You're Not the Boss of Me

I am a very important person. I perform vital work for a major facility. My clients depend on me to ship and receive important products. I also draft occasional legal agreements and arrange exchanges in my spare time. My desk has this great view overlooking a huge open space. Like I said, I am an important person.

It wasn't always this way. I couldn't have gotten here without my boss. 

A year ago, Schwartzman & Burberry interviewed me to head their accounting department. The interview process was long and exhausting. I met with every head of every department once, except for Mr. Burberry, the company's executive Vice President. He didn't meet with me at all. That caused me some misgiving, especially on the day of my fifth interview, when I saw him poke his head inside the conference room. He paused there at the doorway, and as I began to rise out of my seat to shake his hand, he shook his head and kept on walking.

The day they hired me, I felt I had won the lottery. Other guys younger and smarter than me were vying for the position, but I won. 

The company started by placing me in the mail room. The human resources department promised that I would have my own accounting office by the end of the month, by which time several of their accountants were expected to leave the company. 

Around me, in the mail room, most of my colleagues were high school graduates or high school dropouts who spent most of their time flicking rubber bands at each other or trying to steal snacks from the vending machine.

The accounting department forwarded all their work to me via email. Once I completed my calculations, I emailed the completed reports and ledgers back to them, with no further response. This went on for another month, then another two months.

After this time, I was still sitting in the mail room doing this remote work, and quickly running out of space on my tiny desk. It seemed that all the company's promises were proving empty.  

I finally went to confront Mr. Burberry directly. I stopped at his door, and was about to knock, when I heard a voice ask:

"What do you think you are doing?"

The older lady who had spoken smiled cheerfully at me. She placed both palms out on her desk and tilted her head, reminding me of a shi tzu about to be fed.

"I am here to see Mr. Burberry." I answered. My throat felt suddenly dry.

"No you are not. Nobody goes in there." she countered. "He's in the Golf Tournament this week. You are not gonna find him."

Before walking away, I slipped a note under his door. The note explained my predictament: I had been hired with promises, I had done everything I had been asked, and my situation had not improved. All of my education and experience was going to waste at Schwartzman & Burberry.

The following day, convinced that nothing would change, I headed for the company washroom to leave one final contribution. As I stood in front of the urinal, I was acutely aware that someone else had approached the urinal next to mine. He was tall, whoever he was. He breathed loudly through his nose and the sounds of his urine splashing against the porcelain were uncomfortably sporadic. We both stood there for what felt like an eternity. Just as the silence became unbearable, he spoke.

"So," he began. "How about the Tournie? Something else, eh?"

It was Mr. Burberry.

Something took me over in those next moments. There, still in front of the urinal, I blurted out:

"You mean golf? How.. how was that?"

His urine stream stopped and I heard the yanking of his zipper. 

"Is that supposed to be funny?" he asked. He moved to the sink and started washing his hands. "You know how it went. My assistant told you."

I moved to the sink, endowed with a sudden sense of outrage.

"Your assistant told me nothing." I said accusingly. It all just spilled out. "We've never met. I'm supposed to be the head of your accounting department, and I've been sitting in the..."

He put out a palm to silence me. His eyes looked sleepy. He had this giant moon face with a small, thin mouth that curled up at the ends, like he was perpetually amused.

"Don't care." he replied. "I saw your note, and I really don't care." He paused. "Nice to meet you."

I stuck out my hand to shake his, but he wagged his finger at me.

"Wash your hands first." he chided. He walked out.

I headed back to my office to get my things together. There, in a hand written note was an invitation to join the dawn patrol the next morning at Hausman's Golf Club. In attendance would be Mr. Burberry, along with other executives at all the Burberry competitors, and an assorted group of recruiters.

I thought about tossing the note out of spite, but I was too curious to not attend. After all, I could transform this meeting into an opportunity to find employment elsewhere, either through a recruiter or competitor. A part of me even felt that Mr. Burberry was trying to farm me out to another company. At this point, I was okay with that.

