by Mike Crawmer
A “working stiff”--for better or worse--works for a “boss.” He or she might be a supervisor, a manager, a leader, or (oh, horrors!) an editor. Some are good, some bad. I’ve worked for all types of bosses. Let me tell you about my “memorable” boss.
It was the second year of Gerald Ford’s unexpected presidency. Mr. G, a garrulous, hard-drinking Irishman from the old school of rough-and-tumble journalism, hired me to work as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., office of a New York City-based financial daily. A step up from my first job out of college, but still on the first or second rung of the journalistic career ladder. Still, the promise the job offered to jump start my career was great.
So what if my desk sat in the front room, where I sorted the mail, answered the phone, and acted as the first wave of defense against various characters and creditors. I also interviewed powerful committee chairmen on The Hill and evasive undersecretaries of the Treasury in their wood-paneled, high-ceilinged offices, and stood by in the East Room of the White House as Jerry Ford signed bills. Pretty heady stuff.
So what if the good assignments went to the other full-time reporter, who just happened to be Mr. G’s nephew. So what if I had to bar the boss’s door with my body against the knife-wielding cook from the downstairs restaurant. The mad-eyed cook was angry because Mr. G hadn’t followed through on a promise to sponsor a relative from Greece; now he threatened to use the rather large knife to separate the boss’s head from his body. It was all very exciting.
Eventually, though, I noticed that my assignments never changed. Then, Mr. G hired a third reporter—one with a background in finance—and I was still sitting in the front office. Hmmmm, not a good sign. But Mr. G never explained himself, or felt a need to. Still, I was surprised when, going through the mail from the home office on the Friday before Christmas, I counted only three year-end bonus checks. For our staff of five? That’s how I learned I was being laid off (along with Pam, a co-worker). For my last two weeks on the job, Mr. G remained holed up in his Eastern Shore home, sending in his copy through the mail and not answering our phone calls seeking an explanation.
Skip ahead about a year. I’m living a saner, if less financially secure, life in Pittsburgh. On a trip back to D.C. I bump into “the nephew” on the street. He fills me in on what had happened to the old office. Seems Pam and I were just the first two victims of a feud between the two generations of the family that owned the newspaper. A couple months after we were laid off, Mr. G was unceremoniously fired; a few months after that the D.C. office was shut down and the remaining staff thrown out onto the streets.
I don’t regret the experience, but I’m glad I had only one “memorable” boss in my life. Any in yours? Let’s hear about them.