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An Ambiguous Ending

March 25, 2015

 

Some tales are straightforward and conclude without ambiguity, but this is not one of those stories. It’s a true incident that happened to me in 1983 when I left my position as display manager for Mervyn’s Dept. Store, and took a position as manager of an art gallery in Portland, Oregon.

           

Soaring Wings Gallery specialized in wildlife art, and was owned by local millionaire and entrepreneur George Klempton. I had little contact with him, and was hired by his single, middle-aged chief assistant, Mary Ann Gasper, who I soon realized had a massive crush on her married boss.

           

The gallery was located in the lobby of a downtown building that also housed the bankruptcy court, which I soon learned was not a good place to sell art. But I did my best and managed to significantly increase sales. I was nearing my fourth month as manager when I received a call from Mary Ann at corporate, providing a heads-up that a personal friend of the owner would be stopping by. Curiously, she wouldn’t reveal his name. Although cordial with everyone, I appreciated being alerted to the imminent arrival of a VIP.

           

The gentleman arrived and introduced himself as Mr. Klempton’s friend. In his mid sixties, he resembled Lieutenant Tragg from Perry Mason. The gallery was without customers so I was free to escort him through the various rooms and identify several of the featured artists. We chatted a few minutes, I offered him a cup of coffee, which he declined, and then he smiled, shook my hand and departed.

           

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get along with everyone, particularly the elderly. I was satisfied I’d been on my best behavior and had acquitted myself well—until receiving a call from the corporate office a few hours later. The caller was Mary Ann, asking me if I was out of my F*#@ING mind.

           

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

           

“Mr. Klempton just concluded a phone conversation with the friend who visited our gallery today. How could you? What were you thinking?”

           

At first I thought she was joking (she had an odd sense of humor and had pulled my leg a few times) but her voice remained firm, with an edge to it. When I realized she wasn’t joking I said, “I was a model of civility. It would have been foolish of me to be rude since I knew he was the owner’s friend.”

           

Mary Ann said, “I can’t believe you called him foul names and threw him out of the gallery.”

           

“I did no such thing!” I told her.

           

“He claims you physically assaulted him, pushed him out of the gallery so forcibly he’s considering pressing charges.”

           

I was uncharacteristically speechless.

           

“You can explain this to Geo…er, Mr. Klempton tomorrow. He’ll be stopping by the gallery to speak with you. He’ll get to the bottom of this.”

           

I fretted through a sleepless night, recalling every word I’d spoken to the gentleman. He’d appeared normal, if a bit serious, chatting with me without showing any signs of dementia.

           

The next day, the owner failed appear. Nor did he show up the next day, or the day after that. When Mary Ann finally visited the gallery, I mentioned the confusing incident. She shrugged and donned a mysterious sphinx-like smile.

           

Nothing in my life had prepared me for an experience like this. I turned it over in my mind like a dog chewing a bone white. Was Mr. Klempton’s friend crazy? Was he a bigot who’d taken a dislike to me for ethnic reasons, because of my swarthy Portuguese complexion? Or were Mr. Klempton and Mary Ann pulling a sadistic prank to see what my reaction would be? Most of all, I wondered why nothing more was ever said to me.  

           

Soon after my encounter with the owner’s so-called friend, the gallery was shuttered and I was out of a job. Had they been planning on closing the gallery even before the incident? Like I mentioned, this is a story with an ambiguous ending.

           

What do you think? Have you ever been unfairly accused of wrongdoing?

 

 

 

 

