Dodging Drama: Tips on spotting b****** out to get you

Posted on November 1, 2012



Drama has been a fact of my life since a swimming instructor, Francis, roll-called my Vietnamese name, Thu, in my first swimming class in kindergarten and proceeded to ask “Three?  Four?”, chuckling to herself.  With a budding sense of dignity, albeit a shivery and skinny one in my yellow seashell patterned one-piece, I was determined not to cry in front of all these new kids.  If you recall, that peppery feeling in the middle of your face of wanting to cry has never felt so powerful as in those days of a new beating human heart in a tiny body.  For me, at that moment, the sensation at least succeeded to push out a centimetre-thick lens of tears coating my eyes.  I didn’t dare blink.  I walked slowly and carefully to the edge of the pool as if I were balancing two giant watery fish eggs on my face.  And I waited for the friggin’ eternity it took for her to instruct us to get in the pool.  Underwater, it was finally ok to let go where sobs were muffled and everyone was going to have an equally wet, puffy chlorinated face anyway.

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I’ve since learned that people are just plain stupid and like to act out.  You find out in school in the decade of recess, the interminable cafeteria lunch hours, then you get a job and find out not much has changed.


Elena cuts up a blond wig on her first day in Santa Barbara

I’ll admit people who like to screw you over don’t always do it because they’re stupid.  They do it out of jealous rage too.  The instructive love-triangle storyline of Santa Barbara, circa the late 80s can illustrate:  Elena Norris goes through a lot of wigs, cunning, personal expense, name changes, kidnappings of others and eventually her own death, just to win over Cruz Castillo, whom she didn’t like seeing married to Eden Capwell in the first place.  But in the end, we find out Elena was really just the puppet psychiatric patient of Eden’s ex-husband Kirk, who had elaborately tried to frame Cruz for Elena’s murder, to win back his ex. Great. Plan.


Do-good secretary Krystle (left) was no match for bi-polar ex-wife Alexis (right)

80s prime-time extravaganza Dynasty, Seasons 1-9, proved that people who should have no cares in this material world (i.e. they RICH!) actually do because they have massive(ly fragile) egos.  As a consequence, if they could eat you as lowly cannibals, they would, if that might inflict a bit of one-up-manship on you.  In the world of the oil baron Carringtons, they slept with your spouse or frightened you into an induced miscarriage and did hostile takeovers of your life’s long work, just to get you back for the time you didn’t call when you said you would.  The show gained real momentum with the introduction of scheming be-otch extraordinaire, Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan, who not only hogged every letter of the alphabet for herself, but had the wiles to marry her enemy’s enemy on his death bed with no pre-nup, thereby exponentially multiplying her power over everybody!  (Worse than any ex-wife Nintendo execs could ever dream up for Wario.)  The show peaked at a 60 million viewership and even attracted cameos by former first couple Gerald Ford and his wife, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, showing that even the most reserved of us are all pandering gluttons of melodramatic dish.  Ratings eventually tanked and the Möbius storylines never got resolved.

Dynasty.  Die nasty.

My last example of infamous motives behind middle-school-brained back stabbings is of course, money.  For those of us in the bland non-TV striving middle-class land of water coolers, there is no plausible enough tele-novella storyline for us to carry on every workday.  Passion just doesn’t fit in a setting of taupe wrinkle-resistant business casual.  And we all may have an ego, but that doesn’t weigh in so heftily when our title is at best, some euphemistic blend of the words “Accounts”, “Brand”, “Assistant”, “Area” and “Manager”.  And stupidity is always an underlying possibility, but if I had to pick a shine in the eye of enemy colleagues, I’d cite our universal concern for money as the psychotic voice of unreason in the crap we pull on each other.

If you notice, everyone around you is mortgaged, depended upon, and perhaps in the middle of some hot new mid-life crisis car payments etc.  Knowing this about your colleagues can be useful in informing you of the route they are going to take should workplace issues arise.  I give you real-life cases and the ensuing boomerangic karma that neatly wraps them up as instructional guides to drama-dodging; my presents to you:

Case A: Middle Manager A has two kids in private American universities, and an online degree of mystery value.  He’s a long time creep and someone finally calls him out.  Instead of just apologizing, he attempts to crush the other’s career in abject paranoia of losing his own position.  The other sues and gets a big settlement.

Case B: Co-worker B is waiting for her retirement bonus.  She has the opportunity as a senior among peers to speak up for changes that need to be made to better the workplace, but doesn’t and instead panders in her final years to ensure the bonus, to pay for an outstanding mortgage on a home that houses her granddaughter.  She wonders why after all these years, her last day wasn’t more celebrated by colleagues.

Case C: Team Leader C has a 30-year mortgage, a child and is trying to make management.  He actively listens to staff complaints about management and is asked to do something, but for the whole year, he tai-chis the whole affair so that he doesn’t appear to be an out-right management lackey, yet avoids actually having to do anything against them at all.  He doesn’t make management anyway and the staff doubts the existence of his balls.

Case D: VP D is a male in an all-boys’ club and surrounds himself with actually certified people to get the job done, but then takes all the credit.  He’s been given a salary he doesn’t deserve and due to poor math skills, he’s leveraged his net worth 4-fold to ride with the big dogs (big mortgage, nice car etc).  This of course, overheats the sweatshop at work to prove his worth and perhaps to get promoted to pay off said trappings.  Pissed off, the worker bees quit to lay bare his jig.

Case E: Administrator E has an ailing husband, whose health care will cost a lot to keep him alive.  Her yearly salary, if kept on cruise-control would help cover those costs.  Thus, she throws herself wholeheartedly, nodding in agreement to any and all awful ideas cooked up in the inbred groupthink swamp that the administration has become.  But one day, she over steps and proactively brings to life one of these terrible ideas.  Too bad there happened to be a preemptive court order against it and eyes had been on it.  Now, she has to represent the administration as the key witness for the defense.

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In the end, thankfully, Francis disappeared after her unpopular roll-call torment of Season 1.  Budget cuts?  A drowning?  Who knows!

PS: there exist a few who are able to transcend all this drama.  No matter how mortgaged or beholden to a job they are, there is little to nothing that screws with their moral compass or their intellectual navigation of life.  They do the right thing by others. To them:

I say, “Thanks for watching out for us!”

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