June 24th, 2007 02:44 EST
Loyalty, Betrayal and Forgiveness
Before I owned my travel agency, I worked there for two wonderful people, Ted* and Liz,* partners; but, not married to each other. Liz and I worked side-by-side and Ted, a school councilor, worked at night and on the weekends. They were lovely to me and very fair employers. In 1991, they decided to sell their agency. They wanted to retire and were willing to sell it to me and a former outside sales agent, Ann.* They were almost giving us the agency as a gift. The price was so unbelievable low!
When I had worked with Ann in the past, I didn`t like her. She had made some mistakes and I didn`t think she had her head on straight. I told Ted and Liz I would prefer to never work with her in the future. But about one year before Liz and Ted told me they were going to sell the agency, Ann had changed. She was a totally different person. She was focused and was doing a good job. So when Ted and Liz asked me if I was willing to have Ann as a partner, I said, "Sure."
Ann confessed to me that she was in two 12-step programs and she thought it was best I knew before we became partners. I was proud of the "new" Ann and believed she deserved a second chance. Ann was tall, slim and looked like a blond Jamie Lee Curtis. She was a divorced mother of a young son. She left teaching at the local Catholic grammar school to be a co-owner of our agency. She was independently wealthy and assured me she had money to start up the business. She was a whiz at accounting and back-office details.
I was short and round. I looked like Mimi on the Drew Cary Show, except I don`t wear make up. I knew the travel business inside out. My knowledge made up for my lack of extra money. I was qualified to be the manager, a requirement to get approved by ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation.) I had a good working relationship with Airlines, Cruise Lines and Travel Wholesalers-- all of which was important when owning and managing a Travel Agency. I could sell my little heart out. I have been known to sell people a cruise, when they just wanted to buy a ticket to Boston. I was the kind of person who would see a customer outside and go outside and ask them about their grandson. Our agency had many loyal customers. The agency was the oldest on Long Island and we didn`t want to change its name and the reputation the agency had. The agency was well thought of in the Travel Industry.
We worked well together. Ann sat in the back and I greeted customers. She asked if her son`s nanny, Mary, could work in the office and Mary was a bright and shinny star. She became my right hand girl. Ann didn`t like the computers and was at home doing the books. We were running a million plus dollar business. We took limousines, flew first class and traveled a lot. She was very good at thinking up ways to make more money and I was very good at selling the ideas. Ann and I took a trip to Las Vegas, and won everything in sight. We were on a roll. My family and I were able to go to places we only dreamed about in the past.
Then Ann met a fellow 12-step member and fell in love. She wanted more time off and I didn`t mind-- I loved my work. Ann asked me if I would work on Saturdays because she wanted to visit a sick uncle in a nursing home. But I found out she was really at the horse race track. She started to make some mistakes, which grew into big mistakes. I covered for her and she would say, Thank God you caught them." I made mistakes, too, don`t get me wrong. But none that caused the company to lose money. Here is one of the ones that sent the office in a tailspin. She had a couple getting married in Hawaii and the family was flying there for the wedding. All together there were about 24 people to be at the wedding. The week before the wedding the hotel would call every day and say they hadn`t gotten the couples room reservation. The hotel was all set for the wedding, had rooms for all the guests; but, no room for the bride and groom was reserved. I called the wholesaler and found Ann had booked the couple at the wrong hotel. As the bride and groom flew to Hawaii, I sweet-talked the hotel into giving them a room until everything was resolved. It cost the agency $600.00. Ann was in the Caribbean with her new, very controlling boyfriend, Dick, and didn`t have a clue what was happening.
She called that day and I told her. She was very upset and cried. She said her life was in so much turmoil and thanked me for getting everything worked out. The first year we made a lot of money, but in the middle of the second year, things started to look gloomy. We were losing money, even though we doing more business. Thom (my husband) had a gut feeling something just wasn`t right. But I stood up for Ann and said, "I don`t think Ann was doing anything wrong." I kept checking the books and everything looked alright to me. Our accountant could not figure out why we were losing money either. I am a very loyal person and would never think anyone would do anything wrong.
