“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke
Eileen doesn’t sound like the name of an evil witch. I still refuse to believe in her rumored powers. “Poppycock,” I replied each time someone mentioned some silly rumor that police caught her attempting to cannibalize her boss in a remote parking lot at midnight. “Her powers grow by drinking the blood of innocent souls!” they’d exclaim. “That’s ridiculous!” I responded, even though the rumor had spread throughout the entire sales region. “Old Dave’s alive and well. Just saw him yesterday. Management would do something about it, if it’s true,” I said with a smirk. “But that’s why they moved her here!” Sue whispered hysterically. Things got even more ridiculous when Fran bellowed out, “I heard Dave broke her nose just trying to get away from her – and they called it a ‘domestic dispute’ just to keep it quiet!” It Seemed to me, that if anything like that ever happened, his wife would have had something to say about it.
I flatly refused to judge anyone based on silly office gossip. “Management told me our new boss is just a bit ‘unusual’, let’s just drop the subject, okay?” I innocently remarked. In fact, our first meeting with Eileen turned out rather nice. We’d just “tweak” things a bit with a few improvements here and there. All our finances were in order and the whole group got back to work.
I see only now, that’s where the trouble began, but ever-the-professional, I refused to judge a book by its cover. The red-dyed hair, off-center “devil’s eye,” crooked nose and fingers were just characteristics of an aging office maven to me. I disregarded complaints from younger staff that Eileen smelled bad… “She smells nasty, man. Don’t you get it?” Jim declared. “No, I don’t,” I replied, “I know she chain smokes to keep slim. Maybe she’s just trying to cover it up with some cheap perfume”.
According to staff, I failed to recognize the power of Y2K “incantations”. Instead of merely turning staff into frogs, Eileen began casting what some said were “disappearing spells” on them and eventually on me. Pointing at me with crooked forefinger and eyes askance, she’d shout repeatedly, “You are a F#%&ing Idiot! I’ll send you to the Storeroom forever. That’s what I’ll do!”
Eileen attempted to cast spells on others too. It was hard to figure out what caused these unusual outbursts of anger. Some of us just thought Eileen was worried about being on probation, until her promotion became permanent. She’d often go out for a smoke and come back like nothing had happened.
When several workers suddenly vanished, it became my job to inquire, on Eileen’s behalf, whether they were “resigning”, in order to avoid any unnecessary unemployment claims. She was noticeably angry when one of the older guys refused to resign, but it became far more important to find qualified replacements, so our department could continue to function. Fortunately, KC, our “new age” Director, came though, by transferring workers from Accounting, hoping to stay on the good side of his new colleague, whose sudden promotion posed a threat.
Around this time, I requested to meet with Management and our shop steward, who felt that Eileen was “possibly creating a hostile work environment”. Besides myself, others complained too, but no one from Management appeared to be able to do anything about it. Rumors that Eileen’s powers had waxed exponentially after supposedly drinking Dave’s blood, sometimes appeared to be true.
Strange issues grew to paramount importance, such as the “Ruby Slippers” in particular, which were “on loan” to Dick at Headquarters… “What does an aging golf-pro need ruby slippers for?” she shrieked, “Get them back!” “He made a deal with management to keep them,” I explained, alluding to the distinctive colors golfers are wont to wear. “He says they add ‘spark’ to his game – He even plays the ‘Black Course’ now,” I cheerfully added, reminiscing to myself how they were just laying around after Mavis retired last year. During a brief visit, Dick thought they’d be fun to keep in the golf cart as a good luck charm. Our old boss even signed off on a “loan agreement” as a joke and had them delivered to Dick at Headquarters. The red sequins were indeed very eye catching, but is was hard to understand Eileen’s power-crazed demands for their return.
It then, became an additional assignment to track down the “idiot” who later agreed to make this a “permanent” arrangement. After days of phone tag with several administrators, I learned that one of our own secretaries did the deed, while playing around online with friends at Headquarters. Eileen clearly had the authority to pay Dick a visit and just grab the ruby slippers back, without all this bother and wasted time; however, she found it beneath her her to even touch them, after hearing from a friend of Dick’s golf buddies, that Dick had Athlete’s foot, so I was supposed to do it instead.
At this point in time, retrieving the “Ruby Slippers”, replacing missing staff, rewriting schedules to reflect changes, and Eileen’s casting of additional nasty-spells regarding “insubordination”. as well as “being too slow”, began to affect me in a way that a normal day at work never did. Was Eileen trying to get me fired? These so-called “spells” began to cause health problems. My heart would pound heavily on the way to work, and worst of all, sudden attacks of “the flux” began to overtake me, whenever Eileen made plans to meet with me in private.
On Halloween night, as I finished re-writing yet another schedule to replace vanishing staff, I realized that working for Eileen was slowly killing me. As I printed out the copies, Gidget, who was working late that night too, began to crack jokes about Eileen being “such a witch”. We noted how pleasant it was that she had taken the whole day off. Was she preparing to attend a Witches’ Sabbath? Taking the broom out for a spin? Maybe, she’d crash into a tree or nearby water tower, we jested, hoping the water might melt her away.
I called in sick the next day, desperately needing to consult my Doctor, who realized almost immediately, that I was suffering from panic attacks. He provided a sick note and a psychiatric referral, as requested. Both he and the psychiatrist quickly agreed that Eileen’s behavior was the probable cause of my distress.
After filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim, the required Independent Medical Examiner’s Report also agreed that Eileen was the likely cause of the problem. Eventually Workers’ Compensation arranged a “Discovery” Hearing. Eileen was then called to testify as the sole witness and duly sworn in.
Like the good witch, “Glynda”, Eileen explained how she was trying so hard to improve my work performance. At times, she became “frustrated” with our alleged “breakdown in communication”. It was a charming and delightful testimony that glossed over issues of abuse, torment, and threats experienced in the workplace.
Kindly skipping the time-consuming saga of the “Ruby Slippers”, Eileen then related an entirely new tale about the “Magic Money Rack”, a gift from the Revenue Department, which conferred special powers I never understood before. According to Eileen, anyone could unlock our office by magic, take any desired funds from the money rack in front of us – as though they were invisible, and just walk off with it, without anyone being the wiser! Although it strongly resembled the tale of “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs”, the Honorable Judge, John Barleycorn, decided to disallow the case, declaring that I was just being “overly sensitive”.
Later, reflecting on this testimony, I wondered why staff and I bothered counting cash to prepare deposits. Why did we even have a drop-safe? Apparently, we didn’t have to report anything to our Revenue Department at all. Talk about a “breakdown in communication”! I thought it was our job to do these things. Time wasted could have been better spent getting the “Ruby Slippers” back from Dick, writing new schedules, terminating workers, transferring new ones, and attending to so many other matters that frustrated Eileen.
Justice appears hopeless at this point in time. The Independent Medical Exam, satisfactory Employee Evaluations from Eileen’s boss, and so many other documents appear to have gone up in smoke. I still refuse to believe in evil witches or their rumored powers. Instead, I wonder what happened to “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” that Superman used to talk about.
What will it take to break this evil “spell” of deception? Do grown people really believe in such things as “Magic Money Racks” and enchanted “Ruby Slippers”? Most of all, I wonder why management and I are supposed to believe in them too.
In the meantime, Eileen has been transferred to another office far away, in Never-Never land. Dick proudly displays the “Ruby Slippers” in his office, keeping them handy for an impromptu round of golf, and I am back to work in a new job assignment. Life is beautiful, isn’t it?