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Maturity Is…

While I was awkwardly navigating my way through my preteen and teenage years, I encountered my fair share of mean girls and then some.  I can still remember the day when I realized that girls were a cutthroat bunch.  My friend and neighbor, Mary, was having a party and I was invited along with nearly every other person in the neighborhood.  A few days before the party, I got a phone call from Mary.  She kept asking me what I thought of the new girl, Kelly.  I would say that I thought she was nice, Mary would push me to say something else, until I eventually agreed with Mary that Kelly might not be the nicest person ever.  All of a sudden, Mary revealed that she was Kelly.  She HAD to trick me because she KNEW I didn’t really like her!  I cried for a while, skipped the party, and dropped most of my female friends in favor of male friends.

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It was a childish thing to do, but my 11 or 12-year-old mind thought it was the worst thing that could have ever happened.  As I made my way through middle and high school, I was shown time and again that Kelly’s little trick was miles away from the worst thing I could expect to see or experience.  I was lucky enough to find a good group of friends who kept the backstabbing and shady behavior to a minimum, but the things I witnesses females to do each other was nothing short of disgusting.  High school was horrible, and college was only slightly better because it was so easy to avoid certain people and cliques.  I always felt confident though that leaving school behind would also mean that the cutthroat behavior would be left behind as well.

Call me naive if you will, but I assumed that truly becoming an adult would also mean that females would stop being so terrible to each other over tiny things, and often over nothing at all.  Little did I know that it seems to get worse with age.  I lost quite a few male friends (and by friends, I don’t mean “we used to date,” I mean strictly friends) because their significant others couldn’t handle them being friends with a somewhat attractive female, even though I wasn’t single, wasn’t flirting, and wasn’t any sort of threat.  I’ve been harassed at work by female authority figures who disliked me for reasons I’m still unsure of, but were clearly unrelated to my stellar job performance.  And recently, I’ve been dealing with a woman twenty years my senior stand around my desk and take thinly veiled shots at me over some he-said-she-said BS that has nothing to do with her at all.

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I’ve been free of Tubberpottimus for nearly a year and had hoped that the nonsense in the office would end with her retirement.  Silly me.  When one miserable sod leaves, there is always another to take her place.  A female that will act hateful towards another, later patting themselves on the back as they brag about how many notches they took their target down.  Smile at the wrong guy and you’ll be called a slut.  Say the wrong thing and you’ll be called a liar.  Forget the slightest detail and you’ll be called incompetent.  Hell, you can do everything right and still become a target just because some woman doesn’t approve of you in general.  Women will hate each other simply over wardrobe choices and hairstyles.

I am beyond tired of this behavior, especially when it comes from women who are much older than me and should have long outgrown the need to act like petty children.  I can’t stand coming to work and having to deal with a sad middle-aged woman who has nothing better to do than spout off with “oh, better be quiet; don’t want any rumors to start” literally every single time she is anywhere near me.  We’re all free to like and dislike who we please, but is it really necessary to be hateful and difficult, especially in schools and workplaces where we’re all somewhat held captive together for eight hours?

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My dream is to fully escape this mean girl world.  Work in a place where some chick isn’t trying to get me fired because I refuse to gossip with her or because I’m getting more attention than she.  Go to the store and not be glared at by someone who assumes I’m looking at her man when I’m merely trying to find the cereal.  Stop hearing the word slut thrown at any female who dares post a Facebook photo of herself at the beach.  I want to be able to have faith in my gender instead of swearing off female friends every couple of years because I simply can’t cope with the nonsense.

I am lucky enough to know some amazing women, but they are unfortunately the minority in a bitch-eat-bitch world where rules are out the window and it’s every broad for herself.  Last I heard, the Kelly from my youth was busy being a godawful person to everyone she came across, but even people who start as early as her can change.  Stop looking at all other women as competition.  Stop the jealousy.  Calm the hell down and quit being hateful.  These females who constantly target others are miserable people at their core, and it’s sad for them, but also sad for us who have to deal with their drama.  Everyone needs to take a deep breath and ask themselves if all this hate, all the plotting, and all the gossip is truly worth it.  Breathe in… breathe out… and ask yourself if your day is actually best spent on whether or not your coworker’s skirt is one inch too short for the office.

 

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You Are The Worst

Do you ever get to a point in your day where you feel like giving up on the world?  I hit that point pretty early on today.  The kid being perfect for my husband but ignoring every word I had to say didn’t give me the greatest start to my day.  Annoying my husband by having to repeat myself to the child over and over didn’t help either, so I left feeling pretty crummy.  After dropping the boy at daycare, I was almost t-boned by a Mustang who was paying zero attention to the world around him and total attention to whatever was in his hand (I’m assuming a phone, but it was dark).  This happens quite frequently around daycare; people from all directions all either assume they have the right of way over everyone else or simply pay no mind to any car or pedestrian that may be in their path.  If my husband and I weren’t accustomed to it (which we shouldn’t have to be), I suspect we would have been in an accident or two by now.

Head_On_CollisionAfter getting the hell away from that Mustang, I ended up stuck behind a white car that not only insisted on going 25 miles below the speed limit, but insisted on trying to brake check me every 100 feet or so.  When I reached a point in the road where I could pass the car, it swerved over to straddle the middle line, leaving me no room to pass.  Lucky for me, the car turned onto a different road after a few minutes and spared me the annoyance of being stuck for too long.  When I lived in Connecticut, cars that wished to drive slower than the speed limit would always pull over to let cars pass.  It happened less frequently in Georgia, but still enough to keep my hope alive that people do care about others around them.  Now?  I can’t remember ever having this happen unless you count the occasional farmer that pulls his massive equipment off of the road to let cars pass.  No one cares who they slow down and everyone seems to get incredibly offended if you dare try to pass them.

