July 27, 2006

Psst, Can You Pass This Note to Chortlette?

Posted in Office Hijinks at 6:05 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

At Temple I had to take college math, also known as “For All Practical Purposes.” I spent these three hours every week working on articles for the newspaper, doodling or passing notes to my For All Practical Purpose Friend.

On one such occasion, my friend and I were going back and forth as to whether we were going to hang out at TKE, Sig Ep, or the Grill when our professor called on my friend and asked her a question about what he had on the board. She had no idea, so our illustrious professor turned his attention to me. I answered promptly and smirked.

The next note from my friend said, “How the hell did you know that, when you are paying just as much attention as I am?”

See, what my FAPP Friend didn’t know was that a) I was only half not paying attention and b) I was a mathlete in high school, thus the drawing of the King Kong and how one could determine his height by using the Pythagorean Theorem was not really a challenge for me.

The only practical thing I took away from college math was my ability to half pay attention. I use this secret talent at our firm’s popular, bi-weekly meeting.

The secret — fake note-taking on my trusty legal pad. I sit in the back, ostensibly taking notes as if what everyone else is working on is the most important thing in the whole wide world. I see the other assistants shoot me dirty looks for my extra credit activity, but I don’t care. Because what they don’t know is that my notes had nothing to do what was going on in the meeting and everything to do with what was going on in my head.

Unfortunately all my snarky note-taking has come to an end.

After each meeting my boss dictates a memo summarizing the meeting which is then sent to all the members of the group. A few weeks back, after a particularly thrilling meeting and during a very hectic day my boss approached my desk, handed me the meeting file and asked me to summarize that day’s events.

I blinked a couple of times.

He noted that he saw me taking notes.

I thought about the notes I was taking during that hour-long meeting. My notes typically range from questions as to why a certain someone chose that tie and shirt combination to why a certain someone else feels the need to comment and or laugh every time my boss makes a comment and or joke, a habit that has earned him the nickname Chortlette.

I also often write about what a waste of time I find these meetings. Why I am required to attend most of them is beyond me. After all, I don’t really do much at this firm but smile and look pretty.

At this particular meeting I commented on my shock to learn that a co-worker I can’t stand had really nice eyes, song lyrics to a particularly embarrassing song that was in my head and questions as to why Chortlette needs to scream all of his comments.

My boss walked away.

Damn.

Good thing I also have a fairly decent memory.

July 20, 2006

I Pity The Fool That Tells Me To Smile

Posted in Office Hijinks at 6:28 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I was born with a most heinous affliction; a very expressive face.  My face hides nothing and I have little control over it.  When I am happy, there’s no need to clap my hands, my face shows it.  If I am upset, everybody knows it.  When someone walks by with bad hair or bad shoes or a really bad outfit, my friends remark, “Oh my god I smell it too,” since I have trouble remembering that other people can see my face.   

Also, my “displeasure” face looks a lot like my “something smells awful” face. 

Now, as a child, I was pretty happy.  I had friends and a nice home, a mom and a dad that loved me and a dog.  My sister was sometimes mean to me and I could have done without my little brother growing up, but like I said, it was a happy childhood.  So, for the most part I was smiling. 

Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t predict that I would have such an expressive face; for if they could I am sure they wouldn’t have named me Sarah, and thus dooming me to spend the rest of my life having people sing to me, often off-key, “Sara, smile.”  For those of you who have never heard this Hall and Oats ditty, consider yourselves lucky. 

After hearing the 47th or so old man sing this to me, or maybe it was just after the 63rd person referred to me as Sara Smile, this Sarah’s smile started to fade.  Not smiling only made it worse.  People started singing “oh won’t you smile awhile for me, Sara?”  Again, off-key.   

Almost 28 years later and I hate smiling. I think smiling is stupid. I think people that smile all the time are stupid.  Smiling is not my favorite.  So when my boss told me I had to smile more during the day, I thought I was going to knock in his teeth. 

My boss and I often have afternoon pow-wows.  We review what has gone out, what needs to get done, how his search for the latest gizmo is going and what is new in my love life.  Our meeting of the minds was nearing its end, and as such I got up to go when Senor Creepy, with a smile that could turn small children into stone, walked in, put his arm around my shoulders and asked how I was doing.   

Without waiting for a response he turned his attention to my boss and started updating him on a case.  My back straightened and Senor Creepy removed his arm from around my shoulders.  He finished giving his report and left the office. 

My boss looked at me and said, “You are going to have to try not to look like you want to punch him every time you see him.” 

I have long given up on lying to cover up my facial expression.  So instead I responded, “But I do want to punch him every time I see him.” 

“Close the door.” 

That is when I got the speech that I needed to look like I wanted to be here and when I saw Senor Creepy I had to pretend not to hate him. Apparently they had a pow-wow or two of their own and Senor’s feelings were hurt and he was feeling a little left out. 

I hadn’t felt that ridiculous since high school when my mother told me I had to thinkabout going to the prom with this kid who was going to call me to ask me even though I already made plans to spend that day and weekend at the shore with my college friends.  I really like my boss and would do almost anything for him, but hiding the disgust and disappointment on my face is impossible.  I contemplated giving him the phone numbers of guys that could verify this very fact for him, but since my boss thinks of himself as a sort of father figure to me, I thought this might be a bit inappropriate considering who would be on that list. 