The summer of 1993 she took a group of New York area cops and their families to Ireland and, 5 days later, she called in the afternoon crying, telling me something terrible happened to her and would I leave on the next plane to Ireland? So, in 40 minutes I packed, called Thom and said, I need to be on the 7:00pm flight to Shannon. Â" Once I was on the plane, I said, "What the hell am I doing? Â" I just came home from a cruise with my aunt and left Thom to take care of my mother and now I was off to Ireland doing the same thing. He was not going to be very happy.
When I got to Ireland, Ann and I spoke for 20 minutes; then, she got on the same plane and flew back to New York. She told me she was going home to tell her mother about a childhood memory that came back to her in Ireland and I believed her. Mary told me she never went into the office for 3 days, and her mother told Thom she didn`t even know Ann was home. In Ireland, I found out why she really wanted to go home. She had a fight with her boyfriend and he told her he was dating someone else. So she went home to make him see she was in love with him. I was so used, but there was nothing I could do for 10 days. She called me in Ireland and made me an offer to send Thom to meet me in Ireland. But he couldn`t leave my mother. Things between Ann and me changed. She wanted to do anything to make me happy. She knew I was getting worried about her relationship with her boyfriend. And, she was trying to show me it was LOVE and she could change him. He was mentally controlling and abusing her.
She asked Thom to come to work for us. His function was to double check Ann, Mary and my work. He had to catch mistakes before we lost any more money. She took the whole summer off and was glad Thom was willing to sit in for her. She did come in every week for her paycheck, and to do the accounting. Her relationship with her boyfriend got stormier that summer. She was missing four days at a time. Mary had to take care of her son and come to work every day. Ann would be in a fog, and I would almost have to clap my hands to get her attention.
Well, things got so bad we had to go without pay for more than 6 months. Ann let Thom go and she was putting her own money in the business. She said that, until she got paid back, no more paychecks. She still took Caribbean vacations and I still worked without pay. I agreed to the no salary demand because I really cared for the business and felt better going to work everyday. When my mother died, I worked on that day, and worked even on the day she was buried.
Finally, in April 1994 we started to get paid again. She married her guy in June and went to Boar and Tahiti for a month-long, first-class honeymoon. She took that summer off, too, and hired a part-timer to help out me and Mary. I thought I would take a short weekend trip to see my son in Orlando, but everything changed on August 9th.
I was in an accident in Orlando. Thom flew down the next day and Ann would call every night. She told Thom our accountant told her to put my salary in an escrow account until I could return to work. I returned to NY in September, and I was far from ready to return to work. She NEVER came to see me -- even when I was rushed back into a New York hospital because of my injuries. She would call me daily to ask me how to do and fix things and she acted like she really was concerned. Thom worked next to the agency and noticed the office change. She took all of my stuff and put it in boxes. She gave Mary my desk and was telling customers I was near death. My neighbor, Jane, worked at the agency as an outside sales agent and said the mood of the office became very secretive when my name was mentioned.
Just before I was to have an operation to remove the hardware in my foot, Ann called me and asked for money to meet expenses. I told her to use my salary that was in escrow. She said "What salary?" I told her what Thom said, and she said, "I never said that!!!!" I could not believe I didn`t have any money coming to me. I worked and she vacationed. I went in everyday, never was sick and she had no money for me? She offered to buy me out. She had money for that! But, she had no money to pay my salary? I saw the handwriting on the wall. I said OK. She gave me exactly what little I paid for it.