The next day, I got to Hausman's at 7 am. A big group of well tailored men with great posture all stood in the Lobby. They bore striking resemblance to those older male models on hair color boxes. They all carried drinks. I introduced myself to a few of them, but got several weird looks. We got out to the fairway and Burberry handed me his golf bag and announced me as his caddie.

Ordinarily I would have thrown the bag down and stomped off, but I was surrounded by people who could determine my fate in the industry. If I didn't behave, I would never be hired anywhere in my field, ever again. So, I subsisted, following along like a dog, scrambling to grab the right iron when asked. By the tenth hole, I was carrying bags for two additional executives. Every few minutes someone yelled at me.

At the end of the final hole, Mr. Burberry and the other executives sort of wandered off toward the 19th hole, leaving me with an assortment of bags and clubs. I was thoroughly humiliated. I wanted to cry. I left all their bags in the middle of the field and got into my car and drove off.

The next day, I didn't show up for work. My phone rang a few times, but no one left a message. Finally, I got an email from a team of lawyers out of Arlington who claimed to represent the holdings of the Schwartzman Group and a few other firms I didn't recognize. The golf clubs and golf bags were never recovered, and I was being sued for damages.

I trashed the email and began looking for work elsewhere. No one would hire me. Only one prestigious accounting firm, one that had courted me a month before my stint at Burberry, called me in for an interview. I arrived and there, behind the front desk, with his hand curled suggestively on the Receptionist's shoulder, was one of the dawn patrol executives from Hausman's, looking as coiffed as ever. He took one look at me and called security.

A month later, my savings ran out and I took a job loading palettes up with soda cans in a warehouse just outside of town. The guys around me worked really hard, and to be honest, I was more fulfilled than I had been in a long time. I grew out my beard and started lifting weights. I shed my office paunch.

I had almost forgotten about my time with Burberry when I was confronted by police one morning outside the warehouse and shown a warrant for my arrest. The police didn't mention the cost of the golf clubs, but at my arraignment, I strode in prepared to strike a deal to pay for their value. What I had done was desperate, juvenile and stupid, and I was willing to pay.

I expected the words 'negligence' and 'theft' to be used in court, but instead, I heard 'tax fraud' and did a double-take. I assumed my arrest was over the golf clubs. Instead, I was being confronted - via my State appointed defender - with Prosecution's handiwork. They possessed stacks and stacks of suspicious ledgers, all signed by me, indicating accounting fraud. Schwartzman's funds, according to the charges, had been pilfered by a so-called 'lone wolf accountant.' Namely, me.

I was set up. It all became so clear. The interview process had been calculated to vet the perfect candidate: one who possessed the perfect combination of talent and naivete. It also became crystal clear that my isolation at the company was a deliberate attempt to put my work in a vacuum, stripping it of conversation and context and human contact. They had only furthered their case against me by goading me into acts that made me look vindictive and corrupt. Now all I could do was swear that I had no grasp of the bigger picture, that the paperwork had come to me with no explanation, and that I had unwittingly perpetrated fraud by not understanding that big picture.

Mr. Burberry represented the holdings of the company, and he did all the cross examinations. He accused me of stalking him and leaving notes under his door. He accused me of lewd behavior in the washroom. He accused me of embarrassing the company at Hausman's. Worst of all, he accused me of deliberately isolating myself from the rest of the accounting department in my first few months. He utterly humiliated me.

My public defender spent most of the trial napping. I was smacked with a 5 year sentence, and went away with $4.35 in my pocket. I was even forced to give that up the moment my sentence began. I was also informed that a gift had come to me from outside and due to Prison rules, was being held for me upon my release. It was a golf bag with clubs, and a note that read: 'why don't U start a golf club. love, Andrew Burberry, Esq.'

I channeled my rage into organizing my thoughts. Once my thoughts were swept, I found that I no longer felt rage, or even annoyance. I organized the prison kitchen. I started handling prisoner transactions. I made myself useful. I did what I was told. I was given much to do. I was handed a really nice cell overlooking the main exercise yard.

I am now in charge of all prison contraband and currency. It's strange to say this, considering my circumstances, but for the first time ever, I feel like my own boss. 


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