Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Blogging for Books #2

[The following is an entry into The Zero Boss's Blogging for Books monthly contest. This month's topic: the worst experience you had working for someone else.]

I’m stumped. Bamboozled, even. I know who to write about--clearly, this distinction belongs to the president of an import-export textile firm for whom I worked as a receptionist for several summers in a row during college. But which of the more-ridiculous-than-the-next incident shall I regale you with? Should it be Boss Man’s obsession with his delicate nasal mucosa—an obsession which led to my writing numerous letters to no-doubt eye-rolling physicians thanking them for their care and concern in cauterizing the errant vessels in Boss Man’s nostrils after his third gushing nosebleed in less than a month? Should it be the subsequent purchase I was asked to make of a crate of saline nasal spray, which was then handed out to all the people in our office, along with a memo ordering them to use it daily to prevent such horrific blood-letting from happening to them, too? No, that one might make you think he was sweet and concerned, when really he was simply so monomaniacal that he assumed the goings-on in his nose were of great concern and interest to the rest of us, mixed with a fear that one of us might spring a bloody leak over a sample bolt of fabric or a contract or a letter to his cauterizer-happy doc.

Maybe I’ll tell you about how this man used to pass my desk, appropriately located just beyond the double glass doors that led into our office, walk into his own office several doors away, sit down at his desk, and then buzz me on the intercom to get up and shut the door THAT HE HAD JUST WALKED THROUGH! No, that one’s too short, and is only the tip of the iceberg of the indignity that was my job those summers.

I could mention that my father also worked for this firm, though in their office in Brazil, and tell you about how whenever he called and talked to me in that condescending bark that he apparently reserves for secretaries and receptions, I would burst into tears. But that’s really more about my relationship with my dad and my inability to grow up, and is much sadder than it is funny.

Ah. I know. I’ll tell you about the U.S. Open tickets. That’s what I’ll do.

It’s the middle of summer in Manhattan, when the air grows thick and positively palpable, and the smell of urine is all around you. Boss Man, as is his habit, purchases a large block of tickets for the U.S. Open tennis tournament, and compiles a list of names of clients who want in. And then decides that, rather than mail them to the clients, they should be hand-delivered. By me. Over 500 tickets, spread out over the entire island of Manhattan, in the steaming, stinking heat.

The first year, it takes me at least two weeks. I walk almost the entire route, because although I’ve been told I can take a taxi between stops, finding one is a near-impossibility in this heat, and besides, each office is only a couple of blocks away. I plan out my route like a military strategist, trying to figure out the best way to get from one place to the other using the least number of steps...but also incorporating frequent walks past major department stores, where I can step into the air-conditioning for a minute while still traversing an entire block. (An aside: this was the summer that little Jessica McClure fell down the well in Texas, and there was that incredible, ongoing rescue attempt. I remember, because while I walked from one end of Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s or Lord & Taylor’s the other, I would go up to whatever floor the TV sets were on, and check in on what was happening. I was mesmerized.)

I return to the office each day sweaty and exhausted. And the worst part, I tell my clucking female coworkers—who are positively appalled that I’m being made to do this—is that nobody knows these tickets are being hand-delivered other than the receptionists at each office to whom I hand them. Sweaty teenagers don’t get to hand an envelope to fashion designers or textile moguls. So the entire thing is for naught.

The next year, I’m rehired for yet another summer of fun and games and nasal spray. But when ticket season arrives, I balk. Oh, not to Boss Man, because he would squash me like a fly. But to one of those maternal cluckers from the year before. And she goes in to Boss Man’s office, and tells him that he’s being ridiculous with this, that if we would just mail the darned things, they’d get there more quickly, and I could actually do some, you know, work around the office, where it’s actually, you know, needed. I don’t trust the mail, Boss Man thunders. With TC, I know that the tickets are getting there.

You’re wrong, Clucking Lady replies. It will take TC a week to get the tickets out. If we mail them, most of them will be at their destination within 24 hours, and the rest will be there within 48.

Prove it, sayeth the Boss Man.

And so began the Great Postal Service Experiment. We mail out a small sampling of tickets, and then I call each office the next day to find out if they had received them. Nine out of ten are where they are supposed to be. Number ten arrives a day after.

If you think I won that battle, you’re wrong. Boss Man still wanted me to hand-deliver all the tickets within a 1-mile radius. The others we mailed, but I had to call each and every office until I had confirmation that the tickets had arrived. Still, minor though it was, I considered it a victory. After all, it left me with that much more time to close Boss Man’s door for him, write letters to his doctors and monitor the use of nasal spray in the office. Yes, indeed. A victory. Go, me.

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