The timeline is crucial because it puts things in their proper perspective. It shows how Ms. Lopez felt at the time, as opposed to how she later reconstructed things in order to suit her new purpose.

Events can be falsely reconstructed only in proportion to the amount and importance of the truth that is missing. Where there are gaps, the details can be filled in to one’s advantage. I still don’t know what she alleged against me other than that it had to do treating her with a lack of respect. Perhaps if I’d given her the money, that would’ve been the proper respect. I’d love to see how her allegations fit into the timeline...


She asked if, as a friend, she could ask me for a favor. It turned out to be an unsecured loan of a substantial amount of money she might need in the near future. I was actually happy she asked because it made me feel she trusted me with an embarrassing and delicate situation like that, and because it gave me an opportunity to make her life better. Those are two of the finest joys of being a friend—to be trusted and to have the opportunity to help.

At lunch one day a little while after this, I asked her if her daughter’s father had finally begun paying child support. She said he had. This was important to me because when someone asks you for money, they shouldn’t be holding any uncashed markers. If they are, that means you’re just an easier way around their problem. That man is probably going to be in her life in some way forever because they have a child together, and I didn’t want her to be using me to subsidize an easier lifestyle for him.

I also remembered that a month or two earlier she’d told me that one of her tenants, a friend from college, had asked if he could move in with her and split the rent in order to cut down on his rent payment. She said she’d agreed and that it was good for her to be around adults. But no responsible parent living in a two-bedroom apartment with a young child would take on a roommate having his own child if it weren’t financially necessary. And besides, until she rented the apartment he used to live in, her income would be down instead of up.

Later, I thought about why she’d asked about the possibility of borrowing money before she really needed it. I think it was mostly due to two reasons. One was that if I’d said no, it wouldn’t be as harsh as if I’d said no when she wanted the money immediately. This way, it would be easier to keep the kind of friendship we had, and she could still get free lunches out of me.

The second reason was that she wanted some time to work on me, to increase her chances of a larger payday by pretending to be a better friend than she was. And because she asked me this just two weeks after Alma moved away, which she knew about, I also wondered if Ms. Lopez thought I might soon have more money at my disposal—even though Alma and I spent evenly on each other, we did like to spend.


She asked me to accompany her to the employee party as her guest (contractors were not issued their own invitations). I provided the transportation and we both had a good time. I wondered later if she was disappointed that I hadn’t busted a move on her in the taxi on the ride back or while saying good-night on her porch. Not that she was interested in me that way, but that, seeing herself as a femme fatale, she
expected me to be interested in her that way.

If I’d wanted to bust a move on her then, I would’ve done it in the taxi. I would’ve put my arm around her shoulders, rested my head next to hers, and told her what a good time I was having. Then I would’ve held her hand a while and told her how much I enjoyed her friendship. A guy’s limited when he doesn’t have any
pesky tables to work with, and it wouldn’t have been enough to say, “You’re the most beautiful woman in this taxi”...


I treated her to a belated birthday lunch. She was happy and smiling as she read the card and opened her presents. In the card I said, “Over the course of the last year and a half, I have come to love you as a friend. For me, it means that I greatly enjoy our times together, and that for the rest of your life there is nothing I would not do for you to make your life better. And it is all just because of the way you are. You’ve told me a lot of stories about men telling you that you are beautiful; if you ever need someone to tell you about the other ways you are beautiful, come see would be my pleasure. Outer beauty is good, but relatively common. Inner beauty is much finer, and much harder to come by. You are blessed with both.”

I really did find her beautiful, both inside and outside, then, but it was because of the warmth I felt for her, not because of the physical and personal aspects people usually associate with beauty.

In the weeks to come, she often wore the blouse, earrings, and pendant to work. She told me the pendant was beautiful and that she got a lot of compliments on it. She also stepped up her requests for me to take her to lunch; by mid-July it got to the point that if I was out running errands over lunch, she’d call my cell and ask me to have lunch with her. And then she asked me again for money.