On the flipside, yesterday it was my husband and I that were too slow.  In the morning, we were politely passed by a car that felt we weren’t accelerating quickly enough after passing through a four way stop.  In the afternoon, we were passed by a thoughtless dickhole that was seemingly offended by our decision to go the speed limit on a country road.  The car passed us and quickly cut back in front of our car.  This bugs me to no end.  I can almost excuse it if the person you’re passing is driving like a moron and you want to silently tell them to get it together.  But the car that passed us had no valid reason to be annoyed and no urgency to get back over, as there were no other cars coming.  The guy/girl just wanted to be an ass.  Whoever you are, I hope you end up in a ditch.

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When I arrived at work this morning, I had to change parking spaces because of the moronic way people choose to park in our giant lot.  I then had to weave through security while three middle-aged women with backpacks on wheels decided that they were handicapped in some way, skipped the line, and went through the handicap accessible entrance.  This bugs me just as much as when people steal handicap parking spaces.  The handicap doors and line is not for lazy, entitled people.  It’s for the guy in my building with no arms, the lady with one leg, the people in wheelchairs, and those on crutches.  If the blind guy that works here can go through the regular line, you suitcase toting folk can do so as well.  Fat and/or tired is not a handicap.

The whole abuse of the handicap line definitely bothers me more than it has any right to, but I don’t think it’s okay for people to skip the regular line and breeze through the automatic doors simply because they think that the extra 20lbs on their body gives them the right to do so.  There have been times when the security guard checking badges will tell these people to use the regular line, but for the most part he doesn’t have the time or the patience to do so, so the lazy crowd takes full advantage.  What gets me is the feeling of entitlement that these people have.  Newsflash:  you aren’t entitled to special treatment.  You’re not special.  I’m not special.  Quit acting as if the world owes you something.

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I swear, if not for Twitter and being able to vent here, I would go postal and snap at people in public.  I’m exhausted with the incredibly rude acts I see on a daily basis.  People don’t care anymore about anything that isn’t in their tiny little circle.  I’m not saying I should be important to whoever I happen to be around, but I would appreciate being treated like a human being and not as if I’m a gnat that won’t quit buzzing around their head.  I’d love for people not to block the entry way to the restroom and then act as if I’M the problem for trying to navigate to a stall without having to hug the gross wall as I pass by.  I’d love for my cashier to say “hello” and make eye contact instead of ignoring me completely as they continue a conversation with a fellow coworker about things no one needs to hear said out loud.

I’ve noticed that people seem to think that you either have to kiss everyone’s ass or you have to only look out for yourself.  They see no middle ground.  Unfortunately, that middle ground is where it’s at.  You CAN look out for your best interests and still manage not to be an intolerable asshat to everyone around you.  You CAN take care of yourself and your family without ticking off everyone around you.  Being a dickhole takes the same amount of effort as slapping a smile on your face and holding open a door for the person behind you.  Make an effort.  My sanity depends on it.

 

No Love Lost

I’ve been married for slightly over five years now, about as long as my two previous longest and most serious relationships combined.  I’ve gone from being a paranoid nutcase to a happy nutcase, settling into married life and becoming part of something I never thought I would have.  I’d be lying if I said it was an easy journey; my husband and I butted heads quite often in the beginning and we still do so now in a much gentler fashion.  We threw ourselves headfirst into a relationship after spending less than two days in each others company, relying solely on the emotions we felt through our digital relationship and the confidence that we had found our other half.  It was a big risk but one I’m so glad we took.

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Every happy ending is prefaced by heartbreak, and I definitely experienced my share before finding happiness.  It taught me a lot and has made me sensitive to others who are unlucky in love, turned off to relationships for personal reasons, or stuck in bad situations.  Too often, I see friends on Twitter venting about failed relationships or feeling as if they are not meant for love and destined to be single forever.  I’m always glad to see the handful that are comfortable with their single status and immune to the pressures of finding someone and settling down, but they are sadly outnumbered by the miserable crowd who wants nothing more than to find true love.  Dating can be rough and it’s quite the challenge to find someone who fits your needs to a T.

The desperation to find love can make even the most intelligent person turn into a lovesick teenager, reaching out for anyone who will give them a chance.  I’ve seen strong-willed men and women crumble at the feet of a person they want to love but who is all kinds of wrong for them, sacrificing parts of themselves in order to appease the other person in their search for happiness.  I was that person once, always anxious to hear those three little words and willing to do whatever it took in order to hear them.  It was never something I admitted, not even to myself, but that need grabbed hold of my life for far too long and kept me prisoner.

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Desperation is what kills you.  Half the time, you’re blissfully unaware that you have become desperate, but it’s clear as day through actions and words.  Maybe you’re unable to enjoy a girls night out because your pretty friend is getting attention from men while you go ignored.  Perhaps you cling to flirty words on Facebook, regardless of who they come from, because you want to feel pretty and wanted.  Maybe you feel pangs of jealousy whenever you see a couple holding hands or a post on Twitter talking about love.  Acknowledging the signs and adjusting your behavior is key, but it rarely happens.  It isn’t fair that everyone else is happy while you’re lonely and stuck on the outskirts, and it’s natural to have a strong desire to change that.

