me to work the overnight shift. I didn’t show up for my second day on the job at a plastic molding plant because the job was somehow more boring than sitting still and doing nothing. I made a few bucks in college mowing a professor’s lawn, but he let me go because I didn’t have a home phone (my roommate had jacked up the bill and then bailed) and he couldn’t call me in the event of a lawn emergency. I’ve been laid off numerous times, quit my job twice because I moved, and most recently quit a job I’d had for almost a dozen years because management started offshoring everything to Shanghai. The most entertaining reason I’ve had for leaving a job has to be the time I lost my job because of a sexual harassment complaint involving a high school girl.
Now before you fire off an angry and indignant email taking me to task for being a reprehensible scumbag, I should point out that I was not the person who sexually harassed that poor girl. I’m a firm believer that if you can’t get someone to play with your genitals based upon the wonderful person that you are, you should at least be willing to ply your potential partner with alcohol, or failing that, cash. You don’t force someone into sex because you hold a position of authority over them. That’s just wrong. Sure, it might be a hot fantasy in an adult movie (probable title: 69 to 5), and any number of presidents may have done it, but you are neither a porn star nor a president (or both, like Bill Clinton), so keep it in your pants, will you?
It was in the mid-90’s, and I was working my first job that paid me to do actual computer work. Growing up with computers, I had extensive experience, but things like “Hacked the Sears Roebuck mainframe”, or “Cracked and stole over $100,000 worth of video games for the Apple II” don’t look good on a resume. So, like many others, I had to start at the bottom. In my case, the bottom was a company called Communication Consulting, Inc., and ruling the bottom was my boss, Mr. Patel.
Mr. Patel was, as you probably guessed by his name, Indian. I mention this because it’s relevant to the story, and not because I’m one of those closet racist types that feels the need to tell you the ethnicity of every person in an anecdote. “So I was there with this Flemish guy, a black guy, and some dago nitwit, and I told the judge, ‘Hey, what do you want me to do? That baby was seriously mouthing off!'” No, I mention it because Mr. Patel was hardcore, old-school Indian, and it showed.
If you found yourself in public with him, like at a trade show, for instance, he would demand that you walk a couple of paces behind him at all times. Seriously. I didn’t have a problem with that, as I preferred to stay far, far behind him. He’d be on the trade show floor, and I’d be a couple hundred paces behind him in the bar, enjoying a gin and tonic.
He also felt that, as he was the owner of this economic powerhouse known as Communication Consulting, Inc. (full time employees: 3, including him), everyone else should thank their lucky stars that they have a cushy desk job instead of a job cleaning public latrines in Mumbai. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. He told me once that he could have been a very important executive in India, “with a fancy car and a driver!”, but he had opted to start a business in the United States so that he could “import a better way of doing business” to us backwards rubes in the U.S.
That better way of doing business apparently consisted of acting like a self-important dickhead at all times. Mr. Patel was 5′ 2″ tall (barely), and had the requisite Napoleon complex to go along with his lack of height. He would ask the administrative assistant to organize a meeting via intercom, giving her instructions to print out the agenda ahead of time and coordinate a time that worked best for everyone so as not to interrupt any ongoing synergy. Then the admin would look at me and we’d walk into his office to see what he wanted, because as far as full time employees went, it was just us.
My roommate also worked there, part time, as he finished off his PhD in mathematics. He really didn’t give a fuck, and so it was entertaining to watch him react to Mr. Patel’s bloviating.
Mr. Patel: Of course, one of the advantages of being a business owner is that although you do not have a lot of free time, what free time you have is often spent engaged in things the common man will never experience. Last weekend I hosted a party that had seven accordion players! [He actually said this – G]
Roomie: And you didn’t invite us? Excuse me while I go commit suicide.
Mr. Patel, as it turned out, had a hard time with good old fashioned American sarcasm. He had a hard time with a lot of things, actually. One summer I got on his case for not having a schedule of holidays that we had off. “It’s impossible to plan when you don’t let us know whether or not we have July 3rd off if the 4th is on a Saturday.”
“I gave you my decision on that!”
“Yeah, on July 2nd. My weekend in the Hamptons was ruined!”
“You have a place in the Hamptons?”
Finally, he agreed to sit down with me and a calendar and figure it out once and for all. I, of course, went way overboard.
Greg: Ok, January 1st. New Year’s. That’s a given.
Mr. Patel: I understand.
