The Other Shoe Drops

The downward spiral of Gleda Balls, continued, but I wasn’t privy to the details. There were closed-door meetings, of which I was not included in a single one. It was all very hush-hush. As were the wringing of hands, the pacing in the hallways, and occasionally, the sound of an unanswered telephone coming from Gleda’s office.

I was in my own world, much like before, only now I’d been promoted. Which meant I got to move out of the front office I shared with Ann, the other assistant, and into an office in the back, which I now shared with Jeff, the assistant director. Jeff was very funny and kept me perennially bemused. We did our jobs and had fun doing it. Sometimes he’d be called into a meeting to meet with Gleda, who looked more harried than ever. Yet, despite all that was going on, I don’t think either of us ever thought we’d see the other shoe drop.

The meeting that changed my life was in a parking garage, much like this one.

Gleda Balls continued to sit at her own desk, in her own office, across the hall from Jeff and I. She continued her pattern of flitting in and out of the office. Mostly out.  A few times she asked me to babysit her kids and I obliged, because I simply didn’t have the wherewithal to decline.

The next few weeks were business as usual. Jeff spending good parts of the day at the studios on campus, and me, working blithely and bringing my work to Gleda for approval, then to Jan to type up, and, finally, to Ann mail out. Gleda would swing in, check her mail, grab her phone messages from the receptionist and retreat into her office, carefully closing the door behind her.

Then, the following Friday there was an unusual amount of activity. Flo, a middle-aged Japanese-American woman, in charge of Human Resources, met with the general manager in his office with the door closed. Several minutes later, he came out and entered Burnie, the program manager’s office and also closed the door. Then, the general manager and Flo left and headed to the administration building. None of these activities puzzled me because I was oblivious. I was in my office doing my job. That’s all.

But then something happened that I did find perplexing. The general manager called Jeff and asked Jeff to meet him immediately, and to bring me with him. He gave no reason as to why. But, here’s the kicker. He didn’t want to meet us in his office or in the Administration building, nor in Flo’s office. He asked that we meet him in the underground parking garage near the administration building. Jeff looked at me quizzically. And I looked at him confused. This is so strange, we both decided, as we anxiously headed to the garage a few blocks away.

We must have arrived too soon because we didn’t see the general manager at first. Just rows and rows of cars. We loitered just inside the entrance to the garage, as he didn’t say exactly where we should meet him. By the green Datsun wagon? The silver Volvo? Were we going to have a tailgate picnic here? Jeff didn’t know any more than I did. So we stood there, in the cold concrete garage, stuffing our hands in our pockets to stay warm, and wondered what this was all about. I felt as though we were waiting for a rendezvous with the mob, and not our General Manager. Perhaps, he was going to give us instructions on a hit, or confess to a clandestine affair.

Ten minutes later, he briskly walked in. He had black curly hair, a bulbous nose and a thick mustache, and the New York in him immediately stood out. His larger than life mannerisms made it seem as if he’d grown up on a Broadway stage, and needed to project every nuance and every word. His cavernous voice could, indeed, carry to the opposite side of an auditorium or, in this case, a garage. Extending his arms out wide, he loudly exclaimed,

“I have a proposition for you!” I looked behind me to see if we had an audience listening in, but we seemed to be alone.

“I’m about to meet with Gleda and I’m going to let her know this isn’t working out, so I need to know that you’re on board with me.”

I looked at Jeff, who seemed to be nervous with anticipation. Could this be it? I nodded and so did Jeff, who then said,

“Of course we’re with you. What did you have in mind?

“Jeff, I want to make you Acting Director of the department.” Then, turning to me, he added, “And you will be Acting Assistant Director, which means an automatic 10 percent raise for you both. If all goes well, in six months we can make it official.”

I had a wide grin on my face and so did Jeff. We nodded eagerly, like kids whose great uncle was about to buy them the toy of their dreams. The General Manager excitedly shook our hands. The deal was set and the wheels were in motion.

“Good then,” he said. “Time’s a wasting!” And with that, he dramatically swept out of the garage, like a magician performing a magic trick, and disappearing into thin air.

