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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Head Like A Hole

Did you ever feel like you had been banging your head against the wall for, like, years, but you didn't realize it until you finally banged it so hard that you knocked yourself unconscious, and when you woke up you thought to yourself, yeah; I've got to stop doing that?

It's like that for me, working for Gilbert.

The offices of Gilbert's company, iWorks, are just this side of a disaster area about to be condemned by local government officials. Seriously, I would nominate the location for an episode of that reality show, Hoarders, but I think they only feature individuals in their home who collect junk for years until someone has to be called in to haul it all away for a fee.

You may think I exaggerate, and with cause since I've been known to do so, but just to give you an idea of the degree to which Gilbert hoards junk and forces us to live, work, and move among it, he recently bought an old moving truck, filled it with a small fraction of the decrepit, obsolete equipment cluttering the back room where the poor service technicians hang out, and parked it in the parking lot of the building, where it just sits.

The landlord is thrilled, I'm sure.

When I started working for the company last September, Gilbert took a moment to consider where to put me. Then he said, "Why don't you sit here for the time being," indicating the small meeting room with the very large table. He cleared off a corner of it for me to put my stuff. The rest of the table is piled high, and the room is full of upended furniture topped with banker's boxes full of files from the 1980s. There are a couple of old TVs, about 16 broken computers, some things that look like curtain rods, and a not inconsiderable amount of dust, and I've been sitting among them ever since.

Until last Friday, when Gilbert said, "You'll have to move temporarily; there's an auditor coming in and I'm going to put him in the meeting room to work. You can sit at Marge's desk." Then he helped me move all my stuff over there. Marge comes in twice a week for a couple of hours to help Mrs Gilbert with whatever it is she helps Mrs Gilbert with, and she has a small desk in the corner of the main office where Mrs Gilbert, the accounts receivable clerk, and Rex all sit.

Rex likes to sit in there; he says he likes to listen to the girls chatter all day. Me, I would go insane, but I figured it would be fine for a few days; maybe even better than fine since Marge's desk faces Rex's, and he and I are on the same level, hierarchy-wise, and often need to work together on projects. So yesterday I sat there, and it was pretty good. I asked Rex some questions about technical stuff and he was very helpful, and that, combined with the logistics of being out of Gilbert's line of sight and therefore line of fire, resulted in me having a very productive day.

So today I came in and went to my desk and before I even sat down Mrs Gilbert said, "We have to move you; Marge is coming in today." I tried to suggest that it might be less troublesome for everyone if instead of moving me again she moved Marge temporarily, but she was having none of that. Instead, she called Astro in and ordered him to move this printer and that filing cabinet and squeeze a small table in the corner so I could sit there. Rex started to help with the moving of things, and one of the service techs was also called in to help.

I shrugged and said, "Whatever you want," and left the room to go talk to the Web developers about a project we were working on.

By the time Gilbert arrived a half hour later there were three guys in the main office, moving stuff around under Mrs Gilbert's orders. I heard Gilbert say, "No, no! Put everything back!" Then he came into the room where I was, looking like the top of his head was about to blow off, and ordered me to come into his office and close the door.

Then he tore me a new one: the disruption, naturally, was all my fault.

And that's when I woke up from having banged my head to unconsciousness and said to myself, Self, you need to stop doing this. I love Gilbert, I really do. I've known him for more years than I'm willing to admit to you here, Gentle Reader, and by virtue of that alone I'm devoted to him as a friend. That's not even counting all the times he was there for me when I needed him to be, and there were lots.

But at work, he's an asshole, and I'm done.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'll Be There For You

That's what I told Rex when I drove him to the airport last week, so he could spend his vacation golfing in Cuba and I could have a staycation at Triller — that I would be there to pick him up at the aiport when he returned. I said this before I'd read the email with his flight details. Who knew they landed charter flights at 1:30 in the morning?

But it was worth it, totally worth it, to have had the week to myself and, as an added bonus, to have been driving Rex's bigass black SUV around town. It's a gas guzzler, all right, but what badass car isn't?

So you know that episode of Friends, the one with Ross's new girlfriend, where Rachel goes to the airport to meet Ross and when he gets off the plane he's got his arm around a new girl?

I have no idea why I thought of that just now.

I'm not saying it's like that with me and Rex, I'm just sayin'... he was in Cuba for a week, with Gilbert and Mrs. Gilbert and oh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention, there was this woman named Julie, a golfing buddy of the Gilberts, who was also on the trip, and who, for logistical reasons, was Rex's roommate.

In Cuba.

At an all-inclusive resort.

With a whole lot of booze flowing freely.

I'm just sayin'.

But hey, we're all grownups here, and it's not like I'm his wife; he's still got one of those in Scarborough. Neither am I aspiring to the position, I assure you, Gentle Reader.

I'm just sayin'.

You know how you always imagine, beyond reason and without wishing confirmation, that the first boy you loved is always out there somewhere, waiting for you?

I guess it's like that.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My feet on my table, and a Cuban cigar

"Hi, it's Sass. Have you got a glass of wine and half an hour?"

