Icelandic Girls: It all started when

It all started when Johanna complained to me that Heidi could not do her share of the work because she had a hangover. Heidi had to go home early that day because she felt sick. Johanna asked me not to tell Heidi that she had told me that Heidi had told her that the illness was due to drinking.

Johanna was always complaining that I was too easy on Heidi and that Johanna was doing all the work. As far as I was concerned, Heidi did much more work than Johanna and, in general, was a much more valuable employee; but to keep Johanna happy I decided to say something to Heidi about it.

The next day I called Heidi in and told her what I thought, but I did not tell her what Johanna had said to me. She became very upset and practically started screaming. Johanna came into the room and started screaming too. Finally, Heidi said she was going to be quitting in a week or two. She also said that Jerry her boyfriend, would be moving to Chicago soon and she wanted to go there at the same time.
An Icelandic Party on Long Island in the Summer of 1973. Jerry Bannon is standing at the center. Sam Sloan is standing left. Gunna and an unidentified man are seated. This photo was taken after Heidi and Johanna quit working for Sam Sloan

Because I doubted that Jerry would ever move to Chicago, I forgot about the fact that Heidi had talked to me about quitting until a few days later when my friend Zia came to me and said that Johanna had told him that Heidi had told her she was quitting. I called Heidi on the telephone that night and asked if it was true. She said it was. I asked her if there was any way I could talk her into coming back. She there was none.

The next night, which was a Wednesday, I called Johanna and Heidi to tell them I had hired a girl from Haiti to take Heidi's place. Johanna did not say much except that she would never talk to the girl and she did not want anything to do with her. Heidi called me later and said that Johanna was very upset and she would probably quit as soon as the black girl came. Heidi said that Johanna could not stand being around black people because she thought they were sloppy, lazy, and not very smart. I told Heidi that this girl was not an American and she seemed clean, intelligent, and efficient. I also told Heidi that Johanna would probably quit no matter who I hired anyway, because Johanna had already told me she would quit if I hired another Icelandic girl and that Heidi should have realized this when she quit herself.

When I told Heidi the new girl would be coming on Thursday two weeks later, I asked Heidi if she could do me a favor and stay until Friday of that week so she would have two days to show the new girl what needed to be done. She agreed to do that.

The next night I called to speak to one of the girls about something to do with the job. As it happened, Jerry answered the telephone. I told him the reason, so far as I know, why Heidi quit and about some of the problems I was having with Johanna. While I was talking Heidi was standing next to him. She wrote to him saying, "Don't tell Johanna."

On Monday, when Heidi was out, I told Johanna that she would have to start making deliveries. She said it was not fair for her to make half of the deliveries. I told her that she did not have to make half of the deliveries but she should make some deliveries because it was not fair to have one girl making all of the deliveries, and the other not making any. She seemed upset when I said this. Then I told Johanna that Zia would be moving in the next day. Previously Johanna had told me she would quit if Zia moved in. When I said this she said that I had better try to get another girl. She said she would start looking for a new job and that "I can always find another job and if I can't who cares?" I told her I would start looking for a new girl right away. Johanna cut me off and would not discuss the matter further. Right after this Heidi came back and they had a long, noisy conversation in Icelandic and presumably Johanna told Heidi what had just taken place.

On Thursday Johanna was out sick. At the end of the day I asked Heidi if Johanna had told her what had happened on Monday. She said she did. I said that since Johanna would be leaving soon I would like Heidi to keep working for me. She agreed immediately. She said she was doing it because Johanna had said a lot of nasty things about the new girl and "there was no reason for Johanna to say the things she said, no reason at all."

She also said that she did not want Johanna to be able to say that Heidi took her job. She told me not to say anything about this to Johanna. She also wondered if there was a way I could help Johanna or give her a job for a little bit longer so she would not complain so much. I told Heidi I had to rush out of the office right then but I wanted to talk to her some more to straighten out some details. She said she would call me that night or some time later when Johanna was not home and talk the whole thing over with me. She also said she did not want to be in any way involved in my conversation with Johanna about the fact that Johanna would be leaving.

