NOT IN A MILLION
21 June 2002
Bob called tonight.
I can't remember the last time I'd heard from him. Years and years ago.
Bob is an attorney here in town for whom I worked part time back in the early 1980s,
when I was doing fill-in part-time work whenever I could get it. It was a step up from
working at The Argus a give-away newspaper, which was owned by a shady character
who just up and left one day, leaving the two employees without a job, and holding
After The Argus (or more properly the Arrrrrggghhhh-us) went belly up, I
answered an ad that Bob placed in the local paper. We hit it off right away and it seemed
like a nice congenial place to work.
It was a dark wood-paneled office, with deep plus carpeting, a large
"liberry" (as he always pronounced it), and several secretary desks scattered
around. I was hired to do transcription (surprise, surprise).
His field was subrogation
--insurance work. We did a lot of cases of accidents where there were uninsured motorists
And we did the tar kettle case. The tar kettle case went on for years, and resulted in
new court rules established for this county.
Briefly, a shoe store (I think) was having a new roof put on. The guy who owned the tar
kettle parked it between the shoe store and the next store. The tar kettle caught on fire
and resulted in many thousands of dollars in damage. I can't remember now which side Bob
was representing. But the brief he submitted to the court was over 300 pages long -- we'd
worked on it for months -- and after it was submitted, the judge in the case made a rule
that after that time, no brief could be more than 100 pages.
I never did find out what happened in that case, but I sure learned an awful lot about
the quirks of tar kettles!
But Bob was an interesting character to work for. He epitomized the term "male
chauvenist pig." Oh, it was all very polite and things like that, but there are tales
of the secretaries he would chase around the "liberry" table. Whenever you had
to meet with him about anything, you would be called into the "liberry" with the
door closed. I suspect I escaped his attentions because of the amount of extra padding I
had. People didn't make a big stink about things like that then. I don't know that he'd
know what to do with someone if he actually caught her.
When he wanted to do something nice for an employee, he would never give cash. He would
send you to a store to pick out a nice outfit for yourself. Then you had to come in and
model it, give him the bill, and he'd pay for it.
He never tolerated chatter among the employees, "the girls" (he never thought
of us as women. even the women who were close to retirement age). It sounds like a nice
thing to do when you hear that whenever someone came back from a vacation, he would send
us all off for lunch, on his dime. Actually, the reason was that he'd rather pay for lunch
for 10 women than to have us exchange personal comments during the work day.
For some reason he let me get away with murder. I remember the day I told him
off. It was the day of his first grandchild's christening. Bob was at the
office (it was a Sunday--yes, he would call me to work on Sundays. The man worked 7
days a week), and he was grumbling a lot about how he had to go to the damn christening.
I finally couldn't take it any more and exploded. "This is your first
grandchild and this is a big day for your family. Now you GO to that christinening
and you SMILE!" And by golly, he did.
I didn't have regular hours. I was an on-call transcriptionist and the day I finally
told him "thanks, but no thanks" was the day he invited me to his house to give
me my assignment for the day. He was going to be in court all day and he was afraid that
in his absence the other "girls" might talk to each other. He wanted me to sit
in the office, pretend to work, and take down the name of everyone who made a personal
comment to anyone else. I told him I couldn't do that and I didn't work for him for a long
time after that, my choice.
I did go back to work for him briefly. I had started another on-call job with a typing
service and Bob asked me if I could work for him again, on call. I knew it was a mistake
from the get-go, but I said I'd do it (I was even worse about saying "no" in
those years than I am now). I lasted about three days. Being back in the
"liberry" and in that tomb-like environment under all his quirky rules just made
my skin crawl. I managed, somehow, to find the nerve to tell him I just couldn't do it any
more. When I walked out of the office, it was into a sunny day and I felt like I had just
had the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. I never worked for him again.
He supposedy "retired" several years ago, but as a workaholic, he could never
give up work completely, and so he kept his office open and did...who knows what...
Periodically I see him around town and we smile at each other. I never heard a word
from him after the kids died, though he always read the paper from cover to cover, so it's
unlikely that he would have been unaware of their deaths.
Tonight, out of blue there he was on my phone. Not so much as a "how are
you?" or a "what's new?" out of him. His life has been turned upside down,
he says, because his part time help had the nerve to fall in love and decide to get
married, so he's looking for someone who can work part time.
He gave me a long lecture about how he realized that most women either didn't want to
work ("they want someone to support them") or wanted a career. He was looking
for that rare woman who would be interested in only working part time, who might like a
little more money to put in her purse, etc. He hoped that I'd have some suggestion for
I listened politely and told him that I'd give it some thought. He told me that he
didn't want to insult me, but that if I found him someone, he wanted to pay me a finder's
When we hung up, I thought about it all right. For half a second. In the first place, I
really don't know anybody who is looking for a job, and in the second place, even
if I did, unless I really disliked that person a lot, there is no way I would subject her
to Bob, his liberry, and all of his quirks.
I'm afraid I'm never going to get that finder's fee.