typewriter-keys-gold-greenDuring the summer when I was high school student, I started my first nine to five job at the newspaper where I had been contributing a small column.

My job consisted of filling in for vacationing employees. My first assigned task was typing up advertising bills, something that filled me with apprehension. The office manager, sitting only a few feet away, would instantly see that I had never learned how to type. To cover this, I sat down and attacked the typewriter keys in a pounding frenzy of two fingered typing. I don’t know if this merely diverted him or he took pity on me, but my rookie two-finger typing was never mentioned.

Next subbing for the vacationing receptionist, I learned to operate a switchboard console. My desk was at the front door, a much more entertaining set-up with a ringside seat on the comings and goings of all the newspaper traffic. The last person to arrive each morning was usually the newspaper owner, who always tossed me a quick greeting as he whizzed by.  An inhabitant of the priciest neighborhood in town, he had an uncommon family for that town. Instead of the usual one or two children, he had fathered a tribe of, as I recall, six or seven little darlings.

He usually had lunch with two editors who were married to each other and who spoke with highfalutin, private school accents that somehow simultaneously gave off down to earth vibes.  She was extremely attractive and he was extremely unattractive physically, but it was clear they relished each other’s company. Most days the three of them lunched at the best steak house in town and always returned in high spirits, their rosy complexions even rosier thanks to their liberal intake of liquid spirits.

Many opposing personalities and strong willed individuals worked in that office, but a cooperative harmony seemed to tie them all together. Except for one editor — let’s call him Boris — who never bothered acknowledging my lowly presence or any of the supporting staff. Always tense and self absorbed; he also rarely joined in banter with colleagues on his own level. His behavior suggested he thought of himself as a serious, big city pro among bumbling, small town dilettantes.

The day came at last, however, when Boris acknowledged my existence. I was making like a receptionist, taking and redirecting calls, when I accidentally flicked a button that suddenly broke the telephone connection between Boris and his caller. Less than a second later, he came roaring around the corner like a bull charging a waving red cape. I was the cape and, in a blind fury of shrieking exclamations, he attacked my competence, intelligence, sense of responsibility, attitude, inability to comprehend the supreme importance of his calls, etc., etc., you get the picture.

Never having witnessed an explosive adult meltdown, let alone one personally aimed at me, I pretty much went into a state of shock.

I don’t remember exactly how many days it took, but it wasn’t many, when Boris was fired from his job. I’ve read that personality conflicts, rather than poor work performances, are the main reason employees are fired. Do you agree with that?

More on Early Career Paths: