Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #18:
Mental Dental

For two and a half months, I worked for a small internet-related company in my hometown. I won't tell you the name of the business, but it was an online company specializing in dentistry. It was owned by a dentist, and about 55 people worked there.

I was hired as a ColdFusion developer, which they were desperate for. I explained to my potential employers that although I had spent nearly a year as a web designer using ColdFusion almost daily, my breadth of experience in this area hardly qualified me as an expert. No problem, they said. There were two other ColdFusion developers on staff, so, in the words of Bob, the CEO, I'd have "plenty of help." "Teamwork" was one of the company's mantras, with the usual declaration of a "team environment" ("Together Everyone Achieves More", clever, eh?) right there in the company manual.

After a couple of interviews, Bob called to tell me I was hired. I was overjoyed. The drive was only 25 minutes each way, with no traffic jams to contend with. Working in my home state instead of a nearby neighboring state meant no income tax, which alone was like a 12% raise. I would have my own cubicle with a phone, and both a Mac and a PC to work on. Stock options, I was assured, were just around the corner. Full medical and dental after three months, too.

My boss would be a seemingly affable fat guy named Scott. His boss was a vice president named Ed with a disco haircut straight from the 70's. Thus would begin one of the strangest experiences of my life.

The nightmare began on the very first day. I'm not sure what the deal was, but all I can assume is that I was hired by the CEO against Ed's wishes. Ed began heaping misery on me from the first day, in order to frustrate me into quitting right away. It didn't work.

They put me in a corner cubicle, well away from the other ColdFusion developers. Scott, a tubby and self-important Republican asswipe, gave me nothing to do at all at first. I sat and surfed their site all day, and read a book or two on ColdFusion. Once Scott finally got around to giving me something to do, he wouldn't answer questions. Not by e-mail, and not by walking over to his cubicle to ask. He would stare at his screen, headphones on, hoping I would just go away. When I wouldn't, he would tell me he'd come over to my cubicle in a minute. He never would, and would slip out the door every day at 3:30 or so.

I had a shitty little PC and a nice newer Mac G3. But after about two weeks, a different Scott, this one from the multimedia department, noticed I had a Mac that wasn't being used that much. After a loud speech about how his department needed the Mac more than I did (you know Loud Howard on the Dilbert TV show and cartoon strip, the one who can't talk without yelling? That was Scott #2), Ed came to take away my Mac, probably with glee, a few days later, but I had already given it up.

Ed dropped by my cubicle about twice a week, happy just to ignore me at first. I had an ancient PC that crashed every 5 to 15 minutes or so, without me even having to touch it. Ed's contribution to helping me was to grab my mouse, say "Let me show you something," and proceed to open my mouse control panel and crank the speed all the way up, making the cursor go flying off the screen if I so much as breathed on my mouse. I said, "Thanks, but I set it that speed on purpose," and put it back to where it was. That was when I realized that Ed knew nothing about computers or programming. He was a phony, to be sure. But it didn't stop there. Ed turned out to be the biggest phony I ever had the displeasure of working for.

After "working" there a couple of weeks and realizing Ed knew absolutely nothing about ColdFusion or much of anything else, and getting no cooperation from my fellow ColdFusion developers, I dared to complain to Ed that I wasn't getting any help. Ed then informed me that I was not to talk to the other ColdFusion developers, period. So much for getting "lots of help." There was a "team" here all right, but I clearly wasn't on it. I began looking for another job.

After a month or so, this one psychotic web designer chick named Chris offered to trade cubicles with me, which would put me next to the other developers. I accepted the offer, which must have pissed Scott off greatly. Now I was in a position to see him as he tried to sneak out every day without answering my questions.

I was now a thorn in their side, so they turned up the misery index to try to speed my departure. The only time Ed would talk to me was when he wanted to humiliate me in front of other people. I always followed the "rules," but the rules changed every day. Due to Ed's complete lack of direction or organization, everything was a moving target, so no matter what I did, I got called into Ed's office every week or two so he could tell me what a fuck-up I was. Or, Ed would call me into his office as I was trying to leave for the day, asking me a bunch of pointed but stupid questions. I began leaving via the side door so he couldn't pull that shit.