For her, that card seemed to be nothing but a green light to see how much stuff she could get out of me. Instead, she should have told me that my feelings for her were misplaced because she wasn’t a real friend to me, because she was just an acquaintance who killed time with me, enjoyed my attention, and saved money because of me.

For me, the sad thing in all this was not that she wanted stuff; everyone has times of need in their life. The sad thing was that she wanted all that stuff from someone whom she knew felt a real friendship for her but for whom she felt no real friendship.

Shortly afterwards, she must have sensed how it was beginning to look and she told me she wasn’t a friend for free stuff. No one ever is; that’s a different kind of relationship. Some people will use you that way; you may be a friend to them, but they are not a friend to you.


I stopped by on my way home and she asked if I could stay late to help her clean and pack her work area in preparation for her upcoming relocation to another part of the building. I wondered why she asked because that kind of thing isn’t a two-person job; the only real help I was able to give her was pushing the loaded dumpster into the trash area. But I ended up putting in three hours of my own time because that’s the kind of thing friends do for one another, and because, as a friend, I enjoyed simply spending time with her. This is a good example of how, for both her and me, our friendship really was all about the same thing—
it was all about her.

She said she needed to have dinner before we started cleaning and packing, so we went to a quickie place nearby. She asked what I was going to have and I said I wasn’t hungry. When she kept telling me I should eat something, I couldn’t help wondering if she was trying to get me to order something so it would be natural for me to pick up the tab just as I always did at lunch.

Now, if I’d ever asked her to give up three hours of her own time to help me with something, all I would have gotten would be some words about how busy she was. You don’t ask your friends to do things for you that you aren’t willing to do for them. But, if you’re a certain kind of person, you do ask those things of someone for whom you have no real friendship.

A few days later, she smiled coquettishly at me and said that when she’d asked me to help her move, she didn’t think I’d do it. At the time, I wondered why she said that; I couldn’t remember anything she’d ever asked of me that I hadn’t done for her. Later I had the feeling that when she’d asked me to help and when she’d later said she was surprised that I’d helped, she was merely testing the waters of what I’d be willing to do for her.


For her first day at work in her new location, I brought in flowers and the white linen blouse I’d said I was looking for as a follow-up birthday gift—something that would go perfectly with the birthday pendant and earrings.


I stopped by on my way out and asked how much longer she would be working. She said five minutes, so I waited outside because the weather was nice. After fifteen minutes had passed, I called her and she said she needed five more minutes. After another fifteen minutes had passed, I called again, and again she said five more minutes. That went on and on, and finally she came down just as I was about to leave without her. She’d kept me waiting for an hour and a half.

Later I thought she might’ve done it as a test, before asking me again for the money, how much I was willing to do for her. But then I remembered all the times her daughter had called and asked when she would be home, and Ms. Lopez would say she was leaving right now. Then she would hang up and work for another hour. I realized then that she simply couldn’t see beyond herself to the people around her. That kind of thing doesn’t work for me, and I was thinking, sadly, that I was going to have to give up our evening walks...
the big picture.

Once we started walking, she thanked me for my recent offer to help with her home remodeling. Then she laughed and said she couldn’t imagine me doing that kind of work, getting my hands dirty and all that. But when it turned out that it was just simple work and that all she really needed was a second pair of hands, she said the real reason was that her home wasn’t nice enough for me to see. I remember thinking
It’s nice enough for your family, it’s nice enough for your friends, it’s nice enough for the men you date. It’s nice enough for you and your daughter to live in. It’s just not nice enough for me.

When people say that kind of thing to you, do they really expect you to believe it, especially when it’s coming on the heels of an admitted lie? It’s rare that people, whether they’ve known me a long time or just a little while, to think I’m stupid. I think she felt she had some kind of hold over me, and that she could treat me however she wanted. She was half right. She did have a hold over me—the warmth. But she couldn’t treat me however she wanted without killing that warmth.

