Friday, July 04, 2008

Deja Vu

When I first started working at my job in Paris I had no idea what to expect. I had never had a job before - well except from working in a bar over the summer months as a student but that doesn't really count as the majority of time spent there involved being chatted up by sweaty old munters* and keeping an eye out for the boss while we all took turns to gulp down shots of straight voddie stolen from behind the bar. But as it so happens, work turned out to be a lot like school.

At school there were the teachers, the people who are paid to breath down your neck, to make sure you are doing what they want you to do. And at work there are the bosses.

At school there were the good days, the days when the maths teacher was absent and the teacher filling in didn't have a clue what to do so she told you to 'talk quietly amongst yourselves'. And at work there are the Friday mornings when there are croissants and coffee and we all stand around for as long as possible 'talking quietly amongst ourselves'.

At school there was the work, the exams, the stress. And at work there is the work, the stress, but no exams.

At school there was the bully, the girl who hated you because you looked at her 'funny' one time across the canteen. And at work there is Christabelle.

Christabelle was also new when I first arrived to work in the office. My first impressions of her were good - very good even - as she was friendly and helpful with correcting my French mistakes and showing me where things were. One day, when I took the wrong train to work and ended up in a train station I had never even heard of, Christabelle jumped in the car and drove from work to pick me up. She was lovely, or so I thought...

And then Christabelle turned into Christa-pas-belle. One day she just cracked. Her façade disappeared and for half an hour we were all treated to a mean, grumpy Christa-pas-belle. She would be fine one minute; kind, helpful, sweet, and then someone would say something that she didn't agree with and Bam! The mask slipped and you could see her for what she really was: a total bitch.

I made sure not to get in her way, I didn't need an enemy so early on in my time working in the office and I certainly didn't need one who was so shockingly unpredictable. But one day I found myself being screamed at by her and ever since then I've been tiptoeing delicately around her, trying to avoid the cracks in her hideously large ego.

I make a point of being kind and polite at work. I don't want problems like the one that has arisen. I do everything that I am told, I don't answer people back and I don't pick on people. But I'm beginning to think that perhaps, where Christa-pas-belle is concerned anyway, I have been too nice. It's as though she knows she can say anything to me because I won't say anything back, I'm too much of a wuss to stand up for myself. It's like she has all this anger inside of her just waiting to pounce on someone and she knows that she can take it out on me, because I will just accept it.

Yesterday, after having had no work of my own to do whatsoever for the whole week, I finally received papers in my in-tray. It was a welcome break from having to do everyone's skivvy work just to keep busy and I said as much to the girls.

"Ah, DABB notes to do!" I exclaimed. "Mes amies!" What I wanted to say was that the DABB notes were like old friends and it was good to have some of my own work to do but because of my French it didn't come out that way and Christa-pas-belle took it as though I was addressing her and the girls as 'mes amies'.

She glared at me and then said loudly and slowly, 'on. n'est. pas. tes. amies.'

Woa, they are not my friends?! Well firstly that was such a rude, unecessary thing to say! Why would anyone say that? And secondly, she can talk for herself but when she says 'on' she includes the other girls and I'm pretty sure none of them have a problem with me.

So I turned to her and said, just as loudly, "actually I wasn't talking about you, I was just saying that the DABB notes are like old friends." and the other girls laughed at Christa-pas-belle for having made the mistake.

Then, embarrassed I presume, she spat "Je m'en fou, faut pas que tu crois qu'on es tes amies parce qu'on n'est pas. Faut pas confondre." ("I don't care, you mustn't think that we are your friends because we aren't. You musn't get confused about that.")

I mean what is that all about? Why would she say that? Especially since half an hour later she was all sweetness and light again, giving me a huge smile and a kiss on both cheeks before she left to go home. Is she bipolar? Schizophrenic? Suffering from constant PMS? What's going on with that girl, I just don't get her and I'm not the only one to have noticed. There are two other people who have been on the receiving end of her Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde moods so I know it's not just me, but still, she's really beginning to put a downer on things.

I suppose, just like with the bullies at school, I will have to keep my head down and ignore her until she goes away. But I can't help feeling that work shouldn't be like school at all, that we should all be a little more grown up by now...

*munter = ugly person


Zhu said...

Maybe her great-great-great-great grand-parents fought the English in some wars?

Okay, sorry, not funny.

Every office has a designated bitchy woman. You will also meet gay guy, sleeps-with-everybody woman, "fils à papa" who got his job because his dad of relative is on the board etc.

Gotta be like that. The Office is basically a mix between Desperate Housewife, the Simpsons and Jerry Springer.


Lis of the North said...

Hmm. We don't have an outright bitchy woman, but there is one who undermines absolutely everything you ever do when she thinks it will benefit her. Then when she realises that you do your own job better than she thought she could, she becomes sweetness and light. Grr.
You would think that by the time most of us arrive in the real grown up world of work, we'd have grown out of playground spats. But they just morph into drinks machine spats ;)
Bon courage !!

sylvie d said...

Hey Princesse...christa-pas-belle made me chuckle out loud!
Just put her back in place when she steps over the line otherwise remain totally neutral the rest of the time...every office has a christa-pas-belle...the bottom line is she probably hates you because you are cute and look that little bit happier than she is.
Nice to see you back ;) x

Leah said...

I also tend to shy away(read:run to the high hills) from confrontation. But, I think you don't have to stoop to her level to stand up for yourself, what you did was just fine. Crystal Ball needs to understand that you mean business! :)

Jennie said...

There's always gotta be someone who just HAS to have the last word, whether or not they're right. What a bitch. I hope she doesn't continue to act like that!

L'oiseau de perles said...

I found your blog a little while ago and absolutely love it!

I know what you mean about work being like school, I've been working at a company for the past three years(albeit just for the cash since I have no interest in this field of work) but my 30+ year old coworkers gossip, badmouth each other, and act generally childish! It's amazing...and sad at the same time. :(

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with such a whack-job! What she's saying is awful! I think you handled it really well. Try not to get into an argument with her, one thing I'm starting to notice here is that once people start arguing they just go on and on and on until it's blown way out of proportion, so I think your responses were really good.

girl with the mask said...

It sounds like you have been more patient with her than I would have been. I would have taken her aside and told her her behaviour was inappropriate by now... all the best with her!

despina said...

Hello baby!
I finally have internet! Am doing boring things like sorting out travel and sending of CVs but promise to blog soooon. Urgh, what a cow! I find situations like that really hard to deal with, I don't like to be disliked even if the feeling is mutual. People like that can't cope with genuinely kind and easy-going people like you.
A friend of mine is singing in an opera near Paris at the start of August, and I'm hoping to be able to get to see him. It would be absolutely amazing to meet up with you! Much love xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Things have gone from bad to worse with Christa-pas-belle. Am being forced to be nice to her! Forced! There is a knife against my throat and bosses watching me, making sure I make an effort. Apparently it's me who has to be nice to her because she has a 'very strong character'. I could screeeeeam!!!!

So sorry I don't have enough time to answer every comment individually today, my parents are arriving tomorrow and the place needs a lot of 'stuff' done to it. And by stuff I do mean cleaning which is not my forté, not at all.

Despina, yes yes yes would be wonderful and lovely and really must use this opportunity to meet up! Lots of love xxxxxx