But I wouldn't quit. If I was leaving, I was sure as hell going to collect some unemployment money, and you don't get any if you quit. So I waited to be fired.

The depth of Ed's phoniness became further apparent when he started having us all attend twice-weekly meetings. There were about 12 of us at these meetings, which usually ran over an hour and were a complete waste of time. I remember Ed saying repeatedly how he wanted to have a "loving, caring, nurturing atmosphere" here at work. So how would Ed go about accomplishing this? Well, he had just done all he would ever do to achieve this -- he announced he wanted to have a "loving, caring, nurturing atmosphere." A co-worker of mine who had attended the meeting told me later it made him want to throw up. I guess Ed thought that saying that horseshit was all he would have to do to make it come true. What an incredible asshole. Then he went back to humiliating people.

Well, one of them deserved it. That would be the aforementioned Chris, the company's resident psychotic asshole. She could never have a normal conversation with anyone. Everything had to be a confrontation, whether or not there was even anything to argue about. She had a shitload of mental problems, and felt compelled to remind everybody of this every day. In meetings, she would volunteer other people to do things, though she had no authority to do this whatsoever. Whenever anything went wrong with something she was working on, it was never her fault, it was always someone else's. She made everyone's job more difficult, and everybody in the building hated her. Even Ed, who, during one particularly lengthy meeting, had to tell her to shut up something like six times. She never learned.

Now, it must sound like I hated everyone in the place. Not so. Other than phony, puffy-haired egomaniac Ed, rude fatass Scott and psychotic Chris, everyone else was pretty much okay. The people in the web design department, except Chris, were all very nice. Some became my close friends. The ladies in the marketing department were as sweet as could be, and they of course hated Ed too. I would go on daily lunchtime walks with my best friend in the place, a Palestinian fellow named Kanaan who hated working there too. I don't know how many times I said to him, "I wish they would just hurry up and fire me!" It became a goal of mine, to get fired so I could collect unemployment.

After I had been there maybe a month, Ed fired the web designer with the most seniority in the company, a quiet fellow named Geordie. The story was that we were inventing a tool that would make his job obsolete, so he had to go. But that didn't explain why the person who had been there the longest was chosen for dismissal. Also, the aforementioned tool wasn't even finished yet.

Then, maybe a month later, Ed hired someone he had worked with before, a fellow named Rex. Rex's job description was pretty much identical to Geordie's. Just before Rex started working there, during one of our stupid meetings, Ed was trying to justify Rex's hiring with the other people in the department, many whom had been friends of Geordie's. "This guy is a real web graphics expert," gushed Ed. "For example, you use 72 dpi for web graphics, but what do you use 300 dpi for?" "Print," I said, in unison with two other people. Ed had made himself look like a total idiot again. Which he was.

Rex turned out to be a nice guy, though nobody but me trusted him, because he had worked with Ed before. It would turn out later that Rex didn't like Ed at all, and Ed had been fired from that job.

But Ed sure liked Rex. I remember one day when Ed dropped by my cubicle, and I was trying to explain the technical details of something I was doing. "Could you get to the point?" Ed interrupted, "I have a lot to do." I gave up my explanation, and Ed moved along to Rex's cubicle, which was just on the other side of mine. Ed listened to Rex go on about his irritable bowels (really!), patiently engaging him for something like 10 minutes. I was amazed at what an asshole Ed was, but hardly surprised.

The axe finally came down around 4 PM on a Thursday, two and a half months after I was hired. Ed called me into his office. Giggling fat-ass Scott was already there, and I knew what was coming. They each gave their little speeches, how I was being let go for, in a nutshell, incompetence. Perfect! Collecting unemployment is a formality for us semi-retarded folks who just can't get the hang of things. I was already planning the rest of my week long before they got done with their scripted-sounding monologues, and when Ed asked if I had anything to say, I said, "A box... I'll need a box to put my shit in."

He and Scott looked at each other as if they had expected something much more profound. Scott ran off to get me a box. I asked if that was all, and headed back to my cubicle to gather my stuff and make a few long-distance phone calls at their expense before taking off.

While stuffing the contents of my cubicle into my briefcase, Ed showed up at my cubicle. "I'm not stealing anything, Ed" I assured him. "No, Scott and I wanted to talk to you." Scott soon showed up carrying a cardboard box he had grabbed from the shipping department. It was the only favor Scott did for me in my entire time there. Then we squeezed into Scott's little office, across from my cubicle. What the hell was this going to be about?

