“Please God,” I prayed out loud in my car. “Don’t let David yell at me today. Don’t let him fire me.”
This was how I started every workday, arriving half an hour early to pray for a few minutes and walking into the office 15 minutes before my shift. David warned me often that he’d fire me if I was even one minute late, but if he appreciated me starting early, he never mentioned it. I felt like he hated me. He acted as if my mere appearance aggravated him. I was David’s favorite target, and he shot in my direction so often I’d become genuinely afraid of him.
It didn’t start out that way. When I first interviewed for the medical transcription job at the MRI center, David was warm and welcoming. He said he needed a replacement for their transcriptionist, Paula. She was about to have surgery for stage four cancer and wouldn’t be coming back to work. Without meeting her, I felt terrible for Paula and the suffering she had to endure. I felt a little bad for taking her job, but David seemed so nice. I looked forward to working for him.
The job paid more money than any other in my entire life. On top of my salary, I’d get a bonus of approximately one thousand dollars every month. The company even provided lunch for their employees, letting us order takeout from the fanciest restaurants in town. I couldn’t believe my luck and felt grateful to be working there. Along with David, the radiologists in the office were nice and friendly. Even the other women in the office were sweet and took me into their circle.
Paula took her time with me, training me on everything I needed to know. She was a gruff older lady who didn’t stand for nonsense, but that was okay with me. It made me sad to think of everything she was facing with her cancer and surgery. Paula didn’t really talk about it, but I still felt guilty for moving into her office and taking the job she probably loved.
“The doctors haven’t dictated yet so there’s nothing to transcribe,” David said on my first morning without Paula. “Maybe you can go on Facebook while you’re waiting?”
He was so laid back and made me feel comfortable in my new surroundings. My office was across from his, so we would chat now and then. I confessed that I’d just separated from my sociopathic husband and was trying to save for a divorce. My new job would definitely make it possible. David was supportive about my breakup, but I tried not to talk about my personal life too much. I didn’t want him to think I was bringing drama into the office, so I put my head down and worked hard and tried to keep the talking at a minimum.
Once my three-month probationary period was up, I received the bonuses David mentioned at my interview. I rented my own condo nearby even though I didn’t have furniture yet. There was even an extra bedroom I could get ready when my daughter came home from living with my mom. I’d needed the time to get my life in order after my separation and to make sure I could support her. Now it looked like my wish would come true. I made enough money to support both of us, and I prepared a place for her in my great new apartment. I felt my whole life had changed. The horror I’d gone through with my ex almost seemed worth it. Everything was going so great.
About five months into my job, Paula surprised me by walking into my office. She looked good, almost healthy again. She told me her surgery was successful, and they’d gotten all the cancer. She was in remission. I leaped up from my chair and hugged her tight. What wonderful news!
“I guess I should thank you,” Paula said, her eyes narrowing. “You know, for taking care of my job for me.”
Oh my God. I could see where this was going. Paula wanted her job back, and she wasn’t being subtle about it. I could hardly blame her. My experience there so far was nothing short of wonderful. Still, I’d taken on the expenses of the condo and all the bills that came with it. If I lost my job, I’d be out on the street.
“You’re both going to be our transcriptionists,” David explained to us later. Then he turned to me. “I’m also going to train you for the phones, and you can handle patient insurance and things like that.”
I felt disappointed even though I didn’t let it show. I’d been a transcriptionist nearly my entire adult life. What did I know about insurance? David moved me out of my office into a desk closer to the reception window, telling me I’d now be checking in patients as well. I bit back tears as he spoke so he wouldn’t see me cry. He made me feel like a charity case, the girl who needed “something to do” because the other jobs were all filled. I couldn’t protest even if I wanted to. I needed that job to survive.
My fear over job security led me to start answering the daily repetitive phone calls from my ex. I felt vulnerable as if the world was about to collapse under me no matter how hard I tried. My ex spotted my weakness right away and offered to move in with me to offset some of my bills. I didn’t love him anymore. I didn’t even like him. Still, he made me feel like I needed him, and I started to believe him.
