|March 29, 2001
The Last Bottle of Beer
Lately ... I feel like I'm the last bottle of beer in the refrigerator.
Like the only remaining Buffalo Wing on the plate.
Like the lone female at the All-Boy's-School dance.
(Insert similar Wow! I'm So Incredibly In-Demand! analogy here.)
I should hasten to add that this is not necessarily a bad way to feel. At least, not all the time. As the stoopid "turf wars" over my Executive Ass drag on and on, over at the Totem Pole Company, I'm beginning to understand what they mean when they say that someone is "in demand." It means, yes, that you're prodded and put-upon and pushed and pulled in about a bazillion different directions, day after day, morning, noon and night, until you start to feel like Gumby after awhile. But for a lifelong validation-junkie like *moi,* it also means that there is never any shortage of cranky Testosterone Units willing to fight over you.
And only a rookie would fail to see the fun potential there.
Ridiculous amounts of confusion and controversy have swirled around the office ever since I 'divorced' Franz a few weeks ago and accepted the groovy new Upstairs Job. To me it seems very straightforward. Officially, I work for Jim now. Jim is my boss, and I report directly to him and him alone. My job duties, as his assistant, are similar to what I was doing for Franz the past two years: scheduling, correspondence, filing, general office stuff. (Except that I am no longer required to schedule colonoscopies or pick little white gooey things off a dying dwarf schleffera.) This is what I agreed to do when I decided to stay at the Totem Pole Company. This was the understanding. This is what it says on the job description.
It's a no-brainer, as far as I can see.
But almost from the minute I unpacked my snowglobes and moved into that fourth-floor office, every other management-level Testosterone Unit within an eight-hundred foot radius of my doorway has automatically assumed that I am there to personally service *him* ... that my one and only mission in life is to clean/organize/rearrange *his* stinky landfill of an office ... that I have been placed on the fourth floor specifically to attend to all of *his* very special admin needs. And even though they are all extremely polite and solicitous and deferential whenever they're addressing me directly -- it's funny, actually, how buttkiss they are towards me, face-to-face -- behind the scenes, they are duking it out like crazy.
Just yesterday, as a matter of fact, I intercepted another volley of furious, accusatory e-mail correspondence between two of them ... filled with exclamation points and expletives and thinly-veiled threats about "cooperation" and "consideration" and "equitable division of Secra's resources." The only reason I saw their e-mail correspondence in the first place, of course, is because they've all got me plugged in by the umbilical cord to their individual Outlook accounts. I wonder if they even realize that this means -- hello? -- that I can actually read their e-mails? Even the e-mails about *me*?
I don't know. Maybe this is all just a guy thing. Or a manager thing. Or a guy/manager thing.
They're not bad guys. I don't actively dislike any of them. In fact, I'd say that I'm pretty evenly indifferent to all of them. They're all extremely busy, extremely high-powered executives. They're all convinced that the Totem Pole Company would collapse without their vast reserves of knowledge and charisma and Eternity for Men. They're all easily manipulated: they actually believe me when I say "It's going to take some time, but I think your new filing system is coming along nicely." Plus they're all desperately in need of admin support, obviously, since none of them has ever learned how to rinse out a coffee cup/operate a stapler/open his own vertical blinds.
Which raises my popularity quotient on the fourth floor by about a bazillion percent right now.
This doesn't mean I have to actually do much of anything for them. Not if I don't feel like it. Since they are all grudgingly aware that they are "sharing" me -- at least for the time being, until they've finish hiring the new admin personnel later this spring (that's the agreement we've all reached) -- they know that they are required to play by the rules. All I have to do is make it LOOK like I'm doing something important for one of the Testosterone Units -- for example, if I park myself in the VP of BFD's office and rearrange his paper piles for an hour or so (while he's safely ten Zip Codes away), then the other T.U.'s will consider me inviolate and leave me alone. And since none of them really has a clue about what I'm supposed to be doing for any of the others, I can invent meaningless busywork for myself all day long, if I need to: walking up and down the hallway carrying armloads of files, for instance ... or sitting at my desk with the phone clamped to my ear, pretending to listen to long complicated voicemail messages ... or trotting back and forth to the kitchen every ten minutes to rinse out another emergency coffee cup. As long as they see me running around the fourth floor looking cute and efficient and harried, every once in a while, they don't bother me.
Which leaves me free to do my *real* job: taking care of Jim. Which, since he is the world's most amazingly low-maintenance boss, can generally be accomplished during a lunch hour.
But here's the best part of all: The Testosterone Units can't stand each other. They're courteous and professional towards each other in front of other people, especially during company meetings, or in front of clients, or when they're hanging around Totem Pole Company underlings. Whenever they've got an audience, you'll witness lots of hearty back-slapping and basketball chat and big phony "Hail Fellow Well Met!" smiles between the bunch of them. But I believe that privately they probably wouldn't mind seeing the others hanging upside down from meat hooks. Which means that it doesn't take much to stir things up. A casual comment here ("Bradley said that your department should probably undergo the first financial review") ... a confidential memo *accidentally* left on the fax machine ("I think we should order new filing cabinets for the VP of BFD, but Leon can probably use one of the old Accounting Department cabinets")... and the next thing you know, it's World War III around The Totem Pole Company again.
It's sorta like having my very own set of TPC Testosterone-Unit Action Figures.
So is this all sort of sneaky and underhanded and evil and manipulative and unprofessional? Of course it is. But if I'm going to be rinsing out multiple coffee cups/refilling multiple staplers/fiddling with multiple sets of vertical blinds every day, for the next little while ... and if they're going to continue all of this stoopid in-fighting and backstabbing and quarreling over me, like I'm the last Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on the newstand ... then I'm gonna have some fun.
(And I'm damn well gonna expect *multiple flowers* on National SecraTerri's Day next month. But we'll climb that Totem Pole when we come to it.)