A couple of days ago, I walked into the kitchen to find Stu playing hockey with a tampon. I have no idea where he found it and he wasn’t answering any questions. But it reminded me of a fun story… Did I ever tell you about the time I stole 4,000 tampons and sent them to Haiti?
I was living in this place I didn’t want to live, in a town I didn’t want to live in, and working at a place I didn’t want to work, for a boss I didn’t want to work for. Trust me, none of that is the happy part of the memory. So my boss hated me. I mean hated me for no reason. You know how some people just hate you and you never did a single thing to them? My boss thought I was a horrible employee. She found me utterly distasteful. I mean, everyone has their flaws, but I worked hard. I got the job done; with panache, some might say. Customers loved me and people didn’t mind working for me because I’m not mean and I don’t treat people like poop… unlike someone else I knew. I kept working there because I had no idea what I was going to do with my life at that particular moment and I hate job hopping (and job hunting, for that matter). The commute was super short and it was enough money for a single twenty-something to live moderately comfortable with no savings in the bank but not a care in the world either.
My boss really liked everyone else in the store but me and there was no explanation. Other people liked me very much and my direct supervisor loved me. Most of them were pretty, “Meh” about our boss. How then did I get my job? No one else wanted it and my boss was desperate so my boss caved and gave it to me. I did a job very few people could or would do: I managed a bazillion teenagers cashiering in a retail store. Cashiering. With real money… that they could barely count. I was really good at it too: we rarely had any mistakes on the cash drawers and there were never any customer complaints about anyone in my department during my tenure. My boss should have loved me but didn’t because my boss was a sociopath.*
I worked at an odd place. Really odd. It was a retail store that used to be part of a larger organization but a corporation came in and sub-contracted it out. The organization’s leader didn’t care that the sociopath existed which probably made the sociopath crazy. Ultimately, if the leader threw a big enough fit, the corporation could lose the contract and the sociopath would be out of a job, or at least in a lot of trouble with the corporation. So the sociopath had to play politics with the leader. As a side note, there is a chance that both parties were freshly pissed at me because I found a button in my desk when I started there and no one on the floor knew what it was for so I pressed it. And I kept pressing it. And the SWAT team showed up. Someone probably should have labeled that before giving me the job.**
So, I’m minding my own business at work one day and UPS brings a large delivery in the front door. Weird. It was for me. Weirder. It was 25,000 tampons. You’ve never had a day at work until someone walks up and dumps off 25,000 tampons with your name on them. As I’m standing there staring at them trying to figure out what was going on, one of my assistants walks up and the conversation went something like this…
Assistant: What’s all that?
Me: 25,000 tampons.
Assistant: Are you kidding me?
Me: Do you really think I could make something like that up?
Assistant: You’re killing me.
Me: [shrug] If you’re bleeding to death, I’ve got tampons.
And off I went to find the sociopath for some kind of explanation of why someone just sent ME 25,000 tampons. Because, really? If someone wanted to send me, say 1,000, that would be fine because tampons are quite expensive, but 25,000 of them took up more square feet than was in my living room. The sociopath told me that I had to make all of my team hand them out to EVERY customer, explaining what they were and why AND showing where the directions could be located. And I was absolutely not allowed to just leave them at the register for customers to just take them if they wanted them. The best part was that those 25,000 tampons were to remain in my way until they were all gone. I really wished those tampons were sitting there a few weeks prior so I could have offered them to the SWAT team and given them an actually reason to be mad at me.
I told the sociopath I wasn’t going to make people hand them out, and, in turn, was told it was my job and I was more than welcome to resign. (I told you my boss didn’t like me.) I said my job was to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits, gender discrimination lawsuits, humiliating employee lawsuits, and every other not good thing that came from forcing non-healthcare workers to hand out healthcare products to the general public in a non-healthcare retail store and we didn’t even SELL tampons. (And I wasn’t doing anything to solve the my-boss-doesn’t-like-me problem.) The sociopath and I were at a standoff over tampons. I pretended I caved. What I really did was relay the message to my people, tell them I had zero plans of paying attention to tampons, and figure out how I could get rid of them without getting into trouble. Surely the sociopath would forget about them after a week or so.
About this time, a disaster hit Haiti and the leader of the organization had some minions organize a relief drive. The number one category of items they were looking for was personal hygiene products and I happened to be looking at 25,000 tampons. You can see exactly where this is going. I got 4,000 of them out the door and on the truck before I got caught. The sociopath was pleased when the conversation turned to me being fired for theft but if I apologized the police weren’t going to be called. Remember the SWAT team? Yeah… same cops. Awesome.
It was one of those moments where I was on the verge of an anxiety attack because I knew I was in trouble but I had no idea what to do so I did what I always do: I ramble. I wold love to say that I had a way out, that I had a plan. I had no plan. But I did have the truth and I told it. I told the sociopath that the leader was thrilled because the sociopath’s tampon donation was the largest donation of the relief drive. Now, when I was handing the tampons over, I didn’t tell anyone they came from the sociopath but I didn’t correct the misunderstanding either.
That rambling was exactly what saved my paycheck. The sociopath was pissed because I’d inadvertently backed her into a corner. What did she want more? For the leader to be pleased or to see me fired? In the end, I guess the sociopath figured it wasn’t worth firing me because with nothing to lose, I would go straight to the leader and ruin all of the tampon goodwill. Because I would. The other 21,000 tampons? She wouldn’t let me send them. I guess she figured there was diminishing returns on tampon goodwill, but I was right: the sociopath eventually forgot about them. I made sure they walked out the door with all kinds of people… by. the. case. And every time she walked by, I made sure everyone was talking about tampons. LOUDLY. She always hurried away. So, I won in the end. And so did Haiti.
* Sociopath could be a slight exaggeration but I have a habit of not liking people who don’t like me. Besides, sociopath is a plausible explanation.
** Don’t worry… the first thing I did when that mess was over was to put a label on that damn button and a sticky note with further details in case the label was not convincing enough.