May 22, 2006

Get Ready for Your Close-up

Posted in Happy Hour, Office Hijinks at 3:44 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

So a lot of things change when you become a World-Wide-Web-famous columnist.  There is certainly a marked difference to how the attorneys are interacting with me.  They seem more calculated, very aware of their words and actions. Other assistants have approached me with their stories, some have even offered suggestions for their code names. My personal favorite is “Lolita.”  No real rhyme or reason for it, she just wanted to be called Lolita. 

Even my boss seems acutely aware, suddenly, of how much I suffer.  Every time I am exposed to what could be deemed inappropriate behavior, instead of turning a blind eye and a deaf ear, he looks me square in the face and says, “I had better not see that in the column.”

And since reading her debut in May’s column, Chatty Cathy has been giving me dirty looks.

As a writer I am use to some of this.  My roommate, we’ll call her Lauren, constantly complains that sometimes when she finishes telling me a story she can see a look in my eye and she just knows that the events she just finished relating are going to end up in a novel. 

A guy I was seeing told me he had a girlfriend. I guess my face expressed displeasure at this news because his response was, “You’re going to write about this aren’t you?”  His shoulders dropped and he added “Just don’t make me recognizable.” I guess he hadn’t planned on telling his girlfriend about me.

I imagine most professionals have these sorts of experiences.  L, explained it to me that there are only three types of responses she can expect after she tells someone for the first time that she is an attorney:  a request for legal advice, criticism of the legal system in America, or a tasteless lawyer joke. 

Of course sometimes the side effects are good.  Lauren is a therapist and for the most part when she tells people this, they start in on all their personal mommy issues.  However, once when we were in Block Island vacationing, Lauren told this guy what it is she did and his response had us laughing for the next couple of hours. 

He explained to Lauren that, for whatever reason, the girls he’s dated have all ended up crazy.  He wanted to hire Lauren as a consultant. She would meet his potential love interests and give him the diagnosis. We went on to determine that really Lauren should quit her day job so she could better spend her time issuing “Wicked Normal Cards” to people who met that standard. This particular gentleman was from Boston. 

Personally, I wonder why attorneys don’t lie about their profession. I use to do this all the time. I once convinced a very inebriated boy that I was former child star Tina Yothers.  Sure I felt bad as I was leaving a message on one of his friend’s voicemail, but it was certainly more fun than listening to this guy’s idea for a screenplay.

The key to lying about your profession is to say something so crazy and out of the ordinary that a) the person you are telling couldn’t possibly share the profession and b) they won’t know anything about said profession. Try telling people you are a trapeze artist, or if you happen to look similar to someone famous, a stunt double. Stunt double also works great if you have a lot of cool scars that you like to show off. 

A word of warning, do not try faking your profession in a situation where you will end up seeing these individuals again.  There is nothing worse than three weeks into a budding relationship having to explain that you aren’t really a neurosurgeon.  Trust me, I’ve been there.

However, if you find yourself at a bar full of people you can’t stand, bored out of your mind and faced with the dreaded question, “What do you do for a living?”  Lie.  Make something up.  Have fun at someone else’s expense and spend your happy hour blessedly free of tacky lawyer jokes. 

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May 15, 2006

Revenge, A Dish Best Served at a Lunch Meeting

Posted in Office Hijinks at 3:43 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

When I was younger, we all took turns washing the dinner dishes.  Besides keeping our rooms clean, setting the dinner table and washing the dishes after were our only household chores.  Yes, we Klem kids got off pretty easy; however, the Klem Kid that got off the easiest was my younger brother David. 

Early on in David’s short-lived dishwashing career, he broke one of my mother’s plates.  Fine, accidents happen.  But the next time we had guests over and David managed to break a plate from my mother’s good china, well, that caused some alarm.  When David managed to shatter a crystal wine glass a few weeks later, my mother had had it; David was pulled from all washing duties. 

I was convinced that my brother had broken the dishes on purpose.  Yes, accidents happen, but dear readers, dropping three dishes, each more valuable to my mother than its predecessor – well, it raised both my eyebrows, as I am incapable of raising just one.  Further, we didn’t even have to wash these dishes by hand, we had a dishwasher, and so all the chore really entailed was rinsing the plates in the sink and putting them in the machine located right next to it.  Finally, this wasn’t a responsibility we took on at a ridiculously young age; I believe we were all over the age of ten when we were first asked to handle this task.

I approached my mother about this revelation concerning her baby boy and to my surprise she had surmised the same thing.  However she wasn’t going to risk any more of her dishes.  So, as a result, my sister and I would just have to pick up the slack.  My sister left for college a year later, thus remained the lone dishwasher, yours truly.

I wonder if when they separate girls and boys to teach us the birds and the bees, included in the boys’ lesson is how to best shirk responsibility. 

