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She’s straight out of central casting (btw, I’ve always wanted to use that term in something I write), and her first name is Lou*. Second name: Craddock. It’s impossible to tell her age because of four things:

  1. She smokes with abandon and as a result, has a dreadful smoker’s cough and reeks like a pub (in the days when you could actually smoke in pubs). She sounds like she’s about to lose a lung every time she emits that terrible, phlegm-ridden wheeze.
  2. Her skin is tanned beyond reason and it’s not clear if the cause was too much sunbathing in the 1980’s, an addiction to tanning beds and/or self-tanning products. It doesn’t really matter – the result is leathery perma-brown flesh that probably makes her look older than she really is.
  3. Her hair might’ve been blonde once, but nowadays it’s silvery white and the colour is possibly fake. Once again, hard to say without getting personal and believe me when I say you really don’t want to go there…
  4. Physically she’s in pretty good shape for her age, wearing form-fitting skirts and dresses as her uniform. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in pants. She’s a Skirt. Y’know.

But actually, it’s her attitude is that really gives her away as someone whose heyday was most likely in the 70’s (placing her perhaps a few years younger than my parents). She’s always commenting on how handsome men are, and whether she thinks the women are dressed appropriately, and cattily noting if she thinks they’ve put on weight. External appearances seem to mean a great deal to her, and there’s a bizarrely sexist undertone to much of her conversation.

Of course, there’s also her aversion to technology, to the point that she traded in her work-issue Blackberry for some kind of Nokia – and none of the most recent models at that (which she rarely remembers to take with her). She’s not overly comfortable with computers, can barely read her emails, has trouble opening jpg files and isn’t interested in learning how to use You Send It, despite her need to regularly send and receive incredibly large files. She’d rather order around the team’s junior, even though he doesn’t report to her.

Lou is a newswoman from another era. You can just see the hard-nosed reporter she must’ve been back in the day, and yet here she is trying to work her old-style magic in this modern era while eschewing current technology with one of her many trademark blusters or pantomime-style grand gestures. And that’s all before 9:30 in the morning. Every. Single. Day.

Worst of all however, is her booming voice. She arrogantly writes off her loudness (the volume button seems to be stuck at loud, only getting LOUDER when she’s feeling extra feisty) as being “because her mother was deaf”, meaning that she grew up having to shout constantly. Of course, throughout the many years in which she no longer lived with her mother, apparently Lou never learnt enough self-awareness or control to tone it down. Not at all!

Also: Lou likes talking on the phone. A lot. And LOUDLY-LOUDLY-LOUDLY. This isn’t just restricted to work calls though – oh no! Those in her vicinity are bestowed with all kinds of stories they wish they’d never heard. Everything from salacious gossip about who’s having an affair with whom, to over-shares about the state of her dog’s #1’s and #2’s.

In detail. Loudly. Did I mention LOUDLY?

Then there’s the baby talk. The way she pronounces her own name on the phone when she calls someone: “Hi, it’s Woo Cwaddick”, just like my two year old niece who hasn’t quite got the hang of pronouncing all of her vowels. Except that Lou (or Woo), well she HAS learned to pronounce her vowels – several decades ago, in fact. It’s cringe-worthy at best and rage-inducing at worst.

Her giggle sounds like it belongs to Popeye on acid – deliriously nutty and on-purpose, and once again LOUD. And often. Really, really often. Then, there’s her creepy stare: as far as we can work out, she has a need to stare at someone while she’s on the phone. So not only is she booming away about something or other, but then she turns her head to look at you over the top of her glasses, bringing the volume DIRECTLY at you while you’re trying to work.

Hilariously, the response of the work mates who sit closest to Lou in that open plan office that houses the communications team is to stick their headphones on and drown her out with music. For some reason, listening to Nick Cave or The Pretenders or Lisa Gerrard blaring in your eardrums is infinitely better than her daily stage show.

But she hates it when others wear headphones, and tries to talk at them anyway. She sits there in her seat shouting their name a few times before giving up in disgust, seemingly never twigging that she’s the reason for so much headphone usage.

The LOUDNESS got so bad that the CEO even called her in for a chat. So now, whenever he’s around, she tries to keep it down. And boy, did she hate being told off! The CEO chat helped a little, but whenever he leaves it’s back to the normal (for her) volume.

Lou is like some kind of cartoon character come to life, Pinocchio-style. Quite frankly, I suspect she’s a little nuts. But she’s not alone – she’s but one of the many, real-life and ultra-colourful (I’m being polite here) people that populate the workplace I’ve just resigned from.

Yes, I wanted a little security and stability and so I took a job that I really wasn’t sure about taking at all. I’d mistakenly thought that taking a bit of a pay cut and working in local government would mean an easier job with less stress.

But the place is choc-full of people just like Lou, in their own special way. Then of course, there’s simply not enough people to do the work that’s required to bring everything up to scratch. And many of the people who do work there have been in the same role since dinosaurs and giant kangaroos roamed the land. They’re stuck in a rhetorical world with mind-sets that only function when there’s a policy to tell them what to do and how to act.

I know, this all sounds a bit harsh but I promise you I’m not exaggerating in the least!

I lasted four months and I gave it a good go. But seriously I found it impossible to function effectively in that sort of environment. It was more stressful and not less – more work to do with less people to do it. AND I’d taken a pay cut for this privilege!

So after many entreaties to the universe, a call came in two weeks ago from a recruiter I know. And yesterday I handed in my resignation. Luckily, I only had to give a week’s notice because my probation period wasn’t up yet (oh please, DON’T make me tell you about the weird situation with my reporting manager because that’s another whole barrel of crazy with it’s very own flavour!).

I’m taking Monday off as annual leave because a friend of mine is getting married on Sunday night… and so I only have four more working days to tolerate this inpatient hospital full of candidates for an involuntary hold, all of whom should be taking oodles and oodles of prozac or valium. It’d be a social service, I swear.

Four more days, four more days… yeah, that was my chant on Friday and I’m pretty sure I’m gonna keep a countdown chant going from Tuesday to Friday next week…

~Svasti

* Name has been changed to protect the completely loopy.

P.S. It’s not that I don’t have compassion for these people, because I do. It’s just that I refuse to lose my own marbles from continued exposure to this place, which I’m pretty sure is actually a wayward home for Those Who Can’t Get A Job Elsewhere. Most of them, that is. There are a tiny handful of people that still seem to have a grasp on reality. I hope for their sakes, they get out!

P.P.S. And it’s been an excellent training ground, really. For understanding just how many kinds of “reality” exist out there for people. THERE ARE LOTS.

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