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Carlotta cries

The newspaper strike is over, I’ve heard, but there was still nobody in the newsbooth on my walk to work, and the only newspapers in the self-serve box are the same papers that have been in the box since before the strike. I’ve read that headline a hundred times: Doomed plane fell ‘like a black streak’.

OK already. I get the idea — airplane fall down, go boom. I’m ready for new headlines, and a new strike-free newspaper. Maybe tomorrow?

♦ ♦ ♦

I was showing Carlotta some of my brain-dead morning duties, since she’ll be doing them while I’m on vacation later this month. Somehow we got to talking about job interviews, and she ended up crying, just a little. It’s a long and maddening story.

When I started temping for this evil corporation, Carlotta sat three chairs from me. She was one of only two people in that department with any brains, and the other one wasn’t me. Now I’m an actual employee, no longer a temp, and working in a different department, where Carlotta recently transferred and became my “teammate” again. So she’s “new” here, but she's been here longer than me, and we’re already work pals.

We were talking, and she told me that to transfer to our group, despite already working for the company, she had to apply and interview. When Darla offered her the job, Carlotta had to go to Personnel to file some forms. So far, so normal.

While she was at Personnel, though, an executive there tried to discourage her from taking this job. He said it might be too complicated for her, that she’d have trouble understanding the high-tech work we do.

Which is an asinine, racist thing to say. We do work any 8th-grader could handle with a few days’ training. There is nothing "high-tech" about it, except that we use computers. A TRS-80 would probably be "high-tech" to that exec. And also, Carlotta could handle brain surgery — she’s smart. Smarter than that executive in Personnel, for damned sure. 

She told me she was speechless, unsure what to say, so she didn’t say anything, simply filled out the form and left. And then, before the transfer could be finalized, she had to interview a second time, with Babs, boss of all bosses in our quadrant. That’s peculiar, too — when I applied, I interviewed only once, with the boss who was my boss before Darla.

During this second job interview, Babs asked Carlotta, “Are you accurate?” Carlotta told me she thought for a moment about how to answer, but before she said anything, Babs said, “Do you know what accurate means?”

As if, because Carlotta has an accent, she can’t speak English?

And then Babs’ phone rang, she said “Excuse me” and took the call, turning around, looking out the window to talk. Carlotta had a view of Babs' desk, and could read an e-mail that had been printed out — from that same exec in Personnel — recommending that Carlotta "not be hired, due to her deficient English.”

Bastards. Beyond bastards. Carlotta is Asian, and she has an accent. Big deal. This is San Francisco, not Oklahoma. We have people from all over, more colors and accents than the United Nations, and Lottie’s English is not a problem. Maybe once or twice a week I ask her to repeat something, because I didn’t understand it the first time, but so what? She understands everything.

Carlotta got the job, obviously, but after the ‘accurate’ question and that e-mail on Babs’ desk, she's wondering if she only got the job because Darla, our boss, has an accent, too — she’s Filipino. That’s when Carlotta reached for a Kleenex and started dabbing her eyes. She was crying, and said she’s had no self-esteem since that second interview. 

“Self-esteem comes from here,” I said, pointing at my forehead. One of the rare moments when I’ve almost/maybe said the right thing at the right time. She smiled, but it was a sad smile. I wanted to say more, but what? I was and still am utterly jarred sideways by the whole story. I knew this company was a terrible place to work, but thought at least it was an equal-opportunity torturer. 

Carlotta said she’s thought about calling the city bureaucracy that handles discrimination complaints, but she’s afraid the store would retaliate. And she’s probably right. “Anyway,” she said, “I got the job, so I don’t think I have any legal grounds for a complaint.”

I should’ve said something more, but I was speechless at all of it. Saying the right thing once is all I have in me, and anyway, what does a white dude know about discrimination like this? Nada. All I know is that this company has some astoundingly stupid executives, which I already knew, but now I know they’re even stupider than I’d known.

"Forget about it," Carlotta said, and we went back to talking about the work stuff I was showing her. But no, I won't forget about it, and neither will she.

Maybe it’s time to get off my plump rump, update my resumé, and look for a better job. Which would be any job.

From Pathetic Life #6
Monday, November 14, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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