Sunday, November 13, 2005

Book Monkey Theater Presents: Cap'n Neurotic in "Spammer-Girl and the Instant Message of DOOM!"

Well, I promised a Book Monkey post this weekend, so let's talk about one of the more upsetting workplace experiences I've had in my life: my encounters with Spammer-girl.

Spammer-girl could almost be described as the Anti-Flunky: she never met an email she didn't like, and subsequently forward on to everyone she knew. Spammer-girl's forwarding activities were a long-standing joke in the unit, but only amongst each other, never to her. And that, of course, was where the problem began. For you see, on one fine day, when another co-worker was out of town, Spammer-girl asked if I could help her out with some of the increased workload. I, being in a job which often found me searching for ways to occupy myself, was more than happy to help out. Now, over the years, my memory of the event may have been compromised by my love of hyperbole, but I'm pretty sure that no sooner had I gotten back to my desk after being asked for help, than I suddenly received several forwarded emails from you know who. Barely thinking, I sent off an instant message to The Mag which basically said "Oh, sure, she can't get her work done but she can forward me a zillion emails." Like I said, I love me some hyperbole. Now, the driving emotion behind me message was not one of anger, but one of amusement; the timing of the emails' arrival struck me as just too funny not to comment on, so I instantly sent off a message to The Mag, who I knew would appreciate it; have I mentioned before that I’m a bit of a smartass? So, yeah, I sent the message to The Mag . . . or, at least, I meant to send it to The Mag: instead, a slip of the mouse had me sending it to Spammer-girl herself.

The next few minutes are all a little blurry due to the intense state of panic that ensued, but I'm pretty sure I realized what had happened before she responded. I no longer remember the exact wording of the following online exchange, although I do remember my saying "Please don't kill me" in an attempt to lighten the situation, and her basically threatening to cause me great physical harm if I didn't pay her friend back the money I owed her for a movie ticket the night before. A few minutes later she stormed out of the office to cool down, at which point I walked over to Rebel Monkey and informed her of my impending doom, so that she could notify my next of kin of the idiotic events leading up to my demise. I started to feel sick to my stomach at the thought of having a possible face-to-face confrontation (me no likey confrontation), and soon said "screw this" and left work early. If memory serves, I was so upset and discombobulated that I actually went over to G'ovich's place to hang out and relax, so you know it was bad.

The worst thing about the situation was this: it was all my fault. I was the one who was making jokes about someone behind their back, and who had inadvertently let it slip in front of the target of the joke. Again, there was no maliciousness intended, but that's pretty hard to convince someone of after you've been caught red-handed. I like to think that if I had made a similar comment directly to her, softened by an emoticon, things would have been okay. But that sneaky, behind-the-back snarking set me up for a fall, so I had to deal with the consequences. And yes, there were consequences.

The biggest consequence was Spammer-girl's influence with the student workers. You see, at this point in time I was still relatively new to my role as Lending Supervisor, the first supervisory position I'd ever held; most of the more experienced students (including Ang and Bubblegum Tate) had left by that point, and I was forced to deal with a workforce primarily comprised of newbies. Trying to make sure that everyone was properly trained was difficult in and of itself; trying to do so once Spammer-girl started commiserating with the remaining experienced students and fermenting rebellion among them was even more so; it soon became obvious that every time they would notice a newbie doing something wrong they would not complain to me, but to Spammer-girl; suddenly I was the clueless boss who was running the unit into the ground. I tried to address the problem with the students directly, not wanting to throw any fuel on the fire, and just tried to drum it into their heads that it was really hard for me to correct problems if they didn't tell me about them.

I soon discovered that she wasn’t just talking me down to the students; on one of my night shifts, when there was only one of my more sympathetic student workers and a fellow staffer in the office with me, my co-worker made some comment about an email Spammer-girl had sent out about me; I expressed confusion, at which point she started dying laughing, saying "You didn't know about this?" She then opened up her email, and let me read the email that Spammer-girl had sent off to most of my co-workers, in which she told them all that they needed to make sure that all Lending questions went to me, and not to my assistant, since my assistant was drowning in work, and I just let her do it all, and she was too nice to say anything, and so they should make sure that I was forced to deal with it and not her since it was my job, and so on, and so forth.

Felt some conflicting emotions reading it. On the one hand, the fact that the co-worker who showed it to me was laughing about it showed me that not everyone took it seriously, which was a relief; however, there was still that fear that maybe my assistant had been taking on too much and just didn't want to say anything. Now, it's worth noting that the Send To list did not include my assistant, so she was as clueless about it as I was. Who was my assistant at the time? None other than Rebel Monkey, who I had become fairly good friends with by that point. I had that sinking feeling in my gut that I was being a jerk to a friend without realizing it, so the next day I asked her about it; she assured me that everything was fine, that the email was blowing things way out or proportion.

From that point on, I tried to keep a sense of humor about the situation; I remember a cookout for library employees where I was sitting with several students and staff who were talking about a really funny email; when I wasn’t joining in, one of the staff members from a different unit made a comment, and I said that I hadn’t gotten it; she gave me a puzzled look, when one of the students from my office went “Oh! That’s right; you don’t get forwards anymore!” At which point all of the people from my office who were sitting there burst into laughter, while those from other offices merely looked puzzled. Once again, I was happy to entertain others with my pain.

Eventually, the feud died off; whether I was able to somehow redeem myself in her eyes without knowing it, or whether it was just that one of my other co-workers ticked her off more than I did and thus became the new target of her wrath, I don't know; I'm leaning more towards the latter. We were never on really great terms from then on, but at least we finally were able to be cordial to each other.

Over the years, numerous people have asked me why I didn't say something to my boss; I suppose it was a mixture of my fear of confrontation, and embarrassment over the fact that, in the end, it was all my fault to begin with: I'd been caught talking about someone behind their back so, even if I felt persecuted for a while, I couldn't in good conscience play the role of wronged party.