Tuesday, July 31, 2012

bad jobs: the opera

I've had lots of bad jobs. Figured I'd tell some stories about them.

I worked at the Metropolitan Opera for several months, as assistant to one of five managers who reported directly to the Director, Joe Volpe. The person who had the job before me had also worked on the website, but that task was transferred to someone else. I had almost nothing to do. Trying to be conscientious, I read through the files in my office. My boss took me out to lunch soon after I started, and she got drunk. She once had me type and apply a label for the cover of a report she was presenting to Volpe, and screamed at me because the label was a mite off-center. But I was basically in that terrible position of having to look busy when I wasn't.

After I'd been there for a month, my boss went on vacation for two or three months. During that time, I was assigned to work for HR, in the basement. I remember doing a lot of filing. Also, one of the women who worked there had a tape deck and only two tapes: Billy Joel's greatest hits, and Enya.

When my boss came back, I guess she must have had me doing some things...however, she had to have been the worst communicator ever. Her office was right across the hall from mine, and I'd get these calls from the head of HR: "Here's what you're doing that S. doesn't like..."

The kicker was this: she had a big binder that had information on everyone who worked at the Opera, from the administrative assistants to the musicians, directors and singers. She told me in no uncertain terms that it should never been taken out of her office - that if I had to work from it, I had to use it in her office. Which I did. One day, she couldn't find it, and she tore up her office, and then mine. I helped her tear up both offices, but the thing could not be found. When I asked if she had maybe taken it home to work there, she flew into yet another rage. A few weeks later, the nice HR lady called me to say that I was being let go. I said, "She really thinks I took that binder?" The whole job lasted about five months.

The good things about working there: I had a knob in my office that I could turn on to hear whatever was happening on stage, which at that time was rehearsals. The entire Opera was in one building, so going to HR, I passed rehearsal halls full of dancers and singers and musicians. There was also only one cafeteria (I seem to recall it was subsidized) where everyone ate, so I saw all of the musicians and singers there. There were free tickets for staff, although almost all of the time I was there, it was the off-season.

When I was there, there was an opening for someone to work for the woman who ran outside events, other groups that rented the opera hall (ballet companies, etc.). I suggested a friend of mine for the job, and she was hired and worked there for many years. Her boss was really nice. Years later, she told me that my old boss got divorced and was a much nicer person after that.

I actually had a standing-room ticket for opening night, but it fell between my being let go and my actually leaving (I guess I was given two weeks notice or something). I was way too depressed to go. My boss stuck her head in my office that night, dressed to the teeth, and asked if I were going. I said, "No, I'm too depressed." She gave me a surprised look and sauntered off, almost as if she hadn't fired me after five months (three of which she wasn't there).

Most of my bad jobs were bad because of bad bosses. She was up there with the worst of them. Maybe one of the reasons I'm a good boss to my interns is that I've learned a lot of what not to do from those bad bosses.

More bad jobs to come.

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