July 17, 2003

Fear & Loathing in the Workplace

I really like my job. I like the people I work with, I really believe in what we do, and I think we do a pretty good job of it... given what and whom we have to work with. Given our ever-shrinking resources and the fact that well over half of our clients are convicted felons, both support staff and attorneys keep the client's interests in mind and try to do our best for them. I mean, no matter who you are or what you did, you have the right to due process in America (as long as and to the extent that the state budget can afford it).

Despite all of this, I'm kind of glad that I'm leaving my job on August 15... and I'm even thinking of calling in "sick" in the near future to avoid being there. This isn't just because I'm lazy or because I'd like to devote more of my time to watching Netflix DVD's and writing cool things to post on my blog, but because I'm afraid to go to work these days. Although we deal with felons the only people that give us any trouble are those who have lost their parental rights. Understandably, they're upset and devoted to getting their children back, but they seem to be far more angry with the system and the situation than even those facing life sentences.

One such client has, for some time now, been calling our office more than anyone else and basically harassing us because he isn't pleased with how his case is working out. Although I can't really go into detail, I can say that we've gotten fed up with his constant calling and harassing and we've been instructed to stop taking his calls. However, since this man totally insane, hanging up on him and asking him to stop dropping in unexpectedly seems to have just aggravated him instead of getting him to leave us alone. Now he calls at least 10 times a day, instead of just 2 or 3 times, and he has grown more and more agitated whether we explain the situation to him again or not. He's come in before without letting us know, and pretty much scared the crap out of my coworkers and I with his jittery speech and motions, intense (yet somehow empty) eyes and total lack of rationality or ability to tell that he makes us very, very uncomfortable.

So, like I said, he's calling us more than ever, is more angry than ever and although my superiors say that there's nothing to fear since he doesn't have a history of assault or weapons arrests and that he's just a "pest", when he said today that he was "coming down", it totally, totally freaked me out. I know that's a lot of totally's, but I mean it. A couple other people in the office feel the way that I do; that this insane person is a threat to our safety and his instability should not be underestimated when he is this upset and has been effectively banned by us, and probably anyone else he could possibly go to for help. Now, I sit right by the front door and answer the phone, so anytime the phone rings or the door opens, I jump and get a cold shot down my spine. The words "workplace trauma" and "101 California Street" race through my mind throughout the day. My hands shake when I hang up on him and I can't get rid of this awful sense that our policies are only making him more angry and that he could take it upon himself to come to our door any day now... So, I'm hysterical. The superior superior in my office finally called this guy back today, because we would not let the issue be "rationalized" away when we felt our lives are on the line, and told him that we would surely call the police to arrest him right away if he were to drop in on us. Perhaps that's enough to deter him from actually coming--although, I'm sure that, if he did, he wouldn't actually go postal on us-- but, it's going to have to be enough to make me feel OK enough with going to work each day. I mean, I can't really call in sick, right? Everything's going to be OK, right?... God, I'm such a pussy.

0) $paginate_current_page = 0; $paginate_sections = array( 0 ); $paginate_top_section = $paginate_sections[$paginate_current_page-1]+1; $paginate_bottom_section = $paginate_sections[$paginate_current_page]; } else { $paginate_top_section = 1; $paginate_bottom_section = 0; } $paginate_self = '&' . $_SERVER['QUERY_STRING'] . '&'; $paginate_self = preg_replace("/&page=[^&]*&/", "&", $paginate_self); $paginate_self = substr($paginate_self, 1, strlen($paginate_self) - 1); if($paginate_self == '&') $paginate_self = ''; else $paginate_self = htmlentities($paginate_self); $paginate_self = basename($_SERVER['PHP_SELF']) . "?${paginate_self}page"; ?> Posted by Kristina at July 17, 2003 06:24 PM

From the way you've described the situation to me before, you DO have cause to feel anxious. The scary thing about insane people is that they are totally unpredictable, and the fact that this guy has come to you office before, despite the fact that it not possibly help his case, would freak mne out too. It sounds like the situation is improving (now that the big boss has threatened the crazy with arrest), but I would still push for a "closed" office. Keep the doors locked and allow people in by appointment only. And try to do something about building security. Maybe they can watch for the crazy guy, and call the police immediately if he shows up.

I'm sure nothing will happen. But you should get a tazer all the same. ;)

Posted by: Cody at July 18, 2003 12:36 PM