Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Meet Marsha

Tuesday was a very mixed bag of weather, but it was toasty warm. I spent the day indoors, though, studying ASL, doing domestic errands and researching recipes. Plus, I had a signing session with Cathy, and I put a menu together for Saturday night when Peter and Ali come to visit. And I got in touch with Joanne, the dietician Dr. Shoja referred me to, and we’re all set to go. I have my first session with her this afternoon and on Thursday I will start my FODMAP diet (which may change my Saturday night menu).

Here's another writing exercise: Meet Marsha.

As Marsha ate her granola, she wished that she was eating nails instead. And, that she could store them, like a hamster, in a pouch in her mouth, and had the ability to spit them out, at warp speed, at certain people at work.  

Marsha was liked or, at worst, tolerated by everyone, and she knew it. She didn’t say anything when Tom or Warren virtually repeated her suggestions word-for-word from department meetings to the bosses at management meetings. And she didn’t object when Sue-Anne and Kris diminished her as they maneuvered for leadership of the Nova Scotia project even though everyone knew she was the most qualified to lead.

She worked hard at being nice, but it came at a price. The things people like Warren and the Kris did and said, filled her with rage, and that made her sometimes overreact at rude strangers or bad drivers. And whenever she did that, she’d feel overwhelmed with shame and regret when she got home and into bed. Being nice, she thought, might have turned her into a milquetoast.

She often thought of quitting her job, but she knew that wasn’t the answer. There were assholes everywhere. And she knew that going to HR wouldn’t do any good either. It would make her the centre of controversy. She wouldn’t even tell Janice, her closest friend at work, because she didn’t want to appear weak. Besides, she wasn’t convinced she could trust Janice. You couldn’t really trust anyone at Hills and Brandt.  

Her call to action came one day when she got an email, circulated to the whole creative team, in which Sue-Anne listed who was going to be on their team for the lakeshore project. She wasn’t going to even be an advisor—not even for aerodynamic testing. It was time, she knew, to do something, to become visible and heard at H&B.

A couple of weeks later, in a department meeting, she proposed an approach to a serious engineering challenge that was part of the developing Nova Scotia prospectus—a pulp mill in Nova Scotia. Everyone thought her idea was brilliant—especially Todd and Warren who said that they’d work up the idea for the impending management meeting. 

When the department meeting ended and she was back in her office, she decided to send an email to her bosses outlining her proposal and some elaboration. It was not standard practice; she was expected to go through Craig, the head of creative. But she felt brave, and she was desperate to upstage the deplorables. She told her bosses that she’d proposed her concept to the development team and that she’d come with more details to the management meeting. She cc’d Craig. The only reply she got, came from Craig: ‘This should have gone through me.’

She was first to arrive at the management meeting. She sat at the table with enough copies of an overview of her vision for everyone at the meeting stacked in front of her. She noticed Tom idling by the door. He didn’t sit down at the table. And she noticed that when Warren arrived, he left a note where Bill, the boss, always sat, before he took his place at the table. Kris and Sue-Ann were wearing suits. And when Bill, Robert and the other bosses arrived, Tom spoke briefly to Bill at the door and then sat down.

Bill took his seat, saw Warren’s note and set it aside, called for order, and then he said: ‘Before we start talking about the Nova Scotia project, I’ve decided to ask Marsha to head it up.’ Usually, there’s applause when a team head was named, but not this time. Marsha was not surprised. But then Bill started clapping and slowly the others followed suit. Only Janice looked genuinely happy.   

As she passed out her notes about the project, she thought: no more need for nails at breakfast! 

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