Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sometimes it's Not the Crazy Looking Ones You Need Worry About

Since I've been in New York for over 6 years now, I've grown accustomed to the craziness of the city. In the past week alone, I've seen a woman putting a cigarette out on her tongue, an Asian man in his 40s standing on Ludlow dressed only in a polo shirt and tighty whities, and a middle-aged man in the vet's office sporting a tattoo on this calf of his dog's head and name.

It's easy to forget that with all the obvious colorful, over-the-top nonsense in New York City, sometimes the craziest people of all are the ones who look the most normal.

Here's what happened at work last week:

We hired someone new at my small PR firm about a month ago. My lawyer (my boyfriend) has advised me to change his name, so I'll call him "Chris" here. Chris was hired as a Senior Account Supervisor. When he interviewed with my boss, Sally, he told her that he had several other offers at bigger firms for a higher-level position with more money, but he really liked that we were small and represented non-profits. Sally was concerned that he might not be satisfied, so she was extremely honest with the way our firm worked and his role within it. He assured her that our firm was where he wanted to be. Chris was assigned to work on our two largest accounts. Along with our boss, I worked on one account with him (account A), and our colleague, Heather, worked on another (account B).

In an office as small as ours (8 people), everyone knows everyone's business and it soon became obvious that Chris was unhappy. He kept clashing with the owner of the firm, talking back to her rudely. He insisted he was so busy that he needed his own assistant (we all share one assistant--not even the owner has her own). And he never really shared any of his personal life with us. We knew he was gay, but that was about it. But I thought I had something figured out--after watching his (non) eating habits for a few weeks, I was pretty sure that he was a manorexic. He drank at least 2 cups of coffee a day, smoked, never ate breakfast or lunch, and the one day we had a lunch meeting, he literally ate 2 bites of a salad before throwing it in the trash. I was concerned for him (I told him I was going to Jewish grandmother him), but he insisted that he was fine.

He wasn't fine, at least, not work-wise. He wasn't delivering what he said he would, and after only two weeks, Sally had to have a lengthy chat with him. It seemed to do the trick, though, because suddenly he was on a roll--he got 2 major publications to commit to interviewing client A, and another major publication wanted to do a feature story about client B. We were so excited! Things seemed to be looking up.

Until last Monday.

On Monday morning, I ran into Sally in the elevator and we entered the office together, chatting about the weekend. I sat down at the computer and started going through my email and that's when I saw it: the email sent at 8:53 A.M. from Chris, the subject line "URGENT," with a red exclamation point highlighting the urgency.

He wrote: "Due to an extremely personal family situation that has just come up, I need
to leave indefinitely. I’m not comfortable sharing any further details at this time... Please
note that I will NOT be accessible via phone or email for the next several months. I have left everything in my office as is, and the keys are on my desk."

What. The. Fuck.

I ran into Sally's office. "Have you read your email?" I asked.

"No," she said, wondering why I looked frantic. "What email?

"The one from Chris marked urgent saying that he was quitting."

The color drained from her face.

"I'll leave you alone for a minute," I said backing out of her office.

I went back to read the email again. Who quits without giving notice? And over email? Not accessible via phone or email for several months? What kind of bullshit is this!?!

Within a few minutes, we were all buzzing about Chris' unexpected and disturbing email. What a fucking coward! What a fucking liar! We all gathered in Sally's office so she could read us the email (it was sent to her and the owner; only I was bcc'd). We all wondered why he would do this and how he thought we would buy the lamest excuse ever. Even if he was in Africa or climbing Everest, he could still be reached via phone or email. Several months, my ass.


"You know, I really think that he had an eating disorder. Maybe his parents staged an intervention on Father's Day."

"What?!" our Office Manager cried. "Girl, you watch too much tv."

"No, I'm serious! If he was in rehab he really wouldn't have access to phone or email. I mean, I'm not surprised that he quit, but who quits like this?"

"That totally makes sense," agreed Heather.

Our office manager just chided us for our naivete. "Are you kidding me? He left his keys here. His ass knew he wasn't coming back."

After we got over our shock, our office manager started the process of cleaning up Chris' mess. She changed passwords, called the building to get a new lock, and disconnected his email. Sally and Heather started looking through Chris' sent emails to find contact information for the interviews he had arranged, and that's when we realized things were much worse than we initially suspected.

1) When he wasn't emailing a client or a journalist, he changed his signature to say that we was the Vice President of the firm.
2) He started applying for jobs on his third day at our office, attaching a CV that claimed he was the Vice President.
3) The day he said he was at a doctor's appointment, he was really at a job interview.
4) There was no journalist contact for the 2 major publications who wanted to interview client A; not only did he not secure the interviews, but he never called or emailed anyone there.
5) The journalist who was going to write the feature story about account B? Not only did Chris never arrange an interview with the journalist, but he completely fabricated this person. No one by that name had ever written for the paper and we couldn't find any record of their existence.

Again: What. The. Fuck. He made up a journalist? He never secured the interviews he said were scheduled to happen? How could he lie to our faces? Didn't he think we would find out? He had already asked off for two weeks in September to take a trip to Turkey, he had already discussed long-term strategy with our clients--how could he make all these plans knowing that he wouldn't see their fruition?

Late on Monday afternoon, Sally emailed the company Chris had sent his CV to--she thought they should know that he misrepresented himself and left abruptly.

That night we left, still in awe at his audacity. Who was this person who worked with us for a month? This must be the kind of person who has two families or turns out to be a pedophile. Okay, fine--I do watch too much tv.

On Tuesday, we gathered in the morning for our weekly staff meeting. Obviously, everyone was preoccupied with Chris' departure. At 9:30, we got an update.

A woman from the company Chris had interviewed at called Sally in response to her email from the day before. Sally took the call in her office and returned to the meeting room after a few minutes, beaming.

"So that was Chris' new boss."

"What?!" we cried, hungry for more gossip.

"She told me she was so glad I emailed her yesterday because she had hired Chris to start working at 10am today."

Gasps filled the room.

"She said she couldn't possibly have someone on her staff who lied about who he was and she was going to have to fire him when he got in today." Sally thrust her fists in the air, looking vindicated.

"See, I told you he didn't go to rehab!" yelled our office manager.

"I didn't really think so, but just like 2% of me--the 2% of the Kansas girl in me wanted to believe that he wouldn't, couldn't just LIE like that."


And so, so crazy. But sometimes, it's not the crazy looking ones you need to worry about.


Blogger Michael said...

Sorry you had to go through that, because I know what it's like working in a small office and having people do work and then pick up and leave without notice - it sucks.

But that was a great post, I was riveted to the end.

12:23 PM, July 02, 2007


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