Yesterday it was a solicitor’s birthday so at 12.30pm the entire office, save for HOWARD and I, left for her birthday meal. They’d been granted an hour and a half. I don't get copied in on e-mail lunch invites. I've worked through lunch so long I'm invisible. HOWARD, for his own reasons, never joins in.
Without an audience, HOWARD is quieter. He made us both a hot drink and got on with surfing the internet. I thanked him, but didn't so much as take a sip. I still don't trust him.
Around a year ago, out of the blue, HOWARD started making me a cup of tea once or twice a day. It was odd considering I worked for someone else in a different department. He didn’t even sit anywhere near me, but office politics dictated HOWARD then had to be included in my ‘support staff’ coffee rota. It wasn’t long before his motives became apparent.
My old desk faced the open plan kitchen, set into a small alcove. Attracted one day by HOWARD coughing, I looked up to see him spluttering all over my tea bag. I raced over but was too late to prevent him dropping it into my cup and pouring the water on.
I couldn't think how to stop him making my tea without looking downright rude. My colleagues thought it was lovely of him. If only they could have seen him. Sometimes he'd lick the edges of the bag as if it were an envelope; He'd wipe his nose on it, or drop it in the bin. Sometimes he'd fish the bag out of the boiling water with his fingers, scalding himself in the process. Sometimes he'd make my tea with a spoon of coffee in the bottom. I couldn't help laughing at the absurdity of a solicitor going to such extraordinary lengths to ruin my tea. No-one would believe it. When others discovered what was going on it killed them. It was ludicrous. I told him to stop doing it, but my objections only made it all the more funny.
Days rolled into months and the undrinkable tea kept arriving. Colleagues snickered with horrified laughter. I wondered why it was happening. Putting on a brave face, I worried as to where the joke would end.
About three months later, HOWARD was messing about with the tea again and making a terrific racket. He rifled through the kitchen bin for a used tea bag, which he dropped into my cup. I ran over and cleaned my cup out. HOWARD snatched it back, promising to make it properly. He took a fresh tea bag from the caddy and stuck it down the front of his trousers.
I should have been angry, but I was embarrassed and just felt an overwhelming sadness. I fought off the strangest desire to say something to make him feel better.
'Don't' he said, unable to meet my eyes.
We avoided looking at each other and returned to our desks.
HOWARD brought me back to the present, asking if I minded not being invited out with the others. I told him it didn’t bother me.
“You are beyond depressing,” he told me. “What exactly is the point of your life, Eva? Do yourself and everyone else a favour. Contribute to the human race by organ donation. I’ll even help you find a way of killing yourself with minimal impact so doctors can maximize organ harvest. I’ll look it up on the net for you now…”
I looked at my cold tea and remembered that moment in the kitchen alcove. We both know what happened back then. For a split second, HOWARD had vanished and I saw a deeply lonely guy who'd do or say just about anything not to be completely invisible.
See you next week.
- Bullied By The Boss
- 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."