My first real professional job was at the special collections library of a well-known and highly-respected university. I was thrilled to get the job and thrilled to work with my boss, well-known in her field. Unfortunately, my boss was not thrilled to work with me. Why?
- She viewed getting an assistant as a sign that she was not doing her job properly, rather than viewing it accurately – that her boss recognized she was overworked and needed help.
- On the very first day of work, she brought me into her office, closed the door and yelled at me, “YOU’RE NOT GETTING MY JOB!” I was taken aback and said truthfully, “I’m completely underqualified to have your job and I’m here to learn from you, not replace you.” She sniffed and stuck her nose in the air and said, “Don’t lie to me. I know you’re here to replace me.” Okaaaaaaaaay.
- I was too attractive to be a librarian and I wore the wrong colors. Oh and I wore lipstick (note that I am not a make up girl and about all I ever wear is lipstick, so it’s not like I look likle Mimi from the Drew Carey show.) But…Yes, indeed. She told me that, “You need to uglify yourself. Stop curling your hair and wearing lipstick. Also. Librarians may wear only navy, black, grey, brown, and hunter green. No other colors. And our shirts must be button front and buttoned up to the neck.” I consulted the manual and the head of the library who told me that her ‘rule’ was most certainly not a rule and that I should not feel constrained by what the library head called “her old maid idiocy”. She further reminded me that, in fact, one reason I was hired was to do public relations with the students and increase our usage by undergraduates; she imagined I’d have to dress ‘younger’ and more fashionably to do so and that I should go right ahead with the way I was dressing (chic younger career wear with funky shoes or jewelry).
My boss hated the fact that I brought more users into the library (even though our funding was based on use numbers, so the more the better) and would actually deride their research in front of them as ‘new fangled and worthless.” She would criticize my wardrobe in front of users, “I TOLD YOU THAT YOU CANNOT WEAR RED TO WORK. RED IS THE COLOR OF WHORES!”
She had also other issues. One was when she would get agitated – she would come out of her office and run around our long row of file cabinets like a greyhound dog at the dog park. No, I kid you not. She would run around and around in circles for half an hour or more to ‘calm down’. This was not only in front of us, but also in front of patrons. Aside from the manic bizarreness of watching a woman well-known in her profession act like a dog chasing a fake rabbit, she had heart problems, so we were all convinced that she was going to drop dead in front of us.
Another was her absolute fear of or rather, obsession with sex. She had been widowed at age 30 and proudly announced to all and sundry that she was “A good Catholic who had never felt the need to have sex with another man like so many other women who are just sluts.” Frankly, we all felt that a little time between the sheets would have done her a world of good. But anyway, we had to hear her views on sex, our sin in having non-procreative sex with our spouses.
The kicker came one day after she’d been complaining for months about not having anyone to attend the symphony with her, because her long-time symphony friend had passed away. We had to hear these complaints daily and none of us felt the need to take up her hint and offer to accompany her to the symphony. Lo and behold, one night I’m at a reception and am talking with an acquaintance – a very nice older gentleman whose wife had died 2 years before and he was bemoaning the fact that he had no one with whom to attend the symphony. Aha! Still being young and foolish and thinking that if you are nice to others, they’ll be nice to you, I go into work the next day and tell my boss that I have a nice older gentleman who is looking for a symphony partner. Before I can even finish, she screams at me, “I DON’T WANT TO HAVE SEX. DO YOU THINK I’M SOME KIND OF SLUT?” I am just taken aback and say, “No, What I thought was that you were looking for a symphony partner and this gentleman—“HE’S NO GENTLEMAN, THEY ALL WANT SEX! ARE YOU SOME KIND OF PIMP?” For the love of god. I back away slowly because… yup. There she goes, racing around the file cabinets. The race is ON!
Needless to say, I stocked up on red shirts and wore them regularly after that. 1013-08