Thursday, February 24, 2011


For some reason, I have had a parade of shitty bosses in my life.  I am sure this has nothing to do with my knack for insubordination.  The worst of them (and this is difficult to chose just ONE) was well, we'll just call him "Rich".  He was the most unbalanced individual I have ever met.  Luckily for me, he was in charge of my livelihood, and eventually my mental health.

He was my manager when I worked in pharmaceutical sales and he ruled by fear. He made Qaddafi look like Indira Gandhi.  Rich would leave you fear based voicemails that he placed at 4 o'clock in the morning. You quickly learned NEVER to ask him a work-related question, even when you were first hired, because he would FREAK OUT on you that you did not know the answer in the first place. When I had ride alongs with him I would have stomach problems for three days before and three days after.  One minute he was your best friend, making jokes and laughing with you, and the next minute he was screaming at you to pull over so that he could get out of the car and "cool off".  He would work his way up into a frenzy because during a call with your doctor you didn't spray Nasonex in the doc's face to highlight it's pleasant smell that we were promoting that week.  In a word, Rich was NUTS.

Rich was in his mid thirties, lived alone, and was of Italian descent from "Philly" - which he referred to far too much to be healthy.  He would relay stories of dates he would go on and I would imagine the poor girl calling her best friend in tears after that date, convinced she escaped a budding serial killer by the skin of her teeth.

To this day, I cannot pass Strongsville (where we would taken written assessments) without having post traumatic stress symptoms.  He had lived in his house for over two years and yet, stacked, half empty boxes spilled out in every room of his house.  It was as if a large Italian rat had gotten into a storage facility.  He had a bed, a futon for a couch, and a large television.  I took one look at that mess and understood that this man was incapable of taking care of himself. 

The writing was on the wall when I interviewed with him but I was so desperate to get out of my current job with a psycho boss, I must have subconsciously suppressed all the warning signs of an abuser.  In retrospect, all of my immediate bosses were malevolent with the exception of my last one, who was a woman, and by then, I was just this shell of a person and was too far gone. At that point I was only qualified to do menial, repetitive tasks like breastfeeding and changing diapers.

The other reps and I in my district would get together and compare war stories when we had meetings and one was worse than the next.  We would howl laugh at Rich's insanity and then everyone would collectively get quiet because we all knew that we were in a desperate situation - controlled by a lunatic.

Once, at a team meeting, he made us all watch the story of the USA Hockey Team who defeated Russia in the 1980 Olympics.   Apparently, the coach's technique involved uniting his team by mistreating them so that they bonded together in their hatred toward him.  Rich was exuberant during the film.  He would look back at us around the conference table and nod, clap and smile.  We were mystified.

I do not know if you are familiar with the art of pharmaceutical sales but it is an autonomous profession.  You do not work with your district on a daily basis because you have individual territories.  His logic was completely off, but the only person in that room that did not realize it was Rich - our leader.

Of course, his tyranny had the opposite effect on me that it was intended to have.    The one thing that mattered to Rich was that we were out working 12 hour days and that we ate, slept, and drank the job - like him. The second I dropped Rich off after a long, manic-depressive ride along, I would take the rest of the week off.   If I didn't, I would have a nervous breakdown.  (I guess they don't call it that anymore, though.  Today, I would check myself into a facility for sexual addiction.)

I became pregnant when I was working for Rich and he was constantly telling me how I needed to "work twice as hard" as an unpregnant person because I was taking maternity leave.  One day, we were in Westerville at "lunch" going over my review for the day. He had made me wait until the end of the day to eat because I was growing another life in my body and that pissed him off.  He was berating me in the middle of the diner, while I looked down at my swollen belly and counted the hours until my maternity leave.

"How do you like this?" he hissed as he turned my computer around to reveal a horrific review for the day. 
"I think it's great." I answered as I glanced at the computer.
"I don't understand you," his blood pressure was beginning to rise and the color was reflected in his face, "you show all of the signs of hearing me - eye contact, appropriate responses and body language - but you clearly are not listening to my instructions because you are not developing as a rep like you should be.  Just read over this and sign it at the bottom."

 Now I am not the most political person, but I knew that by law, he could not fire me while I was pregnant.
"Oh, I don't need to read it, Rich.  That is what I have been doing ALL day - imagining what my review would say and I'd assume I'm spot on." I signed his paperwork and gave him a big toothy smile.  "You ready?"

It had begun to pour outside and my inexpensive, ugly, pharmaceutical minivan was parked in the back of the lot.  We walked out the door and stood under an awning with several other people and waited for the rain to ease up.

"You wanna make a run for it?" he screamed over the pounding rain and thunder.
I was 7 months pregnant and looked like I was three months overdue.
"Okay!" I replied keeping up my faux merriment routine.
"No YOU.  YOU go and get the car and then come back to pick me up.  Hurry up.  Go NOW so we can make some more calls."  It was 5 o'clock on a Friday.

To the astonishment of all of the other people under the awning,  I ran the best I could, big and pregnant, in the pathetic maternity business suit I wore everyday, in a thunderstorm, to my stupid minivan.  I climbed up in the driver's seat, made a huge circle around the parking lot to the side door where a small group of people with gaping mouths stood next to Rich.  I stopped right in front of him, smiled my demonic fake smile again, power locked all the doors and sped off.

Old Westerville is now called "Uptown Westerville",  and is one of my favorite places in Columbus. There are great little mom and pop restaurants and precious locally-owned boutiques that I perused while mentally giving Rich the middle finger.  Spend a few hours there when you have the chance.  It will take you that long to really explore and appreciate the area.

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