Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Resume (A Random Anecdote)

Job #13: Magazine Man--Year Two

(Part I)

Well, as it turned out, Z didn't fire me for costing ASS Magazine tens of thousands of dollars in lost ad revenue. Firing was too good for me, he told me. Instead, he wanted me around so he could make my life as miserable as I had apparently made his. And that's how I began my second year as a Magazine Man.

One way Z made my life miserable was by sending me out on dozens of little jobs that he was either too busy--or that he found too unpleasant--to do himself. For example, he was part of some kind of odd little speaker's bureau where he was forever getting calls to address tiny luncheon groups--and I mean groups sometimes as small as two people--on various matters pertaining to the security and asset protection industry. I must have gone to a dozen such luncheons on his behalf, and they were just unbearable. Always I would have to endure an oddly quiet lunch with dour-looking middle managers who appeared not to have been out in direct sunlight in years. Then after the lunch, I would have to stand up at the front of the room--me, a skinny 24-year-old guy trying to talk about security issues to a bunch of pasty, beefy, middle-age executives who usually knew way more about the topic at hand than I did. If, when I die, I'm luckless enough to end up in hell, I just know I'll be led into a room to preside over a luncheon at which I have to make a dumb-ass speech about access-control cards or security-officer utility belts. Forever.

Another way Z made life miserable was by promoting me.

I know that sounds a little contradictory, but Z was the master of contradiction. After nearly a year of denying me the raise he had promised me after six months on the job, one day out of nowhere Z called me into his office and informed me that my official title was now Special Projects Editor, a meaningless position if ever there was one (I mean, really, what else would I be? An Ordinary Projects Editor?). But the position came with a grade change, which in turn came with a salary bump to a little under 29,000 dollars a year, so I didn't feel I had cause to complain.

Except of course that Z had his own reasons for granting me the promotion. For one thing, he saw the bump up as an opportunity to load me down with even more work. For another, he wanted me at the higher grade level because staffers at my level could be given a discretionary budget for the development of special projects. In my case, that budget was 10,000 dollars a year. Thing was, Z didn't have me work on the kinds of projects that required any budgetary outlay. And even if I did, I couldn't allocate any of that money anywhere without Z's signature, so I didn't think much about it.

What he didn't expect, though, was that I would come to be successful at the job.

Take my first special project, for example. Z required me to submit a new proposal for a different special project every other week. This was pure busywork, make no mistake, because no matter how hard I worked on these things, Z always ended up tearing up my proposals in front of me, or simply emailing me such helpful and constructive comments as, "Latest proposal sucked. Try again. This time put some effort into it, hmmmm?" But one week, a copy of my latest proposal fell into the wrong hands. I had pitched an idea that was basically a total rip-off from the company where I had served as an intern: I suggested the company promote a line of custom-published wall media, covering workplace security and safety issues. The posters could be done in a series of two or three and each one could feature an ad from the sponsor. This was basically the same model as the wall media the Her Lovely Self worked for when we first met as interns. But I figured, what the hell? Z was just going to wipe his ass with it.

However, when I went to retrieve a copy of my proposal from the communal printer, I couldn't find the draft because it had been accidentally taken away with a sheaf of papers printed out by Steve, our jocular Midwest sales manager. Steve read my proposal and showed it to his boss, our publisher Jack. Even as Z was shit-canning his own copy of my proposal, Jack was already in my office, pressing box seats to a White Sox game into my hands. Her Lovely Self--who I was dating by now--and I ended up meeting Jack and Steve at the game, and there Jack told me that he and Steve had been trying to do a deal with a client that might be interested in something like this.

Well, never mind might be. They were interested. So interested, in fact, that Jack flew me to the company's corporate headquarters down in Florida to make a presentation about it. Suddenly all those mind-numbing hours making speeches to unreceptive luncheon audiences paid off. My presentation went over huge and we left Florida with an order for six posters, netting the company more than twice what I'd lost them in ad revenue from my little mishap with the camera company.

Boy, was Z pissed.

But there was little he could do about it. Suddenly I was in demand within the company to make internal presentations about wall media. In truth, the concept didn't go very far beyond the confines of ASS Magazine, but that hardly mattered. Z suddenly found it very hard to piss all over me and my work. Instead, he tried to make the most of it by taking credit for my accomplishments, accompanying me to my internal presentations and interrupting my spiel and telling people afterward that he had been grooming me for this kind of work (which in an insane sort of way, he had).

It was pretty galling, I admit, but I found a way to channel my annoyance. As soon as I hit the 18-month mark at the magazine, I knew I'd had enough. More than enough. Her Lovely Self and I used to spend our evenings dreaming up other jobs we could jump to, since she too was getting sick of the grind at her trade magazine. We both thought we'd end up jumping ship and working elsewhere in trade magazines in Chicagoland, but I didn't think I could stand to work in the trades anymore, especially if it meant working for another boss just as awful as Z. So I had started freelancing for consumer magazines, hoping to use that work to wedge my foot in the door of a "real" magazine.