Here’s another one in the category of lies people somehow expect you to believe. In autumn 2007 we were finishing up the ITS 10.1 software release. Late in the afternoon I told her it had been a rough day and I asked her if she’d like to have a drink after work to unwind. She said yes, but when she stopped at my desk after finishing her work, I said I needed fifteen minutes to finish up a last-minute request from my manager. Then when I was ready to leave, she said she couldn’t have that drink with me because she had to rush home to give her son, who was an adult and who had his own job, some cash so he could have a good night. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had only a handful of excuses dumped on me over the years, and this was by far the lamest. I knew that if she’d wanted to spend an hour or so with me, she would’ve told her son she had a prior commitment and that he’d have to wait a bit. It made me feel that as soon as she was away from work, she always had something better to do. And that was okay until she wanted more and more free stuff. Then it became abusive.


I was out running errands over lunch when my cell rang. I picked up because I was expecting a call. But it was her and she wanted to go to lunch. We ended up meeting on the street and having the bento box lunch special at Oysy. It reminded me of the green lacquered bento boxes I’ve got at home; they’re great for picnics.

I’d been fooling around with my cell before she called, setting up the phonebook, and as I sat across from her I texted her just to try it out. She told me not to text her because her phone was a corporate phone and the company kept an eye on the charges billed for text messages. I thought of all the text messages she was always getting from and sending to her family and from the men she was dating. Then I remembered a recent lunch when she’d spent so much time texting that I almost got up and left; it was rude of her, and it made me feel that as long as her food came and I paid for it, that was enough for her.

I knew then that she simply wanted to control all access to our friendship, to limit it to whatever she needed. That’s not going to work for me; that’s not a real friendship, that’s just someone using you.

On our way back to work, I asked her when she and her daughter were going to come by to see my new place and go for a swim. I said she’d told me they were going to do that some day. She looked at me and said, “I said that?”. She said those words not as if she’d simply forgotten about it, but as if it were the last thing she’d ever want to do. She looked genuinely puzzled, as if she couldn’t imagine ever having said such a thing. It was at that exact moment that the warmth I felt for her began to die inside me. I felt as if I always had to spend money on her, that I always had to pay for what she felt was the pleasure of being with her. Few things in life stop the warmth faster than that...

I wondered why she would have lied to me about wanting to come over. If you’re a woman, men will generally lie to you in order to get into bed with you, to get money from you, or to get you to take care of them like their mother did when they were young. If you’re a man, women will generally lie to you in order to get money from you or to get you to take care of them like their father did when they were young. For her, it turned out that she lied to me in order to get money from me.

Over coffee back at work, she said the hardest part of all her home remodeling was finding someone dependable to help when she needed it. She talked about all the relatives and family friends who were always saying they would help but then never showed up. Then she said that last night her roommate’s friend was visiting. He tried to get her to watch TV with them but she was too busy. He offered to help her over the weekend and she told him that would be great if he didn’t have anything else to do. She told me this just one day after telling me
thanks but no thanks. I couldn’t understand why she would tell me that story. There was nothing to gain other than perhaps to see if she could hurt my feelings and to feel powerful because of that.

It was then that I realized she’d never been the friend I’d always thought she was. But you can miss even those things that never really existed, can’t you? What you’re really missing then is your former feelings, your former perceptions of those things. It’s probably the case that it’s only those things that anyone ever really misses anyhow. For the rest of my life, I’ll miss the friend I never really had...

It made me wonder why she’d wanted to have lunch with me more and more if she felt no real friendship for me. It simply didn’t seem possible that a free lunch could be enough of a reason. Well, I didn’t have to wait long for an answer to that.