On Friday, Jerry called while the girls were out to lunch. He asked me what was going on. I told him that the girls were not talking very much to me, but it appeared that Johanna was leaving and Heidi was staying. I said that I was worried that Heidi would leave when Johanna left and that the reason I had not done something about this situation sooner was I wanted to be sure I would have someone to work for me. He told me not to worry because there was no way Heidi could quit. He said he would be moving soon to Chicago and while he was settling there Heidi would be living with her parents so that Heidi could not afford to quit working for me at this time. He said that Heidi had told him that Johanna was about to be fired and he suggested that I give Johanna an ultimatum that she should straighten herself out right away. I told him it was too late for that and that any time I tried to speak to Johanna about my problems with her she shut me off immediately. I told him I had had practically no conversations with the girls for over a month.

On Monday, the girls were worse than ever and Johanna was particularly intolerable. I tried to speak to them but they would not talk back. Zia told me that Johanna told him that Heidi had decided to stay. I met Heidi in the hallway and I told her that I was going to have to tell Johanna that this would be her last week. She tried to stop me and said "I'm not sure I can go through with this." I ignored her protest because I decided not to get into a big discussion with Heidi at this particular point. What I failed to realize was that this would be the last time Heidi would be willing to discuss it with me.

At this point I did not know what to do. When Heidi was out in the afternoon, I sat down next to Johanna and after a long delay I asked her when who was planning on leaving. She snapped back, "I'll leave tomorrow if that's the way you feel." I said it would not be necessary for her to leave right away, but perhaps it would be best for her to leave at the end of the week because I had already asked the new girl not to come in until Monday of the next week because this way they would not have to be working at the same time. She asked me what Heidi was going to do. I said I did not know what Heidi was going to do. She said Heidi had told she was going to stay. She also said she thought we were trying to get her to leave so Heidi could stay and that it was not fair because Heidi did not need the money since her boyfriend would always take care of her and there was nobody to take care of Johanna. I said Heidi had nothing to do with it.

I told her I had a special ledger I wanted her to do at home which I thought would take either one or two weeks and for which I would pay her her regular salary of $120 per week. I thought that it world be best for her to take it home because she had said she would not work in the same office with a black girl and Zia.

When Heidi came in the door Johanna shrieked, "Sam's going to fire me!" I did not say anything. Johanna asked Heidi what she was going to do. Heidi said, "I'm quitting too." Then they started talking in Icelandic. Johanna got up and said., "That's not fair. Heidi gave you two weeks notice and you are only giving me one week." I tried to break in by saying, "That's not true because a week ago today you told me ..", but she interrupted, Oh no. I'm not going to listen to this," and with that both girls walked out of the office. Neither one of then would speak to me any more that day.

The next day when Johanna was in the bathroom, I asked Heidi what she was going to do Was she going to leave or stay? She said she would talk to me later or she would call me on the telephone that night. Jerry called on the telephone when the girls were out to lunch. He asked what was going on. I said I could not tell if Heidi was leaving or staying. He said not to worry he was sure Heidi was staying. He said the problem was that Heidi could not get along with Johanna because Johanna refused to make deliveries and Heidi was peeved at that. He said he thought I did the best thing by telling Johanna to leave. I said what had me worried was that Heidi said she did not want to appear to be taking Johanna's job and Johanna was already complaining about that. He told me I should tell Johanna to get it into her head that Heidi was staying and that she had better start teaching Heidi how to balance the books. I said I was trying to be diplomatic and he told me I was making a big mistake. I talked to him for almost an hour. When the girls came back he asked me to hang up the telephone and not to mention that he had called.

'The next day, a Wednesday, I asked Heidi again if she was leaving or staying. She said she did not know. I asked her if there was a problem that perhaps we could talk about and try to straighten it out. She said she did not feel good that day and she did not want to talk to me just then. Again Jerry called around lunch time. I told him I still did not know what was going on. He said he was certain Heidi was staying. I said that in spite of the fact that he was her boyfriend I still felt uncomfortable about the whole thing until Heidi told me that herself. Ha said that one thing about Heidi was that every time he had a problem with her he told her right away and even though she might make a big fuss and yell and scream about it at the time, she always got the problem straightened out. He said he knew the Icelandic people a lot better than I did and that one could not get anywhere with them by going overboard to make them happy or to appease them. I said that my problem was probably that I had given these girls everything they had ever asked me for. He agreed that that was a mistake. He asked me to call him immediately if anything unusual or unexpected developed.

