He had a thing about height, maybe that was why he walked on his tippy toes. After he became Director of Organizing for the teachers' union, every person he hired was shorter than he. I predicted that before long we'd have an entire staff of Munchkins.
Don may have perceived me as the Wicked Witch. I'd stolen his job, a job he'd been promised by an organizational blowhard who'd had no authority to promise anybody anything. Don had done all of his scut work for years with the understanding that, whenever the windbag got promoted, a sure thing since he was the boss' best friend, Don would fill his shoes. Lo and behold, when Blowhard became Director of Public Relations, not only did his lackey not fill his boots, the new hire wore high heels. Without realizing it, I'd tripped a landmine of cronyism and disrupted the perfectly laid plans of mice and Neanderthals.
In an effort to assuage their self-imposed humiliation, Blowhard and Don decided to make it impossible for me to function in my new position. Rumors were planted, my office locks changed, calls went unreturned, meetings were scheduled without my knowledge--a special welcome for a broad who dared join an all male staff whose salaries were funded by the 75% female membership. I hoped that eventually the good ole' boys would tire of their pathetic pranks though I suspected Don would someday try to even the score, but I'd been hired to do a job so I didn't waste time lamenting my Y chromosome deficit.
Over the years the organization grew, and Don became my colleague. He was a hard worker, and put in a lot of time as the leader of our Short Stop Club. Once before handing over the baton to our boss at a staff meeting, Don made an introduction that would have made Trump blush. "I would like to introduce the man, no, 'man' is too ordinary a word--the brilliant mind that conceived this dazzling strategy that is so far ahead of its time I can only assume it was divinely inspired." Soon after he was appointed Director of Organizing.
Don prided himself on closing the bar at 3 a.m. with the big bosses, and being the first one at breakfast to hold a table for his Union brothers who shared a proclivity for women who knew their limitations. Though proud to be a man's man, he showed his soft side by wearing ties that had images of children and little red schoolhouses symbolizing, he said, that the teachers' union cared about kids. He once registered for a right-wing mailing list, an example of his stealth intelligence-gathering technique, using the moniker Miss Ura Phule.
He and his cohorts found countless ways to make their mark even venturing into the world of art. The fearless chiefs would round robin elected positions in labor federations, pick up inumerable bar tabs, sponsor softball teams, subsidize holiday parades and, before long, one or another would be nominated as "Labor's Man of the Year." Of course, then there'd be a dinner to honor the recipient (our organization would buy all of the tickets) and the honoree would be presented with a commissioned portrait of himself at the gala. It was not long before Union headquarters resembled a wing of the National Gallery.
After several of those fiascoes, we needed more wall space for the big guys' portraits, so the troglodytes moved into their Bob-the-Builder phase. Wages, hours and working conditions took a backseat to expanding the organization's real estate portfolio. Discussions about property surveys, grading permits and blueprints, …I'm thinking 35-50,000 squares--maybe $5-$10 mil…kept the honchos occupied. Upon completion, the buildings were named after our dead leaders. The leaders with a pulse settled for naming rooms after each other. Meetings were held in the Baley Conference Room, brass plaques on doors were inscribed with Brum Lounge or Surner Parlor.
When the good ole' boys were not ensuring their places in labor history, they were impressing each other. Per Blowhard's insistence, Don dutifully addressed him as the Godfather. Having grown-up in a neighborhood that afforded one a ringside seat to questionable characters, I was appalled that anyone, let alone teachers' union staff, would throw around such epithets, but Don's management style, illustrated by his use of a six-pack as a doorstop, circumvented judgment and good taste.
Once one of the field staff Munchkins went on a membership recruitment assignment for our national organization. Mike, who'd been hired for his stature and not his IQ, flew out of O'Hare forgetting his luggage at home. At the next staff meeting, Don set the stage to make the most of his lapse.
"In the event Little Tykie, I mean Mikey, ever runs off without his luggage again, we are presenting him with an already packed suitcase to be kept at his desk in case of emergency," said the Master of Ceremonies. "Stand up, Tykie, so we can review the contents of your luggage that will help you organize the ladies…oh, sorry, little guy, I couldn't tell that you were already standing. Hop up on a chair so you can get a better look at what's in your emergency gear."
"His stiletto shoe-lifts will pierce the upholstery," a colleague, who had left his wife for a stripper he'd met on an assignment, shouted. "Bring him up front."
"You guys are fucking crazy," the absent-minded unfortunate gamely laughed as someone actually scooped him up and carried him to the front of the room.
GOIN' TO GRANDMA'S was printed on the mini crimson suitcase. Piece by piece, clothing and toiletries were extracted and hoisted into the air, their purposes described in salacious detail--Big Boy Superman underpants, toddler, high-heeled Roy Rogers boots, an airline-sized bottle of Jack Daniels and Spiderman comic books. Since the staff fancied themselves lady-killers, condoms, a dildo and a thumb-sized copy of the Kama Sutra were packed as well. One of the brothers, who talked about dames like some demented Humphrey Bogart throwback, contributed a bb gun, knock-out drops, handcuffs, and a blindfold just in case Tykie ran into a recalcitrant prospective member. The piece de resistance, to be used only in the event Tykie didn't get lucky, was an inflatable sheep.
The sheep, donated from a staff member's personal collection, was a huge hit.
"Don," I mentioned over lunch, as the sheep's former lover told our tablemates where they could purchase their own inflatables, "this morning's presentation was beyond the pale. I found it offensive."
"The guys were just having a little fun," he said. "Lighten up."