When she entered the room her hips would bang against desks toppling papers, vases, ashtrays, picture frames and the like. Large in every way and at the same time oblivious to her surroundings, she …
When she entered the room her hips would bang against desks toppling papers, vases, ashtrays, picture frames and the like. Large in every way and at the same time oblivious to her surroundings, she barked orders in a gravelly voice that reminded me of crusher run. And one day, I was her target.
“You!” she said pointing in my direction after everyone else in the office dove under their desks, “Come with me!” Holding back tears, I followed wondering if I should tell her that I didn’t work for the bank.
Every inch of her desk was covered in disarrayed piles of paper with two or three ashtrays filled to the brim. The ceiling smoke alarm dangled by a wire obviously ripped from its cradle so she could chain smoke. Her name, Suzanna, a bank Vice President. Me? I was a mere temporary file clerk there for only a day.
I soon discovered that no bank employee would work for her because they were afraid. Her manner was gruff and scary like the evil octopus in the film Little Mermaid. And there I was, waiting for my orders.
Looking directly at me with piercing blue eyes the likes of which I had never before seen, Suzanna tossed a sheet of paper in my direction. It fell to the floor. I picked it up as she barked, “Do you think you can forge my signature?”
I flattened the paper, took up a pen and in one motion copied her signature quickly and exactly. Suzanna was delighted. “How come I haven’t seen you before?” she asked.
“I don’t work at the bank,” I said. “I’m a temporary…”
“How much do you want?” she interrupted.
Want? I didn’t want the job so I quoted high for the 1980’s, “$25 an hour.”
“You’re hired! I’m leaving for China. Just sign everything in my name, attend all the meetings, especially anything to do with the computer.” And just like that, I became an independent contractor in charge of all correspondence as well as the finances for CitiBank’s 20 million dollar art collection. Not kidding.
The stacks of paperwork on Suzanna’s desk were mostly unsigned and unpaid purchase orders. Angry art dealers began calling looking for their money. But I, a punk rocker lacking any corporate decorum, was even angrier. “I’ll pay you when I’m good and ready,” I told each one and then hung up.
When Suzy returned, she told me that all the gallery owners were impressed with my forthright communication and the fact that they finally got their money.
For the next three years, I worked for Suzanna. My title: Financial Controller. During that time, my hourly rate was raised to $27, but when the bank decided to hire a young manager, Glen, to restructure the department, he took one look at my spiky hair and started asking questions.
“You’re fired,” said Suzanna one morning, “Because Glenn found out you don’t have an accounting degree. But don’t worry. No one knows how to work the computer so they have to keep you until they find someone else.” Several weeks went by and one day Glen knocked on my office door.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said sheepishly. “But the construction department has no one to pay these invoices and I understand you’re the only person who knows how to work the mainframe.”
Again, my rock attitude kicked in as I flung the pile of invoices (without even looking at them) over to a far corner of the desk. “Sure, I can pay these,” I began, “But my rate is now $54 an hour.” What could Glen do? He had to agree. I worked for another year at that rate until I emerged as a fine art painter embracing fully my life as an artist, but that’s another story.
To be continued…
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