I wasn’t going to walk back with her that night because I wanted to think about things, but I stopped by to say good-night. She said she was ready to go and she was shutting down her PC. As we walked to the elevator, she said she now needed the money she’d mentioned back in May as possibly needing soon. That’s why she was ready to go—so she’d have the opportunity to again ask for the money. By then her financial problems were prolific—a staggering amount of consumer debt; the inability to get further refinancing on her home, which is a multi-family rental property; a jumbo mortgage payment; rental vacancies; ongoing remodeling costs and recent water damage; car problems; thousands of dollars in fines for parking violations or vehicle registration violations. It was so bad that she’d recently had to take on a roommate and his child in her two-bedroom unit. As she asked me for the money, she clutched my arm and said, “I’ll take it now but I can wait until next week.” I was stunned that she would ask such a thing of me after the events of the past twenty-four hours. It reminded me of when I was a kid watching the Saturday cartoons on television and one of the characters looked at the other and had dollar signs in his eyes.

Subsequently I did not loan her the money because I saw that the reason she’d asked me, instead of going to her family or those for whom she perhaps felt a real friendship, was that she knew she wouldn’t be able to repay the money and either she didn’t
want to stiff any of those people or she knew it wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of them after she stiffed them. She’d often described herself as a churchgoing woman. It must be an unusual church; perhaps they’re new on the scene and have made it only as far as Do unto others.

This is how I came to have the feeling that she wasn’t that kind of friend. The following week, I tried to find something for us to do together as friends. I suggested several things such as Venetian Night with her daughter (it’s a Chicago tradition, with decorated and illuminated sailing ships moving along the lakefront) or the Chicago Latin Musical Festival—the kind of things friends normally do together, things that didn’t always involve one person spending money on the other. But she had no interest in doing any of those things, nor did she make any suggestions of her own.
Just put her down for a free lunch every day and a pile of cash.

For me, the difference between the first time she first brought up the money and the second time was that she’d begun to ask for more and more things in the interim, and I’d come to see that the money was just another thing to ask this case,
the big score. It sickens me now to think of how good she would have found all that. She could’ve had all that money and, unlike our lunches, not even had to spend any time with me in order to get it. And she could still have had the lunches with me in order to get her daily fix of attention. It must have devastated her to instead see all of that suddenly disappear. But generally you have a better chance of getting what you want in life if you want the right things, and it was wrong of her to want only attention and money, much less to lie in order to get them.

Regarding Venetian Night, she actually told me that she and her daughter couldn’t go with me because she was going with her daughter. That told me it wasn’t that she had no interest in doing any of the things I’d suggested, it was simply that she had no interest in doing any of them with me. But I was good enough for money though...

I’d also told her that, as a contractor, my time at BCBSA could be up at the end of any calendar-year quarter, and that I’d heard rumblings that the ITS software development contracts might not be extended beyond 2008. I told her I didn’t want our friendship to end when our time as coworkers ended, but that if all we ever did was have lunch together and walk back together in the evening, then that’s what would happen. She told me that she was so busy that all she ever did outside of work and remodeling was to spend time with her daughter. She must have forgotten that she’d told me that Friday was her night for fun with adults. For her, it was simply that when my contract was up, she wouldn’t lose anything she could have kept by being a real friend to me; with me not there during work hours, I simply wouldn’t be around to give her attention and to buy her lunch. That’s all she would be losing then.

And so I finally saw that everything she’d told me about being a friend was just one lie after another, that she really was a friend
exactly for free stuff. Sometimes I can be a slow learner; I give people the benefit of doubt because I know don’t know everything about them. But what could have caused someone to become that way?

When I spend that much time with someone, I’m making an investment in what I want to be a lifelong friendship; I don’t want such a friend to disappear from my life. I want to do other things with that person, like going to a museum or a concert or just hanging out—whatever we both enjoy. For me it’s unnatural to spend that much time with someone if all you want is for them to buy you lunch.

