“Hello Candy,” I said into the receiver, “How are you?” This wasn’t going to be good. Rebelling against the ridiculous 27 office hours, and complete empty schedule that for some reason was the opposite of Nate’s mostly empty schedule, I had texted Candy (which is a viable form of communication with employees here) and told her that I was going to switch my office hours so that I could do them at the same time as Nate. Really it shouldn’t have made a difference if I was sitting behind a desk doing nothing in the morning or in the evening, I reasoned. As often happens with Happy English I had not gotten any kind of reply at all, and interpreted this as a save face way of saying “come to work as your schedule tells you.” so I stayed home that morning, considering it a save face way of saying “I’m switching my office hours to the evening.” Well at least I’d finally received some sort of reply.
“You have to work at 11:00am so you can go to the West Centre for a class.”
News to me. Usually I’d be happy to cover someone’s class, but a half hour trip (in good traffic, plus at least an extra 30 minutes to wave down a cab) across town and back dictates some forewarning, “But Candy, it’s not in my contract to cover classes for the West Centre.”
“You work today 11:00 am, now it is 1:00 pm. You will go to West school or you will take today as holiday day.”
“Didn’t you get my message? I asked to switch the times because I had nothing on my schedule today. I will work from 1:30 pm until 8:00 pm, the regular work hours.”
Candy just kept stammering into the phone in a yelling- like tone, until finally I said “Look Candy, I’ll be at the school in 20 minutes, you can talk to me then.” I had a headache.
Nothing from Candy until 2:00pm, when I was on my way to Muffin’s meeting. It was Candy, our boss Sara, Emme as the translator, and Viv. Four on one. I just kept repeating the same responses over and over, “I had nothing on my schedule.” “Office hours are supposed to be flexible.” “Contract states UP TO 10 office hours.” “I get my work done.” “I’ve never come in late before.” In the end I agreed to take the 100 RMB late fee, but refused to acknowledge it as a late, instead I said I was happy to take the penalty to resolve our misunderstanding. In the end no punishment was put in place. I felt like I should have looked into law as a career choice. Man has China ever changed me.
Sara has to have the last word. She speaks only in Chinese, forcing poor Emme to translate. She says she has three things to say. The first one she says is that she is always respectful. I do not reply back, but in my head I’m fuming. Clearly we have a very different view of respect. To me ganging up four to one to humiliate a person IS NOT RESPECT. This face-value-is-all-that-matters view on respect is bullshit. It’s the “smile when they’re looking to get what you want” type catty behaviour that is the least respectful.
The second thing Sara says is that I have improved since the start and that she is very happy with the class she watched. Wonderful! Something nice for once… if she hadn’t been using my improvement to dig into me about how much of a failure I was in the first week, when I was jet-legged and sick. She says this compliment in a way that makes me feel disposable, like a car that’s gotten fixed up and is running smoothly, but will go to the scrap yard next time something breaks down.
And finally to drive it all home she launches into her previous bullying session with me when I first arrived, “When you first come and there was something wrong with the class, you cried. Now Sarah is afraid and does not want you to worry and wants you just to be happy. She has not told you about any more complaint, but really there have been complaints. And not just eh parents but the FTs (foreign teachers) and CTs (Chinese teachers).
Sara said something to Candy who corrected, “Sorry sorry, not the CT just the FT. They have not come to Sara but when they drink they complain and someone tells Sarah.” \
She’d gone too far, “I’m going to quit” I thought.
“It is why Jenn have no class?” I almost let out a cold bitter laugh, I’d been begging for more classes since the first day of work.
This woman is dead to me, and I can only think of one other occasion that anyone has ever been dead to me before, and that was a bully in seventh grade. When Sarah smiled and moved to end the meeting I smiled back, and walked out of the room. This woman who calls herself my boss, there is no hatred for her. You can’t hate something that doesn’t exist.
And then I had to sit through office hours with NOTHING TO FUCKING DO! I’d rather they have me move rocks from one place to the other and back again. I HATE THIS JOB. I SHOULD HAVE LEFT 10 MONTHS AGO.