Before moving to Switzerland, I was working in a unionized police job (for any who don’t know me well, please don’t get any delusions that I was a police officer. I held a decidedly less glamourous and exciting — though still “essential,” meaning that I had to work holidays and wacky hours — post at this department).
If you have also worked in a unionized work environment, you might have encountered a certain type of individual, who is…how can I put this…encrusted. I think that’s the word I want. This person started working for this organization when they were 18, say, and now they’re in their fifties, a few years from retirement. They are entrenched. Ah, there’s an even more satisfying word.
If you are a twenty-something, Gen-Y individual, one who has gone to university for too many years, with the unfortunate end result that you think that it is acceptable to, I don’t know, ask questions about why things are done the way they are, or suggest a more efficient way of doing something, you will not get along with this individual, who is so…militant. (Oh, these words are working some cathartic magic).
I’m probably exaggerating the scale of antagonism, here. I didn’t have any major blow-outs with this woman, who I’m going to call, for the sake of this post, Penny Sue (far enough away from her real name). I know it would be great blog fodder if I had a story about how I finally stood up to her and said, “Penny Sue…today I’m going to staple this document the way I like, instead of using your prescribed stapling method. That’s right, I’M TAKING A STAND!” (Okay: we didn’t actually disagree about stapling things, but imagine something equally asinine).
Oh, I could dream of a Jerry MacGuire-esque scene in which the whole office turned to watch as I, a female David in shiny pennyloafers, slayed the giant, bellicose Penny Sue.
But that didn’t happen. Penny Sue didn’t work in my exact unit, so there were few opportunities to hash things out. I should also mention that she disliked my unit in its entirety, and not just me. But still, when I sensed that (pugnacious) Penny Sue didn’t like me (based on a few clues such as the rude e-mails she sent about my “mistakes,” comments she made to my supervisor, and her inability to say anything nice to me), I did what I always do in such situations: I tried to make her like me.
That’s right — I tried to kill (discordant) Penny Sue with kindness.
I labored over my e-mails to her, making sure that they were as polite and respectful as could be. I smiled at her when I passed her desk. I even voted for her in one of our office’s costume contests, though her costume was not remotely the best. (Naturally, she didn’t win.)
The result of all my pleasantries? Well, I hate to tell you how harsh the world can be. But the truth is that Penny Sue still hated me. She was always going to hate me. (Because she was set in her ways).
But then Easter came around. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I often had to work on holidays — Easter Sunday of 2010 was one of these. Penny Sue, being more established in the organization, did not have to work. But I had occasion to tell her something on that Sunday, and I wasn’t going to remember it by the time she was back in the office on Tuesday. Cursing the connection between her section and mine, I crafted an e-mail to her — possibly my kindest yet.
And then I returned to my work, but no sooner than I did that, I got a return e-mail from (absent) Penny Sue. I eagerly opened it. It was an autoreply that she’d set up. It said something like this:
I am currently on weekend and holiday leave. I will return to the office on Tuesday, April 13 at 9 am, and will respond to your message as soon as possible thereafter.
But below that, in large font (which I apparently can’t reproduce here, but please try to imagine) it also said:
Have a hoppy Easter!
And there were images of bunnies frolicking, and some other Easter-themed stuff. I’m telling you, it was magical! I’d found the warm side of Penny Sue! She was wishing me a happy holiday! We were having a good moment, Penny Sue and I — never mind that she wasn’t there to witness it. I really felt the love from (suddenly benevolent) Penny Sue.
It was, in effect, an Easter Miracle.
And because I still bask in the glow of this love, I’d like to pass some of it on to you, dear Reader. Because you’re constantly here, checking in with me, reading and validating the (often mundane) stories of my life. Because I feel close to you, even though most of you are far away. And because I know you’d let me staple the document however I wanted, and might even listen to my explanation as to why I think it’s sensible to do it that way.
Because of this, and everything else that you are to me…
I wish you a hoppy, hoppy Easter — the hoppiest of your life.
P.S. I’ll thank you in advance for trying to wish me a happy birthday (those of you who normally try to reach me for such an occasion). I’m twenty-nine and doin’ fine, but I’m also going to be incommunicado today, as we train our way to the Cinque Terre. You’ll get the full scoop on our vacation next week. Ciao!