The boss I loved and hated resembled Albert Einstein with a tan.
Thanks to Clinique bronzer.
Okay, so I didn’t actually hate him. It just took me a super long time to forgive him after he made me weep in front of the whole staff.
I don’t cry easily, but he could be vicious. “That won’t happen again,” I promised myself later that day as I lipsticked my mad mouth.
The incident taught me a valuable life lesson, the key to changing bad behavior:
Negative behavior without negative consequences will never stop.
I learned this principle after performing an experiment on my boss. The next time he was hateful to me, I was mean right back. And it worked.
Within an hour he brought me a peace offering: Hot cocoa. In a bone china cup. With Walker shortbreads.
And that’s not all. He returned from lunch that day with an additional white flag, except it was black: a beautiful beaded vintage purse. Miss Fran of Miss Fran’s What Not Shop around the corner must’ve told him I had my eye on it.
Not long after, my boss began inviting me to social events. Maybe because:
I possessed the knack of looking “just right,” no matter the occasion.
FYI, my knack was not without effort. On my lunch hours I read Vogue and Elle to make sure I received an approving nod, not an eye roll, when my boss came down downstairs every morning at nine on the dot.
He didn’t bat an eye the Monday I arrived at the office with a new hairdo. Over the weekend I’d been a model in a hair show. The stylist—a cross between Edward Scissorhands and Conan the Barbarian—shaped my hair like a Christmas wreath. Right after he colored it brake light red.
“Red hair is all the rage in Paris,” I informed my employer. He nodded like he knew the trend before I did.
My boss was not the only bully in the office.
His 120-pound purebred dog was a tyrant, too. If he wanted your lunch, or your Walker shortbread, you moved out of the way. In the three years I worked at the firm, he bit every employee except me.
I had my boss’s furry best friend figured out. Whenever the designers left the office, I threw a Milk-Bone in the back of his crate. As soon as he lumbered in, I slid the lock shut with a yard stick.
Because of his upscale clientele, my boss was a celebrity in our town. And his giant dog too. The newspaper often ran pictures of the two of them. Usually at my boss’s parties.The dog attended all of my boss’s soirees.
No one peeped the time the pup sidled up to the buffet, propped his chin on the table, and inhaled an entire pate.
Everyone tittered behind their fingers when the dog peed for five minutes straight, in the dining room, right beside the baby grand piano. The stream ran downhill because the floors of the early 1800s townhouse weren’t level. Everyone simply stepped aside when the pee creek trickled their way.
Once I earned my boss’s respect, working as the office manager in his upscale interior design firm became my favorite job ever. Perhaps because:
My boss was the most creatively brilliant man I’ve ever known.
Everywhere you turned in his brownstone, you noticed something beautiful, interesting, or unique.
For instance, he’d hang striped wallpaper so the stripes ran left-right, instead of up-down. The walls of his parlor he covered with beautifully woven scarlet tablecloths found on sale at Big Lots.
One Christmas he paid the staff to paint with purple nail polish every bulb on dozens of Christmas light strands to achieve the precise hue he was aiming for.
Using mayonnaise, he taught me how to shine ivy leaves so they look pretty on a cheese tray.
Trash-picking was another skill he shared with me. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can find some pretty neat stuff on the curb.
At the end of my second year, my boss became generous with me, as if:
He was the Grinch and his heart grew a couple of sizes.
From time to time he sent me home with boxes of outdated fabric samples, some worth $100 a yard.
Since he and I were the same size, he offered me his old Ralph Lauren sports coats, the ones from Saks Fifth Avenue. I still wear the red and black buffalo plaid jacket with suede elbow patches and leather-covered buttons. Paired with a black turtleneck and skinny jeans, it makes a tres chic ensemble.
My boss took Tony and me to our first opera. When I teared up over an aria, he pressed his handkerchief into my hand.
He also invited us to our first ball. My boss’s eyes bugged when Tony and I entered the ballroom he’d decorated to resemble ancient Egypt. I wore a sheer, black beaded sheath from the 1920s. The dress had a nude lining, but if the lighting was low and you glanced at me real quick, you might think…
One afternoon my boss handed me tickets to the ballet. The next week, when he asked how I liked it, I had to fib. I actually slept through the performance, a ballet version of the Anne Frank story. I was full from dinner. All the dancers wore gray scrubs. The soft, sad music droned on and on. And on.
The day I called to tell him I was quitting to stay home with our first child, he said I was doing the right thing.
He even threw me a baby shower. Once all the ladies arrived, though, he insisted our conversation not include any labor and delivery details.
On my last day at the office, he said how much he’d miss me. And he did. He kept asking me to come back to train my replacements. Who never lasted long. Because they didn’t know the trick to changing bad behavior.
And now, as I walk through our home today, I notice so many things from my boss. Drapes (in two rooms), throw pillows, a soup tureen shaped like a giant eggplant, an armoire. My black beaded purse. Items he gave me and things he sold me at a really good price. He was, after all, German. Just like Albert Einstein.
Note: I hope you enjoyed this story. I’m helping my mom with health issues right now and didn’t have time to research and write something new.