It was after 9:00, my time, and it's an hour later in Bermuda, where my best friend Kay lives, but what are best friends for if you can't call them on the spur of the moment, even late at night? Or, say, at 2:00 in the morning, when you need help burying a body?

"Glass of wine is in hand, and yes, I can spare half an hour," Kay replied. "What's up?"

I got right to the point: "Gilbert's driving me crazy. I may have to kill him."

It seemed like such a good idea at the time, me moving back home and going to work for Gilbert's company, with Gilbert and Rex. They both really wanted me there. The three of us had been inseparable in high school; always imagining what we would do if we had the time and the money and, you know, weren't living with our parents. And now, here we were, doing exactly that.

It was great for the first few weeks, but then Work Gilbert, someone I wasn't familiar with, began to rear his ugly head. And Work Gilbert is Mr. Hyde to Friend Gilbert. Friend Gilbert is smart and clever and funny and spontaneous and creative and is both fair-weather and foul-weather friend; a rare combination.

Work Gilbert is argumentative and contrary, a bad listener, and, at his worst, condescending. It's like being interviewed by Stephen Colbert, but without the "Hey, that was great, thanks for letting me pretend to be an idiot while we were talking," that comes afterwards.

I didn't need to explain any of that to Kay, though. After I said I may have to kill him, she didn't miss a beat: "Oh, I know, I would never work for Gilbert!" Kay exclaimed. "He's a nightmare!"

Back in the olden days, the three of us worked for a pre-Internet Internet company, but Gilbert quit a week after I arrived. "How closely did you work with him?" I asked.

"We were in the same department, though I never reported to him. I was close enough to observe how he operates, though. And to decide that I would never, ever, work for him."

I used to joke that my backup plan was to go back to waitressing. It's an awful job, but as I remember there were occasionally fun times, and there was always food. So there's that.

I suppose no one gets everything they want. I loved being a professor, but I hated the place I had to live in to be able to do it. Now I'm home, but not doing what I love. I'm not sure which is better.

In the next story, Rex returns from his vacation in Cuba, and Sass picks him up at the airport.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Red Red Wine

I've decided to start drinking wine. Red wine, because it's winter, because I prefer it to white, and because it was one of the last things Jack tried to teach me: how to appreciate a Cabernet Sauvignon. He would pour it in a glass and swirl it, and talk about its legs. It was an inside joke. Jack was a leg man.

So I bought two bottles today, both from wineries in the homeland (a Merlot from Open, and a Cab from Peninsula Ridge). My homeland, that is. That strip of sandy soil on top of the Niagara Peninsula where, when I was a little girl, they used to grow Concord grapes and make them into pie fillings and jelly. When Free Trade came into effect in 1988 all the farmers ripped out their Concords and retired, and ten years later the carpet baggers moved in and opened dozens of chichi new wineries with designer labels. Even my home boys Dan Ackroyd and Wayne Gretzky did it.

The other thing I did today was go underwear shopping. It was on my list. It's a long list; longer than what I showed you, and I intend to work my way diligently through it this week while Gilbert, Mrs. Gilbert, Rex, and a couple of their friends are in Cuba at an all-inclusive resort. The all-inclusive includes all the golf you can golf, and they can have it. I'm having a vacation of my own, being alone while they're away.

Don't get me wrong, I love them all, I really do. Gilbert is my second-best friend, after Kay, and Rex is, well, Rex — I've seen him naked, so we're bonded for life — but I spend 90% of my time with them and I need a break. I live in Gilbert's house, and work for his company; and I live with Rex, drive to work with Rex, and work with Rex.

I really need a break.

Gilbert gave me no instructions, no responsibilities, while he's away. Astro is in charge, which is as it should be. Astro is Mrs. Gilbert's son; I've known him since he was a teenager, he's worked for Gilbert just as long, and the company would undoubtedly fall apart without him — still, I thought he, Gilbert, would have given me some responsibility. He didn't. I don't have a key to the office, so I can't stay late.

So I'm making a real effort to not work hard. It's hard for me to not work hard, having been taught by my father that if you're going to do anything, you must give it your all. But I'm trying.

I checked my personal email today, something I used to do all day every day, and something which, since I've been back home and working a real job in the real world, I sometimes go days without doing at all.

There was an email from Rex, sent two days ago (see?), a message from his mother that he forwarded. She wished him a happy new year, and she said "and the same to Sass," which was the first time she's acknowledged my existence since Rex and I were in grade 13.

So I emailed her. Yeah, I know, and this was before the wine.

You can see how this must look to her, can't you? Chronologically, I mean. I'll summarize, and if you want more detail you can read Rex's blog. Two years ago, I found Rex on Facebook. We chatted briefly, and I put him back in touch with Gilbert. Then he started working for Gilbert. Then last Christmas I went out with Rex and Gilbert. I told you about it here. (He wrote about it here.) It was the first time I'd seen Rex in more than 20 years.

In February this year — I mean last year — Rex left his wife and moved into Gilbert's house. And then in September I got kicked out of California, so I came home and moved into Gilbert's house.

With Rex.

You can see how this must look, can't you? To Rex's mother, I mean? And why the memory of her scares the crap out of me?

In the next story, Sass calls her best friend, Kay.

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