[ Note : in advance I’m telling you that it was an uneventful shift. I’m just posting this (1) for posterity; (2) maybe some reader out there may want to know some of the less savory realities in my temporary adopted country, and finally (3) although i won’t see the subject of the blog soon, there’s still a slight chance he will return. That’s very slight. Thanks for reading! ]
BIG BUDDHA, the most senior of my bisors, disliked Rasputin because he could never back up his big talk with efficient work. He could talk a big game, shock us with his redneck arrogance, or imagine he was the best shift boss around to his heart’s content, but if he was a crappy worker, Big B wouldn’t tolerate it for an instant. And one look at him will tell you that his intolerance is one thing you wouldn’t want to ignore.
Genghis, the other, infinitely more taciturn among my bisors, neither likes nor dislikes him. But he only manifested his feelings about him one time: when he mentioned that Rasputin seemed to be out of touch with reality in reference to the latter’s outrageous (and incorrect) way of doing things.
Then of course there’s SuperBisor our department supervisor, who more than once was on the receiving end of Rasputin’s arrogance. The latter left little doubt of his opinion that he knew more about doing his job than SuperBisor did, listened to SuperBisor only when everything had gone to sh*t, and fancied himself an authority on everything in the workplace. Each time, of course, he was spectacularly proven wrong by SuperBisor.
[by the by, the colorful names here are obviously aliases, but even if I used their real names, you wouldn’t know them anyway right? So in the end it doesn’t matter, unless one of these people reads the blog. 🙂 ]
And moi? I could legitimately use any of the above reasons in giving imagery to my professional (and otherwise) dislike of Rasputin, but I don’t need to. Because first and foremost, what defines / defined Rasputin is his being a racist.
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I don’t mean racist like the Ku Klux Klan or skinheads and Neo-Nazis wherever there is racial intolerance, but in so many words Rasputin behaves one way when he is with people with skin of his color, and behaves another way with all other skins. One way to describe it, borrowing from SuperBisor, is that what he is begins with R and rhymes with acist. So that was that, and I had no stronger reason with which to dislike him.
Not that he wasn’t easy to dislike anyway, as probably 99% of the staff disliked him. Give or take a percent.
By the time he was getting into trouble, and even long before that, Rasputin had clearly been making an effort to stop being the R-Man (racist, as if you didn’t know), mainly because he was already getting into all sorts of jams, that the company had instituted a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, harassment, and yes, racism, and the non-whites in the workplace (meaning little old me) had been given instructions to notify anyone in authority the moment anything remotely resembling the R-Word (racism, just in case you missed it) occurred.
There. You’ve probably formed a more-or-less vivid picture on how much Rasputin is loved and cherished, in his dreams, by all of us at work. Still it didn’t stop him from doing things his usual haphazard and disorganized way, creating multiple and chain-reaction problems in the factory, until one problem became one problem too many, and he received a final warning hearing two weeks ago.
It was like the proverbial inch before the precipice: one slight push would seal his doom. Anything, health and safety missteps, lates and tardiness on successive days, or another performance issue would send him over the edge, and that would be the end of Rasputin the Racist.
From my very first week more than five years ago, when Rasputin would talk to me several decibels louder than he would to anyone else at work; to his famous remark to me if people like you had half a brain you wouldn’t have your problems (at work), to as recently as a year ago when he asked me what is that effing sh*t you’re eating, it’s making my eyes water, Rasputin minced no words about how he felt about “people like me.” Because everyone else was giving him a hard time about it, I actually felt sorry for him. But I never forgot his remarks, especially because it was so hard for him to change.
But by the time his final warning came along, he had already kept his R-remarks to himself. I kept telling myself no matter how much I wanted to give him that slight push over the edge, no one deserved to lose his job. Except that, amazingly, in his typical arrogant way, he again disregarded stringent health-and-safety rules during a machinery lockout, and put himself and fellow workers in danger. THAT wasn’t a slight push, it was a kick in the behind that Rasputin had given to himself, termination-wise.
In a poetic twist, and because he could only work on day shift when he could be supervised every half hour, I was also on day shift, and would therefore be his partner on what would in all probability be his final week at work. There would of course be a meeting during which he would be presented with the evidence and given a chance to refute such evidence. But in the face of overwhelming, documented and (previously) uncontested findings, challenging the decision to dismiss him would be nearly futile.
And so the person who fancied himself a future manager, leader and success story in the company would be working most likely his last week with a person he not-a-few-times disparaged and belittled, because he came from a demographic he understood little and appreciated even less. But that was no reason for me not to give him a modicum of respect reserved for a colleague at work, who certainly deserved a final courtesy of cooperation and cordiality, seeing that he was my shift boss for a final eight hours.
This was why I resolved to make things as easy as possible for him, even though there would still be one more day to the work week. The last day (Friday) usually being maintenance day, today would be the last chance for him to perform regular tasks. I would do anything within reason he requested, be as agreeable as possible, and even volunteer to help out if he needed it.
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How I wish things turned out as ideally as projected. In his typical pompous manner, a routine question I asked him unwittingly became an invitation to a seven minute lecture, as he insisted on telling me the procedure on things I already knew. I was merely asking him as a courtesy and because, really, there wasn’t anything more to say.
Then at teatime, I sauntered into the tea room humming (a bit too loudly, I confess) a popular tune to myself. Rasputin must’ve been annoyed, because out of the blue he sarcastically asked me Why do you always sing to yourself?
Because I didn’t expect it, I reacted brashly. I answered Why do you always talk to yourself then? (People had been telling me that since he had been given a warning, he had been seen talking to himself.)
Almost immediately I regretted saying it, and I didn’t even need to look at him to know that he was surprised. In the five plus years I worked with him, it was probably the first time I “talked back” to him about something that didn’t involve work. After my promise to myself to cut him a little slack, I was a little ashamed of myself.
After all that transpired between us the last few years, it was almost anti-climactic. The way I saw it, we would, worse than being enemies, always remain strangers to each other, not bothering to resolve things and never striving to understand each other.
I say this because Rasputin called in sick the next day, and SuperBisor advised me not to expect him to return. Unsurprisingly, he said that he would be amazed if anyone would miss Rasputin.
And that, kabayan and friends, was how I spent my last shift working with Rasputin the Racist, my almost-acquaintance and not-quite-friend.
Thanks for reading!