Thanksgiving has barely passed and December has barely started, but we're already starting to get holiday cards from everybody Treena or Joy has ever met, from the old lady on the ground floor to Joy's ex-boyfriend in Scotland. It's kind of interesting how the different groups affect me when looking at them, and it's not necessarily what you'd expect. I've long accepted that Joy's family are my family for as long as I'm her, for example. We've got the same genes, and that counts for something. I can look in the mirror, see bits of Joy's mother there, and keeping in touch with her seems natural. Similarly, I may not have as much history with Joy's friends as they think I do, but I've talked with them, hung out with them, talked them into doing things. It makes sense to hear from them.
The others, though, are really weird. You know, the ones who met Joy in some other way and keep sending her cards even though I can't find their names anywhere in the social media accounts I've inherited and their addresses apparently didn't migrate between phones at some point. I can call Joy's family and friends my family and friends, but even though they're kind of inconsequential, relationship-wise, it feels kind of weird to call people acquaintances if I have not actually made their acquaintance. I mean, sure, whatever, you keep it up, guy who went to high school with Joy and thinks dropping five bucks on a card every year might get her to hook up with you at the reunion, your letter is kind of more interesting than the baby pictures, but it's not going to get you into these panties.
I am trying to write one of those letters of my own, because it does seem like the kind of thing that would be in-character for Joy, and a couple of them did mention not hearing from her for the past couple of years. It's a little easier this year than it would have been before, when I would have had to make up stuff to fill in a seven-or-eight-month gap, but it's still a little harder to fill in than I thought. I can't include the Inn-related stuff, obviously, and a lot of the exciting stuff this year has involved sex (or not having sex), and I'm not really up to writing two letters, with one of them censored, and trying to figure out who might not think the fun one was completely inappropriate.
The office card was a lot more straightforward - make sure I dress nice the day the photographer comes in, and it's not like I ever show up in sweats. They didn't put me front-and-center, but I got a prominent place, as a pretty blonde with bare legs sure breaks up a wall of thirty-something year-old guys in suits. It would be great if it helped me out professionally - I'll certainly be the one they remember if a former client gets the cards and says "huh, maybe I should sell the beach house, and I should go with the realty office who helped me buy it even if the actual person I worked with isn't there any more" - but I know it's mostly a way to humanize the crew that wants a big commission. It's certainly not going to get my numbers up by the end of the quarter.
Which is too bad, because I could probably use the money to cover some expenses and sock away. When I went out to the parking garage Monday night, I got a big shock when I saw the car's rear end had been absolutely crushed, enough to bend the axle, and while I figure it has to be the guy with the Hummer, the security camera was apparently busted, which means the insurance company is almost certainly going to be dicks about covering it. On top of that, the body shop told me I wouldn't be able to get a loaner that night, which meant I was looking at taking the bus or an Uber home.
Fortunately, Teddy had been on a call when I was getting ready to leave, so he made it to the garage just as the tow truck was pulling out. His eyebrows went up at the damage, but he asked if he could give me a ride. I said he certainly could with only about half the innuendo I could have, which amused him more than anything. I turned around to stow my bag in the back seat, and that's when I caught a glimpse of the pay stubs he had dropped there.
Now, I know enough not to read too much into any one paycheck when you're in sales. Not only does seniority count for something, but what you do week-to-week is a big deal when you're being paid a commission; some weeks I'll do better than him, others he out-earns me. But the one on top of that pile was the holiday bonus, and it was almost three times mine, and I know he hasn't been in the office that much longer than I have or outperformed me that significantly.
I mentioned it to Treena in passing as part of bitching about what happened to the car, and she immediately seized on it as bullshit. I was pretty determined to act like it was none of my business, but the next morning made it tough, as the body shop tried to pad the estimate and stuck me in a sub-compact with their name on the side in big letters for a loaner car, which just makes for a great impression with clients. Waiting for the shop to open and dealing with all that got me to work a little late, and when Stretch made a pretty harmless comment about it I snapped at him, saying that when folks try to charge you twice as much despite your only pulling in half the money, you've got to spend time haggling.
The laughter that came in response was a bit more nervous than usually happens when I make a joke, but I didn't think too much of it, diving into work, making calls and emails, setting up some showings. I didn't think much of it until I was about to step out for lunch and the boss called me into his office. I stepped in, took a seat, and asked what was up.
"Joy, are you happy here?"
"Uh.... Yeah, I'm pretty happy here. The work's good, the pay is good, and so are the co-workers." I tried to pay it casual, but conversations that start like this are usually dangerous.
"Good, good... From some of your comments this morning, I was worried that you might be dissatisfied and, perhaps, trying to lay the groundwork to get more than your due."
"Oh, no, just, you know, dealing with car stuff this morning. Can't live without your car in California, right?"
"You certainly can't. It's not that we were particularly worried, but you know how it goes - a woman takes a job in a place that has a lot of money going through it, they're often looking to hook onto a man, whether it be a customer or a co-worker, but we'd never had that feeling about you."
"No sir - trust me, if there was anyone looking to make money off getting laid here, it wouldn't be me!"
He pulled forward a bit in his chair, so he was looking at me at just a little bit more of a downward angle, trying to adopt just a teeny bit more of a dominant posture. "Are you trying to imply something? Something you can use later?"
I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry. "What? No! I mean, I might have heard something that sounded bad, but I might have misinterpreted it. I mean, guys in any kind of sales job have to be competitive, right? And sometimes, out of context, that can sound a lot worse than it actually is."
He smiled, pleased at this response. "I'm glad you understand. A lot of women don't."
A lot of days, if have made the funny-to-me comment that I wasn't most women, but instead I just thanked him and went to get a salad from the place down the street. I was kind of feeling like "most women" at that moment, or at least the group that have been making such a big stink about guys being guys lately. And I hated that; I wasn't going to be one of them.
That attitude carried me through the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, getting home with just enough time to do little more than pass Treena in the doorway, telling her to keep her feminist agenda to herself. She was kind of in a joking mood, saying I really should have noticed it was my feminist agenda too by now. She stopped for a second when I said it almost got me fired, but I said not to worry, I'd handled it. She said that was good, but if I wanted to talk, she wouldn't be out very late.
Oh, and there was another card on the kitchen table, and this one might mean something.
I looked. Yeah, it did - it was from "Simon Woodford". Me. Or at least, Brian Meeks with my body and life. There were two letters in the card, one the printed-out version everyone got, talking about work and home repair projects that I had always put off that Brian took on, and finding out he had testicular cancer, which he joked about as much as he could. One was handwritten and obviously just for me, apologizing if I found the other letter inappropriate, but it seemed like humor was the best way to cope on a day-to-day basis. He got into a lot more detail about the surgery and radiation, and how the doctors were really encouraged. He said he was mostly worried about my dad, who seemed to take the diagnosis kind of hard and sometimes needed a reminder to take care of himself too.
And then there was the picture, me but not really me - he'd apparently decided to shave his head when some of his hair started falling out, on top of a few more lines on his face but also a weird smile that I knew was phony from all the apologies and guilt that came out of his mouth when talking to me.
Really, a bummer of a Christmas card, but kind of a perfect cap on 24 hours of not feeling like I'm in control of my life the way I usually do.