An Infuriating Boss

Irina Pino

Havana bus stop. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Back in the 90s, I worked in a bookstore. I was happy, I had the ideal job, surrounded by books. I learned to deal with the customers who went there, suggesting what books to read. I socialized with others and made friends.

When no customers were around, I would spend my time reading. I was close to an elderly gentleman who had been a theater actor in his youth and worked as the custodian at night. We shared a passion for books, movies and plays. Everything was going well until my boss, a woman over sixty, started making life impossible for me.

First, she started saying behind my back that I didn’t dress properly (because I wore shorts). It was stifling inside that place and we didn’t even have a fan. They hadn’t given me a uniform, so I had to put on light clothing in the summer.

It was obvious she didn’t like me and she was constantly checking the money in the register, an old box that was basically just a drawer to put the cash in. I asked her to get me a calculator and she never did, I had to add everything up mentally or on a piece of paper.

Someone told me she claimed I would charge customers more than the sale price to pocket some of the money.

She started a war against me. She would hide expensive books so I would think they’d been stolen and I had to pay for the book out of my own pocket. Then, she set up a system of cards to control what books came in and out of the store. This was actually much better for me, a kind of constant inventory.

The place was a venue for international events and foreigners would visit. On such occasions, however, she was the one who sold the books. I suspected she would charge foreigners for the books in hard currency and replace this with Cuban pesos out of her own pocket, keeping a juicy profit this way. She had a lot of money and dressed well. Someone would confirm this later on.

She would also spread gossip, saying I slept with people from work. She would call me a whore behind my back. Everything I did was wrong and she would criticize whatever I did severely.

Sometimes, she would ask, almost dictate, that I stay after hours, because the workmate in the next shift was ill. I did this many times, until I got tired of the abuse, because they wouldn’t pay for the extra hours.

Sometime later, a new girl came in. She would take over for me after 4 pm. She treated this girl well, inviting her to the events. She even got her a fan and a calculator. She went as far as telling this girl to keep an eye on my every move.

I began to feel deep hatred towards that woman. I wanted to slap her, but my good friend would hold me back, telling me it wasn’t worth it. I would constantly think about what to do to her, how to get rid of her. I even fantasized about hiring someone to give her a good beating, something that would make her change. I came to wish the mob existed in Cuba.

When I got married, my workmates suggested I invite her to the wedding, just in case. During the ceremony, she told me I was going to be very unhappy, as I was wearing a pearl necklace and those pearls symbolized pain, eternal suffering. What sort of encouragement is that for a bride?

After I had my son, finished maternity leave and wanted to go back to work, she supported the director’s decision to have me transferred to another position. The union did nothing. They alleged that, since I had a small child, I couldn’t fulfil my responsibilities fully. So they hired someone else.

I had no energy to fight and didn’t turn to the labor law to defend myself. I decided to leave that place for good. I was happier, I got to do other things.

Some years ago, I ran into my old boss. She told me the roof of her house had fallen and almost killed her.

Had I had a sort of late revenge?

One thought on “An Infuriating Boss

  • “Poetic Justice”
    Hi Irina,
    I really enjoy reading your posts. This story really hit home with me. I live in Los Angeles, and i have a boss AND supervisors that just as as big of an a##hole as your boss. They are soooo arrogant and egotiscal, that I just HATE going there on days that they are working. I get super happy when they go on vacation & i don’t have to see them for a week :). Here in the U.S. we share a lot of the issues that Cubans deal with on the Island. Keep up the good work. God Bless.

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