April 25, 2001
You Don't Send Me Flowers Anymore!

[or else!]

The wall calendar in my office says that today is "National Secretary's Day."

My page-a-day desk calendar says that it's actually "Professional Secretary's Day."  

Matt Lauer accidentally called it "National Administrators Day" this morning on The Matt Lauer Show Starring Matt Lauer. (We've forgiven him this adorable faux pas, of course, because ... well ... because he's MATT LAUER, forcryingoutloud.) 

The official IAAP website  --  perhaps the definitive word on the subject  --  eschews the "secretary" label altogether and calls it "Administrative Professionals Day." In fact, according to the IAAP, it's Administrative Professionals WEEK. Today is merely the centerpiece of the festivities.

I don't care. It's all the same thing, anyway: a synthetic holiday designed to jack up 1800flower.com sales, reward job title rather than job performance, and extort false recognition out of otherwise indifferent managers.

I think it's a GREAT idea, of course.

Still, my expectations are unusually low this year, even for me. Jim is my official boss  --  and as bosses go, he doesn't completely suck  --  but essentially I'm working for four different Testosterone Units at the moment, including Jim. And I already know what's going to happen: each and every one of them is going to assume that the other Testosterone Units have covered National SecraProfessionalAdminTerri's Day. 

And I'm gonna wind up with nothing.

But if I could special-order my gifts today ... if I could send out a memo to all of the Testosterone Units, telling them what I like and what I don't like ... here's what I might say:

  • Don't send me flowers.

    There are some occasions when flowers are not only appropriate, they're practically mandatory. Birthdays are a good example. So is Valentine's Day. So is Mother's Day. And I fully expect that wedding anniversaries [ahem] will be another Flowers-NOT-Optional Occasion eventually.

    But not SecraTerri's Day.

    The difference here is that 1.) I generally prefer that flowers be sent to me by someone I love and/or have seen naked, and 2.) I generally prefer NOT to be the one placing the order with the florist (or handling the invoice when it comes in the following week).

    Receiving flowers from you, frankly, makes me feel sort of icky.

    Besides: if you're determined to give me a gift in honor of this fabulously important non-occasion, there are bazillions of things I'd enjoy far more than flowers. A bowl of goldfish, for instance. Or a hot water bottle. Or one of those groovy under-the-desk foot massager things, or a lifetime supply of "D" batteries for my portable fan, or a fountain pen with about a thousand refills. Or a gift certificate to practically anywhere that sells books/CDs/office supplies/software/camouflage gear/cheese/inflatable bath toys. Any one of these things would be preferable to something that sits unattended on my desk for seven days, then runs out of water and turns funny colors and dies.

    (On second thought: forget about the goldfish.)

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • If you do experience a sudden tragic loss of *creativity molecules* and must resort to flowers, at least send them in some sort of practical, re-useable container this time.

    Like a coffee mug. Or a bicycle helmet.

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't offer to take me out to lunch.

    Or out to dinner ... or out for drinks after work ... or downstairs to the coffee cart for a midafternoon Double Shot Half Decaf Skinny. I don't even want to stand in line with you at 7-11 for a Slurpee, frankly. It's nothing personal. I think you're a very nice person. I enjoy working for you, 84.3% of the time. If you and I were the last two human beings alive, and I had the only remaining food on the planet  --  say, a thirty-year-old box of Cracker Jacks --  I would probably give you a peanut.

    But otherwise, I don't really want to eat with you.

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't try to foist your leftover Giants tickets on me (and then pretend you bought them especially for this occasion).

    I'm the one who opens your mail ... remember?

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't send me an electronic greeting card, either.

    I have only just recently reached the point in my *cyber evolution* where I can receive and open an electronic greeting card without wanting to kill the sender totally dead.

    They were incredibly groovy in 1995. They were mildly amusing in 1996 and 1997. By mid-1998, when they were landing in my mailbox at a rate of three or four per week, causing my poor anemic little PC to seize up like an overheated outboard motor,  I began to routinely delete e-cards without opening. It wasn't until the last year or so that I could look at an electronic greeting card again without screaming. (And that's primarily because The Tots have begun to send them to me periodically.)

    On the other hand a simple e-mail from you, thanking me for all my hard work -- even if it took you all afternoon to create and it's filled with typos and misspellings and stoopid emoticons -- would mean a lot more to me.

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Compliments are good.

