This is a pictureless blog today. The incident I'm relating is so traumatic that there are no photos in my collection that would work. I haven't taken pictures of a disaster as it was happening. Nor have I taken pictures of the ruins of blackened buildings.
So today, let you mind provide the pictures. Let yourself walk with me in those final hours at that place. Let yourself feel my pain and hurt. Cry with me.
To those who have been vicariously walking with me through abusive workplace situation #1, it is clear, very clear, that I've been procrastinating.
Because I know the end is not only near but unavoidable.
And this time around, I know all too painfully well how it ended - and what the aftermath was.
I haven't known how to approach the situation. How to build up to it. How to let the narrative flow.
Maybe that's been the problem.
Maybe I should just begin with the brutality of the end - and then go backwards from there.
Did my contract end or was I fired?
I'll never know.
On March 30th, 2005 at 1:15 in the afternoon, I met with my supervisor 2 up to "review" my situation. This was in response to a formal complaint against my supervisor who was on maternity leave. I had forwarded the 2up a copy of the complaint as a courtesy before sending it on to HR. Big mistake.
I thought she had integrity - because she said she did. But really what is integrity? It is simply the following of a standard. Which standard is not clear. In retrospect, definitely not the one I adhere to.
I went into this meeting thinking there was still a chance. Thinking the air would be cleared.
Still hopeful. Ever hopeful.
First clue that something was amiss: the maternity leave replacement supervisor was there. I protested. In vain.
It turned out this meeting was not to talk about anything, not to clear the air, but to give me the ax. I was told that my contract would not be renewed because they wanted to convert my job to being bilingual. They also wanted me to clear out my desk and leave immediately because of "emotional". I asked if I would be allowed to say good-bye to my colleagues and was told I would. Naively, I believed her.
After the 2up left, I got my first inclination that things were not as they seemed. First, I was not allowed to go to the washroom and wash my face to erase the tears. I was not allowed to move freely - or even not so freely - around the workplace. I was led into my cubicle by the mat leave supervisor and was told to give her all my written instructions and tell her what was left to do. I was not allowed to touch the keyboard or the phone. I was not even allowed to call my daughter to tell her I was coming home. I was not allowed to talk with anyone. She watched me like a hawk while I opened the desk drawers and pulled out the few personal items it held.
While my co-workers in the office cowered behind their desks.
Anticipating that this would indeed be my last day, I had not only brought in donuts and a card for the distribution workers whom I had grown close to, but also had cards for my co-workers in the office. Since I put the first card and the donuts on a table in the break room at the beginning of my work day, there wasn't anything the supervisors could do about that, but I was not allowed to give out the cards I had made for my co-workers. I was not even allowed to put them in their mail slots. I was not allowed to talk to anyone.
I felt so embarrassed. So humiliated. So worthless.
I had seen several contracts end over my two year plus tenure in that office, but never had I witnessed one ending like mine did. For some, there had been parties. For others, at least the opportunity to freely walk around and say good-bye.
What happened to me was not their normal procedure.
Why was I treated so differently?
Again, I'll never know. I have my suspicions, but I'll never know for sure.
At one point, I again attempted to protest by saying to the mat leave supervisor: "You don't have to do it like this" to which she replied that in another work situation she'd been in they had an employee who was being terminated and started uttering threats and they called the police. She said, "and that took care of that." I took that as a very thinly veiled threat. Shut up. Don't protest. Or I'll call the police. And that will be that. Having the police involved was the last thing I needed or wanted that day. I was already mortified enough.
I just wanted ... well ... to be honest I'm not sure what I wanted. To be treated with dignity and respect? To be allowed to leave without a cloud over my head? To be given the honour and value I deserved?
Instead, my supervisor walked me out dumping me like yesterday's refuge at the back door of the plant.
So I picked myself up (figuratively speaking) off the asphalt and walked off into my "new" life. Still not completely aware of what had just happened. The finality. The cruelty. Not aware, that although the situation was "over" in one sense, that it would never really be over for me. That this would leave scars and injury I'm still working through years later.