For a while, I wondered why she didn’t do any of those things with me simply to get the money from me. I knew it wasn’t because she really didn’t have the time. I knew, because she’d just stepped up her requests for me to take her to lunch, that it wasn’t because she was already seeing enough of me at work And I knew, because of some things she’d told me she’d done in the past, that she wasn’t above doing something like that just to get something from someone.

I think it was simply that she felt she didn’t have to, that she could get whatever she wanted from me simply by asking for it. After all, I’d said yes to her earlier request for money, and when had I ever turned her down for anything? In the past month alone, I accompanied her to the boat party, helped her with the move at work, interrupted my errands several times to take her to lunch when she called, and waited an hour and a half just to walk back with her one night. I think she simply felt she had her hooks in deep enough, so why do something she didn’t want to do if she didn’t have to do it? She wanted to rip me off more than she wanted to be a friend to me...unbelievable.

I also think, and this is an even unhappier thought, that it’s possible she may have been planning to get me fired even if I’d given her the money. If all we ever did together was have lunch at work, that would make it all the easier for her to avoid repaying me.

For her part, instead of continuing to ask me to take her to lunch, she should have said, “Look, forget about the money. I shouldn’t have asked for it because I’m not that kind of friend. And let’s start having lunch just a few times a year and we’ll each pay our own way. Men have always treated me poorly, and it was nice just to have all that attention for a while.” And I would have been okay with that because it would have been honest; one always has to be okay with what’s honest because that’s the way things really are.

I can understand someone not wanting to be friends with me when we don’t have common interests or we simply don’t enjoy each other’s company. For all of us, the world is full of such people. And I can understand someone wanting to have lunch with me every day and wanting money from me when they’re in a pinch. But I cannot understand those two things occurring together in the same person.
What kind of person is like that?

The feeling it left me with was exactly as if she’d said to me, “Look, I don’t like you as a friend, and I don’t want to ever do anything with you outside work because I know you’re going to bust a move on me because I’m so beautiful. But I want you to keep buying me lunch every day and I want you to give me a pile of cash.”
Exactly like that.


She wanted to walk back together that night, but I had plans and couldn’t wait around for her. Later I called and reminded her to bring in the boat party photograph and some stuff I’d lent her. She said, “So how are you? Where have you been? You’ve forgotten about me!” Now, if she’d been a real friend, she would’ve called at some point instead of simply waiting for me to give her some attention. I assured her I hadn’t forgotten her, that she was unforgettable, and that it was just that I’d had other plans all week. All of that was true, but within a day everything would change for me.


The week ended and still all she wanted was free stuff and money. She wanted to walk back together again that night, but again I had plans and couldn’t wait around for her. Besides, I was sure she was going to ask for the money again. I found it inconceivable that she would tell me I’d forgotten her after I’d just expressed an interest in doing something of a non-monetary nature with her and she’d expressed no interest in any of that. I knew then that what she’d really meant was
You’ve forgotten about the money! I never again asked her to lunch, nor did I respond to any of her requests for me to take her to lunch. It was too much time to invest in a friendship that would end simply when our time as coworkers ended.

And then, for the first time in more than two years, I saw her in the common way, the way others saw her. In my case, it was simply because I longer felt that warmth for her because she no longer tripped the circuitry of my mind’s archetype of warmth. That made it easy for me not to spend any more time with her; it wasn’t something that for some larger reason I had to force myself not to do.
The pleasure of her company ended when I fell out of warmth with her...

For her, the period of time from 07/02 through 07/25 was a dramatic reversal of fortune; she went from being able to get whatever she wanted from me to being able to get nothing from me. For me, that same period of time was a revelation; I went from seeing her the way she pretended to be to seeing her the way she really was. An absolutely remarkable turn of events for fifteen days.

Shortly after I’d stopped taking her to lunch, a coworker told me it looked like no one else was stepping up to buy her lunch every day. I laughed and said I saw Ms. Lopez in passing the other day and it looked as if she were putting put on some weight, and that it must be because she’d had to resort to eating inexpensive junk food. That was a bit mean-spirited of me, but after going through something like the ending of my time with her, and what it said about our past friendship, you’ve got to vent a little. It took me about two weeks to get it out of my system...not bad for having wasted all that time and money.

