Sunday, April 11, 2010

Still Thinking About Up in the Air...part 4.5

...continued from yesterday...

To top off the immediate money problems that the agency was already experiencing, it turned out that the landlord for the office was...surprise, surprise...a total slime.  Not yet a month occupying the space and we were handed a $500 invoice for common area repairs and maintenance.  This would have been perfectly acceptable under many lease agreements, but after a little digging it turned out the repairs and maintenance were for another business' personal use restroom.  I went round and round with the landlord on this, and my boss became even more aggravated about it, but he refused to admit any wrong doing, saying that those types of charges were common practice and that through all of his years of property management he had never had to deal with anyone like us. He eventually waived the invoice, but also said that he did not want to fight through every little minor charge that needed to be paid per our lease agreement.

I was beginning to notice that my boss had a tendency to not back down from any sort of conflict, whether great or minor, and would actually switch to a search and destroy method of attack at the slightest hint of opposition.  She had decided that she could no longer deal with our landlord and that we needed to get out of the lease and find a new office.  I agreed.  The landlord refused to let us out of our lease and said that there were forms that we had both signed that proved that we had agreed to all common area charges and that we were just going to have to live with it.  This sent my boss into Tasmanian Devil territory, and after demanding to see the signed form...which I had no recollection of signing, and which took him over a week to produce...she had us talking to an attorney and sent me to the County office to find floor plans for our space since she believed it was not up to code; we had not been informed that there was no existing hot water.  She also had the signed document sent to a handwriting expert to verify authenticity, which came back inconclusive.  All of this, of course, cost more money.

Eventually, the landlord tired of the constant battles released us from the lease, but while we were enjoying our freedom and the search for a new location, she had started a feud with the man who was designing the business cards and began an even more embittered battle with the attorney, who in her defense was also a slime.  The graphic design guy wanted more money than he had originally quoted, but she let that one go and paid him half of the increase in quoted price, but the attorney was another matter.  During the whole landlord fiasco, she had felt that he was not doing everything that he could to have us released from our lease.  She was calling him often and leaving increasingly angrier messages about not caring about us as clients and that he was just gouging us for minutes.  On the day that she actually succeeded in getting him on the phone and while I was attempting to hide at my desk, he told her to "stop being a typical hysterical woman."

Of course that relationship ended and she eventually tried to see a mediator about getting repaid the fees that had been paid to the man and she also sought to have him disbarred, but nothing came of her efforts.

As I mentioned previously, she was calling me.  She was calling me constantly and most of the calls were to my cell phone and unbeknownst to me, the minutes were starting to really pile up.  She considered me her friend and I felt the same, but she also considered me her confidant.  I was receiving calls at all hours of the day not just concerning the landlord, the attorney and all of the other enemies out in the wild, but also the various problems in her marriage and the trouble she was having with her child.  Being my friend, I was happy to offer an open ear, despite not being able to really offer any thing in the way of advice, but I helped as much as I could.

We ended up finding a new office location, but we were having financial trouble and one of the potential new advertisers that we were counting on backed out at the last minute and we were not going to be paid for the work that we had done for them.  In addition to that, the new office was too expensive and we had only been there for a month and my boss was telling me that she needed to be pulling in a near six figure income.  This was crazy to me.  We had only been in business for about four months and I was under the impression that she understood what starting a business entailed.  Not only was the revelation of her salary requirements a problem, but the bills for wrapping up all of the battles over the past month were needing to be paid.

I knew it was coming...hell, I was expecting it... but when she arrived at the office one day with tears streaming down her face, I was let go.  Again I ended up consoling her on the decision despite my own sadness over losing the job.  She agreed to pay me three months of severance, which would only wind up being two weeks, and she paid one of my $700+ personal cell phone bills.  A new battle was begun to be released from her new lease, which the landlord agreed to disolve, ultimately setting up shop out of her home.

I will talk about the miserable seven months that I was unemployed another time, but there were a few other odd things that happened that bear mentioning.  She was still calling me to discuss her personal problems...often.  I tried to help, but I had my own problems now and was probably not the best listener at that time; my girlfriend did not appreciate all of the calls either.  Things really began to get weird when she called me to invite me to lunch one day, which I accepted.  The restaurant was near my home, so I walked there, and waited about half an hour for her to show up, and when she eventually did, she was with a friend of hers that I had never met before, but I had heard of her since she had worked with my boss at the cable advertising company.  The woman was very nice and quite funny, and was talking about how excited she was to be be moving back to Santa Barbara.  This was all fine and my boss mentioned that she would like for me to come to her home the following week to show her some of what I had been doing for the agency so that she could begin doing my tasks herself.  The request made sense and still having the utmost level of loyalty, I agreed.

The following week rolled around, I was now getting unemployment and I had also received a long tear filled call saying that she would not be able to continue the severance payments because she did not have the money.  This was yet another blow, but I was sympathetic and said that I had understood...I was such a sucker.  I had also just received a new $380 cellphone bill.  As promised, I went to the house to help train her, despite feeling sorry for myself and feeling like shit, but not wanting to show the range of emotions that I was going through.  I needed to be strong for her sake and did not want to add any further undue pressure to her life.  When I arrived at her house, I was greeted at the door by her friend and my boss was no where to be found.  I was completely confused.  The friend then informed me that the boss was on an important client meeting and that I was to help train her in what I had been doing and she in turn would train my boss.  Not being totally dim, I realized that this "friend" had been given my job, and I was also fairy certain that she was not doing it for free.  And here I thought I was let go for money reasons...

I did the training and left without seeing or heaing from my old boss.  I then paid my high cellphone bill with my unemployment check, never received a payment for the day of training and proceeded to have an incredibly rough seven months of unemployment during recessionary times.  Again, what a sucker I was.

Epilogue: After I eventually found new employment, and had been working there for about six months, I received a voicemail from my old boss asking me to give her a call back and that she had felt bad over how things had ended and that she really wanted me to return to work with her.  She also said that she really needed someone she trusted...a friend.  I never returned the call.  I later heard through mutual acquaintences that the friend did indeed replace me.  Ironically, she actually ended up walking from the job with no notice or explanation as to why she was leaving...oops. I believe that if I were to run into my old boss, I would be civil, and the epitome of politeness, but counting my blessings that I no longer have to deal with the crazy nonstop drama and emotional bullshit, plus she could be kinda scary.

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