One interview came about because someone knew we really needed some money coming in. We’d moved and were living off of the money we had left from selling a house elsewhere and buying one in Sucktown, but that wouldn’t last forever. So someone knew of a therapist/marriage counselor, I’ll call her Matilda (not her real name), who was also the only person in town who processed people who had been arrested for DUI (driving under the influence, sometimes aso known as DWI, or driving while intoxicated). The job was primarily involved with the latter, but also involved dealing with therapy clients at times. It wasn’t clear to me whether this person was a friend of the people who recommended me or not—they trashed her a lot, but continued to interact with her. I soon learned that she was a rather difficult person. She was also on her 5th marriage, which seemed odd for a marriage therapist, but maybe she had a good idea about how not to have a successful marriage.
In any case, I wasn’t thrilled about this and the pay wasn’t good, but it was something, so I went for the interview, not really knowing what to expect. I became more uncomfortable by the minute sitting there in Matilda’s office. First, she opened the interview by asking me to hold my hair up and asked why I wasn’t wearing it up. I don’t remember what my answer was, or if I even had time to answer, because it was very quickly obvious that Matilda’s strong suit was not listening, which is another strange thing for a therapist. She asked me if I had something against wearing it up. I said I didn’t and we were able to move on to her next issue, which was that I wasn’t standing up straight. I told her I never have. It wasn’t conscious, but as a kid, I was always taller than my peers, so I guess I just started stooping a bit and it was just how I was and still am. Matilda was not interested in hearing anything I had to say about this, however. No, she knew exactly what the problem was after having spoken to me for about 3 1/2 minutes. It was because I had low self-esteem. By now, I had no idea what the hell was going on or how I should respond, so when she asked me to go into the hall and walk back and forth, I did it while she provided commentary about how I should do this differently.
We went back into her office and she said she was going to hire me. Then she explained why she needed someone in the first place. The woman who had worked for her for years had quit due to a disagreement they’d had. This woman was hired as an independent contractor so Matilda would not have to deal with tax issues and things like that. However, the IRS, after 6 years or so, had decided differently and said that the woman was an employee and several thousand dollars were owed by the employer. Matilda decided that her employee should pay half of these fees, and she considered herself generous for even offering to pay half herself. I was thinking that it was good to know this about Matilda and I didn’t blame my predecessor for leaving. This was entirely Matilda's responsibility and shortcoming, so why should the employee have to pay anything? Matilda had one more stipulation—I was to commit to the job for at least a year. It was agreed that I would start in a few days. I dreaded it.
I showed up on the first day with my hair up and was given instructions about what I was supposed to do. Matilda took me out to lunch on my first day and asked for my story. I told her about having been in academia, but having ethical issues with the department I was in and the various things I did. Suddenly she exclaimed, ‘Oh, you don’t have low self-esteem at all!’ I nodded and kept eating my pizza. Maybe now she'd leave me alone.
The job wasn’t great, and Matilda was frequently absent when I was there. Those were the best days. I did have to deal with some of her clients on the phone and I soon learned she had a habit of ‘forgetting’ that people had cancelled appointments, charging them anyway. Once, she told me she would be gone on a certain day because her mother was having surgery on her toe. When next I saw her, I asked how her mother was doing and found myself shrinking back as she gushed for 5 minutes about how amazing it was that I remembered her mother’s surgery. I was thinking, ‘You just told me the other day. I don’t think it’s a big deal.’ I often wondered why on earth anyone would seek out her services as a therapist. She was very bossy in inappropriate ways, did not listen to anything she didn't want to be bothered with, and seemed to be quite willing to mess with others to benefit herself.
I was sometimes uncomfortable when people who had been arrested for DUI came in to do their paperwork. One man cried and said he knew he made a mistake and was so sorry. Once I was afraid because the man was angry. I was telling a friend, who was a social worker, about this and she asked what kind of office I had. I descried how it was narrow with my desk at one end, a barred window behind me and the chairs between my desk and the door. She explained to me why that was not in compliance with workplace standards and rules—I was supposed to have an escape route.
I tried to settle into the job, but the longer I was there, the more stressed I got, mainly because of Matilda, but also because of the situation in general. I would count the hours until I could leave, but my utter joy at walking out of the building only lasted for a few minutes and then I would think about how many hours I had until I had to go back. It messed with my whole life.
I lasted a month and then told Matilda that I knew she wanted me to commit for a year, but I was leaving and I told her why. I was honest about things, including my difficulties with her behavior. I did this in an email because I could not get in touch with her any other way. She actually liked this, and asked me for a meeting. I went back to her office and we talked. She said she had gone over my email with her mother and they had agreed that the issues I brought up were valid, except for one small point. I disagreed with her, but it wasn’t worth talking about. I just wanted to get out of there, so I let her have her way and escaped as soon as I could. I was able to avoid Matilda for the rest of the time we lived in Sucktown. She loved purple and the wheel rims on her car were that color, so it was easy enough to spot when she was somewhere.
Later, the people who recommended me told me that she was a very difficult person that they avoided whenever possible. I had no idea whether or not this was true. But that was the way many people were in Sucktown, so who knows. They seemed to be shocked that I told her the truth about why I was leaving. In the end, my predecessor came back to her old job. How they worked out the tax issues, I do not know.
This happened relatively soon after our arrival in the town. Things went downhill from there.