So instead I said I would try.  And I am trying, despite the fact that I think people who smile all the time are stupid and my forced smile is causing co-workers to come up to me and ask, “is something wrong?”  

Not to mention it is giving me wrinkles.

July 13, 2006

The Job I Can’t Leave and the Men I Can’t Keep

Posted in Office Hijinks at 7:45 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Recently, I was at a meeting for the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals.  We all went around introducing ourselves, and after my brief introduction, another paralegal turned to me and said, “Can I talk to you after the meeting?”  I nodded and smiled. 

After the meeting adjourned, Patty Paralegal approached and asked me if I was looking for a new job.  It turns out Patty was leaving her position at one of the city’s largest firms and looking for her replacement.  I guess she liked how smart I looked since I barely spoke three sentences during the meeting and that is including my introduction to the group. 

That or she was desperate. 

Still, I smiled politely, took her card and told her I would call her later that afternoon. 

As I walked back to my office I considered this strange twist of fate. This new firm would probably pay me more, offer me more vacation time and more room to grow and suddenly all of this sounded very wonderful. 

But what if I worked with a bunch of stiffs, or I hated my boss?  What if they made me come in on weekends and stay late even on nights when I had to get home and walk my roommate’s dog? 

Because, while there is a lot about my job I don’t like, I have to admit, I love where I work.  I have a lot of great friends there, my boss, while he doesn’t appreciate me nearly enough, puts up with more than I think any other administrative partner in this city would.  And the parts about my job that I don’t like would still be there at this new place – that is, the actual work part. 

Further, my office lets me write this column and blog, which I imagine one of the largest firms in the city might frown upon.  And even if one of the largest firms in the city did allow me to continue to write this, I doubt I would have the same material. 

After all, what other law firm in this city hires the whack jobs that we do? 

I find myself in a similar position when it comes to relationships as well.  Whenever I find myself with a guy that could potentially be really great; which as all you single gals out there know occurs all too often, I will concurrently find myself distracted by a not-so-great guy. 

Inevitably, I make the wrong choice and whatever could have happened with the good guy falls to shit which could be why my average relationship life span is three weeks.  Still, I wonder how it is I can commit myself to a job that I should detest, but not a guy I could love. 

As promised, later that afternoon I called Patty, thanked her for thinking so highly of me, but declined the chance to interview with her firm all the same.  I then walked into my boss’s office and relayed the whole story to him, sans the parallel to my love life. 

He laughed and said I should have taken the interview since he was currently interviewing for my replacement.

I laughed and left his office.  As if I ever let him see the resumes of competent sounding legal assistants. 

July 6, 2006

Drunken Dials and Democracy – Let Freedom Ring

Posted in Office Hijinks at 5:56 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Over the weekend friends and I decided that the Declaration of Independence was really nothing more than a predecessor to the drunken dial.  Imagine our founding fathers sitting around City Tavern laughing, drinking and talking smack on King George.  I picture Thomas Jefferson, or TJ as I am sure the boys called him, standing up and saying, “That m-effer is out of his g-d mind.   And you know what, I am going to write him a letter telling him exactly what we all think about him.” 

Then everyone cheers and Ben Franklin orders another round as TJ starts writing and before you know it a messenger is sent for, the document is signed by all and Franklin is ordering another round, this time of shots, for the house. 

Because my life is so boring, and I have a very vivid fantasy life, I went on to picture TJ waking up the next morning in some hotel room with a wicked hangover and just fragments of memory about the evening.  As he pieces things together, he remembers the letter, the messenger and the inalienable truths, rushes out of the hotel to get the letter back only to learn, that the messenger had taken the urgency and immediacy of the men to heart and the letter was already on its way to jolly ole’ England.

And while yes, the drunken declaration turned out okay in the end, I fear its current incarnation, the drunken dial, the drunken text or the drunken email doesn’t always work out so well.

A member of my editorial committee was busy drunken dialing and texting all of her friends in her phonebook this past Saturday during her sixty-plus block walk home from the bar down the shore.  And while she won’t admit to anything heinous coming from it, she did wake up the next morning dreading the fact that eventually she would have to look at her cell phone and assess the damage she had done.

However, there are still times when a drunken dial can save your derriere in a manner of speaking.

That very same member of my editorial committee went on to tell a story of a friend who couldn’t stand one of her co-workers.  When this friend learned that her co-worker had failed the bar for the third time, instead of secretly seething on the inside, or laughing obnoxiously on the outside, this friend decided it would be funny and appropriate to send the co-worker a mass card.

Oddly, the co-worker found this neither funny nor appropriate, management got involved and when the friend returned from vacation she was confronted about the email.  Her response was “I was on vacation and I was drinking a lot and having a lot of sex with a lot of strange men and,” she shrugged her shoulders. 

She still has her job.

Now, as future managing partners you may one day have to deal with this excuse. I can’t imagine it will be very often, but still.  I cannot begin to think how I would have responded.  I may have just shrugged my shoulders as well.  I mean we have all been there, right?

I’m just grateful our founding father’s didn’t think to tell the truth when King George came marching in with his boys in redcoats.