When the emotions cloud common sense, people make mistakes.  Some will settle for a person who isn’t good enough for them just so they can have someone to cuddle up next to at night.  Some are looking to fill a gap left by a previous love and show a lack of care for who they choose to fill that gap.  Some are quick to sacrifice friends in order to maintain their relationship, siding with their new love without question or thought.  They blame others for any hiccups in their relationship but never blame themselves or the person they are with.  They shut themselves off from the world, creating their own little universe around this “perfect” person.  It’s a dangerous path to take, but countless people are walking it right now.

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I hate that I’ve lost friends because of their relationships.  It stings a bit to know that I can be cast aside so easily in favor of some girl or guy, but it saddens me more to know what a big mistake they are making.  True love does not require one to break friendships and become someone different.  Love does not give ultimatums, spoken or otherwise, that cause a person to compromise parts of themselves in order to keep the relationship going.  Love does not say “your friends aren’t worth it, take my friends instead.”  It shouldn’t be selfish, closed off, take it or leave it, or hurtful in any way.  Love shouldn’t make you choose between that person and the rest of your world.

I lost a lot of friends when I was with my most serious ex because I chose him over everything else, casting everyone aside and immersing myself in an unhealthy relationship.  I know too well when someone else is doing the same and it pains me to see it happen.  Just as I ignored warning signs that flashed in front of me, I see people turning a blind eye to all kinds horrible actions from their love.  And there is nothing I can do about it.  I didn’t allow anyone to help me and let advice slide right off my back, so why should I expect anyone else to do any different?  I can only hope they come to their senses before wasting any more of their life on a person who isn’t good enough for them.

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Good things come to those to wait, right?  Annoying saying, but it’s true.  As I’m typing this, I’m listening to a coworker on the phone with a friend, talking to her about her failed marriage.  In regards to her own marriage, after listing complaints about her husband, she said “well, I guess I could do worse.”  It’s a perfect example of someone who failed to wait for a good thing and decided to settle for what was available, leaving her needs unsatisfied and her heart desiring something more.  At nearly 60 years old, she is venting her regret for not having a better husband.  That shouldn’t be anyone’s reality.  Take a deep breath and take an honest look at your life.  If you want better, go out and get it.  Just be patient and be smart about it.  No one should be forced to settle for anything less than what they truly deserve.

Panic

Yesterday was not my best day by far.  I was still shaken up and worried about my tubby coworker snapping at me on Monday, making a scene and then plotting ways to get revenge on me for some imagined slight against her.  She spent most of her day grumbling to other people about me before finally inventing a conspiracy about someone going through her desk to get personal paperwork and leaving it on the printer, something I was sure she was planning to blame on me somehow.  Since she’s tried to get me fired before, I couldn’t help but stress about her trying it again.

The highlight of my day was a trip to Wasabi on 82nd with my husband for some delicious sushi, but the great food did little to ease my mind.  I was on edge and became easily annoyed by bad drivers, slow drive-thru service, and literally anything else that should have rolled right off of my back.  I carried the stress into my evening, worrying about what my boy was doing upstairs when he should be getting ready for bed and getting antsy about getting enough sleep so I wouldn’t be cranky the next day.  My husband, who is the polar opposite of me when it comes to stress, managed to calm my nerves while no doubt getting a bit annoyed at my constant craziness.  I went to sleep with a promise to myself to make today a better day.

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When I was a child, I lived in a state of constant worry of my mother becoming angry with me, with people giving me a hard time in school, with friends and boyfriends coming and going, with grades and sports and my performance in other areas, and other things that normal people treat as normal parts of their day.  When I left for college and began living on my own, I had a brief period where I didn’t worry about a single thing.  Sadly, it didn’t last and the pressures of being on my own got to me.  I’ve lost everything and I’ve worked hard to gain it all back, but for some reason I cannot reset my brain back to the time where I was mostly carefree and simply dealt with issues once they actually became an issue.

It’s a bigger problem than I’m willing to admit.  Sometimes I lie awake at night having imagined conversations with various people about problems that haven’t even occurred and show no real signs of occurring.  I plan ahead not just for the basic things but also for every imaginable possibility that could occur in order to prepare myself for whatever may come my way.  My stomach will become upset at the drop of a hat if I sense doom coming, regardless of whether or not there is a valid reason for worry.  I feel like a lunatic.

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I’ve had therapy, which didn’t help me at all.  I’ve been on medication, which also didn’t help whatsoever and is only masking the issue rather than fixing it.  The fact that I’m aware that I’m a bit nutty is probably a positive thing, as it means I am focused on an area of myself which is in need of repair.  My husband is amazing at calming me down and getting me focused, although I do get irritated at him when he helps.  I’m hoping that I can begin taking baby steps in the proper direction so I stop doing this to myself and stop projecting my stress on the people around me.

This morning was a big help and I’m hoping that I did manage to take a few steps.  My boy was dancing around naked this morning instead of getting ready for school, so it wasn’t the greatest start to the day.  It got a tad worse when I got to work when I was informed by a coworker that Tubbs had planned to complain to my boss and attempt to move my computer so I was facing the front doors (her reasoning is from a false accusation that I ignore people who enter the office).  My coworker was visible annoyed by the whole thing and also happened to have been present for the entire outburst on Monday.  Once my boss arrived, she informed him of what Tubbs had yelled at me, how she calmed her down, plus additional rants that Tubbs was spouting off about.  My boss’s response?  “I’ve told [Tubbs] before, she is not the mother of this office.”

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It’s like my husband keeps telling me:  things always work out.  The time for me to stress should have been if she had done something that resulted in my boss confronting me, if she had retaliated otherwise and either jeopardized my job or vandalized my property, or if something else actually came out of her yelling at me.  It hit me today that I wasted almost two days worrying about something that was ridiculous to worry about in the first place.  I should have done nothing more than come here to vent and then moved along with my day, not giving things a second thought unless it came up again.  I should have trusted that I was not in the wrong and no one would come down on me for being the target of a crazy woman’s madness.  I should have relaxed.

