Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sometimes the past comes back to smack you in the face

Last night, we went to Joey’s alma mater’s football season kickoff dinner. He is a huge college football junkie and his team is usually nationally ranked, so this is like a huge deal in the Builder Mama house. Well, at least for Joey it is. The dinner is a huge networking thing – oddly enough, there are tons of construction people there so I got to see a lot of people I’ve worked with on projects in the past and catch up on all the gossip. It’s really cool because it’s so rare to have women working in the construction industry – let alone any that would willingly attend a college football dinner – that I was absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people that I got to talk to last night.

The best part was that my very first boss Bill sought me out to talk to me. This guy owned a mechanical contracting firm and sold out for hundreds of millions of dollars about seven years ago when he was in his early 50’s. His wife was my mentor in the office and a lot of the way I handle business now is directly because of her influence. I was fresh out of college with almost no work experience and I hounded them for weeks until they finally brought me in for an interview and they decided to take a chance on me and hire me to work there. Anyhow, I hadn’t seen the man in over 10 years, so when I turned around to face him I was completely overwhelmed by the moment. I stuck my hand out to shake it and he said, “Girl, you have GOT to be kidding me – I expect a hug from you!”

He hasn’t changed a bit. He was really one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life even though he’s one of the wealthiest people I will probably ever know. We chatted for about 15 minutes and caught up on all the basics about what each of us are doing now (Me: “Well, I still work at X where I’ve been since I left your company, have a four-year-old, moved in a new house last year, been married 10 years…” Him: “We split our time between our house here and our house in Florida, been spending a lot of time sportfishing, still racing Porsches…”). Needless to say we don’t exactly run in the same circles but it was good to find out how his family was doing and what he’s been up to since his big windfall.

As we parted ways, he gave me another hug and said, “You know, after you left I always worried about what would happen to you.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “You know, after you and that guy broke up and all that stuff happened, I really worried about you," he replied.

It all came rushing back – the humiliation that I faced in Bill’s office many years ago as I stood there trying to maintain my composure as I explained to him that someone was using Bill’s company credit card and buying things using my name and mailing them to me.

I had been seeing this abusive asshole guy for several years and when we broke up, he didn’t take it well at all. A few weeks after the breakup, I came home from work to find a package on my doorstep. When I opened it, it was full of herbal supplements (for “sexual performance”) and caffeine pills (I’m assuming so I could stay up all night to enjoy the benefits of the herbal supplements?) from some mail-order place – and the credit card receipt had my name on it but the credit card number wasn’t mine. I called the company and they said I could send it back if I wanted to but they had my name, address, and phone number on file. Very strange, but I put the package on my kitchen table with plans to mail the stuff back in a few days.

A day later, another package arrived. This time it was a CD called “Music to Make Love To”, again with a credit card receipt with my name on it but a different credit card number. I guess that was to go with the first package.

The next day? A subscription to Cosmopolitan. Sensing a theme here?

The following day, I got a call at work from the management office at my apartment complex that they had a huge package for me and would I please come pick it up. Oriental rugs. Three of them.

The last day, I had two packages. One was a box of clothing from Newport News (a place I’d never bought from before) with a bathing suit, a dress, and a slinky top in it.

The other was a vibrator. Called The Tongue. It looked like a tongue on a stick. And whoever had sent it to me had been kind enough to send me the cordless model. How thoughtful is that?

At that point I was seriously freaked out. I went back to work and was telling my friends Jean and Tracy about it and Tracy happened to have a connection at a credit card company and offered to see if she could run down information on the card since it happened to have the same prefix as our company credit cards did.

Fifteen minutes later, she appeared in my office looking like someone had just died. As it turns out, the credit card number belonged to no one other than my boss, Bill – the president of our company. I had been given access to the card several times to buy things for the company, and I’m assuming that whoever bought the stuff was doing it hoping that I would be fired when the purchases were discovered. And, ironically enough, two of abusive asshole’s best friends worked at the credit card company so chances were that they hacked the number for him just to get revenge on me.

So, at that moment, I went to Bill’s wife and together we went in to talk to Bill. At the time, he scared the ever-loving shit out of me because he was always terribly serious. You know, one of those guys that always looks like he has a very sharp stick up his ass. I was already shaking and on the verge of tears and I sat on the edge of my chair as I gave him the play-by-play about what was going down:

Bill: So tell me, what’s the problem?

I’ve been getting all these really weird packages in the mail. And I told Tracy about it and she looked up the credit card number and it’s all charged to your card. I swear I didn’t do it!

Bill: (nodding) So tell me, what kind of stuff have you been getting?

Me: (starting to cry) Um, some clothes, some vitamins, a CD…

Bill: Mmm hmm…

Me: (bawling) And a vibrator shaped like a tongue.

Bill: Oh my. Oh.

So, in the end, he gave me an enormous hug and told me everything would be okay. He contacted the police, who immediately confiscated all my goodies as evidence and despite an exhaustive search they never figured out who ordered the stuff (remember, this was back in 1995 in the dark ages and I don’t think our police department even HAD a computer). And yes, they even took The Tongue much to all of my friends’ dismay. “What?” said one, “You gave it to the cops? The least you could’ve done is let me try it out first….”

That day changed our relationship. Suddenly, Bill went from gruff old boss to concerned fatherly-type boss. He always made a point of stopping by my office when he emerged from the bowels of his mahogany-paneled office just to say hi even if he didn’t have anything to give me work-wise. And when I finally left the company in 1996, he and his wife gave me a beautiful silk blouse with a handwritten letter that I still have to this day, saying how much they enjoyed working with me and letting me know that I always had a home there at the company.

So last night, I gave him a goodbye hug and said that yes, things had turned out just fine.

“I always knew you’d be fine,” he said, grinning. “Just fine.”

And on a funny side note, even now he still calls his old company to talk to the guys that used to be his employees that now run this multi-million dollar company. “It’s the strangest thing,” he said, “when I call there, I always have to tell the receptionist of the week that my name is Bill and I used to work there.” Never mind the fact that he turned a $25,000 investment into a multi-million dollar company – now he’s just some annoying old dude that calls every now and then like he owns the place.

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