Liability Shields and Idiots

I wrote a blog post many years ago called ‘Liability Shields Can’t Stop Bullets’. It was a provocative piece about shootings, and it almost made its way into my first novel. I decided not to include it in the book because it weighted the closing in a strange way, opening up a new theme as the story ended. In that context, I felt the piece might be misunderstood as an attempt to justify shootings or appease shooters.

I’m thinking of this piece now because of some recent experiences. I got ‘immediately terminated’ from a job on the same day I gave two weeks’ notice. This happened by email Monday while I was traveling back to Tucson after my mother’s funeral. My mother had died a week ago Friday, so I had a week of work to get through before the funeral. On the very day of her death, one of my bosses started treating me like crap, piling on more and more work and telling me I had to yell at other employees to make sure they did their work. By Wednesday of the following week it had become intolerable. I was just trying to make it through to Thursday so I could leave for Maryland on Friday. Instead, I decided to take off Thursday too. This prompted my boss to apologize to me—for not knowing my mother had died—implying that treating me badly was okay under normal circumstances.

Maybe I’m rambling, but a little bit of history might help to understand the situation. I took this hourly ‘at will’ job last year after my gig as a ride-share driver had run its course. Tucson has really beat me down. I had planned to look for temp work when this company contacted me ‘out of nowhere’ on LinkedIn. It seemed a touch of serendipity or synchronicity, getting in on the ground floor of a startup. The company did alternative payment solutions; the boss described it as a sort of ‘money laundering’ that involved some deceit but nothing illegal. In a nutshell, they created fake websites that appeared to sell cosmetics or flowers and then ran transactions from other websites that sold Kratom, CBD, and herbals through them. Not exactly a novel concept. Being a writer, it was interesting if not amusing to be involved in this convoluted enterprise, like nothing I had ever done before.

Over the course of about five months I became a little weary of the deceit. The self-proclaimed ‘genius’ boss would sometimes go on little rants about how all people were cheaters and liars. I wondered if he realized that he was, in essence, describing himself…and I began to think that’s just the nature of the payment processing business. So my mother gets ill and dies at 88 years old, and it’s like some kind of metaphysical thing happening that week at work with my boss having a meltdown. On my way back after the funeral, I think better of myself and decide to give two weeks’ notice, offering a smooth transition, only to be immediately terminated.

It wasn’t wholly unexpected, but the tone and demeanor became irrationally mean, as if my bosses took it personally or didn’t understand what ‘at will’ employment meant. I was ordered to return a cell phone before a deadline or they would take it out of my final paycheck. There was no mention of pay for time spent turning over admin passwords and duties in CRMs or receiving a commission that was due. I asked for those things and that sparked another egomaniacal response.

They sent me a five page legal document to sign, a liability shield. A tersely worded release full of lies and half truths, stating at the top that I ought to get a lawyer. And that’s when I remembered the old ‘Liability Shields’ piece I wrote. One of my bosses assumes that anyone with a dispute will get a lawyer and fight it out in the courts. He seems idiotically unaware that another scenario exists—that a person might instead get a gun and commit a shooting. NO, Not me. I’m above all that. My mother didn’t raise a shooter or a monster…or an idiot. But here in Arizona where the education isn’t the greatest and there’s a gun culture that includes the shooting of a congressperson…? Why terminate someone two days after their mother’s funeral and then goad them with a liability shield?

I didn’t sign their release and I let the whole thing go, even wrote a note that started with the word ‘Peace!’ And I offered a little advice that will probably be seen as folly.

And there’s a weight lifted off of me as if I escaped out from under a tyrant. It’s been a long strange trip here in Tucson. I’m ready for something new.

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