I’m trying to get myself to quit being stubborn and deal with things according to how important they truly are.  If I lose my job tomorrow, I should definitely be worried.  If I have to pay my Sprint bill a day late, something they never penalize me for, I shouldn’t give it a second thought.  I should listen to my husband more, even though he’ll tell me he told me so.  I should not take it personally when some idiot at work bumps me in the hallway because they are too lazy and/or oblivious to get out of the way.  I should trust that in the last five years, no crisis has entered our lives that wasn’t easily dealt with, so no crisis will come in the future that we cannot tackle and destroy.  I should accept that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for.  I think I’m getting there.  Fingers crossed.

Livid

I dragged myself to work this morning against all odds after a night of little sleep and lots of tossing and turning.  My eyes burning, I dove into my work to try to get my daily tasks done as soon as possible so I could switch to autopilot and glide through the rest of the work day.  As the clock approached 10am, my husband gave me a much needed break from my office as we took off for our mid morning laps around the building.  We talked about an awkward situation in his office, the boy and the pup, and other easy topics that our tired brains could manage.  After three laps, I left him to return to my desk.  My butt hits the chair and I get two characters into my password when I hear “JAMIE!  Hey!  Jamie??!?”

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This being the second time in a two-hour span that my tubby coworker has screamed across the office at me in order to get my attention, I slowly turned around to see what she needed this time.  Rather than tell me what incredibly important thing it was that she needed assistance with (earlier it was whether or not my email worked) she glares at me, cocks her head, and says “What are you giving me a dirty look for, girl?”  My first instinct is to laugh, followed by a strong desire to tell her what a vile person I think she is.  Instead, I decide I value my job and I just turn right back around and continue unlocking my computer, slowly shaking my head as I do so.  My computer unlocks and Tubby exclaims “Oh, am I not allowed to talk to you or ask you questions without you giving me dirty looks?!?”

At this point, I want to tell her that NO, she is not allowed to yell across the office at me without getting a dirty look.  But I know my place in this office and I know that I am not as highly valued as a contractor as she is as a GS employee.  I slowly turn and say “Really?”  She snaps back with “Yeah, really!  I am old enough to be your mother!  You show some respect, girl!!”  Now, calling me a girl when I’m 31 and not the one screaming like an idiot across the office struck me as a bit funny, and I couldn’t help but crack a smile.  I then said to her “I’m not going to sit here and act like we’re in high school,” and turned back to my computer to get on with my day.  Apparently that was just as bad as telling her to piss off because she again yelled at me, saying “Oh, THAT is how you want to play it??!?”  Muttering something I could not understand, she stormed away.

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I shouldn’t be surprised that she decided to get loud with me with numerous witnesses around, but it did take me by surprise because her yelling at me while I don’t yell back doesn’t fit her plan of Get Jamie Fired very well.  This woman has complained to my boss about me, saying that I am mean and don’t do my job.  She is a tremendous gossip and I’ve heard her discussing my life on multiple occasions, usually making up nonsense because I’m a pretty private person in the office.  She slacks off constantly, spending more than half of her work day on personal business, online shopping, anything related to her daughter, and other things that she is not getting paid to do.  She treats her husband like garbage and eats his lunch along with hers half of the time.  She lies and takes credit for other people’s work.  She has also called my mother-in-law a bitch, and my mom-in-law is a freaking saint.  My tubby coworker is one of the most useless and disgusting human beings on the planet, but she still managed to surprise me by yelling like a moron.

My boss happens to be out of the office today, but she has already been calling him like a madwoman since her outburst, leaving me with no doubt in my mind that she plans to complain to him once he returns about me giving her dirty looks or whatever she’ll come up with by then.  It concerned me to the point where I considered getting out in front of her and contacting my boss via email regarding what had transpired.  In the time it took me to write an email about the events and send it to my husband, I realized how silly it would be for me to do so.  She is treating the workplace like a playground, but that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.  So since her display, I have been carrying on with my day as if she is invisible.  Loud, annoying, but invisible.

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At this moment, I am livid.  More at myself than at the useless pile of fat that is my coworker.  I’m irritated at myself for not chasing her down in the hallway, getting her alone, and letting her know in great detail what I wish upon her every time she cracks her gum at 8am, talks trash about people who don’t deserve it, lies on the phone about being busy so she can schedule mani-pedis, or otherwise behaves worse than a barn animal.  She not only opened the door for me to let loose, but she rolled out the red carpet and sent a limo.  I had my chance and I let it go.  Damn it.  For once I’m wishing this WAS high school.

Here’s where I need your help.  Obviously I’m not going to rage in her face, as much as I know she deserves it.  I’m not going to seek out revenge in some underhanded and sneaky way, even though I would feel 100% justified in doing so.  But what do I do, if anything?  The “oh, is that how you want to play it” remark makes me think that she interpreted my fictional dirty look as the beginning of some sort of war.  Is this a justifiable thing to think or am I being paranoid?  To be clear, I don’t care if her feelings are hurt, plus we’ve never been friends; I just care about how this may affect my job, if at all.  And yes, she IS the kind of person who will lie, cheat and steal in order to get what she wants.  So if you were in my shoes and thrown back onto the playground because a coworker wants to go postal, what do you do?

