07282017Headline:

Working Girl: Who Said It, the Whore or the Minister’s Daughter?

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Quiz: Who Said It, the Whore or the Minister’s Daughter?

Image by ohmyGaly at Flickr Commons

Image by ohmyGaly at Flickr Commons

My boss Caroline was pretty crazy. However, I think that had more to do with who she was as a person than the fact that she was an escort (although the prostitution definitely didn’t help her mental and emotional stability . . . or lack thereof).

I say this because several years after I worked for Caroline, I held another position as an assistant. But this time, it was for a church.

No, really. As my friend Adrian said, when I told him I was going to be an administrative assistant for a church, “Well, you’ve secretaried for a whore. Why not for a church?”

The church was run by a small family, and while they preached peace and mindfulness and meditation, they had trouble being peaceful and mindful and meditative on days that weren’t Sunday.

The funny thing is, the two most stressful jobs I’ve ever had were working for Caroline and working for the church, and they were stressful for the same reasons.

I’m winding up to the end of the Working Girl series over the first part of 2014, and this week I thought I’d do something a little different than offering moralistic values that may or may not actually contain moral wisdom. So I’ve got a quiz for you! For each of the situations below, guess whether they happened with Caroline, or with the assistant minister of the church (who was also the minister’s daughter).

 

1) “I told you to get nice-looking wood!” my boss said.

I had ordered apple wood because she said she wanted it to smell “harvesty.” I had stacked the wood up next to the fireplace in a way that I thought looked picturesque and welcoming, and I was a visual artist, so I had a good eye for display.

But my boss was less than impressed. “It just looks like regular wood!”

“Well,” I said, not really knowing how to explain the obvious. “ . . . It IS wood.”

“No, no, no. Return all this.”

“Return the wood?” I said. The wood guys had been a team of burly outdoorsmen who delivered the wood right to our premises, which wasn’t something they usually did, but my boss got them to make an exception. Would the wood guys come and pick it back up, or . . . ?

“Yes. Return it and get birch wood. You know, with that pretty white papery bark.”

“It won’t smell harvesty,” I pointed out.

“I don’t care about the smell! It’s going to smell like a campfire anyway. Just get the prettier wood.”

*

2) My boss was having a shouting match with her colleague in the next room. I had closed the door and turned up the music to try to drown them out and get some work done. But then a client/customer showed up.

I was all smiles, getting him a drink and making small talk, but I was nervously trying to distract him from the obvious shouting. And he was uncomfortable.

“Um,” he said, “why is the music so loud? Should I come back later?”

“Oh no,” I said, lighthearted, “just trying to jazz things up today!”

But the shouts turned into actual screams, littered with four-letter words. The customer’s eyes flew open wide. “Oh wow, what’s going on in there?”

I tried to look like this was business as usual. I tried not to apologize for my boss, or make her seem undignified, or make him uncomfortable. “Just a—um. Disagreement.”

My boss stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her so hard the light fixtures rattled. She was too angry to focus on me or the customer, but she saw us as she left to get some air. I didn’t look forward to later, when I’d have to give a play-by-play of what happened with the customer and how I explained the screaming.

The customer set his drink down. “I should come back later.”

Shouting matches like this happened on almost a weekly basis.

*

3) “The background in these ads is hideous,” my boss said. “What in the world made you think this was a good choice?”

“It was one of the backgrounds you gave me to choose from,” I said, trying not to sound defensive.

“No, I didn’t! I would never give you this background for this ad! I don’t know if you’re just confused, or if you decided to get creative and take things into your own hands, or what. But I didn’t give you this!”

She had absolutely given me that background. But I had to stay late at work and re-create the entire ad.

*

4) My boss stood in the middle of the room and looked around, nonplussed. “Did you clean?”

“Yes,” I said. I had vacuumed, Swiffered, dusted and everything. I was in the process of finishing up, wiping down the counter.

She was quiet as she looked at the corners and the floors. She ran her finger along the edge of a shelf. When she didn’t find the dust she was looking for, she tried again with two more shelves. She couldn’t possibly have found dust, but it didn’t matter. “It doesn’t look like you cleaned.”

Okay, so I was being accused of not cleaning, even though I was in the act of cleaning. I took a deep breath. “Well, I did,” I said. “For the past hour.”

She raised her brows in disbelief. “You cleaned for an hour? No you didn’t. You just started wiping down the counter before I came in. And you’re not even focusing on what you’re doing. I can see tracks of dried food or something right there. You’re only pretending to clean.”

I had to clean everything all over again.

*

5) My boss’s friend’s dog was locked in a car. So were the car keys.

“OH MY GOD!” My boss shouted. “OH MY GOD! Her leash is wrapped around her neck! She could try to jump around and strangle herself! SHE’S GONNA DIE!”

In my boss’s defense, her childhood family pet had just died. She was very torn up.

But still.

“Call the locksmith! Call every locksmith in the area! Explain what’s happening and get them here RIGHT NOW! Make them prioritize us!”

But apparently a dog locked in a car is a liability. No locksmiths would come.

I tried sliding a long wire down into the closed car window to push the lock, but the window was sealed too tightly.

Meanwhile, the dog in the car had noticed that everyone was freaking out. The dog, who had been perfectly calm and not jumping around about to strangle herself on her leash, was getting agitated. My boss’s continual shrieks of “GET HER OUT! GET HER OUT!” didn’t help.

When the wire trick didn’t work, I had the idea to call the fire department. As I was on the phone, my boss ran to a nearby garden plot and picked up an enormous rock with a pointed end. She raised it over her head with both hands, and began slamming the pointed part repeatedly into the window. She screamed, “DON’T WORRY MISSY! WE’LL GET YOU OUT!”

The poor dog went from agitated to absolutely terrified. She began having some kind of fit, which actually made it possible that she might strangle herself on her leash. But the window was made of high-tech, ultra-tempered, bullet-proof Batman glass, and didn’t break. When I looked later, I didn’t even see a scratch.

The fire department came twenty minutes later and unlocked the car. The dog was fine.

 

Wheee! That was fun! Ready for answers? Of course you are!

1) Caroline
2) Assistant minister (the colleague was her mother, the minister’s wife)
3) Minister’s wife
4) Caroline
5) Assistant minister

Both jobs had their good moments, but both were unpredictable, which made for stressful work environments. I was verbally and emotionally abused in both positions, although Caroline called me more names and made more personal attacks. One big difference between the two was that Caroline actively sought to exploit people. The church never did anything like that. (Oh lord, I can hear the comments now. Let’s refrain from arguing about whether churches exploit people, okay?)

I won’t be writing much about working for the church, but I did want to mention it in this series. Because like I’ve said, I imagine that prostitution contributed to Caroline’s issues, but it didn’t create them. I think a certain kind of person voluntarily becomes a career prostitution, and that different coping mechanisms crop up in response to a long-term career like that. But as my friend Adrian would say, “Crazy comes in lots of shapes,” and bosses like that can be found in any industry.
***
Quick—What’s the second most profitable criminal industry in the US? First guess, then click.

***
L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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