So then...

About Me

Welcome to my blog. My pen name is Eva James. I'm an aspiring writer paying the bills working as a legal secretary. Relentlessly bullied by my former boss, I looked for another job but the recession hit. Feeling trapped, I recorded everything in this blog, which serves as a revealing insight into workplace bullying. WEEK 1 starts the story and, as the weeks progress, you'll note what starts as banter soon spirals out of control. Sadly, it's all true. Whilst along the way I've found alternative employment, my passion for blogging about workplace bullying remains. Trevor Griffiths, legendary theatre, TV and film writer said at the outset, "I like the writing a lot: smart, cool, placed. If you were prepared/able to take your prick of a boss on, you'd marmelise him."

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

WEEK 31 The Other Side

HOWARD frightened me last week, but on Monday I wondered if I’d over-reacted as he joked with the PM about replacing me with digital voice recognition. He’s all for battery operated machines replacing humans. Then he thanked my sex life for giving him the idea.

Later, HOWARD phoned to say he’d put two packets of paracetamol in his top drawer in case I felt low. The PM said to ignore him. “Let it go in one ear and out the other.”

He asked colleagues if they’d mind chipping in to the spring/summer floral bouquet he’s planning for my funeral. He knows what he’s going to write on the card. “In death she remains as she lived – entirely alone.”

I wasn’t coping well. It was relentless.

Yesterday was a new low. Having poked fun at me all morning, HOWARD drew a picture of me naked, being menaced by a shark (him) and saying “Help, help – I’m a vulnerable person”. Then he added a penis to the picture of me, before tearing it to shreds and putting it in the bin. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t forget it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s terrible, but last night I was consumed with thoughts of suicide. I couldn’t stop crying. Desperate, I phoned The Samaritans. The floodgates opened.

“I try to ignore it,” I sobbed to the voice on the phone, “but he’s destroying me. I don’t know why…maybe I am that ugly. Maybe that’s why I’m on my own. I can’t face people. I can’t sleep anymore. Last week I thought I was in danger…I don’t know… It’s easy for other people to say ‘walk away’, but I’ll lose my home – for the second time. I can’t face living at my mother’s again. I can’t take the humiliation and I haven’t the strength for another ‘new start’. I’m not going to make it. One of these days they’ll wonder why I’m not in work…and he won’t care – he’s collecting for the funeral. He won’t take responsibility. I’m only here for my mum…but I can’t do it.”

They listened while I cried myself out. They tried to help me see some hope beyond the exhaustion and depression. They gave me a few ideas to help me relax. When I calmed down I decided I had no option but to quit. I’d find a temporary shop job until secretarial work picked up. If I was lucky, I wouldn’t lose my home.

I handed my notice this morning. On my way to a meeting with HOWARD to explain why, the PM warned with the CVs coming in every day I’d probably lose my bedsit if I didn’t think it through.

We had our meeting. HOWARD said sorry for his insults, especially those he’d made that morning before realising I’d quit. He admitted he had no right to tell the new temp that I couldn’t afford a car and my ex-husband was right to get shot of me the way he did. He didn’t know why he said these things. He promised he’d try and stop if I’d stay. He’d also speed up the pay rise and the promotion to legal assistant he’d told me about last week. Everything would be alright.

The PM was delighted when he confirmed I’d be staying and said I mustn’t take any notice of his insults. “I told you,” she said. “Let it go in one ear and out the other.”

I wanted to ask why it had to go ‘in one ear’ in the first place. Five minutes later, HOWARD sent me an e-mail saying, “You are now going to be sitting opposite me.”

The shark image floated up again.

“This’ll be good for you,” he said as he signed his post. “You should be very grateful. You’re only underachieving because you’re ugly. Pretty people get a hand up the ladder. It’s your face that’s been keeping you at blue collar.”

“Is that so?” I said, exhausted.

“You also have BO.”

So much for him trying to change. Too tired to think - I was defeated. I looked at my new desk across from his knowing there’d be no-one to overhear. I’d be alone. He could say anything.

“You’ll have to stop thinking like a secretary too. You’ve got to start thinking more like a fee earner. Maybe one day, you’ll be on the other side of the Dictaphone.”

“Sorry?” I said, waking up.

“The other side of the Dictaphone.” He showed me his hand held recorder. “At some point you might be dictating for an ugly secretary of your own.”

I made a round of coffee for everyone before going home. I told myself things could be worse. I might be HOWARD’S assistant, but it will mean a pay rise and new things to learn. I’m going to treat myself. I’m popping into town this weekend to buy a Dictaphone. The one I want is £40 in Argos. I know I won’t need it for typing yet, but they take time to get used to and it’s like a new toy. I can dictate memos to myself to help me remember my new tasks.

Perhaps they’re right. Before I know it I’ll be letting things go ‘in one ear and out the other’ as I work opposite HOWARD “on the other side of the Dictaphone”.

See you soon,

Eva x

1 comment:

Johanna said...

could not read that and pass by on the other side of the road..
Because you are believed he could show a shred of decency and were willing to give it a chance and believe him.
Love how you could take the positive that you would get the dictaphone to move onwards..wonder if later it was seen a sadmissible evidence.
Horrific that someone can bring someone decent down to that extent..Its bound to stick in your subconscious being so relentless however much your ignore it. remember how Tim said we get convinced by that grain if truth..our own perception that we are not good or pretty enough exploited..

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