May 16, 2000
That's What I Get For Eavesdropping


The Human Resources Director Person was on the phone when I came into the office this morning. I could hear her side of the conversation from across the hall, as I unlocked my door and hung up my sweater.

"It would be better coming from you," I heard her saying to somebody. "You're her boss."


There was an ominously weary tone to her voice ... a tone I recognized instantly because I hear it in my own voice, every single day. It says, By the time we finish having this telephone conversation, I will either have to shoot you ... or shoot myself. Or both. 

And then  --  probably because she realized that *I* was now within earshot  --  she closed her door and I lost the thread of the conversation.

So.  Franz was pissed again, from the sounds of it.

At me, from the sounds of it.

(AND he was trying to get the HRDP to play the heavy, from the sounds of it. To her credit, it didn't sound like she was knuckling under the pressure.)

So what was it this time? Did I over-water the dwarf schefflera again? Order the wrong color Post-It notes? Forget to call the refrigerator repairman for that follow-up defrosting?

Colon when I should have semi-coloned?

Actually, I was pretty sure I knew why his shorts were in a knot this particular morning. Yesterday he'd made a huge noisy stink, all day long, over the fact that he wanted to leave the office "ON THE DOT OF 5:00," in order to make a dinner cruise he'd registered himself, his wife and another couple to attend.  (At five hundred bucks a head, I might add.)  "I need to leave EXACTLY at 5:00!" he told me, each and every time he saw me yesterday. They had to be at Pier 33 in downtown San Francisco by 6 p.m. or else they would miss the boat. Literally.

He seemed particularly concerned that his dinner companions not keep him waiting. "Make sure Mrs. Franz is here in plenty of time!" he thundered. So I obligingly e-mailed Mrs. Franz ... faxed Mrs. Franz ... left three voicemail messages for Mrs. Franz ... and, eventually, spoke to Mrs. Franz by phone. (Twice.)  By the end of the day, Mrs. Franz and I were best friends practically. When 5:00 p.m. finally rolled around, Mrs. Franz was sitting in Mr. Franz's office, patiently waiting for her hubby ... the other couple was downstairs in their car, waiting to carpool to SF ...

... and nobody had a clue where Franz was. He had vanished from the Totem Pole office without a trace.

We looked everywhere we could think of: in the new Accounting Department offices, downstairs on the first floor ... in the parking garage ... in the pavillion outside our building ... in the offices next door to ours.  Nothing. Nobody had seen him. We even sent Dan the Contracts Manager to check the mens' bathrooms on all ten floors. No Franz. And we called everywhere we could think of ... his cell phone, his apartment here in Oakland, even the deli across the street.

No Franz.

When he still hadn't shown up by 5:20, I politely -- and regretfully -- told Mrs. Franz that I would have to be leaving. David was waiting for me downstairs. I'd already promised David that I would be ready to leave on time, for a change.

"Please tell Franz I'm sorry I couldn't wait, and that I'll talk to him in the morning," I told Mrs. F. The Executive Ass in my soul didn't feel right about going home before we'd located the Amazing Disappearing Boss ... or about leaving his wife sitting alone in his office ... but she assured me that it was fine. She would just continue to wait, and if he didn't show up in another ten minutes she would go on the cruise without his sorry ass.

(Clearly this *disappearing-at-the-last-minute* stuff is nothing new to Mrs. Franz.)

I went home, and I had a nice evening  --  dinner at Applebee's, homework at The Castle  --  and I got a decent night's sleep.  I tried not to dwell on the fact that I'd left work in an unresolved, less-than-satisfactory fashion. Should I have stayed another half hour? Should I have double-checked the supply closet? Should I have asked David to pick me up later? Should I have called Pier 33 and requested that they hold the boat?  And I kept reminding myself, as always, that none of this is my fault. 

It just feels that way, 99.9% of the time.

But when I got to the office this morning, and I overheard the Human Resources Director Person doing battle by phone, my heart sank. Obviously I was in deeper shit than I'd imagined. "It would be better coming from her boss" simply couldn't be a good thing.  I figured I could either sit here and stew about it for the next eight and a half hours, waiting for the ax to fall and feeling progressively more put-upon as the day wore on ... or I could take the bull by the horns. (Or  --  since the *bull* is blessedly out of the office for the day  --  I could take the HRDP by the horns, instead.)  I took a deep breath, walked into her office and closed the door.

"OK," I said. "Let me have it."

She blinked at me in surprise. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"Franz," I said. "The cruise last night. The dinner. He's upset because I left, right?"

"You went on a cruise with Franz?" she asked, mystified. The baffled expression on her face was genuine.

She had no clue what I was talking about!

"You've talked to Franz today, right?" I said, backtracking ... beginning to feel just the teensiest bit like Alice, gone through the mirror.

"No, I haven't talked to him at all," she said. "I've been busy dealing with the *Theresa Situation* all morning."  And she informed me that they'd let the Corporate Librarian go last night. (Another Totem Pole Company employee, unceremoniously tossed overboard. The canoe continues to empty. The plot thickens.)

"And you didn't have any messages from Franz this morning at all?" I asked again.

"The only message I had was from our office manager in San Ramon," she said. "One of his engineers requested a new computer, and he wanted me to tell her that it's not in the budget."


Now feeling thoroughly stoopid, I gave her the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the previous evening's events.  When I got to the part about Franz disappearing at 5:00, she rolled her eyes in disgust. ("I would have gone home too," she said supportively. "There was nothing else you could do.")

And that was pretty much that. I fled her office shortly afterward, embarrassed and relieved ... determined to quit being so paranoid all the time ... and vowing once again to never ever ever eavesdrop on anybody ever again.

Until they're talking about ME, of course.

P.S. And no ... we still haven't figured out what happened to Franz last night!
*My* theory is that he went back in time to the year 1066, to the Battle of Hastings, and shot King Harold Morey in the eyeball with an arrow.
The HRDP says he was prolly at the drugstore getting his allergy medicine refilled.
Stay tuned.

throw a rock