June 13, 2002
Hell Week

miles to go: 1,331.07

Like any good SecraTerri, I've developed a list of professional standards and practices, during my twentysomething years in the admin biz, that I try to follow on the job every day.

Always have a spare pair of No Nonsense in your bottom desk drawer. Always show up wearing a suit jacket in the morning, even if you take it off ten minutes after you get to the office. Never eat barbecued ribs at the front desk. Order more fax toner before you need it. Never say "I don't know." Never deflect a compliment from a co-worker ... especially a co-worker who makes more money than *you* do. Never carry on a flaming extramarital affair with the Main Balding Aluminum Sales Guy.

And perhaps the most critically important rule of all: never ever EVER plead "PMS" when you're having a bad day.  Especially to a male co-worker.

These guidelines have served me well, over the years. You might even say that they've gotten me where I am today. So it pains me to report that in the past 48 hours, I've managed to break every single one of my own rules (except maybe for the Main Balding Aluminum Sales Guy thing, and that's only because I've BTDT) ... plus a few I hadn't even thought of until today.

I'm already calling this "Hell Week." Except that in Hell they probably allow you pee once in a while.

JoAnne is on vacation for a while -- now that she's been asked to unresign, I guess she figured it was safe to leave town for a few days -- so this week the full burden of managing, maintaining and mother-henning our little office has fallen squarely on my marginally-capable shoulders. This, mind you, in addition to my own job duties. As if this weren't bad enough, Mother Nature has decided that this would be the perfect time to blow through, a week or two early, and create a little premenstrual havoc,  just for chuckles. Drop a couple of golf-ball-sized zits onto the middle of my forehead, maybe. Up my irritability quotient. Lower my pain threshold. Puff me up like a marshmallow in a microwave. 

The combination of the two -- relentless job pressure and unexpected premenstrual horror -- have rendered me a limp, raggedy, witchy mess all week long.

The situation reached its nadir late yesterday afternoon. I was standing in the copy room -- with a run in my only pair of pantyhose and a pizza stain on my blouse, jacketless, looking in dismay at the blinking *OUT OF TONER* message on the fax machine  -- when The Main Nerdy Geoscientist Guy walked into the room. Something about the expression on my face must have alerted him to my impending meltdown.

"Are you OK?" he asked.

"I don't know," I replied. And I burst into tears.

I think it was the kindness in his voice that undid me. All day long people had been barking orders at me and dumping last-minute/bazillion-page projects on me and talking to me in that I'm Talking To You Very Very Slowly Because I Think You're A Little Bit Stoopid tone of voice: all of the normal office crap that JoAnne usually has to deal with.

The Main Nerdy Geoscientist Guy was clearly unnerved by my tears. "I think you're doing a great job," he said awkwardly ... looking at me as though privately he suspected I might come running at him with scissors at any moment. 

I shook my head -- No I'm not -- and wiped my nose on my shirt sleeve. And then, in a moment of sheer, dumb-headed, hormonally-induced stoopidity, I broke my own cardinal rule. 

"It's just PMS," I said, feigning a casual, just-between-us-Baby-Boomers smile. You know how it is. You're married, right? 

And to show him how nonchalant I was about the whole thing, I yanked the fax machine open and accidentally sent it crashing to the floor.

He immediately fled the copy room. As a matter of fact, I don't believe I've even seen The Main Nerdy Geoscience Guy since then. And today I've noticed that some of my co-workers -- particularly the Young Testosterone portion of the Dirt Company staff -- are maintaining a discreet distance from my desk. It's almost as though they've heard a rumor that I'm a carrier for some hideously painful, genital-disfiguring disease, and they're afraid that if they talk to me/look at me/share *Oxygen Molecules* with me, they stand a chance of contracting it themselves. 

And that's fine with me.

If this week has taught me anything so far, it's that I absolutely do NOT want JoAnne's job, now or ever. Not even if you offered me Matt Lauer as my Executive Ass, and he came to work in a kilt every day.  It's a moot point anyway, now that JoAnne and Armand have kissed and made up. But should the issue ever come up in the future, I want it stated for the record that I am not interested. There is way too much accounting involved in this position, way too much unpaid overtime and way way WAY too much interaction with our high-maintenance little CEO.

Plus they never let you go to the goddamn BATHROOM.

Fortunately JoAnne comes back to the office next week, and I can go back to doing the things I do best: juggling phone calls, deflecting pesky salesmen, sending out vaguely-menacing e-mails to the staff. ("Clean your stuff out of the refrigerator! CHEESE should not have more hair than *YOU* do!") Plus I will soon be enjoying the soothing, cycle-regulating benefits of Ethinyl Estradiol and Norethnidrone. With any luck, I won't have to face another Hell Week like this one for a long, long time.

In the meantime, maybe I'm going to have to rethink the whole "never never ever plead PMS" rule. It may not actually make me feel any better, having my temporary menstrual woes out there for everybody in the office to see.  It may not make the rest of the week pass any faster. But it obviously scares hell out of The Testosterone Units ... and at least that bought me a little peace and quiet today.

Who knows?  Maybe tomorrow I'll announce that I have "cramps."

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