I like writing, and I REALLY enjoy chatting with readers and finding out what they liked, what they didn’t like, what their impressions are. I don’t want to alienate people or use whatever small platform I have to talk about things that people often want to get away from. Sometimes you just want to escape from the stresses of ‘normal life’ and indulge in a diversion; why should I intrude on that? If someone wants to know my opinion, people are welcome to ask.
The truth of the matter is just about everyone has a view about current events, politics and politicians. Personal beliefs are too intimate a discussion to break down into a few sentences on Twitter; they should be chats over good food and wine in a non-confrontational setting so both parties can try to learn and understand, see things from a fresh perspective. I resent it when I follow someone who is an author and they decide to hold forth with a catchy little phrase on Twitter when the topic deserves a much more robust mechanism than that.
I have friends of all political backgrounds; some want to talk politics, some don’t. One fears, ‘I love you now, but I might not after I talk politics too much with you’ which makes me sad but okay; I don’t want to start a discussion that is contentious before it begins. I try to judge people on their character, their values and their actions, and not who they vote for on their ballot. Really great people can have very different opinions on things for completely sensible reasons that are grounded in their upbringing, their experience and their guiding principles, and life experience can change things, too. I have a friend who has been an ardent supporter of NARAL but after she became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby, she confided in me even if she found out her baby had Down’s she wouldn’t have aborted, despite previously thinking she would.
So it is with great reluctance that I write this post, but it is about a current event that touches me on a personal level and I hope to just bring a different voice and perspective.
Everyone has heard about the SCOTUS hearings and the allegations of Dr. Ford and denial by Judge Kavanaugh. I have heard quite a bit of ‘she has to be telling the truth, the allegations are so serious’, and that really frustrates me.
I think allegations should be heard, but our justice is supposed to be blind and there is a presumption of innocence (or should be); it doesn’t matter how emotional or serious the allegations are, judgement should be based on facts and not whether the allegations were true for another person who made them.
The reason I say this is definitely personal; as I said above our experiences shape who we are and what I have experienced has made me very cautious about jumping the gun on something like this, no matter how much I might be able to relate in an empathetic way.
This incident happened when I was working at the small construction software company where I was harassed and threatened (I wrote about that stalker in a previous post).
So I moved here at eighteen with basically no support system; my mom sent me $50 once and my uncle paid for me to take a class one quarter and helped me pay for new valve cover gaskets for my car, but that’s it. No stipend, nothing. I’ve had my power, heat and phone turned off at various times, sometimes two at the same time.
It sounds stupid, but when I moved out here I underestimated how difficult it would be. I had money saved but had trouble finding a good position because I had no local references, so it went quickly. I worked a few jobs (cashier was one), did some contracting and got placed at this company. I started as a receptionist but within a year and a half or so I was also working with the marketing manager and supervising a high school kid who helped us out.
I cannot emphasize how much this job meant to me. It’s the first one where I had a salary so I could budget properly; I had medical insurance for the first time and was paying off bills accumulated during the lean years and even put a tiny bit away in a 401k. This job meant EVERYTHING to me. It was a light, it was consistency, it was moving forward instead of treading water or falling behind. It was proving to people who doubted me that I could survive here.
And I had made some friends; people really seemed to appreciate me. When the company sent out surveys to customers, I was the number one thing they liked about the company and I wasn’t even listed as an option, I was a ‘write in’. One of the owners joked, “They think you’re the best thing since sliced bread” and several of the customers who said this about me were HUGE accounts for the firm, some of the biggest names in construction in the Seattle metro area.
So when our high school helper went on vacation for a few weeks, we needed someone to fill in and collate a bunch of materials about the software and prepare the kits; it was too much for me to do with my other duties, so my boss called a contract agency to have someone come in to help.
To be fair it’s mindless labour – but anyone who has done temp work knows sometimes assignments are boring and I knew this first hand because I’d had my fair share of tedious tasks. When the girl came in and I explained what to do she gave me attitude about it and complained about the work which I would NEVER have done on an assignment because I needed the money. I joked that it was a bit boring but freed your mind to think of other things and it wasn’t that bad after awhile and it was a paycheque right? I checked once before lunch to see if she had questions (she didn’t) and when she left for lunch I told her I’d see her in a bit.
A little while later my boss called me into the conference room and was deadly serious. She said our temp had made a serious accusation against me, my job was on the line.
My first instinct, especially when I heard what she alleged, was to want to throw up. Jesus fucking Christ (sorry), how could someone lie about another person like that? I could see in my boss’ face right away that because of what the accusation was there was this taint that I was possibly guilty. I had been there for over two years at this point and this temp walks in, drops a bomb and I am facing losing my job, my future, my everything. Kate even said something like, “Because of how SERIOUS this is…” like that automatically gives it credence over my word? Someone who has never had a complaint against them? Who came to work one Monday with a broken and unset leg from Saturday? Who walked to work in a snowstorm to open on time because there was no way I could drive? Who started out as a receptionist but proved myself enough that customers love me and I got promoted? Who even worked with the techs in back when they were shorthanded, even once doing it on the weekend? I had proven to be an asset for the company, why would I do this?!
