“The truth is never pure and rarely simple…”Oscar Wilde
The following allegory stems from a ragged tale of treachery in Corporate America. The names have been changed to protect the “hardly innocent.”
I know there are people who have been through worse in life, but being accused of stealing from another, when the thought would never even enter my mind, was horrifying. My boss, Richard, the head of Corporate Communications, was known to be a distrustful, dismissive and a downright vicious person, but until the following incident, I just didn’t take him too seriously. After all, I was simply his secretary, and wasn’t looking to make brownie points, or be promoted. At the age of sixty-one, all I wanted to do was to get to sixty-five, and retire, with as little stress as possible. Medical benefits were the real reason I stayed in the job with a difficult boss, but although my husband earned more money than I, he didn’t get nearly as good a benefits package, so that was my responsibility. One Tuesday morning, Richard called me into his office and closed the door. Immediately, I knew something was very wrong. He never closed the door with me inside his office.
At first, he just looked at me. Then he said, “Charlotte, do you have anything to tell me?” I had no idea what he was talking about and I said so. Now I knew that whatever was going on was serious.
“Yesterday,” he continued, “I believe I left my wallet in my desk when I left the office. I figured I must have been left here because it’s not in my car, and I went straight home from here. Have you seen my wallet?” I shook my head no, and waited to hear what he would say next. I guess I already knew.
“Charlotte, I’m very upset about the theft of my wallet.”
I chimed in with barely a whisper, “Theft?” “It didn’t jump out a window, Charlotte, and I can’t find it anywhere else, so it must have been stolen. Since it’s your job to lock up my office at the end of the workday, and no one else had access to my desk all day, it must be you who knows what happened to my wallet.” I sat rigid. I couldn’t have moved if I tried. There were no words coming out of my mouth even though I wanted to scream that the entire situation was absurd. Richard added, “If you want to turn it over to me now, with everything inside that belongs there, I’m will not report this incident. If, however, you don’t come up with the wallet, by noon, I’ll be forced to report you to Human Resources to consider legal action and dismiss you on the spot.”
All I could do was to remain seated and shake my head from side to side. I was trembling so hard that I didn’t trust my legs to support me, so I stayed put until he rose to his feet, and indicated with a kick of his head to the left, that I was time for me to leave.
At first, all I could do was to run to the bathroom and gag. Fortunately, I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I only had to deal with dry heaves. Methodically, I washed my face, and went back to my desk. Richard’s door was now completely closed. He clearly didn’t want to see me seated directly outside his door.
The first thing I did was to call Richard’s wife. I didn’t understand why, but it seemed like the right thing to do. I told her that his wallet was missing and he had accused me of stealing it. She was stunned and very upset that he had accused me of theft without any proof. It upset her even more since she apparently had developed kind feelings for me over the years that I worked for her husband. Because I knew that she believed me when I said I had nothing to do with the disappearance of the wallet, I asked her to search any area of their house that he may overlooked, including his car.
Fortunately she told me her car was being serviced that day at the dealership, and she had use of his car and driven him to work. She promised to call me back as soon as she could. I heard the phone ring in his private office, and I’m certain it was she as I heard him shout something unintelligible, and then, hang up.
Within fifteen minutes, Richard’s wife called me back and told me that she found his wallet underneath the driver’s seat, in his car. Apparently, it had fallen out of his pocket when he was on his way home, and it wasn’t visible until she stuck her hand under the seat to feel for it. At first, I was to startled to speak. But then, I said, “What should I do now?”
“Charlotte,” she said with obvious rage in her voice, “You go in there and tell him to call his wife for an explanation.”
And that’s what I did. I opened his door without knocking, stood at the entryway and said, “Call your wife. She’s located your wallet.” And I walked out, leaving the door wide open. Richard jumped up from his desk, and slammed the door shut. I saw the light go on for his private phone line, and I heard a loud repetition of expletives. Then, his private line light was off.
I didn’t see Richard for the remainder of the day, and I left shortly before quitting time, without giving him an excuse. Richard didn’t show up at the office for the rest of the week, and nobody knew of his whereabouts. On the following Monday, he appeared in our department, greeted me perfunctorily as he swung into his office, and began to conduct business, as usual.
For the period of time that I stayed at the job, I never asked him for an apology, nor did he offer one. When evaluations were completed at the end of the year, I understood I wasn’t even asked to stay with him because there was “speculation” among his peers that I had “misappropriated” something of value and he never bothered to tell them the truth. By that time, it was months after the incident, and the only way I could have adequately defended myself was to draw Richard’s wife into the fray. My husband told me I had to involve her and dispel that rumor, but I couldn’t get the mental energy together to deal with the situation again. At that point, however, I was almost 62 and my husband had just turned 64, so I decided to take early Social Security and just move on. when a package was offered. I knew I’d have the COBRA benefits to support our healthcare needs until my husband turned sixty-five. Then, I’ll only have to deal with private coverage for myself. On my last day, Richard left his office for a long meeting and I noticed that he had left his wallet, on his desk, plain as day. I thought for about thirty seconds and stealthily walked into the office, swiped the wallet, put it in my purse and quickly walked to the ladies room. There, I opened the thickly packed billfold and took all the cash, then pummeled the soft leather Gucci into the toilet, flushing it down, down, down until the fat wad of leather was past the first pipe. I never counted the money I stole, but I used the ones, fives and much higher numbers as needed. It took quite some time to use up all the money. Funny. I never wanted to know how much cash I had taken. I guess it was the difference between petty larceny and grand larceny, but I believed it was double jeopardy; I could no longer be charged with an offense for which I had already been proved not guilty.
I know that forgiveness is divine and I hope that the pilfering will be my last transgression, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able be able to forget what Richard did to me.
So I guess I’ll have to forego being divine in this lifetime.