Greg: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that’s a day off.
Mr. Patel: That was on the news! That’s not a day off!
Greg: Are you seriously going to tell me that you, the owner of a minority owned business, are not going to give your workers MLK Day off? Think of the bad publicity!
Mr. Patel: Yes, you’re right. That would not look good.
Before you knew it, I was letting him know how important Arbor Day was to Americans, and I racked up over twenty official holidays before the year was out. If I’d stuck with twelve or so, I might have gotten away with it. Instead, Mr. Patel ran the list by a neighbor.
“Do you know what my neighbor did when I showed him this list?” he angrily demanded the next day.
“He laughed! At me! Can you imagine such a thing?”
“I hang my head in shame, Mr. Patel.”
“I sincerely hope you do!”
Mr. Patel had a wife, and she came into the office on a regular basis. He’d met her in Montreal, and whether he was more attracted to her American citizenship or her size was up for debate. I think he felt that he could make up for his diminutive frame by landing a really tall wife. Mrs. Patel was over six feet tall, and as nice a person as you could hope to meet. So of course Mr. Patel made it a point to put her down in front of his employees every chance he could. I’d be politely chatting with her about nothing in particular when Mr. Patel would enter the room.
“Yes, yes, yes, that’s all fine and good, but this is an important business, and we do not have time for silly women’s stories. You are dismissed.”
No shit. Why she was with him in the first place, I’ll never know. And not only with him, but apparently she let his tiny little parts have access to her special lady area, because soon it was revealed that she was knocked up. With triplets. As you can imagine, the news that he had fathered not one, not two, but three children at once, made Mr. Patel’s Napoleonic heart sing with glee, and he made damn sure that we heard about how much of a stud he was on an almost daily basis. But he didn’t stop treating his wife like shit.
Mrs. Patel was not unattractive, so when he’d do something shitty to her and embarrass her in front of others, I felt like saying, “You know what? You don’t deserve this woman,” and then I’d fuck her on his desk right in front of him. Seriously, after working for this guy for a while, you started having some major league nutball daydreams, all geared towards infuriating him in the most public way possible.
One excellent method of infuriating Mr. Patel was to make him interact with his administrative assistant, who was as dumb as a box of rocks and much less attractive. She looked like she might technically be some sort of slime mold. Her idiocy would send Mr. Patel up the wall, we knew it, and we acted on it. One day, Mr. Patel expressed puzzlement over the fact that the county tax assessor’s office wanted to know the value of our office space.
“That sound’s like a job for an administrative assistant,” I’d say. “You’re much too important to be taking inventory.”
“You’re right,” he’d agree. “Send Kathleen in here immediately.”
And so I’d listen as Mr. Patel gave Kathleen instructions: “The county tax assessor needs an inventory of our office. Please take the inventory and label everything.”
Now granted, these instructions left a lot to be desired in terms of specificity, but most people would think about it for a minute and come to the conclusion that a list needed to be created, cataloging everything in the office, and a corresponding label with an inventory control number would have to be created and affixed to the more valuable assets.
Kathleen just started cranking out labels. When I realized what Kathleen was up to, I ran back to my roommate and excitedly told him what was going on.
“So now she’s running around with labels, putting one on everything!”
“What’s on the labels?”
“She’ll walk up to a chair and slap a label on it that reads, ‘Chair’. That’s it.”
“That’s fucking hilarious!” said my roommate, breaking into a smile.
“That’s nothing, wait until you see how far she’s taking it!”
Sure enough, Kathleen slowly made her way over to our corner of the office and asked us to stand aside as she labeled the things on our desk. The desk, the chair, the keyboard, the mouse, individual pens…
“Uhh, Kathleen,” my roommate interrupted. “Do you really think it’s necessary to label the pens?”
“Mr. Patel told me to. This is important tax stuff.”
“Oh, tax stuff.” replied my roommate. “Well, in that case, don’t forget the paper clips in my drawer.”
“Oh, thanks! Boy, this job is a lot harder than I thought it would be!”
Of course Mr. Patel came into the office a few hours later and promptly lost his shit when he saw what Kathleen had spent the day doing. “What in the world do you think it is that you are doing? This is not an inventory! This is just saying what things are! Look at this: ‘Hole Punch’! I know this is a hole punch! You know this is a hole punch! The whole world knows that this is a hole punch! Why do you need to write ‘Hole Punch’ on a label and put it on the hole punch? Do you think a simpleton will come in here and not know?”