 

CYA

I’m not the most important person in this office by any means.  I answer to the Branch Chief in the National Guard’s Financial Services division, but my actual employer who issues my paycheck is located in Virginia.  I’ve never met the guy who hired me or even knowingly been in the same state as him.  I’m one of 63 people in this office and if I vanished tomorrow, life would go on without too much of a hiccup.  That being said, there are quite a few important things I get my hands into, one of those things being the handling of time cards for fourteen people in my office who really appreciate getting an accurate paycheck every two weeks.

Due to a policy change from my boss’s boss, it was decided that someone on her end in Virginia would now handle time cards for our office.  This is quite unusual; it’s standard to have the timekeeper on site, but it’s not my place or my boss’s place to question her decision so we didn’t push the issue.  As soon as the time card responsibility left my hands, the problems started sprouting up like weeds.  A request for 8 hours of annual leave was processed as 16 hours, overtime hours went uncounted, and various requests were denied as not having the proper documentation.  The new timekeepers reaction?  Blame Jamie.

It has been nearly two months since this new policy has been in effect and the initial cry of “Blame Jamie” has become “why in the HELL isn’t Jamie doing time cards anymore??!??”  Things have gone to shit and whatever reasoning the new timekeeper had for placing blame on me has been crushed under my shoe and no longer means a damn thing because I save EVERYTHING.  Every email, every document, every bit of correspondence is saved and filed away somewhere I can easily get to.  There is no “Jamie didn’t do _____” because I can pull put the proof in less than 10 seconds flat.

I don’t care if it’s something as important as making sure my coworkers are getting paid or as tiny as making sure we have paper for the printers on order, you have to cover your ass at work.  Regardless of your level on the totem pole, there is always someone you have to answer to, be it a supervisor, your customers, or the general public.  At some point, your performance and abilities will be called into question.  Things go wrong and the easiest way out of it is to point a finger.  That finger will eventually land on you, and you need to be able to get out of it and have the blame swing away from you and onto the person or people who deserve it.

There is also the issue of dealing with people who are just total assholes, looking to trip you up and get you reprimanded or canned.  My tubby coworker, for example, has tried this with me quite a few times, still not realizing that I have made it impossible.  I dealt with someone similar to her at the medical office I worked at, I’ve dealt with it prior to then, and I’ll deal with it in the future.  Some people are simply miserable, others are incompetent, and these are generally the people you need to look out for.  If you slip, they’ll watch you fall and then tell everybody.

I can’t count how many times I’ve saved my ass by saving every single bit of work I do for every job, big or small.  It’s a little bit of paranoia on my part, but it’s not only an effective way to keep your job, it’s a great help when something comes into question and your coworkers need assistance.  I’ve become the go-to person when it comes to locating the most obscure documents, which my boss has noticed and which makes me look a hell of a lot more useful than I probably am.  Covering your ass doesn’t have to simply be a self-preservation tool, it can be of use to everyone.

Part of surviving in the wild world of employed life is becoming an asset to the company, someone who is not easily replaced and someone who is noticed for the right reasons.  We all want to earn more money, but that doesn’t come easily if you’re just another employee.  You want to be the one your boss can’t live without, who your customers love and request, and who your coworkers respect on one level or another.  This is accomplished in many ways and by doing many things, too many to name here, but it’s all for nothing if you forget to cover your ass and protect yourself from all the bullshit that can potentially get in the way of your success.

Surviving A Pitch In

My office, like many offices, loves to have pitch-in luncheons.  To those of us who count calories, are on a diet plan, or simply trying to be more mindful of their weight, pitch-ins can be hell.  Tons of great food is brought in; chips and various homemade dips, pulled pork, chili, meatballs, all kinds of casseroles, vegetable and cheese trays, sandwich platters, dinner rolls, potato and macaroni salads, and more.  Then you have the desserts; cookies, pies, brownies, and other decadent treats.  The employee who lacks in culinary skill will bring an array of sodas, punch or sweet tea.  I gained a pound just writing that paragraph.

The seemingly simple solution is to skip it, however this is not looked kindly upon in some offices, especially when the pitch-in is organized to say farewell to a beloved employee or to celebrate a promotion.  You don’t want to be the guy who didn’t care that Mike was leaving after 25 years and couldn’t be bothered bringing a plate or eating with the group.  The other solution I see recommended a lot on various health and wellness websites is to load up on fruits and veggies.  Sure, you could do that, but it’ll be at the expense of missing out on Becky’s famous baby back ribs and having to explain over and over why you couldn’t be bothered to try them.  Instead, let’s try some practical solutions that can allow you to enjoy without stretching your waist band.

HYDRATE.  Drink a full glass of water, diet soda, or anything low to no calorie immediately before the pitch-in begins.  After you fill yourself that way, make sure you drink throughout your meal.  This will help you feel full quicker and hopefully cut down on the amount of food you consume.

TAKE YOUR TIME.  Don’t rush to be first in line, although it is tempting to do so.  Let the vultures go before you and squeeze yourself in line after them and before the stragglers.  Putting yourself towards the end of the pack will prevent you from being the person who is sitting around, done with their meal, but still wanting more due to their coworkers chomping and munching around them.  As you’re eating, people will be going for seconds.  Take a minute and feel good about yourself for not being part of that pack.

SKIP THE BREAD.  Dinner rolls are amazingly delicious, especially Hawaiian rolls.  They are also loaded with carbohydrates and calories (90 calories for a regular Hawaiian roll, upwards of 200 for certain dinner rolls and burger buns).  As these will rarely come into your pitch-in in any other form than store-bought, you won’t be offending anyone by passing over the bread.  If you are being served burgers or hot dogs, just skip the bun.  The meat is just as great bun-free.  Also try to go easy on chips and crackers.