They both wanted to shake my hand and tell me what a great guy I was and what a privilege it was to work with me and wish me luck in the future and if I ever needed a reference blah blah blah blah. That was it. Just another opportunity for Ed to show what a phony piece of shit he was.

I said I'd need that termination letter in writing, please, already making plans to begin collecting unemployment right away. Ed insisted on shaking my hand, so I gave him the old dead-fish limpwristed handshake, knowing my insincerity didn't mean a damn thing to him. I gathered my shit and headed to the car, glad I had stuck it out. Being fired was a victory for me.

Instead of just disappearing like most fired employees, I wrote an e-mail to all of my friends in the place the next day, saying goodbye and thanking them for helping to make the job bearable while I was there.

None of them knew I had been fired until seeing my e-mail, and the response was overwhelming. Here are some excerpts from the e-mail I got back:

"I hate the way things like that are handled here... I told Ed that I don't like it when they treat people like that ... I don't think it gives people the respect that they deserve."

"OH MY GOD. What the hell happened? I can't believe it. I'm so sorry Doc. That sucks."

"Thanks for writing us to say goodbye. I'm sorry that this kind of bullshit had to happen to a good guy like you."

"I was shocked and....ok, I'll admit it...pissed off by your termination."

"Ed came by to let us know why he fired you (same reason he gave you) and Lori and I bitched about it to him. He said it was the hardest termination he's had to do because you're a nice guy. (There, don't you feel better?!) "

This one came from Rex: "What the _uck???? Where'd all this come from? DAMN! Sorry to hear about all this. Just when I established a friendship (and an allie against Chris) they go and do this! I'm probably next! I'm not happy here anyway... It's a great big cluster-_uck. The business suceeds in spite of itself."

And from Kanaan, whom I used to rant at about how I wanted to be fired: "I was so happy for you."

The next day, I sent Ed an e-mail again requesting my termination notice in writing. Here was his response:

Doc,

Thanks for the email. Kathy (their HR person) will be sending something to you. In the mean time, I wanted to let you know again that I consider it my privilege to have had the opportunity to work with you and to let you know that you may always count me among your friends. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you in your future endeavors.

Warmest Regards,
Ed

This from an asshole who never wanted anything more than for me to disappear.

The termination letter came the next day:

Dear Doc,

The reason for your termination on March 16, 2000 was because your database creation and Coldfusion programming skills were not advancing as well as we had anticipated. We ended your "at will" employment with us while you were still in your 90 day probationary period.

We wish you the best of luck in finding something more suitable to your qualifications. Please call me if you have any questions.

Collecting unemployment was easy. The company never even responded to the State Unemployment Insurance Division when it came to challenging my claim.

I did have to attend an "orientation" class put on by the state, a boring and largely worthless 90-minute affair. Now, I had heard about Mitch, a bald, fat, loudmouthed bonehead from the company's IS department, getting fired a week or so after me for making "inappropriate comments." In fact, it was Rex who e-mailed me about the firing. Sure enough, Mitch was at the class, and made sure to make himself the center of attention. He told me it was more of a layoff than a firing, unaware that I'd already gotten the word from Rex. Mitch was never very well-liked anyway, except by fellow fat-ass Scott. He was as full of shit as ever, and completely in denial about getting fired for what sounded an awful lot like misconduct to me. What a loser.

A week after getting fired, I had to go back to the company to pick up some junk I had accidentally left behind. I took that opportunity to put a bumper sticker on the back of Chris' car that said "I'VE GOT SHIT FOR BRAINS" in big, black letters. She had so many enemies that she would never be able to figure out where it came from.

A couple of weeks after that, Rex got fired. He wrote me and told me the official reason was that he "couldn't get along with the other web designers." That was when he told me that he never liked Ed anyway, and that he had seen Ed get fired at his last job.

A month after I was fired, Ed got the axe. Boy, did he have it coming.

A couple weeks after that, Chris quit. Maybe the bumper sticker was the last straw for her dumb ass.

I'm sure it's a much nicer place to work now.

I collected unemployment for about 5 weeks before finding work.

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