Tuesday, December 25, 2007


After almost four years in UCSF’s Accounting Office I took a new job in the Radiology Department, which was a disaster and led to my early retirement from San Francisco’s largest employer.

A number of factors contributed to my failure, but mostly it was my supervisor and co-workers.

My supervisor, who was located in a separate facility on the other side of the city, was determined to help me as little as possible.

He offered no help, for instance, in my first attempt at complicated paperwork for retroactive payroll transfers. Worse, he signed off on the submittal without even checking it. Of course it had numerous errors, which sullied my reputation with the people processing it.

The supervisor’s name was Rex Jones and he was a lying son of a bitch. Recently a young UCSF acquaintance, whom I also see on the courts, phoned to tell me that Rex had died. My poor young friend was not prepared for the glee I expressed.

I’m reminded of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, tyrants and torturers of Romania, whom the rebels executed on December 25, 1989 “as a Christmas present to the country.”

Anyway, another factor in my failure was the non-support of my three peers on the new job, all female, all Asian. It was three months before I learned that one of these Asian women had applied for the job I had been given. She and her two friends were extremely bitter and determined that my failure would prove that Maria should have gotten the job.

“This is a situation I might have been able to handle, IF I HAD KNOWN ABOUT IT.”

The failure of my supervisor to explain this delicate situation to me was a hateful omission. In our first meeting after I found out, which was only after Maria had moved to a new job, I stared at Rex and said the words quoted above, one. at. a. time.

Months later it was Christmas and I received presents from each of the two remaining Asian women colleagues. I also got a present from Rex—a jar of some sort of honey, (you know the jar-size you get on a room-service tray… Rex’s gift was one size up from that).

The younger of the two women gave me a neatly wrapped in a large box, maybe 8” x 10” x 14”. There was no movement when shaken, so I figured it was something soft, like a scarf, in a box chosen for convenience rather than appropriate size.

I gave no presents to any of them.

I brought it home but never opened that big box from Susan Lin. I just set it aside, figuring the dishonesty and hypocrisy associated with it were nothing I needed to deal with.

And here it sat, two whole years, until last Saturday. I was invited to a dinner party thrown by people in my morning tennis group. I had to bring an item for a “white elephant gift exchange.”

So I happily brought the big, nicely wrapped box from my former UCSF “mobber.”

I had my misgivings: What if it’s something really valuable? Naw. What if it’s something way inappropriate? No, not a workplace gift.

I thought it was a funny story to tell—that I didn’t know what was inside the box.

To which one of the party guests responded, “What if it’s food?”

When my donation was finally picked and opened, it was even more awful than I could have guessed. It was a Christmas-decorated mug and place setting of hideous, garish design.

It’s the sort of thing that, if I’d opened it at home, would have gone straight into the trash. Had I opened it the office I would have had a dilemma about expending the energy to take it to my car, as opposed to just dumping it in the waste basket under my desk. The decorative paint looked toxic.

The malice of such a gift is that it imposes on the recipient the burden of disposal. Like giving someone a stack of year-old newspapers.

Out of twenty, it was the third worst white elephant gift. There was one child at the party, a six year old girl, who wound up with it. Her parents are smart enough not to let their child eat off that stuff.

I feel kind of guilty because I got the best present, four suitable-for-framing doodles from a nice guy who’s an architect; he’s all slice and dice on the court. I hate these guys who are good tennis players plus they have another talent.

Merry Christmas!

----- o -----


Anonymous said...

The most vicious politics of all is bureaucratic politics. Politicians are apprentices when it comes to back stabbing. Pretty damn sad commentary on human behavior. r.s.

sfmike said...

That's my favorite Christmas story ever. I felt the same way about my dermatologist, Sanford Schnoll, who ignored the mole I presented to him as "nothing" which of course turned out to be melanoma. He died a year later at age 40 of a sudden heart attack and I've been wondering ever since if my curses had anything to do with it.

Merry christmas, dude.

sfmike said...

And off-topic, but not really, I am waiting with my breath held deeply inside my chest for your take on Tatiana the Tiger feasting on tourists for Christmas at the San Francisco Zoo. There's something really wrong with thatplace.

Really, after seeing the original "Planet of the Apes," where a human being is stuffed in a diorama and also kept as a zoo creature, how can anyone approve of prisons for animals? It's just plain creepy.

sfwillie said...

I'm working on it, Mike. I don't have strong feelings about zoos per se, and fond childhood memories of the place. The whooping of the peacocks and monkeys is part of my world, like the crash of waves and the pops of the Lake Merced skeet shooters.

I think I'll be going after Sean Elsbernd. It's his fucking district, not mine.

sfwillie said...

Dear Mike, re: your curse.

It's like a mis-hit that somehow goes in for a winner--take credit for it.

sfmike said...

Thank you for the tennis mis-hit analogy. It's got me seriously laughing, and now I don't feel so guilty.

And hasn't there been some kind of weird "Friends of..." politics going on at the SF Zoo for the last decade or so? What the hell is going on? I've known a few people who used to work there, and they don't have very many nice things to say.