July 20, 2000
If *I* Worked For Hallmark


Birthday card I bought for Franz last night:
"I wonder if you realize what a good example you are for others.

The wonderful way you live your life,
the unconditional kindness and strength of character
you show others ...

All the things that you do
and that you are
touch the lives of the people around you.

Happy Birthday to a Wonderful Boss."

"What?" asked the Human Resources Director Person, as I handed the card to her this morning for her signature. "They didn't have any 'Happy Birthday! Thinking About Retiring Yet?)' cards?"

Not at the Alameda/South Shore Walgreens at 7:52 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I told her. But give me some crayons and a glue-stick, and I'll see what I can come up with.

      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

David drove me across the island to the drugstore last night after dinner. I've already ordered the birthday cake for Franz' party tomorrow, but I still had to buy a card and circulate it around the office today for everybody's signature. When one of our small passengers plaintively asked why we had to run such a "boring" errand  --  as opposed to doing something fun, like going to the park or the library or the ice cream parlor  -- David explained that sometimes we have to do things for other people that aren't necessarily much "fun."

"Like buying a birthday card for my boss," I interjected.

David said yes, exactly ...  like Terri buying a birthday card for her boss.

Sometimes ... you have to do stuff for other people that isn't a lot of fun. But you do it ANYWAY, because it's the right thing to do.

Too bad everybody doesn't learn that lesson at such an early age.

The good news, of course, is that I get ample opportunity to practice what I preach. Doing a lot of zero-fun stuff for people who don't especially deserve it  --  and looking like you're having the Best Damn Hair Day of your life, while you're doing it  --  is how I make my living.

It's called "Executive Assitude."

It means checking your ego at the door (and kissing your *integrity molecules* goodbye) for nine hours and forty-five minutes every day.

It means tactfully whispering stuff like "I'll answer your calls if you'd like to take a quick bathroom break," when what you really want to say is "Your pants are unzipped again, doofus."

It means double-checking the *mayo levels* on his turkey club before he does. It means pretending you don't hear him when he farts, even when you're standing four inches behind him. It means sneaking over to the newstand, four blocks away, rather than telling him that his newspaper wasn't delivered again this morning. It means referring to him as "MISTER Franz" whenever you're talking about him to anyone other than his mother.

It means showing absolutely no visible distress when he refers to the Marketing Assistant as "that Russian woman," the Payroll Supervisor as "that Chinese woman" and the Office Manager as "The Pansy."

It means lying more than you've ever lied before, in your entire forty-two years on the planet ... even during your most dysfunctional, *If you drink every night you're never hungover* days. ("I'm sorry. It looks like he's 'stepped away from his desk for a moment'.")

It means pretending you don't see the *booby magazines* tucked into the side pocket of his briefcase.

It means resisting the urge to tell him he's been spelling your name wrong for the past seventeen months.

It means going home every single evening with a clenched jaw, a splitting headache, three fewer fingernails and a vaguely "dirty" feeling ... like you've been rolling around in pig poop in your spiffy new mint-green suit, all day long.

And it means spending precious *time, energy and bank-card molecules* going to the drugstore on a Wednesday evening to buy him a birthday card ... even when you would infinitely prefer to be at the park, hanging upside down from the monkeybars.

Of course nobody tops Franz in the "Do As I Say! (Because I SAY So!)" Department.  But there are a couple of recent new contenders for the crown.

The new Transportation VP Guy from Southern California, for instance.

This guy simply exudes *Asshole Molecules.* He's here to pitch a big rail project this week, and it is clear -- from his demeanor, from his tone of voice, from his stoic refusal to ever, ever look me directly in the eyes when he talks to me -- that he:

  • Hates women in general
  • Hates admininstrative support personnel in particular, and
  • Hates me specifically.

I have no clue why. The only real exchange I've had with this guy, since he joined the company, was to politely ask -- seven times -- for a list of his "hobbies" for the company newsletter. (Yep. I'm STILL conducting dopey polls for crappy little newspapers that no one will ever, ever read.) His terse response? "Golfing every Saturday, if I'm not working."

And he hasn't communicated with me -- directly or indirectly -- since then.

"Get one of the secretaries to fax it," I overheard him say in the hallway this morning ... the word "secretaries" spoken in the most contemptuous tone of voice imaginable, like he was referring not to the administrative lifeblood of this organization but to the guy who changes the urinal cakes in the men's room. You'd better believe that I will personally be serving Mr. "Let the Secretaries Do It" his afternoon cup of coffee this afternoon. 

("Would you like sugar or saliva with your coffee?")

And then there's Stan, the new CFO guy. Aside from the fact that he's no Craig ... aside from the fact that he's still the new guy, and therefore suspect (until he laughs at a minimum of three of my jokes) ... I think I'm a little put off right now by all of his boundless new-guy enthusiasm and energy and expectations and stuff. This morning he showed up for his 10 a.m. meeting with Franz ... and he actually expected Franz to be here.

He's wearing me out.

But that's OK. Give Stan another two or three months, and he'll look just like everybody else in the Accounting Department: disheveled, disillusioned, disappointed ... and ready to ship himself off to military school.

In the meantime ... if *I* could rewrite Franz' birthday card? ... it would probably read a little more like this:
"I wonder if you realize how much your
and your acid reflux disorder
impacts others.

The haphazard way you live your life,
the *real you* you show to others
(especially when you forget to zip up your PANTS forcryingoutloud)
All the things that you do
and that you are
Inappropriately touch the lives of all the people around you.

Cut it out.

Happy Birthday.

P.S. Thinking About Retiring Yet?"

Sorta makes me wish *I* worked for Hallmark. 

throw a rock