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Comments

25 Comments
My theory is that he went into the bankruptcy court first accidentally and got roughed up by security and then didn't tell your boss the story very well. But it's a mystery! I dated someone once who called the cops saying I was "lurking" outside her window. I wasn't anywhere near her place. I tried calling her a couple times after that to figure out what the story was, but we never spoke again.
By: Katy Anders on March 25, 2015
As a fairly new department manager, I was walking through an open cubicle area with a director of another department. Later that day my boss asked to meet with me. I was accused of calling a particular individual a WASP. Being from Quebec, I was not familiar with this term/acronym. I was shocked, and upset of being falsely accused of something I never said. My boss believed me.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 25, 2015
What the heck? Really weird happening. Years ago I had a great job share position. I was accused of doing something I did not do and was told I had to sign a document saying I would never do that again. I refused to sign it and quit on the spot. The head of HR asked me what she could do to keep me from quitting. I told her unless my boss was fired I would not stay. I also told her that I knew that would be difficult for her to do so it was just easier for me to leave. Two months later she was downsized. Six months later the business folded.
By: Kathe W. on March 25, 2015
All i can say is, some people try to pull things. In this case, i can't figure out what they would have been trying to pull, though. Maybe they wanted you to get nervous and look for another job so they wouldn't have to lay you off and pay unemployment? And while i've occasionally been accused of something i didn't do, it has never been anything this serious and was usually cleared up fast.
By: mimi on March 25, 2015
It's pretty fair to say I've actually done everything I've ever been accused of!!
By: fishducky on March 25, 2015
Unfairly? Oh, probably not unfairly. In retrospect, I probably SHOULDN'T have named the specific meeting that I called a "couple hours of worthwhile conversations crammed into five days."
By: Al Penwasser on March 25, 2015
How bizarre! I can't even begin to think why anyone would fabricate that story on any side. There was no purpose.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 25, 2015
This was some weird kind of a set up for why I could not make a guess. If you worked there for several months, judging by your blog persona, there is no way they could have believed you capable of such nasty behavior. Unless maybe the guy started to praise Richard Nixon...naw, even that would not turn you violent! You were punked!
By: Cranky on March 25, 2015
Sometimes when a business is going under or being sold management will throw employees under the bus to save face and/or money. Diet Center, the big weight-loss business was founded in our little town. When it was in the process of being sold to guys in fancy suits, one of their buildings suddenly went up in smoke, coincidentally when all the employees were out of the building for a break. The building was a packing warehouse and not important to the business as a whole. The loss was covered by insurance, but most employees felt it was a very "happy accident." Power, greed and lust can make people do ugly things.
By: Leenie on March 25, 2015
How absolutely bizarre. You could spend forever pondering THAT and never come up with a logical explanation. I can't believe that after abusing you like that, they didn't have the decency to explain. Maybe you reminded him of Perry Mason.
By: Mitchell is Moving on March 25, 2015
certainly hoping the old gent was just pulling a prank but that not everyone was in on it! eek!
By: TexWisGirl on March 25, 2015
That was a bizarre occurrence. The visitor seems to have displayed some rather odd personality traits. Or perhaps your boss was fabricating the story as a way of firing you?
By: Bryan Jones on March 25, 2015
Wow, that was bizarre but I think Mimi might be on the right track since they closed up shop shortly there after. I was once accused of placing an obscene phone call to an older gentleman. The caller left the message on his machine and gave my number, which I am sure was just random, as the contact #. .The guy didn't have caller ID and just believed the message. I could not convince him that it wasn't me and that I wasn't a teenage girl.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 25, 2015
That story gives me the creeps! I hope someday the truth comes out. In the third grade I was accused of writing TC + CS in chalk on the wooden floor. It has been written in several places and I was forced to stand in front of the class while I was paddled as I wiped the chalk off the floor. Truth was it was not this Tom who left the romantic graffiti, it was a kid named Tommy Craego, and he never fessed up.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 25, 2015
I've been accused of all sorts of things, especially being a tramp and a slut. It's all true. Well, maybe not. I have been accused of many things I didn't do, but I've also gotten away with some stuff. Do you think the man who came to the gallery was actually the owner and they were testing you in some fashion? Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 25, 2015
That is bizarre. Maybe Mary Ann knew you were onto her, and she set you up. I was accused of telling a co-worker to get off his ass and do something. Which is totally not my style, me being one who avoids confrontation. I was working for the state unemployment office at the time, and I returned after a day off to be called into the manager's office, where my supervisor detailed the complaint. Allegedly, I had said this in front of the whole office, and about a hundred claimants waiting to be called for their four-week in-person interviews. POPPYCOCK! I was indignant. Told them to hook us both up to a polygraph, and we'd see who was truthful. They didn't, but that guy made even more enemies than he already had, because our work performance spoke for itself.
By: Val on March 25, 2015
What a weird story...this would bother me, too. This didn't happen on April 1st, did it? But even if it was a prank, wouldn't they have told you? Very weird.
By: Pixel Peeper on March 25, 2015
Ambiguous for sure. there must have been something else going on that none of you knew about.
By: red on March 25, 2015
Sounds like the setup for a Candid Camera type show except they forgot to come back and let you in on the bit.
By: PT Dilloway on March 25, 2015
I'm sorry you endured this incident, Stephen. It seems baseless and I can't makes sense of it. Press on!
By: Michael Manning on March 25, 2015
What a perplexing incident they sadly do happen though and mainly to the innocent!
By: John on March 26, 2015
I think we all have been wrongly accused at times, but I have the kind of mind that puts those memories in the dust bin. Cannot think of one right now. I am wondering if she made the call in front of the friend just to make him happy...he might be some sadistic old goat, but did not want to share that with you. No matter the cause, t was stupid and not at all a wise way to treat an employee.
By: Tabor on March 26, 2015
To me, it's the shrug and the mysterious sphinx-like smile that gives it away -- someone was pulling your leg.
By: Tom Sightings on March 26, 2015
Never had anything like that happen to me but then I've never worked in the corporate world having been self employed for some 40 years. however, at one point we were so busy and I was so stressed out that I found myself yelling at one of my customers. I did apologize to her but basically lost her as a customer.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 26, 2015
How bizarre!!
By: The Bug on March 27, 2015

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