Every other week our group holds a lunch meeting.  For years it was my responsibility to order lunch for the group. However, all that changed the day I wore a tie to the office.  Since then the responsibility has rotated to the paralegals and assistants in our group.  This past week, it was given to one of our male paralegals – a first for the firm. 

Not only was the order wrong, but there were no paper plates or paper towels provided at the meeting.  The food arrived late and there were no sides.  The partner expressed displeasure and the paralegal just shrugged his shoulders. 

When the partner suggested that he would repeatedly be given the responsibility until he got it right, the paralegal said (dear readers I kid you not) “well if you want it wrong again,” and shrugged his shoulders once again.

My mouth dropped open, my eyes grew wide and I shook my head.  My brother at least pretended to be sorry for breaking my mother’s dishes, this guy had no remorse about his screw up.  Now, you may argue that it wasn’t his fault.  Sure the restaurant could have screwed up the order, forgotten the sides and arrived late; but no paper towels or plates – come on.  We have a fully stocked lunch room 25 feet from where we were having our meeting. 

Later when I suggested to my boss that this paralegal was lazy, my boss suggested he was just having a bad day.  I gave my boss a look and I am pretty sure he knew what it meant.  This kid doesn’t know what it is like to have a bad day.  How does the old saying go?  Hell hath no fury like this legal assistant to the administrative partner. 

May 4, 2006

Putting Out The Flames

Posted in Office Hijinks at 7:42 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

In Texas, a person has the right to shoot any person trespassing on their property after sundown. This law, or right or city ordinance or whatever it may be makes the job of repo man the most dangerous in the lone star state.

How do I know this ridiculous tidbit of information? I had a cousin who lived in Texas who wanted to be a repo man. My aunt was beside herself, and while I agreed becoming a repo man lacked the ambition his older sister showed, I didn’t understand the tears. Fortunately for everyone involved, my cousin became a commercial airline pilot instead.

Most days my job does not put me in the line of fire. In fact, more often than not, it is the attorneys I work for who have to worry about getting shot by me. See, I have a very short temper.

We had a brief due to common pleas court, which as you all know closes at five. We had to get co-counsel’s approval as well as approval from the client, but first, we had to finish it. I skipped lunch that day and as I waited for the next round of changes, I thanked our very wise legislators for enacting the Brady Bill and requiring me to wait five days before purchasing a hand gun – I should be settled down in five days.

It was half past three when co-counsel called with their changes. After the changes were made, the client approved the brief. I wonder if they even bothered to read it.

I was printing the good copy for signature when the fire alarm of our building sounded. I went to college, I lived in the dorms, I was aware that for the most part these things turned out to be burnt popcorn. Still, the ear-piercing whine of the alarm sounding just over my head sent me to the fire tower. But first I dropped off the original so that copies could be made and it could be filed. Understandably, the copy services room was empty – after all the building could be on fire.

I walked to the fire tower and joined my co-workers. We laughed and gossiped and complained that even in the fire tower, you could hear the obnoxious siren. Time passed and before I knew it, it was after four. I started to sweat, and not because it was hot in the tower.

I slipped back into the office and into the copy room. I grabbed the brief and started making copies. I wouldn’t ask anyone else to risk their life, but I certainly wasn’t going to risk my job.

I was standing at the machine making copies when a firefighter interrupted my daydream. What my daydream was about is anyone’s guess, because the moment I heard his voice it was quickly replaced with the realization that my falling in love with a firefighter fantasy was about to come true. That is, until I saw the man, who could be my father’s age and looked nothing like the men in my FDNY 2006 Calendar. My shoulders slumped.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

I blinked a couple of times and swallowed the lump in my throat. “Um, this has to be filed in like fifteen minutes.”

“You’re supposed to be waiting in the fire tower.”

“Right. But, see, I didn’t really think there was a fire, and this really needs to get to the courthouse before 5, so I,” he didn’t let me finish.

“Go to the fire tower, please, miss.”

I nodded and left my copying on the machine. As I passed by him I inhaled, looked up at him and said, “Oh my god, I smell smoke. Is there really a fire?”

He just looked at me, then his coat and then me, again.

I smiled. “Right, because you probably wear that when you are fighting fires. Got it. Okay, I’m going.”

I skulked back into the tower, where I bumped into my boss.

“What happened?”

“A fire fighter yelled at me and sent me here.”

“Did it get copied?”

I shook my head.

“Was he hot?” Another girl waiting in the tower asked.

I shook my head again. I guess I’m not the only girl who owns that calendar.

My boss stared at me blankly for a minute. He knew he couldn’t ask me to go back into a burning building to make copies, but he also knew if he didn’t say anything, eventually I would recognize by his silence that something more had to be done.

“Give it a couple of minutes and I’ll go back out there.”

He smiled.

After a few minutes, I stepped back into the office and started down the hall. The door swung open and I was face to face with my firefighter again. I bit my lip and forced a smile.

“Miss.”

He didn’t need to say anything more. I turned around and headed back to the fire tower.