PORTION CONTROL.  One cup of potato salad is, on average, about 400 calories.  One meatball, floating in sauce, is about 100 to 150 calories depending on how it is made and how large it is.  If you don’t want to miss out on either, have a single meatball and aim for a quarter cup of potato salad (about the size of a golf ball or a chicken egg).  For half cup servings, aim for tennis ball or light bulb size.  Stay away from large portions of rich foods, such as cheese dips.  Use one standard size plate for your trip and stop filling it when you reach the point where adding any more would require you to pile food on top of food.

GO EASY ON THE CONDIMENTS.  Avoid mayonnaise on your sandwich (and avoid dishes that contain it if you can).  Don’t add sauce to items already cooked in a sauce.  If there is salad, pick a light dressing and try not to be tempted by the think French and Honey Mustard dressings.  Regular mustard is your friend; at around 5 calories per teaspoon, you can add it to burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches guilt-free.

DO NOT GET SECONDS.  If you can, survey the table prior to food being ready for service.  Pick out what you absolutely must have and make a plan to just get those certain items.  Once you have cleaned your plate, you are done.  Do not go back for a second sandwich or a second scoop of baked beans.  If you forgot dessert, that’s just too bad.  And speaking of dessert…

DO YOU NEED IT?  Do you normally have dessert with your lunch while at work?  Are you even hungry after finishing your meal or just tempted by the tiramisu sitting a few feet away on the table?  Don’t grab dessert just because it’s there.  Wait an hour or longer, see if you’re hungry, and if there is still some left and you’re dying to have a bite, go for it then.  If you have the option to cut your own dessert portion (brownies, cakes, pies, etc), cut a piece no bigger than a hockey puck.

IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE WASTEFUL.  You have some macaroni and cheese on your plate right next to a bit of pasta.  The problem is, the mac and cheese is horrible.  Unless you have really creepy coworkers, no one is going to notice if you don’t clean your plate.  If you don’t like something, don’t finish it.  Don’t stuff your face simply because the food is in front of you.  When you feel done, be done.

Happy eating.

My Anger Monster Is Escaping

Last Thursday morning was one of those mornings that is best spent under the covers.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, my husband and I went into work an hour late.  Since my boss was out and the second in command was also out recovering from surgery, I called one of the other supervisors to let her know I was running a bit behind.  There’s nothing dictating I inform her, but I felt it was right to let someone in the office know instead of just showing up an hour late without warning anyone.

I arrived at the office at nine and began to double check the accountability report; this needs to be sent to the main office in Virginia as well as to our branch chief and must list everyone who is absent or taking leave for part of the day.  As I suspected, Tubberpottimus, who sometimes does this report when I am out, had marked me as absent for the entire day.  As I went about fixing the report, I noticed she had also marked me on the shared office calendar as absent for the entire day.  I deleted the entry, repaired the report and resent it to the main office and to my boss.

My next task was going through my emails.  The supervisor who I had phoned earlier in the day had forwarded me an email she received from Tubberpottimus.  It rudely stated “Well, I guess I’m stuck doing the accountability report, so send it to me.”  The supervisor had replied “My apologies for not telling you, but Jamie will be a little late today.  She phoned me this morning since [my boss] is out today.”  So obviously, Tubberpottimus had the information that I would be in and STILL informed the main office, my boss, and put on the public calendar that I was out.  She also went back and added a bunch of entries to the calendar stating I was off on days I was present for work.

Obviously I was present and I made that clear by sending the correct accountability report; I don’t have remote access to my work email and have no way whatsoever of sending that email unless my ass is in my office chair.  That properly takes care of covering my ass, as does phoning the supervisor this morning since my boss was out today.  After deleting the incorrect calendar entries she had created for my “absences,” I changed her posting permissions so she can no longer post any entries whatsoever to the shared calendar.  The purpose of the calendar is threefold; it allows me to mark absences and appointments on my accountability report with ease each day, it allows easy viewing of teleconferences and other events, and it is a reference to the office on who is out each week.  There is no point or purpose in going back weeks or months and marking absences, real or imagined, because no one needs that as a reference after the fact.  Tubberpottimus was simply being petty and I’m tired of it.

This beast of a woman has made it clear from the second week of my employment that she doesn’t like me.  Since I refused to gossip with her about a drama-filled employee, among other things that are none of my business, I have landed a permanent place on her shit list.  Since I’m a private person at work, she has resorted to making up gossip about me since there isn’t any real gossip to tell, such as I have snuck off to have a secret lunch with a soldier in the office, who I can’t stand by the way and who I supposedly had lunch with at a time I was stuck in a staff meeting.  Throughout my employment here, she has tried multiple times to get me to gossip about various people in the office and even my own mother-in-law.  Each time I refuse, she despises me more.

She’s tried multiple times to get me in trouble with my boss, claiming I take personal calls at work (I’ve taken maybe three within almost two years, while she takes at least three per day, usually more).  She has complained to him about my “rude behavior,” which he dismissed since he has never once witnessed me being rude nor has anyone else ever complained about me.  On multiple occasions, she has CCd him on emails where she tries to claim I have failed to do my job properly, something I always prove wrong, as I save every email under the sun (Covering Your Ass, the most important part of any job) and I always am able to forward the emails proving I did what she claims I failed to do.

She calls me a bitch, a brat, a spoiled little girl getting by on her looks alone, lazy, and countless other things under her breath throughout the day.  It would bother me if not for the fact that she’s morbidly obese, smells like old cheese, and is so unhappy with her pathetic existence that the only job she can get out of the day is from belittling others and vicariously living through her daughter as she prepares to be married.  Tubberpottimus is a pathetic excuse for a human being and someone like that isn’t going to hurt me by calling me a stuck-up snob.  Truly, throughout all her nonsense, I feel sorry for the woman at the end of the day.

