November 8, 2001

Scenes From My Day, Part I:

I'm in the Dirt Company production room, sitting in front of the GBC DocuBind P400, assembling a bazillion-page storm water systems report that needs to go out the door in thirty minutes. Behind me, another report -- this one all about wastewater systems -- is spitting out of the copier, one double-sided page at a time. A triple-urgent fax is noisily redialing on the other side of the room, all three phone lines are lit up at once, and my latest paper cut is threatening to bleed all over the pile of clean report covers in my lap.

At that moment the unctuous Main Marketing Guy pokes his head in the doorway. 

"If you're not busy," he says, "would you mind running across the hall and fetching me a cup of coffee?"

Scenes From My Day, Part II:

The office refrigerator resembles an eighth grade science class experiment gone hideously awry.

I pick up a plastic bag filled with what appear to be small black ping-pong balls -- "Those are apples," says JoAnne grimly -- and I dump it into the trash. The bag makes a wet, splatting sound as it hits the bottom of the trash can.

"Who is in charge of cleaning out the fridge?" I gasp.

JoAnne claps a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. "You might want to wear something more casual on Fridays," she says.

Scenes From My Day, Part III:

Marla from the corporate office in Los Angeles calls to get the daily concrete test cylinder reports.

"You must be the new receptionist!" she says cheerfully.

I am just about to correct her -- my official title is "Administrative Ass" -- but I stop myself in mid-correction and take a look around. I'm sitting at the front desk. I'm answering phones all day long. I'm the first person anyone sees when they walk through the front door: the mailman, the UPS Guy, the Fed-Ex Person, annoying walk-in salesmen. If anybody in the office needs something faxed/filed/dusted/distributed ... I'm their girl.

Oh my god.

I'm the new receptionist.

I'm not quite sure how it happened. I didn't consciously set out to climb my way back down the career ladder, once I quit The Totem Pole Company last month. I didn't say, OK, I hated Executive Assitude ... so let's go back to doing something we're good at.  (If THAT were the case I'd be sitting in the Baby Boomer Chat Room right now, drunkenly ordering everybody to type in Pig Latin.)  When this job fell into my lap, I accepted it mainly because my new employer was already familiar with my abilities and my work history -- "I Survived Franz (And Lived To Tell The Tale)" -- and because they were prepared to pay me what I was worth.

But here's what's amazing.

I'm a receptionist again ... and I don't care.

And why should I? It's familiar. It's fun. I'm good at it. (I never really wanted a career in the first place: my LIFE is my career. I just need a way to pay the ISP bills.) I feel happier and calmer and better about my professional life right now, in every way that counts, than I've felt in almost three years -- since the last time I was answering phones and cleaning refrigerators, during those first halcyon months at The Totem Pole Company. Best of all, I feel competent again ... and feeling competent beats a double-dose of St. John's Wort any day of the week. No more spending four weeks preparing for a meeting, only to see it blown off at the last minute. No more sitting around wondering where I fit into the corporate heirarchy. No more copious weeping in the Subaru every morning as David drives me to my office. I'm tired at the end of the day -- I'm talking serious, deep-down, scalp-to-toenail exhaustion -- but it's a good kind of tired. It's the kind of tired that says I worked hard today, and I did a damn fine job ... and unless the world blows up in the middle of the night, I'll probably go back again tomorrow.

There's a lot to be said for feeling this way. It may come at the cost of occasional minor personal indignity -- being asked to "fetch" a cup of coffee or disinfect a refrigerator, once in awhile  -- but I think it might be worth it.

Plus I'm doing a Receptionist's work for an Executive Ass' salary. You can't beat that with a GBC DocuBind P400.

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