It wasn’t a complete waste, though, because being with her brought out all the warmth that was inside me, and that felt very good. But it was a waste in that, if I’d known up front the way she really was, I would never have felt all that warmth for her. The warmth was real, but it was based on an illusion. At each point in time, the warmth had no legitimate present and no legitimate future. And yet, because of that illusion, it
was real and it seemed to have a future.


On my way out that night, I walked down her aisle to talk with a coworker. When I was done, she got my attention and asked if I’d walk out with her. She was shutting down her PC and she said she was ready to go, so I couldn’t get around it politely. And she finally remembered to take home the blouse I’d given her two weeks earlier. I thought she might have staged all that because she was
never ready to go when I was, and because she was probably going to use the blouse to segue into the money.

When she noticed it wasn’t where she’d left it, she asked if I’d taken it. I said I was getting it pressed because she’d left it lying in the box for two weeks, and that I’d planned to bring it back if she asked about it. She said she wanted it but that she’d just kept forgetting to take it home. She seemed upset that I’d opened her closet door to get the box, but I told her I’d known it was in there and that I wasn’t just rummaging about. I think the real reason she was upset was that, for her, this was somehow the opposite of giving her attention and spending money on her. That made her feel she wasn’t such a femme fatale after all, and that she wasn’t going to get the money from me. I don’t think she would’ve been upset if she’d found a big check in there...


She sent me an e-mail about her daughter being in the office with her that day; an hour later she called my cell and asked me to have lunch with them. I was out running errands and didn’t have a chance to respond. After I’d returned and gotten her messages, I was walking over to see her and her daughter, and there was Ms. Lopez coming down the aisle with her daughter to see me.

On my way out that night, I stopped by for another chat with her daughter. Ms. Lopez said they were leaving at 5:00 and asked me to stay and walk back with them. I had an engagement and couldn’t wait around, and besides, she was notorious for keeping me waiting; I once waited an hour and a half for what she said would be five minutes. I gave her a ginger ale to split with her daughter, I gave her daughter a little snap-box I’d once been saving for their Christmas stockings, and then I left. Later that evening she sent me an e-mail saying, “I am interested in friendship only, no more. Please do not be offended by my honesty. I’m sorry if it hurts you.” Now, if she’d been honest with me, she would’ve said, “I am interested in money only, no more.”

When I got that e-mail the following day, I responded that “You value a man for different things than I want to be valued for, and it is for different things that I value a woman...things that to me are lasting. We are very unlike in that way. I hope your way eventually brings you happiness.” I thought that that had settled the matter...

It will forever be a mystery to me why she said those words out of the blue; any rational person would know why the lunches and walks had stopped. The thought crossed my mind that she might be trying to lay the groundwork for a future complaint against me and that she wanted something in writing. But I don’t think that was it. I think it was simply another instance of her femme fatale complex providing her with a more comfortable explanation of why I hadn’t shown her the kind of attention she would have liked to be shown in front of her daughter. Not wanting to think my lack of attention was due to some deficit in her, such as her attempt to abuse our friendship for monetary gain, she forced the situation to instead be about her being irresistible in that way.

If, after reading that birthday card just one month ago, she felt I had some unwanted feeling for her, why did she want to have all those lunches with me after that? Why did she want me to have lunch with her and her daughter that day?

Perhaps I should have told her flat-out her why I was no longer interested in spending time with her, but I thought it was obvious, and besides, you can’t politely tell someone that you don’t want to have lunch with them anymore because all they want is free stuff. For a couple weeks, though, I did want her to ask again for the money, so that I’d be forced to tell her why I wasn’t going to give it to her. Happily, I didn’t want it enough to put myself in a situation where it was liable to happen.