I am sorry to say that I did end up bothered by what she did today.  I detest the woman, but I’m not rude to her, I don’t call her names (out loud), I don’t belittle her or try to do anything to jeopardize her job (even though I could easily, as she spends the majority of her day doing things that have nothing to do with work and has been planning a wedding on company time), I don’t spread rumors about her, I don’t post her name on here and attempt to embarrass her publicly, I don’t try to get her in trouble with her own supervisor; I do nothing but treat her the way I treat every other person in here.  As much as I would love to tell her what a vile and worthless person she is, I refrain from doing so and mind my own business.  I have done nothing to deserve her wrath and done nothing to deserve the kind of treatment she doles out.

You don’t have to like your coworkers, you only need to tolerate them for the duration of your work day.  Once the clock hits your clock-out time, they cease to exist and you get to leave them behind until the next day.  They don’t need to become friends you see on weekends or people you exchange fun emails and text messages with.  You’re not obligated to buy them birthday and Christmas presents or ask them about their kids on a regular basis.  Just be polite, be civil, do your job and don’t cause trouble.

As far as Tubberpottimus goes, she is set to retire by the end of the year and I only wish it was coming by the end of the month.  I truly don’t know if I have the self-control to hold back and not say something to her fat face before she retires because I feel that by not speaking up, I am telling her “I am a weak person, please feel free to treat me like garbage.”  I don’t go to my boss and whine as she did because he’s too busy for elementary school nonsense and it’s not his problem.  I do desire to do something though, as I’m beyond fed up and I don’t get paid enough to deal with her bullshit.  There has been a Tubberpottimus of sorts at every job I’ve held, but she has been the worst, hands down, and while she isn’t pushing me to a breaking point, she is pushing me to the “I’m going to get in your face and make you cry” point.  I’m just at a total loss as to what to do….

Eating In Peace

My desk is one of the first you’ll see if you step into my office.  I sit to the left of the door, just outside of my boss’s office.  Directly in front of the office door is the call center’s cubicles and to the right is Tubberpottimus.  Generally, about a third of the people who wander into this office unsure of where they are heading will stop off at my desk and ask for my help.  Sometimes “asking” translates to mean they will come in and stare at the back of my head, trying to use their gaze to get me to turn around, but in general, they have enough common sense to speak up.  It’s part of my job to ensure people aren’t lost, at least for the majority of my day.  While I’m eating lunch however, I want nothing more than to be invisible.

Today was one of the worst lunch breaks I’ve had in a while.  My mother in law came to visit me to show off Easter photos of her granddaughter.  Not a big deal; this woman is a freaking saint, so I let my salad sit for a few moments while she beamed in the way only a proud grandmother can.  I started to get a little antsy though when people began coming over to us and engaging her in conversation as I’m cutting through my lettuce and trying to cover everything with dressing.  Finally the conversations end and I bid my mom in law farewell so I can dig into my lunch.

Alas, my salad will have to wait a little while longer.  Two soldiers, accompanying a visiting (and high-ranking) soldier, have decided to begin a heated discussion at my desk.  The senior enlisted soldier puts his things down on my desk (it’s U-shaped and people sometimes think the part to my back is a free for all area) and starts loudly talking to the other two.  I have a mirror near my desk that allows me to see people coming into the office and I can clearly see that one soldier is eyeballing me as I try to eat.  I’m weird about people watching me eat, so I put my fork down and sadly wait for the conversation to end while taking time to glare at the mirror every few seconds to make my discomfort obvious.  Finally, they depart.

I sigh and dig into my salad.  Two minutes pass, maybe three, with me blissfully left in peace to eat and read articles on Cracked.com.  I’m halfway through an article when a female decides to park herself near my desk and stare at me.  I ask if she needs something and she shakes her head.  She stands there and stares at me and my food as if I have a plate of earthworms and I’m eating them with my toes.  Feeling weirded out, I again abandon my fork and get to work on a spreadsheet that I have no interest in.  Finally, she tires of gazing at my profile and takes off.

Wondering what the heck her issue was, I get back to eating.  I open up my crackers and notice a lot of movement to my right.  I turn to see a coworker juggling soda bottles and trying to be amusing.  He departs and is replaced by a janitor asking if I need my area dusted.  I decline, not wanting dust in my salad.  I then get asked if I have a lighter.  I’ve worked here for almost two years and it’s common knowledge that I don’t smoke, so I’m not sure what that was about, but this person was insistent I could locate a freaking lighter.  My croutons are getting soggy at this point, but after about three more odd interruptions that have nothing to do with work, I’m able to finish my lunch.

Part of this is my fault for being uncomfortable when people watch me eat and for eating lunch at my desk.  That being said, I believe there is an unspoken rule that states that if a person is eating lunch at their desk (not a snack, but a legitimate lunch) during the regular lunch hour, coworkers should assume that person is on break and give them space and leave them alone.  I’ve unintentionally interrupted people during their lunch and as soon as I see that they’re eating, I say “Sorry, didn’t realize you were on break, I’ll come back later.”  9 times out of 10, I get a smile and a thank you, with the minority willingly setting aside their meal to assist me on the spot.  This leads me to believe that most people are like me:  when they are on lunch break, they want an actual break.  Exceptions being critical tasks of course; I’m happy to stop for a moment and lend a hand if it’s a critical issue.

