Three Times I Walked Out on the Job Because I Had a Fuck Off Fund
Not a lot of people realize that, despite getting C’s in math, I’m good with numbers. I knew that with enough money, I could walk away whenever the hell I felt like it. No matter how minimal my wage was, I always had money saved up. Tips and cash gifts were funneled to savings. Overtime was picked up. I turned down vacations and weekends in Vegas. I wanted to do a semester in London, but I didn’t, because I’d rather have money in the vault and not paid out to Fannie Mae.
I was working in a soup shop, where I met two significant people in my life. One was my best friend, the manager of the soup shop at the time. She hired me on the spot. She also hired her cousin, my future ex-boyfriend. (When we met, my nerve endings delighted.) Later, when the business was sold, the new owner decided to keep all of us on staff. She liked everyone well enough, but she was especially intrigued with me and my boyfriend. Every chance she got, she asked about us both: how things were going, and what we did together.
At first, I gave her scraps. Just enough to placate her, but she kept asking for more. I told the manager, but without HR there was nothing she could do. Shortly after we broke up, when I was still unmoored from disbelief, my boss asked me why he was gone.
“It didn’t work out,” I said, not looking at her, my hands deep in dish pit duty.
“Why?” she asked. “I just want to know.”
“It’s not really any of your business, is it?” I was finally looking at her as I said it.
“Is it because you’re a bitch?” she asked, and I felt currents go through my spine.
“It’s not any of your business, is it?” I repeated.
She said I was disrespectful, and she should fire me right now.
“Oh no, I’m not fired,” I said. “I quit, and you’ll be paying for unemployment.”
I grabbed my purse and headed for the bus. I wasn’t worried about my prospects. I had money saved up; I always did.
Later, I was working in a restaurant as one of the managers. I didn’t quite enjoy the job, but it paid. I kept my own counsel instead of socializing, weaving alliances. Maybe that’s where it all went wrong; I didn’t try harder at being likable, although that clearly wasn’t in the job description.
One day I came in to work and one of my co-managers clocked in and checked his MySpace. He did it all the time, and nobody ever said anything to him. Sure, weighty glances circulated amongst the staff, but no actual words were used to discuss his MySpace habit.
I said “good morning” and went back to what I was doing. He stood up, actually marched up to me, and screamed “What kind of crap are you saying about me?” I asked him what he was talking about, and actually laughed a little bit because surely this was a joke.
“Oh, you know what I’m talking about! I’m talking about you gossiping about me using MySpace!” His words were ALL-CAPS now. Staff stood around and watch this man berate and humiliate me.
Almost nine years later, I’m still not sure why he assumed I was talking about him, or even thought that he occupied one cell of my brain. Then he said it, that word nobody had ever used against me before: “I think you’re a slut!” (At age 24, I’d only had two boyfriends, and gone on exactly four dates in my entire life.) He said the word again. Its mass wrapped itself around me, extracting power.
“You’ve no right, no right to say that to me!” My words became even bigger ALL-CAPS than his. He thought I might cry, but I didn’t. Instead, I ran outside, called my boss, and demanded she come to work right now and fire him.
“It’s not a big deal,” she said, her voice treacle from sleep. “Go back to work.”
I told her that I quit. Then I hung up and drove home. I went out to breakfast. I didn’t care that everything was overpriced. I even over-tipped the waitress, because as a former waitress, I understood. I had money in my purse, in my bank, and in my retirement fund. I had money to walk away.
Hard to imagine now that I had three abusive employers one after another, but it actually happened. At my new job, the other girls warned me about the owner: how she donated chunks of money to children in Africa but physically and verbally abused her workers. Not me, I thought, that would never happen to me. Until it happened.
The owner walked over to me and asked me what I was doing. “I just wanted to try something different,” I said. I can’t remember if I tweaked a recipe or cut the meats a little thicker — it was innocuous. Next thing I knew, my boss had grabbed me by the neck and was shaking me, telling me to do exactly as she says from now on, understand?
A little older now, I didn’t grab my purse and walk right out. I went about my work, even saying goodbye to the boss when she left, all the while calculating how much money I had saved up. I was always working, always adding cash to my Fuck Off Fund. I could have walked right out, but I’d miss the girls. So I applied for jobs, saved my tips, and picked up catering gigs.
When I got another job, I called the boss’s son and politely resigned. I’ve left many jobs for just as many reasons, and each time, I had money to walk away. I always do.
Ruzielle Ganuelas is a writer, baker and PF nerd in Washington State.
This week, we’re celebrating the Fuck Off Fund. This story is part of this series.
Support The Billfold