Thursday, April 5, 2007

How I got my name

Years ago, I mean years and years and years ago, like in 1992, for pete's sake, I worked for Madalyn Murray O'Hair. In case you haven't a clue, she was the head of American Atheists, among other organizations, which she ran with her son, Jon, and daughter/granddaughter, Robin. Mrs O'Hair's other son, Bill, the one she filed the lawsuit against prayer in school for, worked for her for several years, too. Then he went off to do his thing and left the young Robin with Mrs O'Hair, who adopted her. Later Bill became a christian minister and went around raising money denouncing his mother and her evil ways. Which, of course, makes you wonder how he reconciles that with the seventh commandment... I mean it does if you're the sort of person who wonders about things like that.

But, then, Mrs O'Hair was a 'real piece of work,' as my friend Gus used to say, as well as an exceedingly abusive employer. Actually, she was an abusive person, who just happened to be an employer... One of those ones who calls everyone - including her family, or maybe, especially her family - an asshole or a sumbitch. In some people, of course, cussing can be funny, or an art form; in others, well, it's just obnoxious. Mrs O'Hair was one of THOSE people.

When I first started working for the O'Hairs, Mrs O'Hair liked me. Had I known better, I would've worried about that, because she appeared to hate most of the other employees, but I was too busy trying to be a good little worker unit. Eventually, of course, she decided she hated me, too. There were deadline issues, since each of the three O'Hairs, Madalyn, Robin and Jon, thought they were in charge of the universe. Each one would give you shit to do and insist you do it before you did the stuff you already had to do.

At the time, I thought that Mrs O'Hair wanted me to cry, or something, when she yelled at me... You know, to have me break down sobbing in a puddle of tears... I thought she liked being scary. So therefore the only revenge that was really possible - unless you, like, killed them or something - was being cheerful. And since I'm not a murderer, that was what I tried to do.

Of course, now I think she was just trying to get me to quit so she wouldn't have to pay unemployment... She'd been tagged as an abusive employer by the Texas Workforce Commission., so you actually could quit working for her and and they'd give you unemployment anyway. She thought she lost all her cases before them because she was an atheist... But really, it was because she was an asshole.

I remember walking into Mrs O'Hair's office one day with a pad of rough sketches in my hands for a cover for the magazine. "Robin says you need to pick one," I said to her. "I HATE THEM ALL!" she screamed at me, before she'd even looked at a-one of them. "Well, pick the one you hate the least and get back to me. The deadline is tomorrow," I told her, putting the pad down on her desk and smiling. Ok, this sounds pretty namby-pamby, but my blood pressure goes up when I write about this and I need a glass of wine or a Pom-tini. I could tell you about the time she told all the workers that they weren't getting a Christmas bonus because I'd fucked up the printing of the solstice cards. Now, think about it. Why would atheists expect to get a Christmas bonus? And then there's the time she told one worker he could kiss her ass, or... But, no, no... I'm just going to smile and forget it all.

It was my attempt at a smiling, cheerful demeanor that made her say to me one day, "You're just a little ray of sunshine around the office, aren't you? (No, no, try again; you're not saying it right. You have to use the Wicked Witch of the West voice for it.... Really creak it out... That's better.)

So that's how I got my nickname. I'm just a little ray of fucking sunshine.


I should tell you.

There WAS a murderer in our office. David Waters, who was a typesetter when I worked there, was a multiple murderer... Which is different from a serial killer. Multiple murderers kill people who piss them off. They don't use the same MO every time or anything, and it's not a ritualistic thing... I don't suppose the victims really care, but I guess the police do.

Anyway, there was a lot of stuff that happened after Mrs O'Hair laid me and most of the other employees off. There's even a book about it (America's Most Hated Woman: The Life and Gruesome Death of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, by Ann Rowe Seaman) (or you can read a short article from the Austin Chronicle here), but eventually David Waters and some of his friends kidnapped the O'Hairs, robbed them, killed them, and then chopped them up and put them in blue, 55 gallon drums and buried them on a ranch in south Texas. And then all the money - some $400,000 - they stole from the O'Hairs was ripped off by a couple, three kids on a lark, who just happened to break into the right storage locker.

Pretty icky.


Anonymous said...

I learned more about the real madalyn from your post than anything on the cable documentaries or donahue clips (loser)or anything else I've found surfing. You beat her at her own game! This is a good thing? Hey, how big was Robin, really?

Serena said...

I saw a documentary on Madalyn O'Hair last year on how she, her daughter and someone else had been kidnapped and murdered for money. WOW! I could tell from the documentary that she was a very strong willed person but your post certainly showed her on a more personal level. What an angry lady she was!