July 24, 2000
Think You've Got What It Takes To Be An Ass?

[A *FootNotes* Quiz!]

Think you've got what it takes to be an Executive Ass at The Totem Pole Company?

Think you could work for Franz every day and still come home with ten viable fingernails every night?

Take my little *quiz* ... no fair cheating! ... and find out!

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It is 8:03 a.m. Monday morning. 

You've just struggled into your office with an armload of mail and faxes, along with four newspapers, your purse, your library book and a plastic bag filled with a week's worth of Slim Fast. There are 37 new voicemail messages in your voicemail box: 36 of them are marked "Priority." In addition, there are four FedEx "Super-Critical-Emergency (We-Mean-It!)" overnight shipments leaning against your door, time sheets are due in thirty minutes, the fax machine is beeping "Out of Toner," Franz' 9 a.m. appointment is here an hour early ... and even though you haven't had any coffee yet, you've already got to pee.

Just then, the receptionist pages you on the overhead intercom to "pick up Franz on line four." 

What do you do first?

A.)  Pretend you don't hear the receptionist. (Franz can be HER problem for twenty minutes.) And then duck out the side door for the ladies' room and a leisurely cup of coffee. 

B.)  Take Franz' phone call -- making sure you sound all whiney and distressed  -- and tell him you "don't know" if you'll have time to transcribe his voicemail messages.

C.)  Answer Franz' call immediately, using your very best "God! I am ABSURDLY HAPPY to hear from you!" voice. Convince him that you've been here for HOURS already, and assure him that everything is under control. Tell him that you're "looking forward to seeing him" whenever he finally makes it into the office. While he rants and raves in your ear for the next eleven minutes, quietly fire off emergency e-mail to the Admin Department ("I will love you forever if you come help me change the fax toner!"), and to Accounting ("I'm going to need a one hour extension on time sheets, OK?") and to the Receptionist ("Please show Mr. Schmoe into the conference room, tell him Franz is 'slightly delayed' and get him some coffee"). Murmur reassuringly into the receiver every forty seconds or so, just so Franz thinks you're paying attention. Open and date-stamp the mail and the FedEx packages while you murmur. After eleven minutes, tell Franz that his cell phone is "cutting out" and abruptly hang up. And then run like hell to the ladies' room.

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For the second Monday morning in a row, Franz' beloved "Luna Vineyards" coffee mug has been removed from his desk and run through the dishwasher with the rest of the dishes ... in spite of repeated, sternly-worded *All Company Memos* requesting that The Royal Mug ONLY be hand-washed in cool water and antibacterial soap and gently polished dry with a cloth diaper.  And now here it is, sitting upside-down on the top rack of the dishwasher again. How do you handle it?

A.)  *Accidentally* drop the mug on the kitchen floor a couple of times, then put it back into the dishwasher.

B.)  The moment Franz comes into the office, start waving the mug around in his face, indignantly shouting "They did it again! They did it again!"

C.)  Drink YOUR first cup of coffee out of The Royal Mug, before he gets into the office.  Leave about a quarter-inch of liquid in the bottom of the cup, then place it back on his desk, right where he left it on Friday. (Just remember to wipe your lipstick off the rim.)

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Franz leaves a small electronic device in the middle of your desk. You have no clue what it is. A garage door opener? A duck whistle? A phaser? Attached to the mystery device is an equally cryptic Post-It note saying "Please research repair options!" What do you do?

A.)  *Accidentally* allow the mystery device to fall behind your filing cabinet. By the time it resurfaces -- next January or February, when you are finally moving into the corner window office you requested last May -- Franz will have forgotten all about it.  Then you can give it to him for Christmas.

B.)  Call Mrs. Franz and ask, "Did your vibrator come with a warranty?"

C.)  Search Franz' desk for the latest issue of Sky Mall Magazine;  flip through all of the full-page advertisements for various electronic gizmos, looking for the closest match to the mystery device. (You know that Franz does all of his stoopid-gadget-shopping from 35,000 ft. and three Chivas Regals in the air.)

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You've snagged your very last pair of *emergency pantyhose* on your bottom desk drawer, and now you've got a run the size of the Loma Prieta faultline going up the front of your thigh.  What do you do?

A.)  Lock your office door, clamp your phone to your ear and pretend you're "listening to voicemail" for the rest of the afternoon.

B.)  Ask Franz if he's still got that pair of Midnight Black *Sheer Elegance* you found stuffed into the secret side pocket of his briefcase.

C.)  Say "Gosh, Franz, I've noticed that you're running low on Tum's Ultra. Let me walk to Long's Drugs on my lunch hour and buy you a new bottle. On me."

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Oops. You neglected to water the dwarf schleffera on Friday afternoon, and by Monday morning it has assumed the fetal position again. What do you do?

A.) Tip it over ... and then blame the janitor.

