I’m going blind reading my boss’ chicken scratch writing. He’s old school, so he likes to markup my briefs and motions with a red felt pen. Fine. I’m not afraid of a little red ink. And I’m not afraid of having to get high-powered trifocals after straining to make out his words. But what I am afraid of is asking him for clarification.
The first time I asked him, you would’ve thought that I had burned down his house and run away with his teenage daughter.
He shut the door to his office (thank God) and proceeded to read off all of his notes (all 93 of them) in an increasingly annoyed tone. By the time he got to the end, I thought he was going to burst a capillary or something. But he just looked at me, angered—as if I had somehow challenged him.
“I trust that, as I did not see you taking notes, you’ve committed this to memory?”
With that, he escorted me out of his office, and I spent the entire night at the office trying to re-decipher his chicken scratch. Seriously, the guy’s writing is so bad he should have been a doctor.
After that, I think he tried to make his writing even less intelligible. I mean, it’s really terrible. He has grinded down every felt-tip pen he uses into a magic marker, and it always smudges, which makes it even harder to read.
I tried asking his secretary for help, and she made some crack about how she stopped trying to read his writing years ago. Nobody can read this guy’s writing. His penmanship is a running joke in our office, and I’ve even talked to associates in other cities who have heard about his bad writing and short temper. How the hell did he ever make partner?
Eventually, anytime he wrote a handwritten note to anyone, people came to me to confirm their analysis. And, after months of excruciating practice, I thought I had gotten pretty good making sense of his mess. (G’s, j’s, P’s, q’s and y’s look identical; e’s, h’s, l’s and t’s are all the same; m’s and n’s always have four humps; vowels other than e’s are most definable and used as primary context clues.) But when it was impossible, it was always my job to put my head in the lion’s mouth. And since he’s my boss, when a colleague didn’t understand something he’d written, I’d go ask. And I pretty much got bitch-slapped on a regular basis.
A few weeks ago, I asked him for clarification on something. He was in a rush and barked at me to figure it out. Then he walked away. I did the best I could, but I got it wrong.
The word didn’t change anything significant, but I guess it allowed opposing counsel to throw a little egg on my boss’ face.
That was the day he came back to the office and tore me a new one. It was heard throughout the hall when he threatened that my next mistake would get me fired. For two hours after he left my office, no one on the entire floor uttered a word.
He now oversees everything I do now like a child. He even had his secretary give me a file full of handwritten notes that she said he wanted me to do “because [I] need the practice.”
I suppose the good part is that no one burdens me anymore when they have a problem with his writing, but at the same time, I’ve quickly lost any respect amongst my co-workers. Bottom line: Ever word—nay, every letter—counts, and even the smallest mistakes can get you canned.