In the afternoon I sent her an e-mail about my humorous Blackie’s hotdog lunch (you’ve really got to see their jumbo dog sometime) with two of our coworkers, and she sent me an e-mail response chock-full of smiley-faces. That made me feel she was okay with our new, lighter friendship. But I was wrong about that...

08/15 - 08/16

I was working on a high-priority project for which, in her current position as an IT Production Support Analyst and as the subject matter expert on the software application experiencing the problem, Ms. Lopez had done the initial write-up. I’d come to believe that her analysis of the problem was flawed and had sent me down the wrong road, and I wanted her to confirm or refute this so I could make the best use of my time while I was working over the weekend in order to meet my due date of the following Tuesday.

Despite my repeated e-mail requests for just a few minutes of her time, I received no response. So I stopped at her desk on my way home and asked again for her help. She wheeled her chair around so she was facing me. She was wearing a sleeveless blouse, and she preened and threw back her arms and stretched out in that sex kitten way of hers that’s intended to be provocative. She said she didn’t have time to read my e-mails, then she smiled and started going on and on in a self-congratulatory way about some error she’d found that “not even the conversion team had found.”
It’s amazing the things people do manage to find time for. I couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t she first have taken a couple minutes to look into my question? Only because she didn’t want to. If instead she’d said, “Look, I can’t talk now, I’m too busy,” that would’ve been okay; it happens. But she wasn’t too busy for what she really wanted—attention.

In the past, I’d listened with patience and interest to her recountings of her exploits because it’s nice to share in a friend’s success. But this time it was coming at the expense of work yet to be done, and I knew from experience that it was going to be another drawn-out affair, that she’d be pulling up screen after screen of software and whatnot to illustrate her achievement. When I saw that all I was going to get from her was an attempt to recapture all that lost attention, I simply left.

For me, work is work and friends are friends, and they’re two separate things. I’d previously complimented her work when that was warranted and, both that time and this time, it had nothing to do with our friendship. And because problems don’t get better unless they’re addressed, I then sent, to her and her manager and my manager, an e-mail that was polite and fair but critical of her lack of responsiveness. If I’d have done that in revenge for her having treated my poorly, I wouldn’t have given her four opportunities to work with me; one would have been enough for that purpose. The bottom line is that I’m okay with coworkers asking me for a loan, but I’m not okay with their refusing to work with me if I don’t give it to them.

Based on the timeline, this had to be her real reason for getting me fired—to discredit my critique by making it all about something else. There is absolutely no doubt about it.

Less than five minutes of her time. Think about that. There’s only one reason for her not to have given me that time, and that’s simply that she didn’t want to. Given the unpredictability of the volume and complexity of the incoming helpdesk phone calls she handled, and of her commuter transportation via the subway, it’s simply not possible for someone in her situation in life to manage their time down to such a level of precision that they can honestly say they can’t spare five minutes. It’s as if she wanted to see me fail, which is equivalent to her being okay with seeing the company fail. But when it comes to the analysis, design, and programming of applications software, I’m about as good as it gets, and in nearly 25 years of doing this kind of work I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve failed to meet a due date. All she could do was to slow me down a bit, which she did; I still met my date, though, but sooner is always better.

I want to be crystal clear on this. I wasn’t asking her to roll up her sleeves and take over the project; I wasn’t asking her to do any research; I wasn’t asking her to do something that wasn’t in her job description. I was simply asking her to look at two lines of test data I’d already created and to tell me whether or not they were contrary to her initial write-up. I was just asking her to do her job, and it would have taken her no more than two minutes to do that.

Now, if I’d been in it just for me, I’d have kept quiet about her lack of helpfulness, knowing that BCBSA is a don’t-rock-the-boat company and that in the end I’d be successful on the project without her help. But one of the few things of value I’ve learned from the many business seminars I’ve attended over the years is that you should come to work every day willing to be fired. I’ve found that mindset to be indicative of many of the attributes of success: standing up for what you believe to be right, taking risks in order to achieve organizational and personal growth, focusing on the big picture instead of on the smaller self-centered one, being determined, and being absolutely committed to results.