But none of that mattered because of this one accusation by a person Kate never met before, from a temp agency; a person whose bona fides had never been tested – because it was a ‘serious charge’.
At the time I was in survival mode; I unequivocally denied it, didn’t have room for any other emotion. I would never do that, never DID that. She spoke with the bosses, my stomach was in a knot and finally I was told I could keep my job but I should watch and make sure ‘nothing like this came up again’.
So I kept my job, but basically she assumed I must have done something wrong.
(I want to emphasize that I am not a saint – I have had to apologize for making assumptions or saying something that came out harsh or dropping the ball or what have you. We are all flawed – that’s not what I am trying to highlight here.)
Things with Kate were never the same; she was distant from then on – I guess I had a taint on me. I had a client invite me to holidays with her family (she did it the previous year, knowing Christmas is my birthday and I couldn’t afford to fly to see my family), and I had been open about telling everyone it happened the prior year; suddenly Kate tells me I shouldn’t be social at all with any client, ever. To be clear – as a receptionist and in marketing – I was never in a position to DO anything special for them, and other employees were friends with clients, one even DATED a customer. I have been told one of my assets is I am a warm and approachable person, and I felt she was trying to do this because the clients liked me so much.
Another example – I brought in my old computer to loan to someone and they brought it back but it was in the storeroom at the company, labeled, because I was in the midst of getting ready to move. Kate’s son came to clean out the store room one day and threw it away, even though I TOLD Kate it was there; people had used the store room before and she said no problem when I asked about keeping it there. When I got upset – how could someone throw a box away that had something in it, and labeled, and I had told her about it – she blamed me and said, “It’s at the dump now, I guess you’re out of luck”. I still wonder if that computer really got dumped or ended up at someone’s home, if you know what I mean. There are other things too, but I really sensed her attitude about me had changed.
The thing is, once an accusation is made the seal is broken. I was super nervous for months after that – worried some word or action or even glance would be misconstrued. It darkened the remaining time I had there to some extent and it was always in the back of my mind – my boss thinks I did something bad but there’s no proof to fire me. I try to be a decent and honest person – I am human, I have flaws, but I try – and here was this THING I could never shake. There was nothing I could do to prove I was innocent, nothing. It was a helpless feeling and the edge of hostility I had from her contributed to me wanting to leave.
I can only speak from my experience – I know I did nothing wrong – but when I think about it the incident still angers me and these hearings have just brought it back up again. I’ve tried to forget it but I still can’t believe people I worked with for years could even countenance I would do that and then lip-service that things were okay but treat me as if I was guilty; that because the ‘accusation was serious’ the benefit of the doubt was given to the other party, irrespective of my history and their interactions with me. If I hadn’t had so many glowing reviews from customers I wonder if they would have fired me, and I can tell you it would have ruined me. Holy shit, I don’t know how I would have recovered. What do you tell a prospective employer about why you left?
I am still angry about it to be honest, angry as fuck, and I hope Karma taught her a lesson. If you’re wondering why she probably lied… if she had just told the contracting company the job was boring and she didn’t want it they wouldn’t have prioritized placing her any more; this is what I had been told during my temp agency days. If you left a job site it had to be for a good reason, like harassment of some kind or physical danger, that sort of thing. Otherwise if they sent people who then walked away after a day for no good reason ‘because they didn’t like the job’ it made the agency look bad. But our temp make a terrible accusation so she was in the clear and would face no backlash for leaving. On the contrary, she probably got sympathetic placements after that. That she was willing to risk my job because she didn’t like the work she had to do – for a week only! – well… I’ll let you think about that. She is a horrible person for doing that to me, utterly horrible.
I don’t know who is telling the truth in the current circumstances; it could be both are to some degree. It has been 36 years and a lot has happened in the intervening time that dulls the crispness of memories. But I do know innocent people can be accused and facts should rule, not emotion, to ensure a fair and just result. Don’t we all hope for the same for us or our loved ones should we find ourselves in a shit storm like this?
Sometimes I hear or see things and want to react but I remember I am just getting a slice of the situation and before I pass judgment I should get a more full picture. In my case (and others) someone’s livelihood, their reputation, their potential employ-ability and even their safety could be at risk. For goodness sakes, yesterday I saw USA Today (it’s since been revised), had an article that Kavanaugh should stay away from basketball courts ‘when kids are around’, implying he has unnatural tendencies in that area, which has NEVER been a topic, ever. What’s the point, destruction of someone perceived as an adversary, never mind the truth or cost? Ford has also been threatened and had to get protection, how does that help anything?
None of us can control what is going on far away in the Capitol but we can control how we react and judge one another, so when accusations fly, tempers flare or emotions take over it’s always good to remember The Golden Rule. And I’ll just leave it at that.
All the best,