August 1, 2002
Identity Crisis

miles to go: 937.87

Scene From My Day, Part I:

The RFQ is sitting on my chair when I get into the office this morning.

It's a Request for Qualifications, for someoranother upcoming environmental project in SomewhereOrAnother, California, and it is an enormous document: easily the size of two San Francisco telephone books, bound together. The attached Post-It note reads "Send a copy overnight to the Los Angeles office!" There is no signature, of course -- no Please or Thank you or Sorry to dump this on you at the last minute again -- but I recognize the Main Marketing Guy's handwriting.

This is not an auspicious way to begin the workday.

It's not the size of the RFQ that bothers me. I copy documents twice this size at least a dozen times a week. (And I do it faster/neater/better than Kinko's. That's why they pay *me* the big bucks.)  It's not the fact that random sections of it are double-sided, either ... or that it includes a bunch of oversized (11" x 17") pages that will require special copying and folding, or that the report has already been GBC hole-punched, which means that I'm going to have to hand-feed it into our decrepit Minolta copier one page at a time or else risk another machine meltdown. (Basically, I'm going to be standing in front of the copier for the entire day ... and even then, I can't guarantee I'll have it done before the little California Overnight guy shows up at our door at 5:05 p.m., just as I'm heading for the elevator.) 

It's not the fact that once again I am being asked to do two days' worth of work in half the time, nor the fact that I was given absolutely no advance warning, nor the fact that I have 43,897,621 other quadruple-critical tasks on my To-Do List this morning, much of it pre-dating my vacation last week.

It's not even the snooty, high-handed tone of the Post-It note.

All of this stuff is pretty damn irritating, it's true. But none of it -- none of it -- rubs my single functioning nerve as bloody-raw as the fact that The Main Marketing Guy has addressed the note, once again ...

... to "Terry."

Scene From My Day, Part II:

The New Girl is standing in front of my desk with an armload of project files, looking at me expectantly. It's clear that she's forgotten my name again.

"Did you need help with something?" I ask her coolly.

"Yeah," she says, chomping on a clump of Juicy Fruit the size of a ping-pong ball. "Can you overnight these to L.A.?" And she dumps the files on the corner of my desk, next to the overflowing piles of unopened mail and RFQ detritus.

And then she walks away.

A few minutes later I hear her on the phone, reassuring someone in the Los Angeles office that the files are in transit. "I'm having the receptionist send them to you," she says.

I've been trying to figure out what it is about The New Girl that rankles me so much. (Aside from the fact that she's young and thin and beautiful and eats Hershey's Miniatures for breakfast, I mean.) Since the very first day she started at The Dirt Company, over a month ago, something about her has pushed my Vexation Button like no one since ... well ... since Franz, basically. It's not the fact that she's new and confused and asks a bazillion questions, sometimes several times. ("What's our fax number again?") After all, I've always said that it's better to ask the question than to try and guess the answer, especially when you're The New Girl. It's not the fact that she arrives late and leaves early and never, ever, EVER remembers her keys. It's not the fact that she blows through the office like a hurricane all day long, leaving overturned coffee cups and jammed fax machines in her wake ... assuming that someone will be trotting along afterward to clean up her messes.

It's not even the fact that she can't remember my name.

All of this stuff is pretty damn annoying, it's true. But none of it -- none of it -- erodes my few remaining *humor molecules* into little pointy stubs as efficiently as the fact that The New Girl has referred to me, once again ...

... as "the receptionist."

Scene From My Day, Part III:

The Office Supply Lady is amazingly sympathetic on the phone.

(Can she tell that I'm having one of *those* days? Or does she have half an open bottle of champagne in her bottom desk drawer?)

"You want black lettering on a gold background, right?" she asks, just to make sure. I tell her yes, I want black lettering on a gold background. Walnut frame. "Futura" typeface. Small caps. She verifies the spelling of my name ("T-e-r-r-i") and my job title ("Administrative Assistant"). I can hear her typing the information into her computer slowly, with great care, double-checking all along the way for accuracy.

I love this woman.

"You know," she says, "you have room for one more line of text below your job title. Would you like to add another line?"

I think about it for a moment. What could I add to my personalized desktop nameplate? The URL to *FootNotes,* maybe? Lyrics from my favorite Jill Sobule song? Or how about my personal motto: "Nil bastardum carborundum?" 

The idea is very tempting. 

In the end, though, I decide to skip the third line of text. This isn't about being show-offy and smug, after all. This is about finding a constructive way to deal with a slightly irritating situation before it turns into a Big Stoopid Thing.

"Nope," I tell her happily. "Just my name and job title is plenty for now."

No sense in overloading my co-workers with more information than they can process all at once.

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