My mother was ecstatic about the engagement. We were planning to get married once she completed her residency to become a doctor was finished but that did not stop my mother from planning. She estimated her residency would be finished in 2 years as she was in an accelerated program and did some of the work during her last 4 years.
My mother was more exited than us. She was telling me who to invite to the wedding. Relatives and friends I don’t remember. Everyone in the family was happy.
On the other hand Rosa’s family was indifferent. Her father was fine with it but her mother who had a problem with me. Her mother was upset about the wedding. At first Rosa said she expected me to marry a doctor or someone who was a professional. That excuse was good but it bothered her too much for it to be just that. I pressed her for more. I asked her what her mother said.
She finally broke down and told me what her mother’s problem with me was.
Surprising it was a race issue. Her mother expected her to marry someone who was “fairer” than I was. The shocking thing was that her mother was dark skinned and her father was white. Her father and I got along fine. He taught me about baseball.
At the time we started going out, her mother treated me really good when they use to visit. It was fine when I was “the boyfriend”. It reminded me of the class and race system in Jamaica that was very subtle but still there. I did not realize it until I came to America and my sensitivity to race became heightened by my experience. It was a hidden rule that you don’t marry someone outside your class and even your race. I remember a few of my Chinese, fair skinned and white friends who dated a dark skinned black person but now they are married to someone of their “class” or someone of their “race”. If you are rich that trumps the class and race. The motto was “you can date my daughter for now but she must marry someone in her class or race”.
Rosa was hurt but her father told her not to worry about it. He told her that her mother would get over it. He explained that he had a similar experience when he married her mother. His parents wanted him to marry someone white.
There was no winning her over. Rosa was extremely disappointed. I felt bad for her but I cared more about what was going to happen for me.
I had a sense of relief I never had before. A date I could look forward to. It was the happiest feeling I had in years. Yes it was years away but I had hope. No more hiding in the shadows. A day would come when I could visit Jamaica.
The thought of a green card in my future gave me a new boldness to look for a job. I felt I could take a chance with the papers I had because I would eventually have legitimate ones.
I landed a new job within 2 months with a Medical data processing center. I would have weekends off.
It was a management position. I probably should not have been given the position with no real managerial experience but I “stretched the truth” in my resume. I wanted it to show I managed people in the past. Terms like “supervise the inventory team” really meant “I showed people how to stack shelves when the inventory was low”.
I was getting a salary. No more punching a clock as an hourly paid worker. There would be five people reporting to me. My team was one of the many teams that entered the data from paper forms that came in from the field. We had a quota to meet each week and every month. I was responsible for making sure we met that quota.
I was ecstatic about the new job. So was Rosa. I think it took a weight off her to know that I was now a manager. Even though she may not have said it I always felt like she would be ashamed to say she was engaged to a stock boy at a wholesale club. I also believe she thought it would pacify her mother.
I got some personal satisfaction resigning from BJ’s wholesale club. I was not prepared for what would happen next. My manager realized how valuable I was and offered me a promotion and raise. It would be a salary and I would make more than the new job.
I was torn. I could not go back on my word at the new job but I loved the familiarity at BJ’s. It came down to the principle of the situation. They had their opportunity. I did everything to get promoted and more. They did not promote me while I was there so it was time to move on.
When word got out I was leaving people were shocked. I was a mainstay there. Some of my co-workers wished me well. Others came over and secretly asked if the company I was going to was hiring and gave me their phone number. They told me not to forget them if I hear about a job.
The most difficult good bye was my “sistren” Tami. She took it hard. She cried when I told her. I was surprised she took it this hard as she and I were also friends outside of work. In fact we did a double date twice. Her boyfriend was a real comedian and Rosa and I enjoyed the double date. We planned to do it again Tami talked about me showing her the ropes and how much fun we had at the job. She was very sentimental. I had forgotten about Tami’s flirting incident with me a while back however her reaction to me leaving brought the memory back. They had a going away party for me in the lunch room. She called in sick that day.
I had to get a new wardrobe for work. It was corporate America. I had to wear a dress shirt and tie.
