March 2, 2001
Big Bucks


For about two hours this week I was raking in the big bucks.

"Big bucks," of course, being relative. One woman's "big bucks" may be another woman's "lunch money." What seems like big bucks to me may seem like pocket change to you -- and vice versa. But let's just say that for about two hours on Monday morning, I suddenly found myself envisioning a romantic honeymoon cruise to Barbados ... swapping out our decrepit computer for a speedy new Pentium 4 ... pre-paying my child support to the ex-husband through the year 2004 ... and still having enough money left over for a wheelbarrow full of Honey BBQ Wings. 

(Well. I may be exaggerating just a hair. But I probably would have had enough money left over for at least a bucket of wings.)

I opened up my paycheck on Monday morning  --  my first paycheck since moving to the new upstairs job at the Totem Pole Company. Even though I'm still devoting 50% of my *time molecules* (and 100% of my *annoyance molecules*) to training an endless parade of replacements, downstairs in Reception Area Hell, I officially started my new job on February 2nd. So I knew my check was going to be retroactive to that date. One of the conditions for me staying at the Totem Pole Company, you may recall, was a modest salary increase, along with a window office, a groovy new title, and a restraining order against Franz. In other words, I knew I was going to open the envelope and find a bigger paycheck this time around.

I just wasn't prepared for ... uhhh ... how MUCH bigger it would be.

I looked at this unexpected windfall and I thought Wow! They must REALLY REALLY want me to stay at the Totem Pole Company! And I immediately got on the phone to David with the happy news.

"Read the numbers to me again," he said slowly. "I think they may have made a mistake."

This is one of the fundamental differences between David and I. I look at a shockingly bountiful paycheck and I think Leather jacket! He looks at the same paycheck and automatically thinks Where's my calculator? Part of that is due to the different ways that we process information: he sees the details, I see the big picture ... he sees the crescent, I see the whole of the moon ... yadda yadda yadda. And part of it is due to the fact that I am a complete imbecile when it comes to numbers. I do not possess a single solitary *mathematical molecule* in my entire body. I'm not kidding. I'm gifted in many other areas: I have perfect pitch, I can list all the books of the Bible in order (Old and New Testament), I can write cursive backwards as legibly as I write it forwards ... but I still have to stop and add 8 + 6 on my fingers.

It's probably a good thing that one of us is paying attention to this kind of stuff, though, because in this case it turns out that the payroll department had incorrectly processed my new salary information. When I took my check downstairs and showed it to the Human Resources Director Person, later that morning -- when she saw how much they'd accidentally paid me -- you could actually see the blood drain out of her face. Apparently this isn't the first time that the payroll department has fudked up lately.

(Judging from the HRDP's reaction, however, it MIGHT be the first time that a Totem Pole employee has voluntarily come forward to point out the discrepancy. For a minute or two I thought she was gonna kiss me.)

And yes, David is the one who urged me to take the screwed-up paycheck downstairs right away. He is very big on "doing the right thing," as I discovered, early in our relationship.

Here's an example.

Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area, the two of us were shopping at Tower Records in Emeryville, when we stumbled across a hidden stash of Tower gift certificates. They were stuffed inside a rock encyclopedia I'd pulled off the discount shelf. I opened up the book, and there they were ... there must have been $500 worth of certificates, easily. All of the certificates were authorized and signed by Tower management personnel, which meant they were completely 100% viable. David and I were positively gobsmacked by the discovery. For a minute we looked at each other: What should we do?? We could have pocketed them, or used them for Christmas presents, or driven around and cashed them in at different Tower locations. But we didn't: we took them without hesitation to the front counter and turned them in to the pimply disinterested clerk on duty that night. (Who, no doubt, turned right around and pocketed them himself, or used them for his Christmas shopping, or sold them for drugs.  But at least we were able to live with ourselves. "I would never have been able to listen to anything we 'bought' with those certificates without feeling icky," David said. And the amazing thing is that I agreed with him.)

Still, I would like to think that I would have done the right thing about this paycheck discrepancy situation anyway, with or without David's prompting.

Drunk Dysfunctional Secra, of course, is a different story entirely. Drunk Dysfunctional Secra had a larcenous streak in her a mile wide, fueled mainly by hunger, desperation, an overblown sense of entitlement and toxic amounts of cheap chablis. She would have thought nothing of cashing that great big paycheck, before the endorsement signature was even dry, and running right out to stock up on all of the *essentials* -- Maybelline, People Magazine, electronics, fast food, lava lamps, Jill Sobule CDs, big boxes of Mountain Chablis. If she had any money left over, she might have caught up on a couple of overdue bills ... maybe had the lights turned on again ... maybe shipped a little cash off to the Tots. When the shidt inevitably hit the fan at work -- when the payroll department discovered the error and came looking for the extra money -- she would have feigned surprise, wept copiously, pled ignorance and poverty, finagled a payment plan out of the Accounting Manager ... and then promptly looked for ways to get out of paying it back.

(Like moving to another Zip Code.)

Although I know that Drunk Dysfunctional Secra may never disappear entirely -- she will always remain just a drink or ten away -- I would like to think that some of David's *integrity molecules* have rubbed off on me, over the past couple of years. Plus I've acquired a few of my own, along the way.

Mind you: it didn't feel particularly good, going downstairs and pointing out the error on my check. I'm not going to lie to you about that. Giving money back is never any fun. The difference is going to be subtracted from my next paycheck, and that's going to sting. (Plus it's a little disappointing to discover that I'm not worth quite as much to the Totem Pole Company as *I* thought I was, for about two hours this week.)

But it did feel right. And even though being "right" might not taste as good as a wheelbarrow full of Honey BBQ Wings ... once in a while I think it's important.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

P.S. Hey! Thank you very much for the lovely new Diarist Award! Like I told a friend yesterday, I'm not even going to feign blasé here: I'm thrilled to pieces. [After all, I won the award for an entry about my ENGAGEMENT RING, forcryingoutloud! How cool is THAT?]

before i have to kill somebody ...
help bring back Fast Lane Tea!
[tell 'em SECRA sent you]

throw a rock