That One Time I Almost Got Fired

Last night, I had a terrifying dream that I was getting fired. I think. Dreams are hard because they fill me with inexplicable dread even if I don’t really remember what happened. I’m pretty sure this is how everyone feels about dreams.

Anyway, it got me thinking about being fired. I’ve never been fired. Technically. Here are the following jobs I’ve had in my lifetime:
  • Jack in the Box (cashier, terrified taco maker)
  • Torrid Clothing (clothing folder?)
  • Pierce College Pioneer newspaper (section editor)
  • Data entry for a research project (data enter-er)
  • University of Washington survey department (scantron counter and receiver of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome)
  • Research department through the University of Washington that specialized in teen marijuana use and domestic violence (receptionist, terrible employee)
  • University of Washington linguistics department (receptionist assistant)
  • University of Washington Labor Studies department (Located in a closet that I shared with my supervisor. This is not an exaggeration.) (assistant? not really sure)
  • Wal-Mart clothing department (clothing folder?)
  • AmeriCorps and CHOICES, Inc.(assistant recovery coordinator)
  • Home Depot (cashier, target of tragic advances from much older coworkers)
  • Hearts & Hands Adult Day Services (case manager/human resources)
  • Soteria-Alaska (night staff)
  • Volunteers of America (substance abuse counselor)
  • Southcentral Foundation (current)
The one time I was almost fired was when I worked at the research place. It was a work-study job through the University, so I basically worked a few hours a day after classes. My job was to answer phones from posters that were placed around the city. You know the ones, the ominous ones that say “DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MARIJUANA? ARE YOU A TEENAGER? CALL THIS NUMBER” or “HAVE YOU EVER HIT YOUR WIFE OUT OF ANGER? CALL THIS NUMBER”. In case you were wondering who is on the other end of those phone numbers, it was me. My job was to transfer the calls to the appropriate doctor/scientist/research graduate students who were doing studies on these populations.
On my down time, I was supposed to transcribe horrifying sessions with domestic violence abusers. They weren’t counseling sessions, merely informational sessions. It was unsettling.
So I worked there during the school year, which went fine. I think I was a freshman. They asked me to work full time during the summer, which I agreed to because I was the poorest person alive. But my ability to remain at all professional fell by the wayside dramatically. If you put your employee at an empty desk with menial tasks, no internet use, and say they can’t read a book or something, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Which is incidentally what I had. I started gently bending the rules. No Facebook? How about a little Facebook. 10 minute breaks? How about 20 minute breaks. This was in the era before smartphones, so I had very little to occupy my time and my mind.
Most of the day was spent looking forward to my daily lunches at Chipotle with a friend of mine. On the days when we didn’t get Chipotle, I was getting a little brazen with how I spent my lunch periods. One time, and I will never forget this, I took a nap underneath one of the grad student’s desk. It was a good nap, but in hindsight I cannot believe I did that. I was an idiot.
During that summer, my very attentive supervisor started making comments like, “Can you go around and find something to do?” or “How many times do I have to tell you to not be on Facebook?” Really subtle stuff. I’m pretty sure her entire job was checking to make sure I was doing my job. My ability to care was so low, which is crazy because I tend to value my jobs and live in constant fear of losing them. But not this job.
And then they started hiring for another work-study student. I thought this was weird because they only had limited hours that they needed a receptionist. When I brought this up to my very attentive supervisor, she wrote it off saying “oh, we’ll find work for both of you.” Will you now? Because there’s not enough work for just me, lady.
So when she pulled me into the office one morning, this incredible calm came over me. I closed my Facebook windows, stood up, and decided to take fate into my hands. I had no way to be certain that she was going to fire me, but it was that powerful intuition that you get when you’ve been completely phoning it in, and they hire your replacement in front of you, and your very attentive supervisor has unrepressed resentment toward you.
I walked into the conference room where she had a manila envelop sitting on the most ghetto conference table in the whole world. I sit down and start: “I’m so glad you called me in because I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” Oh, she says, well you start.
I tell her how, while I appreciate this opportunity, I need to move on. You know, professionally. I tell her that I’m grateful for how very attentive she had been toward me as an employee, but I need to spread my wings and fly.
She started crying. Tears splashing on the manila envelope. She takes off her glasses and the waterworks are just a-flowin’. Confused I just sit there, wondering what was going on with my life. This 45-year-old was bawling as I shifted in my seat, wondering how long this was going to take. Through tears, she informs me that she was going to let me go, but she can’t believe that I had such a miserable time working for her. Wait, what? I had no idea what was going on, so I stood up, gathered my things, and made my graceful exit as my very attentive supervisor looked on, dabbing at her eyes.
I learned a lot of lessons from that job. Like, for example, don’t do something you’re not passionate about because you will resent it and will likely be bad at it. Also, don’t sleep under a desk at work.
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