Talk To Me : In Memory of Judy F

There are very few people that I’ve encountered in my life that have been as memorable and exhausting as Judy F.

Judy was my supervisor when I first started at my current job(an orthopedic company that, at that time, specialized in strictly spinal implants.) My hire-in date was September 27th, 1999. If you’re doing the math in your head, then you’ll know I just recently celebrated my 20th anniversary at said orthopedic company. Still at the same place, still in the same department, and working with the same co-worker that was hired in the exact same day. I feel that if it wasn’t for him I probably would’ve quit within a week of starting there. It was quite the sea change starting that job from where I was coming from.

I was coming from another orthopedic company, but one that specialized in hips, knees, shoulders, and trauma. I was an Distributor Inventory Auditor, which meant I traveled all over the country and audited various distributors that sold our product. They would have our product on consignment and as they’d use it in surgeries we’d get a portion and they’d get a portion. It was an okay gig, but my wife was pregnant and I didn’t want to be traveling when the baby came. So I applied for this other gig as a shipping/receiving clerk and got it. I was making the same amount of money hourly as I was making at the current gig on salary. Insurance was dirt cheap, and I’d be home. Seemed like a win/win.

But it wasn’t that simple.

Me and the other guy came in to a department that was almost all temp workers. There were two ladies that had been there for years full-time, but the place was growing so quickly that they needed to fill positions immediately, hence temp services. Me and my co-worker were the first of new full-time positions they were filling. We both had between us 25 years of warehousing, shipping, and inventory experience, so we knew what we were doing. But those temps didn’t see it that way. They were pissed that we got these jobs. The area we worked in was tight, as in really small with no room to move. There were about 9 of us in a space of an oversized cubicle. So many personalities, so much drama, and so much oversharing. Me and the other guy came from working docks, professional positions, and just getting work done. The personal strife and attitudes were nearly too much for us. And our new supervisor, Judy F,  was the ringleader for this circus.

Judy was a big lady. Big in size, big in sound, and big in personality. She was intimidating with a bellowing voice and a grin that said “I know something you don’t.” She always put me in mind of Shelly Winters in Bloody Mama, except maybe a version of her that lived on and aged poorly. Things I’d heard about her when I first started the job were that she served time in prison prior to working for the company for embezzling a large sum of cash from a local cut glass company. How much time she spent in prison I’m not sure. Another thing that was told to us by lifers at this company was that her husband was also an ex-con. He was caught stealing stamps at the post office where he worked and served time for it. I’m not sure if their incarceration was a point of entry for their nuptials, but it kind of makes sense. I was also told that Judy had lost a daughter in a car wreck many years previously, which might explain her behavior later on. I can’t imagine that loss, but I could guess it could change someone for the worse if they didn’t have the right support group.

Those are some things that I was told but can’t verify. Here are some things I can say with 100% confidence because I was there and saw it all:

First, Christmas of 1999 me and my co-worker were told that we would get paid for the company holiday. Then, when we received our checks that money wasn’t there. We both went to Judy and she couldn’t explain it. She pulled out her purse and said she’d write us a personal check(for reference, she’d been sued for writing bad checks.) We told her that wasn’t her responsibility and went to her boss. Red-faced, he said he’d get with accounting and have them pay us.

Next, when we hired in Judy and her husband lived in the Hampton Inn, paying weekly. This was because both had zero credit to their names thanks to years of cons and rip-offs. About three years into working at my job Judy and her husband bought a house in an older but nice neighborhood. Judy bought a stereo receiver and cd changer from me to set up in their basement(she paid cash.) I took the receiver and CD player to her house and hooked it up for her. The house was nice; ranch with a spiral staircase that went to a basement where there was a bar. I was impressed, and genuinely happy for them. There was a housewarming party at work and folks put a lot of money towards gifts for her. Within a year Judy and her husband lost the house because they weren’t paying the mortgage(keep in mind, Judy was making a pretty damn good wage, and her husband worked as a supervisor at another compan as well.)