B.)  Water it three times as much this morning, to make up for all those lost days.

C.)  Water it very lightly -- just enough to slightly dampen the top soil -- and then close all of the vertical blinds in Franz' office. When he comes in, assume an expression of concern, saying that you "don't think the schleffera is getting enough morning light." 

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Franz leaves you an imperious voicemail message, requesting that you "clean the mess off his desk ASAP." Frankly: you're furious. The memory of those eight days you spent in April, cleaning and organizing his office from top to bottom ... followed by the FORTY MINUTES it took him to completely demolish it, all over again ... is still fresh in your mind. Do you:

A.)  Recruit Jocelyn the Librarian to help you. Promise to buy her a candy bar. Tell her she can bring her boombox along and listen to all the Celine Dion her heart desires. Lull her into a false sense of security. Get her started sorting through mountainous piles of unread e-mail and outdated RFP's and newspaper clippings all about sprinkler systems ... and then suddenly have yourself called away on an *Unexpected Family Emergency.*

B.)  Refuse to clean off his desk for Franz' own good. Leave him voicemail saying, "How will you ever develop proper time-management and organizational skills if *I* do everything for you?"

C.)  Do exactly what you did last time: dump the whole mess into two cardboard boxes, lug them across the hall to *your* office, and sort through them when you have the frigging time. He will NOT miss ANY of it. He won't even know it's gone. All he'll see is that big blank desktop, and he'll figure that once again he has successfully cracked the whip, and everybody will be happy.

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Franz has received another electronic greeting card, via e-mail, from a female "friend" in Switzerland. Although you routinely process all of his e-mail for him (read this: he's had the new computer in his office for six months and still hasn't plugged it in), this one is marked "Personal and Confidential." Do you open it anyway?

A.)  Absolutely!  And if it's something especially *cute,* you print it out and pin a copy of it to the lunchroom bulletin board.

B.)  No way!  "Personal and Confidential" means PERSONAL and CONFIDENTIAL. Suggest to Franz that he enroll in a local "Internet for Seniors" class, so he can learn to process his own e-mail.

C.)  Sure!  And then you forward it on to MRS. Franz.

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Expense reports were due yesterday, but this morning Franz dumps eight bazillion metric tons of restaurant receipts, parking lot stubs and scribbled mileage tickets on your lap and says "Let's get these into Accounting ASAP." What do you do?

A.)  Wait until Tamita in the Accounting Department goes to lunch, and then stick the expense report and all of the receipts at the very bottom of her "In" basket. When it comes to light and questions are asked, lie and say you gave it to her on Friday. Didn't she see it? Perhaps *she* should go upstairs and speak to Franz about it.

B.)  Primly remind him that bi-monthly expense reports were his idea in the first place, and that there are no exceptions to the rule. Add that he needs to set a good example for everybody else in the company by submitting his report in a timely fashion.

C.)  Say "Sure thing, Franz!" and begin paper-clipping receipts to a blank expense report form, while he stands in the doorway and watches. As soon as he goes away, stash the whole mess in your tickler file for next week. (The man is richer than GOD: He can wait for that $4.63 reimbursement check, just like everybody else.)

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"How are we doing on that letter?" Franz asks. When you look ever-so-slightly baffled, he says, "You know. That letter. To that guy I met at the meeting the other week. About that project." Do you:

A.)  Lie. Tell him that you left a rough draft of the letter on his chair last week ("Didn't you see it?") and that you've been waiting for him to return it with edits. Say this with as much wide-eyed earnestness as possible. Turn this into his problem.

B.)  Look as blank and dopey as a fetal pig in a jar of formaldehyde, and tell the truth. "I'm afraid I'm not sure what letter you're talking about, Franz."

C.)  Stall for time while simultaneously goosing his fuddled brain for more info. ("I remember constructing an outline for that letter and saving it to my hard drive. Any thoughts on what name I might have saved it under?")

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If you scored mostly *A* answers:

You are a deeply, deeply disturbed individual. And although you would probably be great as Franz' Executive Ass, the truth is that your formidable talents would be wasted here. You might want to consider becoming a career criminal. Or a police officer.

If you scored mostly *B* answers:

What are you ... stoopid? Or suicidal?? You don't belong in Executive Administration: you belong in a Sunday School classroom with a goddamn SOCK PUPPET on each hand, singing twinkly little songs about rainbows. Get the fudk out of here!!

If you scored mostly *C* answers:

Congratulations! Not only do you possess ALL of the qualities a good Executive Ass needs -- quick thinking, strong administrative skills, superb acting ability, a mildly larcenous streak -- you also think exactly the way *I* do! In fact, you are my new best friend!!  I LOVE YOU! I insist that you fly immediately to California and help me clean off Franz' desk tomorrow!!

I'll buy you a candy bar.

two years ago

throw a rock