The first day on the new job went well. I had to meet with Human Resources and do a few short training sessions. By day three I was in full work mode.
I had a small office. My team had cubicles just outside my office. I could hear everything they were doing. It was good as they worked harder knowing I was close by. It was also bad because of the conversations I would overhear from my team. I could not stop them from talking as long as it did not impede their work and the work environment. I got to know them on a professional level by our work interactions and on a personal level by the conversations they had while working.
Abaven was a 20 year old Turkish born student who was only working there to get through school at night. I liked him He was personable and I learned a lot about Turkey from him. He told me about his Armenian heritage and its ties to Christianity. He told me about his family fleeing Armenia in the early 1900’s due to a war there. He mentioned that Armenians were targeted just like Jews in Germany. His family went to Turkey to escape the war. He was very proud of his Armenian heritage. He was a hard worker and very focused. His goal however was to finish school.
Vaneesha, was a black American lady in her 40’s. She was originally from Mississippi. She was a very religious woman. Her cube was decorated with religious items. She was quiet and got her work done. She was very efficient. She was like a mother figure dishing out advice occasionally. She also loved to bake. On Monday’s she would bring her “Sunday Bakings” in. It would be devoured before noon. I remember thinking that these people were worse than “john crows”. That was until I had a slice of her cake.
Michael was a gay Puerto Rican about 25 years old. He was flamboyant and talkative. Michael was always dressed nicely and the ladies would constantly compliment him. He constantly distracted the team with his stories about his life. He would talk about the men he was dating. I remember one day overhearing him talk about his sex life. I remember him talking about piercing a “male” body party that would make any man “cringe” like they were kicked in between the legs. He would have a difficult time in Jamaica because of how flamboyantly gay he was. People in Jamaica know who is gay. They just don’t like it in their face. There are some famous gay people in Jamaica that everyone “whisper” about but don’t say anything publicly because they are no flamboyant. Michael’s favorite expressions were “You go girl” and “work it baby”.
Rachel was a white American girl who was 19. She was beautiful and had the complimentary figure to go along with her looks. She dressed in tight clothing. She was fresh out of high school and was satisfied with going to work. College was not for her she declared a few time. She was the female version of Michael. She smoked like a chimney. She was very bossy and was “Miss Know it all”. She loved to shock people or get a step ahead of everyone. I remember overhearing a conversation about race that Michael started. He proclaimed…..
“Once you go Black, you can’t go back”. He dated black guys.
Rachel then proceeded to debunk the sexual myths of black men. She said she wanted to see if it was true and slept with a black guy. She proclaimed the myth was just that. Black men are no bigger or better than white men. She loved to spread rumors.
She loved country music and I had to talk to her about bringing a radio to work and blasting 99.9 Country FM. She lived in a city called Davie which was rumored to be the home of the KKK in South Florida. I had driven through that town once. There were horses on the regular road along with cars, people in cowboy hats, ranches and country style signs everywhere. They even had rodeos.
Carlos was of Cuban decent. He was about 30 years old. He was a very hard worker. Michael hated him because he was Cuban. In my early years living here I learned about the tension between Cubans and the other Hispanic groups. The Cubans “run tings” in Miami and all the other Hispanics did not like it. The Puerto Ricans especially thought the Cubans were “uppity” and looked down on other Hispanic. There was genuine hatred between these groups.
All the girls in the other areas loved Carlos. He knew it but did not abuse it. He would offer to stay late if needed. He was a real team player. I was always planning activities for the team to do together. Occasionally they went to Happy Hour on a Friday. I never joined them.
In the beginning I absolutely loved the idea I was managing people. I soon realized that managing people is very difficult. I was beginning to regret “fixing” my resume.
I don’t have children but I think managing people is like that. They complained. They needed encouragement. They told on each other. They talked about each other. They fought. They cussed. They spread rumors. They gossiped. They back bite. Some of my team members were just “bad mind”.