We sat in the corner, silently rocking with laughter, although this did not go without being noticed.
“And you! Surely you saw her doing this! Why did you not stop her?”
“Because,” answered my roommate, “we wanted to see what would happen when it came time to label the labels.”
After I’d worked there for a few months, Mr. Patel made a big show of “rewarding” me with an employment contract. The annual salary was listed as $13,000. Now, I know that $13,000 is a lot of money. If I found $13,000 on the street tomorrow, I’d be fucking stoked, then fucking drunk. And there are parts of the world where $13,000 is a hell of a great salary. But Tucson, Arizona was nowhere near that part of the world. At the time, $13,000 was above minimum wage, but not by much, and it was jack shit for someone working in IT (I know I was in IT because of my label).
So the downside to the job was that it paid nothing. The upside was that I was paying my dues, padding my resume, and making beer money in the process Another upside was that when you’re being paid $13,000 to work in IT, you can say or do whatever you want. I began to kick the sarcasm into overdrive.
One day, Mr. Patel called us into his office to announce his company reorganization plan. Now, with three full time employees, one of whom is the owner, a reorganization isn’t exactly a complicated matter. “You, move over here. There. Now we’re done.” That’s how the organization should have gone. Instead, it turned into a two hour meeting involving core competencies, strategic refocusing, and all kinds of other buzzword-heavy bullshit.
My ears perked up when he mentioned the CCI Senate, though. “Wait, what was that about the senate?” I asked.
“Yes!” Mr Patel said, genuinely enthusiastic. “This is an idea that you should be very excited about. It is about empowerment. It is about pride in ownership. It is…”
“What is it?” I interrupted. I knew that he was excited, because usually if you interrupted him, you’d get a glare, and (if you were really unlucky) a story about how such an insolent worker would be treated in India that usually wound up with the insolent worker being fired and consequently dying of the plague. But he was happy to be interrupted because it meant that we cared about what he was saying, and it was obvious that he’d given this subject a lot of thought. Too much, in fact.
Mr. Patel: The CCI Senate consists of the workers themselves! You make the rules! You make the decisions! You hold a senate hearing…
Me: Me and Kathleen.
Mr. Patel: Yes!
Me: The two of us hold a senate hearing.
Mr. Patel: Yes! You hold a senate hearing and vote on any bill that you want passed!
Me: So we can vote ourselves a salary of $100,000 a year?
Kathleen: Can we do that? (drools, continues breathing through mouth)
Mr. Patel: Well, it is like the US Senate. The President can veto the bill.
Me: But we can then, in turn, override the veto.
Mr. Patel: No.
Me: This doesn’t sound like much of a senate to me.
Mr. Patel: But you have all the power of a senate!
Me: I’m starting to see that. What about the power to declare war? Can we declare war on the accountants next door and then go over there and beat the bejesus out of them with our staplers?
Mr. Patel: No, no, I don’t think you understand.
Me: No, I’m pretty sure I do.
Needless to say, we didn’t have any senate hearings, and given the makeup of the office, we didn’t even have any sexual scandals. Some senate. This is where our fearless “President” stepped up to the plate.
We were conducting a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview study, or CATI study for short because everything sounds much more impressive when you turn it into an acronym. This required people even less qualified than myself to call complete strangers up and ask them how much rent they paid on a monthly basis. Because this job sucked major ass, Mr. Patel was forced to recruit high school students, which he did by marching into a local high school and informing the office that he’d like to hire some high school students, preferably girls. Why this did not set off alarms, I do not know. A general rule of thumb is that when a complete stranger shows up at your school and asks to be given some girls, you call the fucking cops.
Anyway, when school got out, teenage girls showed up and started dialing the phones. Now, I was in my early to mid-twenties at the time, so I don’t think it’s too creepy that I noticed that a couple of them were pretty damn cute, bordering on hot. I’m allergic to jail cells, so I’d never try to start anything, but it was nice to have an alternative to looking at Slime Mold and Napoleon. One girl in particular caught my attention. Her name was Stacey, she had a cute face, a beautiful smile, a luxurious mane of golden blonde hair, and a rack that could put Shamrock Farms out of business.
One afternoon, as the girls from high school filed in, a nurse we had on staff to help with a study involving the state’s developmentally disabled programs leaned over and whispered to me, “Did you hear what happened after you left yesterday?”
