He was dazed. He thought about what had just happened as the elevator descended.
He had wanted to say, “I see what you’re trying to do, insult and humiliate me before I have a chance to have my say!”, but hindsight is 20/20. And it wouldn’t have done him any good if he had, anyway. It was clear that she had had the meeting with him all planned, that the director had planned to fire him and then threaten and humiliate him so he would be too scared to complain. It was clear that she had fired teachers before and she had her part very well rehearsed. But all that came out at the time was a whispered:
“I’m sorry you don’t like my tone. I’ll speak more quietly. I don’t like your tone either, but I didn’t threaten to call the guard.”
“That’s it!” She stomped out of her office.
He followed. “I haven’t had a chance to have my say.”
“This discussion is over! Leave!”
But there had been no discussion. She had told him that if he tried to sue the city for breach of contract he would lose and then she threw him out.
He had just wanted to work. A small part time job to start until he could find something better in the city. It wasn’t easy for immigrants in Helsinki.
But she was a small ugly evil woman who maintained her authority through crocodile smiles and abuse. Some people had no choice. When a person is small and ugly then sometimes they need to become evil, so they can maintain their self respect and place in the status quo. And he was an unemployed immigrant who couldn’t speak the language, with no way to defend himself. He was on the lowest rung of the status quo. The perfect target for a person like her.
He stood in the reception area for a moment, feeling humiliated and bewildered. What had happened?There was so much he had wanted to say. He turned to the guard, a black immigrant, probably just as afraid for his job.
“Um, this is the administrator’s pen. You should take it back.”
“Thank you, sir.” The guard seemed a little embarrassed.
He walked to the elevator in shock, feeling like he was moving in slow motion in a dream. He pressed the button a few times before the light went on and then he stumbled inside. He kept going through the events in his head. It didn’t make sense. He thought people were supposed to help each other. The elevator closed.
Paul Bourgeois/ Fall, 2011