    Especially unsolicited compliments. Especially unsolicited compliments about my job performance ("Wow, Secra! Thank you for volunteering to train the new receptionist!"), my attempts at self-improvement ("Wow, Secra! Are you losing weight?) and/or my remarkably professional demeanor ("Wow, Secra! Have you got a remarkably professional demeanor or whut?")  ... ESPECIALLY unsolicited compliments about my job performance, my attempts at self-improvement and/or my remarkably professional demeanor, delivered to me in front of a big cluster of my co-workers ... including Franz, the constipated little Accounting Manager, and at least two of the other Testosterone Units.

    (It would be nice if Dyspeptic UPS Guy could be there to hear it, too.)

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Time-off is even better.

    Here's an idea I'm sure that any overworked/underappreciated Administrative Professional would love: *Reward* us with a little time off for good behavior. Send us home a couple of hours early today, for instance. (Paid, of course.)  Or volunteer to give us Friday afternoons off for the next two or three or eleven weeks. (Paid, of course.)  Or give us an extra floating holiday this year. (Paid, of course.)

    Or just go downstairs and tell the Accounting Manager to "forgive" those fudking errors on my timesheet, once and for all.

    Like 99% of the male/female relationships I've been involved in over the course of my lifetime  --  present romantic relationship excluded  --  I like you lots better when we're not actually TOGETHER.  And if by chance I should happen to find myself sitting here at home in the middle of the afternoon this Friday  --  sipping a leisurely cup of tea, reading a magazine, listening to soft twinky Celtic music  --  you'd better believe that I'm gonna be liking you BIG time.

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • If all fails ... there's always this:

    Try being The World's Most Incredibly Perfect Boss ... just for one day.

    Leave me a voicemail message first thing in the morning, telling me exactly where you are, where you're going to be for the rest of the day, and when we can expect you to make an appearance at the office. Thank me for updating your Outlook calendar. Give me clear directions about what you expect me to do for you today. If you need flight arrangements, give me specific travel dates and times; if you need a meeting scheduled, tell me exactly who needs to be there; if you're planning to blow somebody off later in the day, warn me in advance so our stories synchronize.

    Leave your cell phone turned on.

    Once you're in the office, remember to shut your door when you're yelling at somebody on the phone. Sign the documents I leave on your chair the same day I leave them there. Read your own e-mail. Answer your own e-mail. Listen to your voicemail messages before the *mailbox full* light starts to blink. Rinse out your own coffee cup at least once.

    Offer to rinse out MY coffee cup.

    If you're pleased with my performance, tell me. If I've done a good job building your new filing system/locating a missing RFP/Scotch-taping 43,897,621 credit card receipts to your expense report, don't be afraid to say so.

    I won't get a big head. I promise.

    If my door is shut and it's not an emergency ... knock first. If you see me sitting at my desk with my apple slices and my Slim Fast ... offer to come back later. If I'm looking a little frazzled or confused or vaguely homicidal ... ask if there's something you can do to help.

    If you see me staggering down the hallway, lugging four twenty-pound boxes of copier paper ... open the supply closet door for me.

    At the end of the day -- or, more accurately, at the end of your day, which generally occurs about an hour before the end of *my* day -- stop by my office and stand in my doorway and chit-chat with me for a few minutes. Let me read you your calendar items for the following day. Listen to my idea about putting the conference room schedule online. Remind me about the sticky #4 on your telephone keypad. Ask me what I'm doing for "fun" this evening.

    And then leave ... giving me one golden, boss-free hour to pull together all the loose ends of my day before I head for home.

  •       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Fuhgeddaboutit.

    And finally: if none of these suggestions appeal to you -- if they're just too much work, or too much *emotional investment* -- or if you never made it past the "people I've seen naked" portion of this memo -- then forget about it.

    Literally. Forget about it. Let it completely slip your mind ...

    ... until about 6:37 p.m. this evening, when you're sitting in your easy chair in front of the tube, watching the news and sipping on that second Chivas, waiting for the charcoal to burn down, until one of the KRON-TV news puppets suddenly starts yammering on and on about how this was National SecraTerri's Day, and how all of the really awesome bosses in the Bay Area REMEMBERED that this was National SecraTerri's Day and gave their loyal, hard-working admin staff flowers, and took them out to lunch, and sent them home early with pay ... and about how all of the non-awesome bosses blew it off.

    Then let me enjoy the pure unadulterated pleasure of pushing your Guilt Button for the rest of the week.

    Trust me. This would truly be the gift that keeps on giving.

one year ago: big fat pain in the neck

throw a rock