Con’t on next page
I knew who my number one problem child would be from day one. It would be Rachel. She gossiped and talked to the other teams. When I started, I set up a system that would assure us meeting our numbers each week. We were constantly the top team for the first few months I was there. Everyone on the team loved it because it meant we got prizes and other incentives. Our winning streak came to an abrupt end. The other teams caught up. I soon learned Rachel told them about our system. Apparently she and a few of the women on the other team are “smoke buddies”. She had also made the rounds with a few of the men on these other teams.
Vaneesha walked into my office livid one day. I had never seen her that angry before. She was always level headed and jovial. She had a complaint against Rachel. Their cubicles were beside each other. She was distracting her from work with her constant personal calls. She said the calls were sometimes sexual in nature and she would not be subjected to this at work. She said if I did not address it she would go to HR. I spoke to Rachel and she stopped.
Linda, another team manager approached me and told me to keep Rachel out of his area. She was disrupting Linda’s team and the provocative clothing she wore was inappropriate. This got me really upset. Lindsey was one of the few team managers I got along with. She helped me tremendously when I started by showing me the ropes. We became friends and often bounced ideas off each other even though we had competing teams. I was not going to allow Rachel to destroy this alliance.
I called Rachel in my office.
“Rachel, can you explain why you have been spending time with Linda’s team when you have a stack of work here”
“I needed assistance with one of the screens and no one on our team knew how to do it” she was taking a stab at our team. I know Carlos could probably have helped her. He knew the system inside out. Abaven also could have helped but he had the day off.
“And Carlos was at lunch”, she added.
It was like she knew I was going to ask about Carlos.
“Why did you not come to me?” I asked.
“You were in a meeting that Tuesday”, she replied masterfully placing the blame on me. She continued, “I had to get it done so we could meet our daily quota so I went to another team who I knew experienced this problem”.
She was good at excuses. She knew the buttons to push. I had heard rumors of her being able to manipulate any situation to her advantage. She even bragged to the other team members of how she played the men she dated to get just about anything.
There was nothing I could do. She had it all covered. I think she timed everything when she knew Carlos was at lunch and I was in a meeting.
“I know you want to meet the quota but in the future do not go into another teams area without my permission or that team manager’s permission. If you have to wait for Carlos to return, then do that.” I said sternly.
“Okay sir”, she looked like she really regretted it but I had seen this act before. She used sir just to make me feel like the “big boss”.
She continued, “I only want what is best for the team. I am so sorry for messing up”.
It was an Oscar performance.
“Thanks, Rachel” I replied beckoning her to get back to work.
“Sure, It will never happen again she replied. Then while walking out the door she said something very suggestive and swung her hips.
“You know I will do anything for the team”
She said it loudly enough that the rest of the team would hear.
I heard Michael say “You go girl” as she sat down at her cube.
These were just the warning shots. I knew a war was brewing and it did not take long.
Rosa realized how stressful the job had become. I was easily agitated and our conversation was always focused on what happened at work today. It would be what Rachel or Michael did today? I think she was tired of hearing about them. She kept hinting that I should look for another job. I wanted to spend at least a year in “management”. It would look better on my resume. I also had concerns about changing jobs while we were saving for our wedding.
Sue also realized the job was overwhelming me. I used to tell her about what happened there. She was especially interested in Michael and his flamboyancy. It made her laugh. We use to have regular conversations about the people at work till one day she told me “Stop telling me bout dem mad people at yuh job”.
I don’t know that it was her that wanted to stop hearing but her new “boy toy” Jermaine was not happy with the homosexual topic. He was her man of the moment when “Sidney the boops” was in Jamaica taking care of his business.
I remember the first time he heard me talking to Sue about Michael. She asked how was my day at work and did Michael do anything outrageous. It happened to be a day he did say some outrage things about gay men hygiene having things in common with feminine hygiene.
He was in shock.
He wanted to know why I did not find a way to fire the “b****man”. He went on about how we Jamaican have become so accepting of “b****manism”. I think this is when Sue changed her mind and did not want to hear about my stories at work.
The missile was finally fired and the war broke out.
Rachel was late for work 4 days in a row. She was taking more smoke breaks than normal. Some said her reeked of alcohol. She was gossiping more. She was cursing more and being disruptive.