On Thursday nothing happened except that both girls appeared to be in a fairly lively mood. It was the first time in a long time that they did not act like a pair of Zombies. Heidi was even somewhat friendly and walked around the office singing and even talked in English a little bit. I decided not to say anything to her because I was sure that she could not be in such a good mood if she was planning to desert me the next day. After thinking it over I could not believe she could possibly leave without letting me know at least a day in advance.

That night I still wanted to know what the story was. Heidi had never called me like she said she would. I know she would be staying at her parents house that night. My only chance to speak to her without Johanna around was to call her there. I first called around 7:00 P.M. Her mother said she was not there but she was expected any minute. I left a message for her to call me. At 8:00 PM I called again. Her brother answered and said she had arrived but she had gone to the store. I left the message again. At 9:45 P.M. I called again. Her brother said she had come back and gone out again and he did not know where she was. I left a third message for her to call anytime at night and went to bed.

So Friday was the day. I waited until almost noontime for the girls to give me some indication of what they were thinking. Nothing happened. Then when Johanna stepped into the other room I asked Heidi if she was coming to work on Monday. She said, "I haven't made up my mind yet. I'll have to think about it." I replied, "Well, you had better make up your mind right away I have to know.

"In that case," she said, "I don't see how I can come in. I just don't think I can do it."

"If you weren't going to come in," I asked, "or there was something you didn't like about this job, why didn't you say so before this?"

"If you have anything to say," Heidi replied, pointing her finger to the other room, "why don't you say it in front of Johanna? Why do you always try to talk to me when she is not around?"

I looked over my shoulder and realized that Johanna had been out of the room for longer than expected and she was probably waiting for us finish our conversation. Embarrassed, I stopped talking and waited for Johanna to come back. A few minutes later the Icelandic girl who worked across the street came by, and the three them went out to lunch.

While the girls were out to lunch, I tried to figure out what was going on. I had never heard of anyone quitting a good job without complaining to the boss or giving some indication that something was unsatisfactory beforehand. I tried to call Jerry but he was not available. I paced the floor and tried to decide the best thing to do. I finally decided I should be aggressive instead of passive as I had been in the past, and risk starting a fight with the girls. I figured that maybe if I got them mad enough they would finally tell me what was on their minds. I knew that Johanna was always ready for a good fight. Heidi on other hand, tried to act like a nice, sweet, quiet little girl who never had a serious disagreement with anybody. There seemed no possibility I could get these girls into a sensible discussion. I felt some sort of an argument was necessary to get these girls to come out and say what was bothering them. I chose the safer course by trying to pick on. Heidi, but I decided if I was going to maintain any chance of being on good terms with them in the future I had better not let it out that Heidi and I had had certain conversations behind Johanna's back. Unfortunately, this left me with almost nothing to complain to Heidi about.

I started by saying, "Why don't you girls ever talk to me."

"We have nothing to talk to you about," replied Johanna.

This rather elegant response left me with nothing to work on, but I pressed forward anyway. "But you used to talk to me," I continued

"That was. before I decided not to talk to you about anything except the work", said Johanna

When was that?"

"In February"

"So why didn't you tell me in February you weren't speaking to me anymore and I could have fired you and gotten another person and saved us all a lot of trouble?"

"What difference does it make to you if I don't talk to you?"

"It makes a lot of difference, and besides even when I tried to talk to you about your work you out me off."

"When was that?"

"I've been trying to change the whole organization of this office for three months now, ever since I became computerized, you refused to budge."

"If you didn't like my work you could have gotten another girl easily. After all, you went to Iceland in February to hire another girl, didn't you?"

"Is that why you stopped talking to me, because I got a computer, and because I went to Iceland?"

Johanna did not want to answer this question. All along I had been directing my questions at Heidi but receiving answers from Johanna. Heidi had remained silent. I decided that this line of attack was fruitless, because I wanted Heidi to say something, not Johanna. I could get in an argument with Johanna anytime.

