When I first started working at the firm, I was taken around to meet people. When I was introduced to her, I gave her a big smile and said, I understand you are the office guru in PC Law, so I hope it's okay while I'm learning the program if I can ask a couple of questions. I like learning from the best! She glared at me and said, are you making fun of me? She told me later that since no-one in the office liked her, she was convinced I was mocking her. I said, no, I was told you were very good in a program I had to learn. I just wanted to, you know, say hi and make you feel good, maybe get our first meeting off to a good start? Oh, she said. I guess we'll see.
She's very confrontational. VERY. Over four years, I've watched her alienate almost everyone she's ever come into contact with. The guy behind the counter of the corner store where she goes to buy smokes - one day she doesn't have money, asks if he can stand her purchase to the following day, he says no, she flips out, I'm never patronizing your store again,what good is it to be a regular if you don't get anything for it. The guy at the post office. The guy at the bar and grill across the street. The guy at the sports bar a block away. The process server. The dental hygienist. The hairdresser.
After four years, I may have finally crossed over into the group she actively dislikes, instead of just distrusts (which would be everyone that she doesn't actively dislike).
The building our firm is located in has been up for sale for about six months. This has made her edgy, from feeling like she has to be nice to the real estate agents bringing people through, to the outrage she feels about the managing partner selling the building he purchased from the older, retired partner and therefore in her eyes not respecting the history of the firm, which has been at this location for more than fifty years.
The building sale went firm, and she and the lawyer she clerks for went to view a new set of offices. When they came back, I asked her whether she'd liked them, which was apparently the wrong question. She flipped her lid, and what I got out of it, beyond the swearing and the suggestion that I was information-gathering to take it back to the managing partner to use against her, instead of, you know, asking whether she liked the new office. She put forth her speculations about the move and related matters down as fact, and chastised me for being too stupid to know the truth when it was right there in front of me.
I really don't do well with confrontation, but I had surprisingly little difficulty responding politely and calmly, and then telling her I was turning my back on any further gesticulations or loud remarks. And then doing it. Which sent her over the edge anger-wise. She has not spoken to me, unless there is absolutely no way around it, for at least two weeks.
Most of the source of her panic, I think, comes from the sudden realization that her area of the firm and mine will be under different roofs. I will be at the main office, quarterbacking, as the managing partner calls it, while she will be at a satellite office, and she will be in the position of having to assume some administrative duties which would normally fall under my umbrella. The managing partner, however, has decided that she is capable of handling it, that it makes more sense for her to handle it, and so I will have almost no contact with her at all. As much as you might think that would suit her down to the ground, it has had the exact opposite effect.
With the exception of her husband, I get the impression that I am virtually the only other person in her life who generally suffers her outbreaks of hostility and disagreeableness with a degree of tolerance. Moving to a different office, she will have to cultivate a new punching bag.
Today, in a solo day at the office, I have had classical music and productivity and absolute quiet. Not a confrontation or unpleasant word in sight.
I have to admit, I really looking forward to this being the norm for the week, instead of just Fridays.