WARNING: This is an extraordinarily long and wordy entry.
As some of you may know, I've been having issues with one of my co-workers for several weeks now. My friend Perfecta had a baby boy back in April and came back to work full-time in August.
A little background....
Curly Fries, Perfecta, and I have been the best of friends at work for a few years now. At first, Curly Fries and I were the only girls in our department. We came from different firms and started at our current firm just two weeks apart in 2004. We worked closely on a big case together almost immediately upon our arrival and bonded quickly to say the least (Curly Fries was one of my bridesmaids last year). In late 2005, Perfecta joined our firm. Curly Fries and I crossed our fingers that "the new girl" would be cool. And she was! Phew. So began our little trio -- three peas in a pod.
Now Perfecta is back from her four-month maternity leave. She gets in at 8ish and leaves at 4 or 5. This would be fine...in Non-Lawyer Land. But, alas, we live in Lawyer Land, a miserable place where all citizens are at the mercy and whim of ruthless tyrants. You have to stay as long as it takes to get the job done. That's what this job entails. And -- reality check -- the job is never done at 4 or 5.
When Perfecta first returned, we asked her to do a number of easy tasks, such as overseeing the e-filing of documents for our multi-district litigation. It's truly mindless work, but it's a piece of cake. All you do is click, click, click! What better assignment for someone trying to re-acclimate herself to the work world? But, no. Perfecta wouldn't have it. Perfecta had the gall to tell Pescado, someone five years her senior, she didn't want to do the e-filing because she didn't want to do "clerical work" and "wanted to do more substantive work, like draft motions." Perfecta then said she "felt depressed and tired" and left at 3:30 that day. Pescado, who is senior counsel, stayed through the evening to do a junior associate's job.
Not one week later, I was assigned a motion for a protective order precluding plaintiffs from demanding the production of HTML when defendants had already produced all documents in searchable PDF format. The partner specifically directed me to ask for Perfecta's assistance with research. Around midday, I told Perfecta, who is two years my junior, that the partner wanted her to help me with my motion. In light of her previous statement to Pescado, I thought she'd jump at the chance. Nope. She told me she was "too busy." I respected that, so I didn't press further. Her office was dark at 4:30. I stayed until midnight drafting the damn motion alone.
Just a few days ago, the same partner gave an assignment to Perfecta and Talksa. Perfecta told Talksa she was "too busy" to help. Really? Really?! You told Talksa you were too busy?! Talksa is one of the top three billing associates in our entire firm. Bullshit. Only two associates are busier than Talksa, and you're not one of them, Perfecta.
As a result of his experience, Pescado was livid and actually declared, "She's dead to me." When I said that was harsh (not yet having had the pleasure of being Perfecta-ed myself at that point), Pescado modified his statement and said, "Ok. She's a fun friend, but she's a really shitty co-worker." Talksa was not pleased when she got Perfecta-ed either, although she was more sympathetic to Perfecta's new status as a working mom. Me? I guess I was in between Pescado and Talksa, but probably closer to Pescado on the Angry Spectrum.
I sort of kicked Perfecta out of the pea pod these past few weeks. I haven't dropped by her office to chat. I haven't had lunch with her. When I see her, I only say a quick hello and nothing else. And, when she asked if I wanted to see a video of her baby on Tuesday, I said, "I'll pass." Yes, that's what I said. Cold.
Yesterday, Perfecta came into my office with tears streaming down her face. Apparently, my refusal to watch her baby video really hurt her, and she had been broken up about it for over 24 hours. I felt bad and apologized for that. It was really uncalled-for and mean. Talksa aptly pointed out to me that, even though I'm not a baby fan, I would've at least feigned interest under normal circumstances. Talksa was right. I was bitter, and I acted on it.
Perfecta was sobbing. I handed her my box of Kleenex. Amidst her tears, Perfecta apologized for being unreliable and for shirking her work. She told me that she loved her "Mommy and Me" class and that it was such a downer to come back to work after that. She said she was doing the best she could and that tasks were taking her longer than usual. I told her that was exactly why we gave her the mindless e-filing -- easy billing. She admitted that she was wrong to pass that up and leave early that day. I then brought up the fact that she declined to help me with something that was precisely the type of work she purportedly wanted to do. She apologized profusely for that, too. I told her that it's a downer for me and pretty much everybody else to come to work every morning: "Perfecta, you're not the only one who dreads the office, and you haven't even had to come to the office for four months."
Finally, I told her what bothered me the most. It wasn't that she left early. It wasn't that I had to work late by myself. It was that she had lied to me.
I looked into her red watery eyes.
"You told me you were too busy. Were you?"
"I was. Well...maybe."
"Really, Perfecta? Your office was dark at 4:30."
Normally, this would be such a coup, at least to a lawyer. You'd cheer inside if this were a deposition. But I didn't feel that good about backing my friend into a corner. I didn't make her explain.
And she knew that I knew.
I then simply told Perfecta I'd rather she just tell me she missed her baby and wanted to go home. I told her Curly Fries leaves early a lot, too, and for unusual reasons, often dog-related. (Curly Fries loves her dog more than most people love their children.) Do I judge that? Not really, except for to laugh sometimes.
"Just tell me the truth, Perfecta. As my friend, you should just tell me the truth."
We both agreed that neither of us had been a very good friend to the other for the past few weeks, and we agreed to try harder to put ourselves in the other's shoes. She said she would make greater efforts to take work home, and I said I'd try to be more understanding and baby-friendly (although it should be noted I still haven't watched the now infamous baby video; maybe I should ask to view it tomorrow).
Perfecta blotted her tear-stained face, and we hugged. We had a nice lunch together today, just like old times, and talked about everything and nothing. I think we're back on track to sharing a pod again. Think good thoughts for us.