There is one thing," I said, "which you girls did to me a long time ago which wasn't very nice and I have been mad about it ever since and I just want to tell you what it is."

''I don't want to hear about it," said Heidi.

"No, let's hear. I want to know what he has to say." interjected Johanna.

A long discussion in Icelandic ensued at the end of which Johanna said, "Okay let's hear it."

No, I don't want to hear about it," interrupted Heidi.

"Why not?"

Because this is the last day and it will just cause a big argument and we will not be friends afterwards. I can't stand it when that happens. The best thing is for us just to leave without saying anything except good by and good luck, so at least we will be friends in the future.

"What good does it do for us to be friends if we are not speaking to each other?" I observed.

"At least this way we are not enemies," said Heidi.

Johanna still wanted to know what I had to say. They had another long conversation in Icelandic. At the end of it I started to say something else.

"If you say anything," interrupted Heidi, "I'm just going to get up and walk out of this room."

I left the room myself and came back a few minutes later with a new gambit. First, I had to promise Heidi this would not be about anything we had discussed previously.

''When I first hired you girls, didn't I say that one of these days business was likely to go bad and I would have to let one of you go and I wanted to be certain in advance that if I had to fire one of you the other would stay and that Heidi had seniority over Johanna because she started working for me first."

"Yes, but that was a long time ago." said Heidi.

"Well, it wasn't so long ago and it still applies today."

"What's happening now has nothing to do with it."

"Yes, but you girls can't go walking out on me and leave me stranded like this

"Wait a second", interjected Johanna, "are you trying to say that you want Heidi to keep working for you,"


"If that's the case why didn't you say something before."

"Because I didn't . . . .

"Wait a second," Heidi butted in. "This conversation has gone far enough. This won't accomplish anything."

"Under the circumstances, Heidi, I think we should . . ."

Sam, if we are going to be friends you'll just have to leave the room right now."

I left the room, completely defeated. I sulked for about an hour. Finally I decided to get one last word in. I went back to where the girls were and with greatest apologies said, "Heidi, I want you to do me one personal favor."

"What's that?"

"I want you to come in on Monday and show the new girl what her job is so I don't have to start all over again with teaching her."

"I don't know anything to show her."

Heidi, I spent $800 to train you and Johanna to do your jobs, and .I don't want to feel that the money was completely wasted."

"Well, I didn't learn anything," she said. "Why don't you get Johanna to do it?"

I looked over at Johanna. She was impassive. She was the one who did not want anything to do with the new girl.

"Heidi, you've worked for me for almost nine months and you do a good job. Now don't try to quibble with me and say you don't I know what you are doing."

"I have something to do on Monday."


"Something important,"

"Don't you think after working all this time that this is important."

"A friend of mine is going to call tonight and talk to me about it. If I can get out of it I will do this for you on Monday."

"Is that a promise?"

"Yes, I promise." For a few minutes nothing was said and then Heidi spoke up. "Sam I have to ask you to do one thing for me."

"What is it?"

"I Just received a telephone call and I heard that you have been trying to call Jerry. You have to promise me not to say anything to Jerry about this. We have had a lot of fights about this and we might even break up because of it. So please don't say anything to him."

"Okay, if that is the case I won't talk to him about it, but I would appreciate it if you would keep your promises to me in the future."

At the end of the day, Johanna turned in her key to the office. Heidi did not turn in her key, presumably because she was supposed to come to work on Monday. Then Johanna said, "Oh, by the way, weren't you going to give me some work to take home?"

I was taken aback for a minute and I did not know what to say. Finally, I decided to take my lumps. "Gee", I said, "I forgot all about it. What was it that you were supposed to do?"

I pulled out some ledger books and showed her that I wanted my 1970-1971 trading record redone. I gave Heidi $300 in cash and told her to take out her and Johanna's salary and go to the store to buy binders and paper for Johanna and to return the change to me. When Heidi came back from the store she gave me the change and the girls picked up all the 1970-71 records of my business and walked out the door.