D-Day. Just one hour after verifying my solution for the project, I was dismissed without so much as even being given an explanation. BCBSA didn’t want to talk about it, to do anything to complicate a simple one-sided accusation. This shows such an utter lack of regard for a person as a human being that I have to wonder how it could possibly fit into any company’s core values or ethics policy. They rightly expect the same commitment and results from contractors as from their employees, yet they treat contractors so shabbily that they ought not to hire them at all. Nevertheless, the next day I communicated, from home, the details of the solution to management because I didn’t want all the time I’d spent on that project to come to nothing.

I remember three incidents that show why she might have done that to me. The first was in spring 2007, when she was called in by upper management to explain an error she’d made in ITS Software Release 9.4. That error led to our manager being fired, and it may have had something to do with her being transfered shortly thereafter from development to the helpdesk. Hers was just the last in a series of errors on that release, so it was right that the manager, not her, take the fall because he was the common denominator in all that; she’d made just one mistake, and everyone makes them here and there. But after the first software addendum to fix errors, everyone should have been extra careful about their work on subsequent addenda. And it was odd that she didn’t feel bad about her role in his being fired. For her, the bad stuff that happens to her and around her is never due to her own actions. After she moved out of her sister’s house, she accumulated thousands of dollars in fines for parking violations or vehicle registration violations; that was all her sister’s fault for not telling her they weren’t being forwarded to Ms. Lopez’s new address. Not once did I ever hear her admit to having made a mistake or having done something wrong in all of life; everything was always someone else’s fault.

The second incident was that a manager had once evaluated her negatively on a performance appraisal because of input from a coworker to the effect that on one project she’d “designed a Cadillac when all that was required was a Ford.” She told me how much it continued to chafe her that her manager had simply taken that opinion as fact and had entered it into her permanent file without first discussing it with her.

The third was that she was let go by the company she worked at before coming to BCBSA. She said it was due to corporate downsizing, but now that I see what she’s capable of, I have to wonder if that was the real reason.

I believe she wanted to discredit my fair but critical assessment of the accuracy of her initial work on my project, as well as of her subsequent lack of cooperation on that project, before that, too, went into her permanent file. And the quickest and most effective way of doing that would be by turning a work issue into the kind of personnel issue that would be grounds for my immediate dismissal.

I finally saw the importance of the things that made her job particularly attractive to someone in her situation in life...the ability to work frequently from home, the number of annual Paid Time Off days for an employee having more than ten years of service, the generous healthcare coverage, a high degree of job security, and an environment for socializing with people she’s known for years. But my critique should have led to nothing more serious than a short meeting where her manager would stress to her the importance of being a team player. Possibly there would be a small negative effect on her next performance appraisal, but if she’d wanted to avoid that, she should simply have done her job instead of being petty and looking for an ego boost.

But how does someone get that needy, that greedy? This isn’t someone who’s making a low wage or is in a job that’s in an industry that’s at the whim of economic ups and downs. This is someone who’s in a core Information Technology job at a company that holds the Blue Cross Blue Shield licenses for a network of healthcare insurers covering more than 100 million people. This is someone who’s both female and a member of an ethnic minority. Job security is not an issue for her. At a political company like BCBSA, such a person has something approaching carte blanche.

I still can’t get my mind around the enormity of her self-interest and self-absorption. One day she’s sending me happy e-mails, the next day she’s smiling and posing and telling me self-congratulatory stories, and two workdays after that she’s getting me fired, and the only thing that happened in between was my justifiable critique of her lack of helpfulness. It simply defies belief. How does a person grow up only to be so small? There are a number of things about me that I consider flaws, but every day I thank God that having such a small heart is not one of them.