It was time to write her up. I also had the option of suspending her for a few days from work.
I needed advice from HR on how to handle it. They told me to stick to the facts. Do not say anything personal.
It was late Friday afternoon when I called her in.
I started to explain to her why she was called in. Before I could finish she started to cry. She was being abused by a new boyfriend and that is why she was late and stressed. There was a faint smell of alcohol on her breath.
“He is abusing me physically”, she pulled up the sleeve of her blouse to show me a black and blue mark.
I was caught off guard. I did not know what to do.
I gave her a box of tissues to dry her eyes.
My manager training from college came back to me. I explained that I felt bad for her but I still had to write her up because the time clock will still show she was late. This is when she went into a tirade.
“I can’t believe you are doing this to me. I am the only person on the team who works their but off to assure we are at the top. None here cares more about their job than I do.” She shouted.
I was thinking to myself Carlos does.
“Be very careful of the people you trust or your think is loyal. Carlos who you give all the breaks is a racist. He calls black people n***ers.”
I was shocked.
She saw the look on my face and went in for the kill.
“Yes, your dear Carlos is a racist. I went to lunch with him and he mentioned that his sister lost her job because of affirmative action and the n***ers in Miami. He said it is just like what Fidel did in Cuba”
I had to hold my composure. I did recall Carlos saying his sister lost her job but he did not give a reason why. He asked if I could hire her if there was an opening.
“Rachel, I still need you to sign here to acknowledge receipt of this notice” I was trying to complete the write up process.
“No. I will not,” she walked out the door.
I was in shock. Was Carlos a racist? Was it really true? There were rumors that she tried to seduce Carlos but got no where. Could I believe a rejected woman? She was drinking and they say drunks tell the truth. Some of the facts she gave were believable. His sister lost here job. I have heard many white Cubans do not like black people because Castro took from the rich white to give to all. You hardly saw black Cubans protesting Castro. You never saw them on the boats trying to get to Miami. There is no way to prove Carlos was a racist or no way to prove he was not a racist. I always hear the term they live amongst us but we never know. How can I manage a racist team member? Was Carlos working this hard to get my job? He is my hardest worker. If I lose him the whole team loses.
Should I confront him?
I have no facts so it made no sense to confront him. He was my right hand man. I meet with the team weekly but also with him separately. We would meet to discuss the goals for the week. He was a trusted confidant. How could I look him in the eyes without doubts? Could I tell Human Resources about this? That probably would not work because Rachel had to back-up the story. Who could I talk to about it?
The weekend was a drag. I was not looking forward to Monday but I could not get the whole incident and racism revelation off my mind. It did not help that it was a weekend when Rosa’s parents were in town. I could not talk to Rosa about the situation. I am sure her mother felt slighted by the many things I did not do to show my respect. I was not in the mood to “woo” anyone especially her racist mother who does not like being black.
I have never lost sleep about a job but I did that weekend.
Monday morning I got in extra early. I needed some time to think. I also wondered if there were clues in Carlos’ cubicle. I walked by it and looked around. No smoking gun.
I also knew I had to take care of Rachel. She had the option not to sign. I know there was a next step and needed to meet with HR about it. I walked back in my office preparing my paperwork to go to HR. Someone was at the door.
“Can I come in”, it was Gary the director, my boss. He was the entire team mangers boss.
“I understand you had a situation with Rachel, last week”
“Yes” I replied.
“She came to my office this morning”.
Again she is trying to be ahead of the game.
“Yes, we have decided to assign her to Tom’s team”
I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I wanted to scream “What?”
“She is a good worker and just having some issues”
A pretty face and a nice body always seem to win out. It also helps that there was a rumor she and Tom were once “close” friends. Tom is married with children.
I went back to business mode trying to recover from everything that just happened.
“Okay, but I am going to one person down. How can I meet this week’s quota?”
“You can hire someone. I think Carlos has a sister that is looking for work. He mentioned it to me the other day. Bring her in for an interview”
It was a knock out. I was down for the count with the second blow. Welcome to corporate America!
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