Horrible Bosses, the movie, is getting rave reviews. In anticipation of seeing it myself, I’ve been thinking back on the bosses I’ve had over the years and wondering if any were so bad they’d have justified even a fantasy about “eliminating them.” Conclusion: no. However, they certainly deserved SOMETHING.
My first boss was a veterinarian. I was 16 (maybe 15) and was working at a vet clinic just a few blocks from my home. My work day began at 1:00 (I was on the work program during high school, so attended normal classes in the morning and worked in the afternoon. I also worked weekends and holidays.
Dr. H was pretty young, just a few years out of school. He was usually nice, but occasionally became frustrated with the emotional young ladies who assisted him. The one event that stands out in my mind involved a couple of elderly women who brought in their small Yorkie to be euthanized. It was a busy Saturday, and they did not wish to be in the room with Tinker when he received the injection. The waiting room was crowded and we were short-handed that day. Dr. H had assured the women their beloved pet would feel nothing – just peacefully drift to sleep. It was a good plan, but the Yorkie had other ideas. Hurriedly, Dr. H inserted the needle into Tinker’s vein. I held Tinker’s head, stroking him and murmuring as I waited for him to relax and drift to sleep. Outside the door, the women waited, along with the ever-increasing throng of clients and their pets.
After the injection, we waited. And waited. Tinker appeared dazed and clumsy, but he did not appear to be succumbing to the call of eternal rest. Rushed and unable to delay any longer, Dr. H told me to carry Tinker back to a kennel, then return to the front desk and the next appointment. As I placed Tinker in the cage, he struggled to his feet, then stumbled. He rose to his feet again and fell over. Each time he tumbled over the metal CLUNK as his little body hit the cage floor made me cringe. Tears welled in my eyes as I did something I never expected. I begged Tinker to please lie down and go sleep. For good. The phone in the kennel area rang. It was Dr. H, annoyed that I was taking too long to return to the front so we could attend the next client. CLUNK went Tinker again. I reached into the cage and patted his head again. Please go to sleep, please…
All the way up the hallway I could hear it. CLUNK. Pause. CLUNK. At the front desk, the elderly women, tears in their eyes, pressed me for reassurance. As dogs barked and cats hissed all around us, I looked into their eyes and bald-faced lied. “He went right to sleep.” CLUNK came the denial from the kennel. (Can I really be hearing that all the way up at the front desk?) For a moment I thought even the women had heard it. CLUNK. With shaking hands I took their money and jumped out of my skin as the exam room door opened and an annoyed Dr. H called to me to join him for our next client. CLUNK. He would not listen when I tried to tell him what that CLUNKING noise was.
My next boss was in show business. He imagined himself the next Roger Corman. (Famous producer and director of low-budget B movies.) Mr. G wandered about his production and edit facilities sporting a director’s cap and thinking of ways to become the next big thing. His big break came when he was selected to concept and produce a music video for a particularly infamous white rapper in the 80s.
Following the hit video, Mr. G was approached to produce a second. A notorious “perv,” (and I say that lovingly), he decided we needed a female model that would be painted NUDE and play the role of the background of a toy train set.
It was up to me, at the age of 19, to call talent agencies and request models who would be willing to have their bodies painted like scenery – trees, mountains, streams… Then came the ghastly moment when I had to ask that they agree to be shaved “everywhere.”
I gulped and nodded. Everywhere.
Surprisingly, a lovely young lady showed up the day of the shoot and allowed herself to be painted head to toe. I suppose the most embarrassing part of that video was the fact it left so little to the imagination. A train. A woman painted as a backdrop for a train. A tunnel. If she wasn’t humiliated, I was. I suppose a buck’s a buck, but still…
That year Mr. G’s employees were invited to his house for a Christmas party. His home featured – of course – a movie theater. At 19, I was suitably impressed with a boss who had such swanky digs. We all settled into our seats for a special movie screening Mr. G had produced and edited. It started with clips from Miracle on 34th Street. Then a few clips from It’s a Wonderful Life. Then, my head exploded as the next edit was of a woman performing an act I had never witnessed before in my life, much less amongst co-workers at a holiday party. Yes. Mr. G had cut together Christmas and holiday favorites with porn. I wanted to leave the room, but felt I might be opening myself up to undue amounts of ridicule if I did. The depressing thing is, even today when I watch some of my favorite holiday movies, I sometimes cringe in anticipation of an awkward edit that somehow takes my wholesome Christmas tradition and turns it into “Santa and his Naughty Reindeer.”
I had other bosses that were strange, but kind. One had a sort of crush on me, I suppose. He was known for having crushes on women who were unavailable. It was safer that way. I still remember going in to the office for a commercial shoot the morning after my 1st husband told me he wanted a divorce. (If I have nothing else, I have a strong work ethic.) I arrived at 7:00 a.m. to finish prepping my notes. Mr. S. came up and asked if everything was all right. (I suppose staying up all night trying to figure out where 13 months of marriage had gone wrong takes something out of a girl’s morning glow.) I told Mr. S I was divorcing – according to my husband. The poor, short, stout, kind-hearted man stood there, unsure of his next move. I could tell he was 1) afraid I might burst into tears and scare him silly, or 2) start throwing things at him as he represented the gender that was responsible for my unhappiness and confusion.
Instead of running way or asking me about the shoot, he reached into his pocket and withdrew his billfold. I watched as he dug in and pulled out a wad of bills. His face had gone pale. About as pale as mine, most likely. He extended his hand to me, “Do you need money?” he asked, eyes welling just a bit. Or maybe that was me. “Here.” He held a fist full of cash out to me. “Take it.”
I knew in that instant I was going to be okay. I had people who were willing to help me. “If you change your mind, let me know,” he said before shuffling (probably with much relief) back to his office.
I realize I did not mention a few other bosses. The attempts at providing me with back rubs at the office, or employers who took baseball bats to crystal candy jars. The screamers, the idea stealers, or the confidence shredders. But there were plenty.
We’ve all had horrible bosses. We’ll likely have horrible bosses in the future. If you find a good one, count yourself lucky and no matter what you do – don’t attend the company Christmas party.