I let it slip to someone at work that I’d reunited with my husband, and David caught wind of it. That’s when things escalated. David seemed to take it personally, and he took it out on me in a hundred different ways every day. He and Paula conspired to go over my transcription work with a fine-toothed comb. I was on the carpet nearly every day for something as trivial as a missing comma. David would berate me over it for several minutes before rolling his eyes in disgust and walking away. I checked my work obsessively, trying to make sure I didn’t have a single error. Even so, I was human and not a robot. I couldn’t be perfect no matter how hard I tried.
“I’m going to fire you one day,” David would yell in front of the staff. “You’re going to be homeless, and I won’t even care one bit.”
I wished for the courage to stand up to him, but I felt weaker with every shouting session. Knowing I could never get a job that paid as much, I stood daily at his desk while he insisted I didn’t defend myself against his tirade. I apologized every chance I got for not living up to his expectations, which seemed to change regularly. There was no standing up to David. He was the king of the office, and the rest of us were either his henchmen or victims like me.
“You shouldn’t put up with that,” one of my coworkers advised me. “You should tell one of the doctors. David will get in serious trouble.”
I didn’t want to cause problems, but David had me so flustered I made mistakes I wouldn’t ordinarily make. I felt his eyes on me everywhere I went. He called me an imbecile and lazy and worse so the whole office could hear. Something had to give. I decided to tell Dr. Vasquez, who I thought was the kindest of all the doctors. Surely he would make David stop torturing me.
I went into the doctor’s office on the next day he worked and spilled my guts. Tears poured from my eyes as I described how David treated me. I told him about my praying in the parking lot every morning. I made sure he knew how much I loved and needed my job, but I couldn’t take the abuse anymore. Dr. Vasquez put an arm around me and assured me it would stop. He would make sure of it.
The next day, David cut me down to part-time. Dr. Vasquez never spoke to me directly again.
Working part-time meant no more bonus every month and no free lunches. Instead, I sat at my desk and watched the other ladies order from their favorite restaurants the way I used to do. It didn’t matter that much. Anxiety made my stomach hurt too much to eat. The women in the office didn’t talk to me like they used to, avoiding my eyes as if whatever I had that made David hate me was contagious. I worked in silence, desperate to get everything right and not make David angry. Only Paula would speak to me, but I could tell she was only fishing for information to take back to David. I didn’t trust her or anybody else anymore.
I’m not sure why David waited so long to fire me. Maybe he enjoyed pushing me around. It certainly seemed that way. The morning he let me go, I’d just walked into work and sat down at my desk. He called me back to his office and told me my services were no longer needed. Even then, I didn’t defend myself. I simply nodded in agreement and grabbed my purse and left without a goodbye to anybody. I felt free for the first time in almost a year, yet I blamed myself for getting fired. If only I hadn’t missed that comma, filed that paper in the wrong spot and all the other things he accused me of doing. Those mistakes cost me my job, and I’d never forgive myself.
I stayed friends with Joanne, one of my former coworkers, on Facebook. She was the only woman there who offered me smiles instead of suspicion, and I’d been grateful for her small kindness. She reached out to me about a year after my firing and told me the same thing happened to her after I left. David bullied her until she was a shell of her former self, then dumped her without another word.
David wasn’t a boss; he was a bully. I realize now there was nothing I could have done to save my job. I’m not sure why David singled me out for his abuse, but he seemed to revel in harassing me. Even Dr. Vasquez seemed intimidated by him, and he was an owner in the company. So many times, I wished I would have stood up to David. I should have told him to get lost the first time he yelled at me in front of everybody. At the time, I never thought I’d find a job as good as that one. It was the most money I ever made in my life, but none of it was worth my self-respect.
These days, when I have to drive past the MRI Center, I always extend the middle finger from my car that David deserves. I’m not the same person he tortured years ago. I’ve grown stronger through life’s challenges and don’t have to be afraid of him or anyone else.
Karma will take care of David someday. He’ll berate the wrong person who will finally give him a piece of their mind. David almost broke me, but these days I’m happier than I suspect he’ll ever be. Today I pity the man I once feared so much who demanded respect but was disliked by all his employees. I learned the hard way that true respect is earned, and I would never let anyone treat me that way again.
I still dream about David once in a while. He’s yelling at me, only this time I yell right back. David was a small man who got his kicks bullying women. I’ll never give anyone that kind of power over me again.