About two hours later, I looked in my wallet and realized I was missing about $40. I forgot completely about the binders and remembered only the times when other people had worked for me only to steal from me on the last day of work. I tried to call Heidi and Jerry answered the telephone.

"'The girls aren't here yet", said Jerry, "I expect them any minute. By the way, what happened at the office today?"

"'What do you mean?"

"What did Heidi and Johanna say to each other?"

"I'm not at liberty to discuss it."

"Well, did Heidi say she was going to go to work on Monday?"


"What do you mean, 'No'. Now, I'm pissed off, Just wait until she gets here.

Calm down. It's no big deal."

"I had a big talk with Heidi's parents about this subject last night and they agreed with me that just because her friend is getting laid off there is no reason why she should quit, too. I thought we got Heidi straightened out about that."

"You were wrong."

"How do you feel about it?"

"I practically got down on my hands and knees and begged her to stay. But I'll tell you what. Let's forget we had this conversation. The only reason I called was to speak to Heidi about something and for that I can call back later."


Essentially, that was the end of my relations with the Icelandic girls. When I called Heidi later, she reminded me that the $40 went for binders and paper. I called Saturday and Sunday to see if her friend had called. He never called. Late Sunday night she told me she would come in to work Monday morning if he did not call. On Monday, around noon I called and she said she would come in Tuesday. On Tuesday she said she would come in Wednesday. After Wednesday I waited two weeks and asked her to come in again. She promised she would come in the following Monday, but once again she did not show up. After that I gave up on her. completely. I never got around to teaching the new girl her job, and for that and several other reasons I had to fire her after she only worked five weeks. Johanna decided she needed at least $360 to live and to get back to Iceland, so she stretched the work she had taken home into three weeks. When I balked we got into a screaming fight and I ended up paying her the money. After giving me a big run around the girls finally permitted me to take my 1970-71 records back. The S.E.C. started to investigate my business activities because the office became so disorganized after the girls left that I could not find anything. Business got very bad. The dollar went down. I practically got run out of town due to business conditions. Zia Marashi, my friend from Iran who was by now sharing my office refused to pay the rent and tried to steal all my furniture. And in the end, I decided to give up everything.


Certainly there must be a moral to this story. I am reminded of the nursery rhyme which goes:

"There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid."

I never had any problem getting the Icelandic girls to try to do the best job they could, and I will have to say that they are the best people who ever worked for me. Still, all things considered I think the price I had to pay for this was far too great. After spending almost a year and getting to know a fair percentage of the Icelandic people in New York, I have concluded that they are either the nicest people in the world or the nastiest people in the world. This is both good and bad. They are not direct and open like Americans and they have a mania for telling stories about each other and prying into each other's personal affairs. Still, also unlike Americans, they can stab each other in the back and still. remain the best of friends In the end, Icelandic people stick together, which gives them a sense of security we don't have.

In this case I was constantly being burdened with things I was not supposed to know. Johanna was always telling me things I was not supposed to tell Heidi. Heidi was always telling things I was not supposed to tell Johanna, Individually and together they told me things I was not supposed to tell Jerry or others. Most things they said I was not supposed to tell anybody at all. Other Icelandic people told me things I was not supposed to tell Heidi and Johanna. Judging by the course of events, both of them must have said things they agreed not to tell me. Eventually I got to the point where I had to remain forever silent because I knew everything, but not being Icelandic I had no idea what secrets I could safely reveal and what secrets I had to keep secret. The result was that ultimately something had to happen which was bound to lead to an unpleasant situation.

When Heidi and Johanna first came to work for me they talked to me openly and freely. As time went on they talked less and less until the last two months when they would chatter to each other in Icelandic all day long and hardly ever say a word in English. The situation was almost unbearable, To this day, I have no idea what was bugging them. I still would like to know.

So the conclusion is: If you want to be successful in business, don't get involved with Icelandic girls.

Sam Sloan

UPDATE: As a result of this posting, I have received news from Reykjavik that Johanna is currently married to Haukur Guðjonsson and they have two children, Baldur, born in 79 and Grétar, born in 81. I wish them well.

UPDATE: I have just found out that Hafdis is now a bigshot with Icelandair. She is the Station Manager of the Orlando Office.

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