How to Get Fired and Keep Your Dignity... and Maintain Your Self-Esteem

hand holding file folder with...
hand holding file folder with...

I almost got fired, but more about that later. (Skip the next three paragraphs if you don't want to hear about my gnat problem or my Starbucks dilemma.)

I had a very bad day. I screamed at a gnat (pronounced NAT) this morning in my bathroom. How a tiny flying insect in the Dipterid suborder Nematocera found its way into the privacy of the space around my toilet -- flying around in uncontrollable lighting-speed circles -- is anybody's guess, but I found myself swinging and flailing my hands in the air trying to knock it on its small ass with the intention of squashing it to death with a piece of toilet paper! (Sorry PETA -- pronounced PEE-TAH -- deal with it.)

I never touched it because my reflexes obviously weren't fast enough to hit it in mid-air, and when it finally landed on the mirror over the sink, it sat there until I lunged at it and then the feisty little pest took off like a speeding bullet with what seemed like evil laughter. Within minutes, there were five or six more attack gnats circling my head and then settling on the mirror, posing.

I made my way to Starbucks and ordered a plain bagel with crème cheese to go. I got home only to find the toasted bagel inside the bag along with a small packet of crème cheese sitting on top of the bagel ready for me to open and spread... all by myself. I'm not usually one to complain, but I called the Starbucks manager, sweetly explained that the store guy didn't spread the crème cheese on my bagel for me and in his professional manager's voice, he says, "We don't do that." Really? "Great," I said. "Thanks so much for explaining your policy. I'll be back tomorrow, and I'm bringing a family of gnats with me. I'm not buying anything, just bringing the gnats."

I'm a freelance writer, so I have a get-out-of-the-house job two days a week. I went to work, where I labor for an organization that will remain nameless. My boss yelled at me (really, really loud) -- in public -- for a human error I made. She was screaming so loud I could see her tonsils. She has a cavity in one of her wisdom teeth. It sounded like she was saying, "Pat! You stupid ignorant wuss! Get with the program!!!" I don't think she said that, but that's what it sounded like in my 8-year-old ears. (Don't we always revert back to our third grade mentality when we get yelled at no matter how old we are?)

Even though I was embarrassed and humiliated, I don't want to debase this high-profile historic organization located close to our nation's capitol on this extremely popular national and international blog site that is read by literally hundreds of millions of people in twenty languages.

I've found out over the years that if you have a disagreement with your boss -- no matter where you work -- the person with the most power wins. Always. When you're called into the office for that "discussion" about what you did wrong and you try to make your case for having done a thousand things right in your job but you made one small mistake, how unfair is it that you've never been thanked for all the good things you've done but are verbally chastised for one small blunder? People with power quite often like to flex their muscles. (Don't you hate it when you're right but you can't prove it because your supervisor has all-consuming security-blanket control issues?) Those of us who are the subordinates, in any organization, have to grin and bear the stress of dealing with an asshole every now and then. (You can call your significant other an asshole but you better not call your boss an asshole within earshot. I did that once. I'm not working there anymore.)

I worked for NBC in Washington, D.C. many years ago, both on the network side and the local side of the news bureau. Someone there told me this great story which may or may not be true, but I'm hoping it is. The story goes like this: A very capable, hard-working local news reporter was called into the news director's office (not necessarily NBC) and was fired on the spot. The next day, when the news director arrived in the news room, the reporter's shoes were nailed to his office door with a sign -- taped under them -- that read: "Fill these!"

And while I'm sitting up here on my high horse without a saddle, let me ask: Who was the idiot in the executive suit over at the FOX NFL Sunday television show that let comedian Frank Caliendo go? Get that glue out from under that Fox executive's nose and let his head clear so he'll have the good sense to bring Caliendo back. Executive guy: Do you have an aversion to funny people? Are you sitting on tacks? Does laughing make you break out into hives? I'm giving you two weeks to bring the funny guy back or I'm switching over to the CBS NFL Today Sunday show. Yep, that's a threat.

Wait! Stop the presses. Did I hear that Caliendo has joined ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown? OK, then... Curt Menefee, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson -- after watching you guys for umpteen years -- see ya!

If anybody reading this has a great story about being fired and handling it with dignity and humor, I beg you to leave a comment.