Originally uploaded by macwagen.
Her anger was like 30 days of bad weather, no sun in sight. Harnessed, it would have sent any number of freight trains slashing through the night. But as it was, the only thing it drove was her. And occasionally those she supervised.
She was always the first to arrive at work. A "captain", she took her job as seriously as a wartime general. If we had to come in at five for an early breakfast, she was there by four, hunched down in the depressing employee area near the dumpster, sucking on a cigarette and a tall French vanilla from Dunkin Donuts.
"Better punch in," she'd say, consulting her watch. "We've got to get that coffee break out by six."
Hesitate for a minute, pause to check your hair as you slung your jacket on a hook, or wonder if anyone had made coffee, and you'd jumpstart her dormant anger.
"Listen, you've got a good job here. You make fucking good money. You might not care if our customers get their coffee on time, but I do."
There was no way to deal with anger like this, but to follow it from a safe distance. And hope it didn't singe you too much in the process.
In many ways, I admired her. Even liked her. Though she bullied and nitpicked, she was the first to tell you to go home if you had a sick child. Go ahead--get the fuck out of here! she'd say with a wave of her flappy arm. Then off she'd charge, ready to take on your work and hers. No problem.
And when a stray cat birthed kittens outside the dumpster, she railed at us about taking one home. "They're ours. It's our responsibility," she said, illogically passionate. "We're a family here, or we're nothing."
"Maybe we should call the MSPCA," a co-worker suggested sheepishly, setting off our general.
She raged into the back room and came back with a crate, which she thumped on the floor. "If you people don't care then, I'll take them," she said. "All of them."
And she did.
Illogical passion seemed to keep her motor humming, along with the anger. She cared more about the hotel where we worked than the invisible corporation that owned it ever did. A tablecloth that was slightly askew, a glass insufficiently iced, or a table set in the improper sequence--bread plate first, set precisely between each chair--could bring on a violent upbraiding about what a good job we had, how much fucking money we made.
Rumor had it that she was excessively generous with the people in her life. She was frequently carless because one of her kids had borrowed hers. She'd lost the home she worked for and lived in a rented house, full of her adult kids and their friends. Though she hollered at us for the slightest infractions, she never said much to them when they kept her up all night with their parties. Even when she had to be at work by four a.m.
But a train run on rage and cigarettes can only go so far. First her knees went, then like several of my former heavy smoking co-workers, she developed lung disease. She left work one day, and never came back. We didn't hear from her either, despite her frequent assertions that we were a family. And the place where she had slaved and raged and bullied her co-workers toward some wacky vision of perfection, ran pretty much the same as it always had.