“Mr. Patel called Stacey into his office and closed the door. Five minutes later, she burst out of there in tears and ran off.”
“Holy shit! What do you think happened?”
“What do I think happened? I think he tried his big-shot routine on her and tried to get in her pants, that’s what I think happened. That pervert.”
Not long after this, I looked up from my desk and saw a rather large man storming down the hallway directly towards me. I didn’t even get a chance to say “Hi” as he walked in the door.
“Where is the boss?” he demanded.
“Uhhh, I’m not…”
“GET THE GODDAMN BOSS OUT HERE RIGHT NOW BEFORE I HAVE TO GO FIND HIM!”
This, undoubtedly, was Stacey’s father. Her large, Skoal-chewing, Stetson-wearing, pissed off father. Surprisingly, Mr. Patel came out of his office and approached the enraged man. “I am Mr. Patel, and I am the owner of CCI. How may I help you?”
Stacey’s dad screamed in Mr. Patel’s face for a good two minutes, never coming right out and saying that Mr. Patel had tried to fuck his daughter, but making that impression nonetheless. And every time Mr. Patel tried to move the “discussion” into his office so they could talk in private, Stacey’s dad would refuse.
“NO, GODDAMNIT! WE’RE GONNA TALK ABOUT WHAT A GODDAMN PERVERT YOU ARE RIGHT HERE!”
Finally, Stacey’s dad started to run out of steam. He demanded that Mr. Patel give him the money owed to his daughter, and then he’d be on his way. Now, I am confident that I will never find myself in a situation such as this. But if I do, and I find myself confronted by a very large, very irate man who is upset that I tried to fuck his underage daughter, and that man asks for a check, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to cut a fucking check.
Not Mr. Patel. His Napoleon complex kicked in, and he just had to assert his “power” over this hulking man. “Sir, this is a place of business. We have certain policies and procedures, and we cannot simply cut a payroll check…”
That did it.
“OH! SO FIRST YOU TRY TO FUCK MY DAUGHTER, NOW YOU’RE TRYING TO FUCK HER OUT OF HER MONEY! I AM CALLING THE SHERIFF, AND I WILL SEE YOU IN COURT, MOTHERFUCKER!”
And with that, he was gone. Mr. Patel didn’t really have a whole lot to say to anyone else at that point, and spent the remainder of the day in his office.
I never did see the sheriff, but a month and a half later, I was called into Mr. Patel’s office.
“Greg,” he started. “You have been a very good, and a very loyal employee for me. I am proud to have known you.”
(This isn’t exactly the kind of thing you want to hear when you’ve been called into the boss’s office.)
“However, we’ve had a financial setback, and I’m afraid that I am going to have to make the difficult decision to let you go.”
I don’t recall much of what he said after that, frankly, because I started laughing. I knew what the financial setback was, and I found it tremendously funny that I was effectively paying for it.
“Are you ok?” Mr. Patel asked, no small amount of alarm in his voice. “You’re not going to… come back here with a gun, are you?”
That set off another wave of laughter. After I’d settled down a bit, he shook my hand, handed me a check for two week’s severance, and I never saw him again. I did, however, find out what happened when I met Jan, the nurse, for drinks a few weeks later.
“Well, it turns out that Mr. Patel had been sued for sexual harassment before, so he had to settle to keep it out of court, and it basically wiped him out. Then his wife left him.”
“Wait, his wife left him?”
“Yeah, you know that she was knocked up with triplets, right?”
“Are you kidding? He started every meeting for a month with the story of his triplets, and how much of a stud he is.”
“Well, he wasn’t present for the birth. He was out of town.”
“Wow… But, you know, multiples go early, and I guess if he didn’t think that…”
“No She was induced. After they set the date, he booked the trip. She brought the divorce papers to the hospital and when he didn’t show up, she signed them and gave them to her lawyer.”
A couple of years ago, I wondered about Mr. Patel, and what happened to Communication Consulting, Inc. It took some doing, but I finally tracked him down. He’d moved his company out in the sticks (and in Arizona, moving out in the sticks means literally moving into an area where there is little else but sticks). Somehow he got the town to name a street after his business. And for a short while, Napoleon even had blueprints up for the future office: It had 36 floors. It’s going to take a long time to label everything in that building.
* The Sarcasm: It Beats Killing People line was swiped from the Baltimore Sun, but their graphic was horrible, so I had to make my own.