The lack of proper manners is what really gets to me though, as I understand that sometimes work can’t wait.  Most of the lunchtime interruptions I experience have zero to do with work, like today.  It’s rude to have a loud conversation right in front of someone’s desk.  It’s rude to stare.  It’s rude to throw your belongings on someone else’s desk without even asking permission or apologizing for the intrusion.  It’s even ruder to do those things when someone is attempting to enjoy their lunch break.  I get that my desk doesn’t become a 5 star restaurant when I pull out a Lunchable, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to act with a bit of tact and try to respect the personal boundaries of other people.  If your issue isn’t critical to your job and needing to be addressed immediately, kindly piss off and let me eat.

Get Out Of My Bubble Please!

I’m anything but a morning person.  The minute my alarm clock goes off, my mind starts coming up with reasons for me to call in to work and go back to sleep.  My love for a hot shower is overshadowed by my hate of being awake before the sun has risen.  I can’t quite conceal the bags under my eyes and always fail to mask my exhaustion no matter how sharp I can get my makeup to appear or what direction I comb my hair.  Once I’m halfway decent looking, I tend to the overactive dog and cranky child.  My husband generally wakes around this time and his reluctance to get out from underneath his blanket makes me want to crawl under one myself.  When we finally pile into the car, it’s a 40 minute drive to our boy’s school and then to work, dodging mopeds and slow drivers and hoping not to catch every red light or the train along the way.  We stagger through security and collapse at our desks, mine on the first floor, my husband above.  And then the fun begins.

There is no shortage of awful people in the large government building we work in.  My husband recently posted a blog about behaviors that are unacceptable at work, behaviors we both tend to witness more than we should have to.  This morning we got in early and I beat both my boss and my office nemesis, not-Paula Deen, in to work.  Our drive was stress-free for once and I was feeling optimistic about the day until not-Paula opened the door and filled the quiet office with her shrill voice and cackling laughter.  Her cell phone, volume on high, began to ring and she immediately came over to my desk even though hers is just five more steps (or waddles in her case) in the other direction.  She throws both her bags onto my desk and begins rifling through one, small items falling out and clanging onto my desk.  She finally finds her phone and begins a loud conversation; she is one of those people who fails to understand that technology has advanced and you don’t have to shout into phones to be heard.  I stopped working on my current task and turned around to attempt to murder her with my stare.  I failed to do that but I did succeed in getting her to piss off and go to her own area.  Hardly a victory since I doubt very much that it crossed her mind at all that she was invading my personal space and behaving in quite a rude manner.

I’m big on having my personal bubble go unviolated.  My husband can invade it freely as noted in our marriage license, my close friends are another exception, and of course the family I get along with and my pup dog are welcome.  Coworkers, strangers, simple acquaintances, and store employees however must remain outside of my bubble unless I verbally grant them permission to enter.  I don’t think it unreasonable to not want foreign bodies near my body or not want other people’s belongings in my work area.  I get that my desk happens to sit in a public area of the office and I expect people to make use of the group of chairs to my right or to stand to my left and wait for my supervisor to be free.  I do not expect people to get in my face, use my phone without permission, reach over me to grab paper clips, or to throw their crap on my desk without even asking “is it okay if I set this here for a minute?”  Not-Paula knows I can’t stand her bloated face and gossipy ways, obviously she also knows I don’t want her in my space, but like many people in this building she lacks the tact and respect for others that prevents the average person from imposing on someone else’s space.

I’m starting to wonder what happens to a person’s mind after they work in this building for a certain amount of years.  It’s a weird group phenomenon that takes place with bad behaviors; one person will decide it’s okay to use nail clippers at their desk which leads to 4 or 5 people clipping their nails in the office.  One woman will begin taking loud personal calls during working hours and soon half a dozen people are yakking away to their friends while you struggle to have an actual work related phone call.  There is a mess in the bathroom which makes others not feel guilty about leaving their own mess behind as well.  It’s like a horrible game of dominos.

A behavior going unprotected does not mean the behavior is acceptable.  As much as I’d love to politely tell not-Paula that her constant gum cracking/popping is incredibly distracting and to please tone it down, I know that the only thing that would come out of it would be her whining to my supervisor about how mean I am and me having to have another “talk” with him and be told to try to ignore her.  People have hung signs in the restroom about the filth, but they’re eventually torn down and the mess just multiplies.  No matter what policies are put in place or what rules are laid out, people act how they want to act and oftentimes that means they act like pigs and jerks.

My hope is that there are more people who think the way I do in the world; people who eat with their mouths closed, thank those who hold doors open, treat drive-thru workers with respect, and are quiet during movies.  People who give a damn about how their actions affect those around them.  I hope not-Paula falls off a cliff, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect her space and property.  My personal feelings for an individual (or lack thereof) don’t dictate my behavior and don’t justify me acting like an ass; coworkers are a captive audience and an office should strive to be a place of peace, not treated like everyone’s living room or bedroom.  I shouldn’t ever have to hear my husband tell me that the guy next to him is frantically Q-tipping his ears in the middle of the damn office rather than at least excuse himself to the restroom to poke around in his orifices.

In elementary school (or preschool for some), we are taught manners that we are expected to carry throughout our lives; please and thank you, eat with proper utensils and with a closed mouth, wash hands after using the restroom, and so on.  The things we learn as a child should stay with us throughout our lives, not be dropped and forgotten during our years of teen angst.  I stopped going to church years ago, but I recall being taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and I believe that’s a lesson that should stick regardless of your religious preferences.  Hopefully my actions will inspire others to act better and be mindful of others.  In the meantime, if you plan on engaging in rude and obnoxious behavior, know I am silently judging you in person now and openly mocking you with my husband and proper friends later.  You damn dirty pig.

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