I have just celebrated my 40th birthday a few days ago and the event made me go down the memory lane.
For some, changing the prefix is a big deal and I was part of that team, too, until this 2020 pandemic ruined all my plans to spend my birthday on a beach, in Ibiza, with a cocktail in my hand and loud music in my ears. This year, London will have to do.
But the staycation gave me the chance to flick through my photo albums and try to remember my last 10 birthdays. No surprise here: I was always at work. Absolutely all previous birthdays were celebrated in the office. And I loved them! Not necessarily the celebrations per se, with cakes and bottles of Coca Cola on a desk, surrounded by piles of documents, monitors and keyboards, but the amazing people that made my day special.
I always had a great time on my birthday and I have fond memories of my special day, but only one will be the subject of today's post: my 31st birthday.
That year I booked the relaxation space in our office building so we basically had half of the floor only for us, for 4 hours, after work. My only wish was to have a costume party and I was not disappointed. Each of my wonderful friends/colleagues came up with masks, props or costumed as a sexy secretary, an Arab oil mogul, a Japanese geisha, a Mexican drug lord and even the Little Red Riding Hood in a threesome with the Big Bad Wolf and the Hunter. I decided to be a Naughty Nun because... why not?
I was so happy that so many people showed up and made such an effort. And the birthday gift was even better: a pair of pink, fluffy handcuffs and a black leather whip. I have to be honest and admit that I have never used them for the intent that my friends were hoping to, but I took them with us in all the future team buildings and trips that we organised for years after. In 3 years, the whip was been destroyed and I was only left with the handle and the handcuffs disappeared suspiciously, in mission, during a trip to the Muddy Volcanoes in Romania.
But not everyone was thrilled with the festivities. The biggest absent was my team leader, even if I was hoping that she will be able to let her hair down for a few hours and drink a beer with us. It didn't happen. I wouldn't stretch it so much to call her my friend, but after that birthday she became my declared enemy.
I was the last one to join her small team just a few months before, so I didn't exactly know the personality of each of my colleagues. Everyone seamed cool and nice, but I could see that the only one that didn't laugh at my jokes was her, my team leader. It was so obvious that she didn't like me that my colleagues were making fun of how tough she was with me. Always snapping at me, rolling her eyes or giving me the look. After a few months I already learned how to avoid any confrontation with her and to keep her content.
She was extremely strict and punctuality was her forte. During a team meeting she mentioned, looking straight at me, that if the work schedule is from 8:30 to 17:30 this means that at 8:30 we are supposed to be at our desks, with the monitors on, already reading our emails. So, taking that into consideration, I made my goal to be in the office before her every morning. I started to get a bit of satisfaction just seeing her coming after me. She was fuming and I loved it! This is how petty I was!
The lunch time was exactly between 14:30 and 15:30. Not a minute more. Again, to mitigate the risks, I had an alarm at 15:25 on my phone. This way, wherever I was in the building during my lunch break, I had enough time to get to my desk in time, knowing that "hawk eye" is watching my every move. I could see her looking at the clock every time when I got back from my break. She was visibly affected because there was nothing to say to me.
Professionally I was strong. I knew my job by heart and I managed the activity both in Italian and in English. One time, I even spoke on the phone with somebody in a French bank so she couldn't pick on me with anything work-related.
Looking back now, I think she was afraid that I would try to get her job but this was never my intention. I had a lot on my plate without her, anyway.
I was going through a divorce, my abusive ex-husband was constantly threatening me that he will kill himself if I would ever dare to leave him, my 4 years old baby girl was living with her grandparents, away from the madness at home. I spent all my overdraft to redecorate my daughter's room just to have my mother threatening to sell the house that we were living in.
So, I had no intention of going for her job.
The office was usually my place of peace, of immersing myself in work and being useful. It was my time spent wisely with optimistic, funny, intelligent people that I even called friends. With some, I was spending time even outside work. We knew each others families, we supported each other in times of needs and we lend each other money every month because the salary was never enough.
But at work I always felt safe. At least nobody was threatening me with suicide. Sometimes we had time for a joke, for a coffee or a long cigarette break, but not in my team and not under my team leader's supervision. She was not having it.
The next day after my birthday costume party we were in the office, back at work, laughing at all the costumes and how much fun we had. We were still working, but it was that kind of chatty, happy work activity that didn't need a ton of attention because we were doing it for such a long time. When, suddenly, the Big Bad Wolf aka the team leader, came next to my desk and invited me to a one-on-one discussion in a separate, small conference room. I felt like a little lamb going to the slaughter house because her tone was so protocolar and serious that I thought the bank went bust because of me. All eyes were on me when I left the office. I was thinking: What now?
She got her hackles up and the only thing I remember from her monologue (because I was lost for words) was her complaint about me, talking too much on the phone, for personal reasons. I was gobsmacked because that never happened before in all my career so I had to know when have I become so inconsiderate.
Very ashamed of my disgraceful behaviour I got the courage to ask her when did I talk on the phone so much to trigger this special meeting? And her answer was: "YESTERDAY!"
I started to laugh and just told her "But yesterday was my birthday." And I left the conference room, feeling her eyes throwing poisonous arrows in my back.
So, this is me: talking too much on the phone. On my birthday.
Sorry not sorry, biatch!
Have a good one, everybody, and may you win at the Lottery of Life!