Then in December she sent me $900.00 that was coming to me from a cruise I couldn`t go on because of the accident; and, she told me our association was over. It was 2 years after we started our partnership. I was no longer needed as Manager. (She needed 2 years experience to become approved as a manager-- her timing was just perfect.) I was dumbfounded. I was so hurt and could not believe she was shutting me out. Thom found all his and my business cards in plastic bags in the back yard of the office and they were blowing all over. I could not sleep anymore. I would think all night about what Ann did to me and how loyal I had been to her. I sent her a birthday fax in January 1995 and she sent a thank you fax back. I stayed in NY for another year before moving to Florida in January 1996. I never heard from her again...until.
April 1996, my court case was coming up and my two attorneys wanted to see what I was worth as a Travel Agent. Because of brain and bodily injuries I could never work again. They called Ann, she was so hostile. They flew up to New York to meet with her, Jane, my neighbor, and some of my former customers. They questioned the former owners Ted and Liz and 10 customers. They all confirmed I was a very caring and warm person. I did an excellent job on their travel needs and most of them no longer used the travel agency since I was not there. Ted and Liz said they would hire me again in a New York minute. They spoke to Jane about my home life and my travel agent life and felt I was very valuable to my community and my profession.
Then they meet with Ann. She told a totally different story. My lawyers kept catching her lying. They said, "Are you talking about the same Mrs. Kaufold who flew to Ireland with 40 minutes notice?" "Are you talking about the same Mrs. Kaufold who worked every summer so you could have the summer off?" "Are you talking about the same Mrs. Kaufold who worked every day, even on the day her mother died?" She was so mixed up she said on record, "Should I get my own attorney because of my lying?" My attorneys said "That would be a very wise decision."
I was so hurt. I had been so loyal to her and she betrayed me. My attorneys could not wait to put her on the stand. I was crying a lot and called a friend, Fran, in North Carolina. I wanted to know what I should do. She told me to "pray for Ann and to send thoughts of love and forgiveness to her." That is the only way I could go on and get control of my life. When I told my family and lawyers that is what I was going to do, their mouths dropped open. I knew I could not face her in court, because I was so hurt. My lawyers wanted nothing more than to see her lying self on the stand. Before the case went to court, we had to see if arbitration would work. The other side had become friendly with Ann. But they could not use what she had said because she admitted to lying about me. We settled out of court, for far more than my lawyers thought I would get. It seems since Ann was not a good witness, the other side had nothing to use. God was richly providing for me since I was not blaming Ann for her words and actions.
I prayed every minute for Ann. Thom, Jane and our sons never liked or trusted her and were not surprised by her motives. I started to heal in my soul. I then realized why she was trying to hurt me. She was unhappy. She saw that I was happy with the little I had and she could not understand it. She saw I could raise four sons, take care of an invalid mother, and a husband-- and still come in every day and do a good job. I prayed for her to be loved, to find happiness and learn how to give love and happiness. I have forgiven Ann. I have been able to sleep again. And I sincerely hope her life is as happy as mine.
This part of my life has been very painful, reliving my partnership with Ann. Even today when we talk about Ann, I stick up for her. Mary and I had become her enabler. We allowed her behavior. I was trying to be her friend and not watching what she was doing behind by back. Mary was afraid of her. I found it impossible to believe all the signs she was leaving. And I kept saying, "No, not Ann. She wouldn`t lie, cheat or steal."
As God worked on my healing, I prayed He would also heal her. She is a lost soul who God loves very much. My human side would love it if she went out of business. But my spiritual side wants her to be happy, filled with love and joy. If I let my human side take over, I am filled with anger and sadness. But my spiritual side is soaring with joy and contentment. I have learned so much from this experience. I have become a nicer, more patient person. My wish is that everyone will let go and let God take care of their hurt and disappointment. When you put God in charge of your healing, you are blessed beyond measure.
Some may call me a fool. Friends, Thom and our sons have wondered how I could forgive Ann. My mother used to say I am always wearing rose colored glasses. That is the way I have chosen to live my life. I will always believe in the best in people. I truly believe we all have goodness in us. You just have to be patient and wait for it to come out. And, I will never stop believing it!
*Names have been changed to avoid embarrassment