One day at work the bell rang and I went to the door. I answered it and it was a county sheriff’s deputy there to arrest Judy for stealing a car off a local GM dealer’s lot. She was hauled off in handcuffs. Turned out she had “bought” a brand new Lincoln but never paid for it. No idea how she was able to leave the lot without paying(might’ve written a bad check?), but Judy’s mom ended up writing a check(one that didn’t bounce, presumably) for the car and she was set free. Charges dropped.

At month end if you were in shipping you had to stay late to do the accounts payable report and make sure the books balanced. My co-worker and I were there one night till almost 2am, having come in to work at our normal times of 9am and 9:30am. Judy said she’d be back as she was meeting her husband at the Legion for fried fish. She returned an hour and a half later with a greasy fish stain on her shirt, then asked us if we wanted to get a beer after we left. We didn’t.

In 2005, while I was still on leave from my son being born, I got a call from work. It was my co-worker telling me that Judy F had been fired. Human Resources came back looking for her, found her, and walked her up front. About 30 minutes later my co-worker said HR walked her back, her face bright red staring straight ahead, and she left out the back door 10 minutes later with a box of her belongings. All we knew at the time was that she had stolen money from the company. A few years later one of the guys in accounting told us to come into his office. He pulled out a file and showed us a list of receipts of things that were purchased with Judy’s company credit card. Several trips to the grocery store for steaks, ice cream, and various frozen foods, pizzas from Pizza Hut, clothes and golf clubs from one of the local country club golf pro shops, and lots, lots more. In total, she’d spent over $20,000 on her and her husband on the company’s dime. We asked why she wasn’t arrested for stealing so much. We were told the company said if she paid all the money back then the company wouldn’t press charges. One phone call to mom and Judy was let go with no police involved.

Those first few years working for Judy were like an extended hazing period. From her ex-smoker’s hack, to her odd shuffle due to bad ankles and bad posture, to the storied past and lines of B.S., to her catchphrase “Talk to me!” she’d belt out when we questioned said lines of B.S., Judy ran the department like her own personal speakeasy. Like I said earlier, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my co-worker and I were hired in at the same time, neither of us would’ve lasted.  We were very much alike despite there being 10 years between us. Same musical likes, same twisted sense of humor, and we each had been around the block enough to know a grifter when we saw one. Judy was a cyclone of chaos, cons, and calamity.

That first year was the worst. But within that year the company moved to a new brand new, and much larger building. We were spread out and not on top of each other. The temps left, leaving us to make the place our own. Judy was still madness in orthotic shoes, but I could also see that despite all the shakedowns and shady behavior she was damn smart. She could fix anything in the computer system. She was great with numbers, and I guess that would explain all the times I walked in on her on the internet playing online gambling. As we got more comfortable in our jobs her madness began to become entertaining in a sort of twisted way.

But then she was fired and that was that.

After she was gone I’d see her out and about in town. Going thru the drive-thru at CVS, in a rascal at the grocery store buying hamhocks and Little Debbie snack cakes, or just randomly driving on the street. She’d gone from a boat of a Lincoln to a much smaller car, which made her look all the more bigger in the front seat. It was as if a large pile of dirty clothes were stacked behind the steering wheel with this massive head peaking out of them to navigate.

About 5 years after Judy had been fired my co-worker and I ran into her one evening at Pizza Hut. We were taking part in the community quiz bowl so we went and got something to eat before it started. We walked in and saw Judy F at the buffet line grabbing slices of Super Supreme and dessert pizza. I said “Hey Judy! How are you doing?” She looked at me and grinned and said “You know me, I’m still fat and sassy!”

Yes. Yes she was.

Last Wednesday Judy passed away unexpectedly at her home. She was 70-years old. She was the exact same age as my mom, except Judy looked about 15 years older than my mom(we age pretty well in my family.) The last time I saw Judy was about a week and a half ago. My daughter and I were leaving the grocery store when I happened to look over at the pharmacy drive-thru. There was Judy in her little car, looking like a pile of dirty clothes with a giant head sticking out of them. Except there were also two tree stump-looking arms sticking out of the dirty clothes writing a check for whatever she was picking up from the pharmacy. Besides the wonder of seeing Judy F, I wondered if that check she wrote was going to bounce. More than likely, yes.

RIP Judy

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