Except that no real magazines ever called.

Instead, I got a call one day from an editor who was the friend of a friend. She was in charge of a house organ, an in-house publication for a healthcare association based in Washington, D.C. It was still a trade magazine, but because the content focused on health and medical care, I saw it as a stepping-stone to consumer magazines. After all, most consumer mags had at least one page of health news or information in a given issue, never mind that there were several popular magazines that specialized in health entirely.

Well, I interviewed for the job and, for the first and what I am sure will be the only time in my life, I was offered the position on the spot. Some long-time readers recall what havoc that wrought with my personal life, but the truth is, I really was desperate. I can't tell you how many afternoons I sat in my cubicle at ASS, staring at the clock, willing the minutes to move by faster. I can't tell you how enthralled I had become at the idea of telling Z to stick ASS in his ear.

And so, after sorting out some niggling personal details--like proposing to Her Lovely Self--I marched into Z's office bright and early one Wednesday morning in June and handed him a letter in a sealed envelope. He took it from me, his heavy mustache whiskers twitching as he did.

"Ohhhhh-oh! Oh! Ohhhh!" he moaned. "Am I going to be happy about this, MM?" he asked.

"You tell me," I said, and left him to read the letter in peace.

Any other boss would have called me right back in, but I'd worked with Z for almost two full years and I knew it was his nature to make me wait. He'd call me in some time after lunch. So instead of waiting to find out what his reaction would be--and really, what difference would it make?--I proceeded to get some work done.

Surprisingly, it was only about 20 minutes later that Z did call me back to his office. When I walked in, he was puffing away on his pipe, his back to me, as he clacked away at his "Command HQ." That's what he called his computer, by the way. Our office was networked, but Z liked to keep as many files as possible on his local hard drive. "I have lots of dirt on people in this company, and I like to keep it where only I can get it, not on the network where it can be compromised or erased," he said once, and I thought at the time he was joking. I should have known better.

"Wellllllllllp," Z said, his back still to me, his head shrouded in acrid pipe smoke like some kind of demonic halo. "You really threw me, MM. I didn't think you had the gumption to just up and leave me, after all I did for you. Letting you keep your job after losing so much money for the company. Giving you a promotion and an opportunity to recover that money. And this is how you thank me, you ungrateful shit? You leave me in the lurch? You leave without even giving me J.D. Salinger's phone number?" Now he turned slightly and gave me a look out of the corner of one eye.

I smiled back. I was home free. "Z, you got your money's worth, I think," I said.

Z smiled--I could barely see the teeth under his mustache--and nodded. "Funny you should mention money," he said, tapping the screen of his Command HQ. "Accounting was just asking me about some money with your name on it." I looked over his shoulder at the screen and through the wreath of pipe smoke could just make out a spreadsheet file with, indeed, my name on it.

"What is that?" I asked, suddenly wary.

"That, MM? That is your Special Projects budget. You got 10,000 dollars for development costs at the beginning of the year. Here it is, June, and it's all gone." He tapped the screen insistently. "And what accounting is wondering is: What did you do with the money?"

I felt a cold prickle on the back of my neck. Surely Z wasn't--

"You're joking," I said. "You know very well I didn't touch any of my development money. I couldn't do anyway--not without your signature."

Z made a simpering face. "Oh, MM, I don't know about that. I never signed off on any expenditures. All I know is, you're responsible for this money, and if you can't account for it, why, you better have ten grand lying around to replace it."

"What?!?" I said. This was not happening.

"That's assuming the company will just let you pay them back," he went on, smirking at my dismay. "They may just decide to file charges. Embezzlement is a felony, you know."

All of a sudden, the room began to spin. I thought I knew just how miserable Z could make my life. But I had underestimated him by a factor almost too large to calculate...


saw that coming when you mentioned the budget, mm.

what a rotter! now give us more, so we can rest assured that you're still not in debt to z.
I am going to assume that Justice prevails in the end (although Truth got you in trouble in the last episode.)

This guy does sound like a REAL piece of work. Makes my last boss look like a charmer by comparison...and believe me, that is saying something.
This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing.
Wow. Evil.

I'm beginning to see how you became so good at sticking up for yourself and others. You pretty much had to!
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Another great cliff hanger. My coffee got cold today while reading ...
It's so nice to know that other people had horrid bosses/coworkers - reminds me that we're not alone in our misery that was those first jobs!

Fingers crossed that this one turns out Ok in the end...
Damn you for your cliffhangers. Don't make us wait a week for this one.
whoaaa....i've been lurking a bit while reading these posts, but I had to offer my reaction on this one. If you make me wait two weeks for the next installment...

What an asshole Z is..
You have *got* to be making this up now.

How did you not punch him right in the face?!
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