So this is how the other shoe dropped. Out of sight or, at least, out of my line of vision. I never quite learned all that was going on in those weeks, and I never saw Gleda again after that day. The General Manager must have met with her and asked her to leave on the spot. From that day on, Jeff became my boss, and for the next seven years, he, like Patti before him, proved to be one of the greatest—and coolest—bosses I’ve had. I will always be thankful for all he taught me during our tenure together.

But, like I said from the start: To me, Gleda wasn’t a good boss or a bad one. She fit in the “in-between” category. I owe her a good deal, as her actions, inadvertently or not, helped launch my career.

As far as bosses go, the real “bad boss” would come later. A regular “Cruella De Vil” meets the “Devil Wears Prada.” But, this was several years later, after I left Seattle and took a new job in a new city. Frankly, I didn’t know the meaning of bad bosses until I met this one. And, she was a doozy.

Missed a chapter? Read past installments, by visiting the page, The Road Taken.

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36 thoughts on “The Other Shoe Drops

  1. “I looked behind me to see if we had an audience listening in, but we seemed to be alone” was my laugh out moment, just so you know.

    I’m hooked. This is delicious.

    • Crazy but true. I was just glad for the end results. Justice was served. Remember how I said Jeff had originally applied for the position when it was opened but didn’t get it? Well, happily, justice was definitely served. 😉

  2. Ah, we’ve not yet finished savoring Gleda’s story when you’re already whetting our appetite with the next one! I love it! You have to hand it to the big boss though, a clandestine meeting in the parking lot? Nice! And how wonderful for you to have Jeff as your boss for such a long time! There’s nothing like getting along with someone and laughing, especially when they’re your superior. It gives new meaning to wanting to go to work. We should all experience a Jeff at least once in our lives. It would help ease the pain of all the horrible bosses that came before or after, don’t you think? 🙂

    • Since this was my first job (and since Gleda only lasted about a year), I didn’t know how good I had it until I left. I didn’t appreciate how lucky I was to have had Patti (albeit, briefly) and then Jeff. Salt of the earth, those two. And then I moved because of G’s career and everything changed. My life became hell under my new boss. Under her thumb. 😦

  3. “Cruella De Vil” meets the “Devil Wears Prada.”

    Oh, Yeeeeeeeeees, Monica. I Can’t Wait to read this :)))) xx

    btw, i’ve watched Devil about 10 times. FABBBB. Streep Rocked, man.

    • Meryl Streep is my favorite actress of a certain age. The woman is amazing, and, yes, she was sheer perfection in “Devil Wears Prada.” Boy, if she had been my boss, I would’ve gladly put up with hell and the hand basket! But, alas, she wasn’t. Sigh.

  4. This reminds me of Deep Throat and Watergate! Sneaky meetings in parking garages? Wow, talk about intrigue! I suppose it’s fair play for poor Gleda to get her comeuppance, but you and Jeff were in the right place at the right time. Great description of your general Manager!

  5. Monica, the waiting around in the parking lot made me nervous, so I can only imagine how you felt. How wonderful that it turned out so well… I can’t wait to hear about Cruella De Ville… sounds horrific. I have to say it again Monica, you write so well, I find myself waiting for the next line, and the line after that and much much more…

    • Jeff and I were on tenterhooks, waiting to see what this cryptic meeting was all about. An unusual place to meet and I’ve never been invited to a meeting in a garage since. 😉

      Your words about my writing are so sweet–and so appreciated. Thank you!

  6. Ah, a sigh of relief. I loved the ending, of course. The garage scene is priceless, very cloak and dagger, if not funny. I was trying to put myself in your place and how I would react, first to Gleda, and then the request from the GM to meet in the garage. I would love to know how Gleda reacted, what when on in the office (as a fly on the wall would do). I am still amazed she would ask you to take care of personal things, like unpack and watch her kids. Amazing! On a side note, live the build up to the garage meeting, you had me on the edge..

    • Me, too! But it turns out, our meeting was so hush-hush, my General Manager didn’t want to take any chances of Gleda learning about the meeting. He wanted to have all his ducks in a row, which is why we met in the garage.

  7. A clandestine meeting in the parking lot ? I was afraid Gleda was about to go crazy. So glad she didn’t. But now I’m in suspense to hear about your REALLY bad boss. What a career you’ve had.

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