September 28, 2006

Consider This My Notice

Posted in Office Hijinks at 5:40 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Since leaving Allentown when I was almost 18 years old I have moved approximately 45,000 times.  From dorm to apartment in North Philly, to dorm to house in Center City to house in Fairmount to dorm, back to house in Fairmount to friend’s apartment in Fairmount to my own apartment and on and on until I finally settled down in Queen Village. 


Having moved so many times I have the process down to a science.  My secret – pack for three days and throw the rest away.  I don’t know if it was born out of laziness or boredom, but I have found this technique really does result in the most effective and efficient moves.  Sure, sometimes a few months down the road I may find myself searching my kitchen for my heart-shape pancake maker, but even then I am not all that upset when I realize it didn’t make the cut.  After all, was I really going to make heart-shape pancakes?


So, now our firm’s moving and since my boss is the administrative partner a lot of responsibility has fallen on my shoulders.  And let me tell you, my three days of packing were over a long time ago. 


The real problem is that files are not like fashion.  The old “if you haven’t worn it in a year – throw it out” rule doesn’t really apply.  I, for one, have a real problem wrapping my head around that.  So I included others in the decision making process. I emailed everyone saying, “Hey, I have these files and they look totally old, but I will box them and move them if you tell me to,” but to no avail.


I made lists, enumerated boxes, moved redwells so that client files were grouped together, but no one noticed.  I consulted Excel spreadsheets and document management systems and our shared server, but no one cared.  No matter how hard I tried to get someone to claim responsibility for these files dating back to a time when Christ wore short pants, no one would step forward. 


Maybe they didn’t want to admit they were that old.  Maybe they were too old to remember they ever worked on these particular cases.


After weeks of trying to clean out the file areas and preparing everything for the move, my boss hanging on by a string, the big burly movers on their way, I was finally given the green light.  “If you think it should be thrown away, do it.” 


I have never been an arsonist; on the two occasions I have camped I was awestruck as my roommate built a campfire.  However, I imagine what I felt was similar to what an arsonist would feel if they were handed a pack of matches in a house made of rotting wood.


That day at lunch I gloated over my triumph with members of the editorial committee.  As I talked numbers of boxes to be thrown away, the Patient Paralegal’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and she almost passed out in her Sesame Chicken.


It seems the Patient Paralegal is also a pack rat.


I suppose the fact that P.P. has been with the firm through a couple of moves, several managing partners and multiple billing software programs, skews her point of view.  Typically P.P. is the one left when the irate partner looking for a file that is long since tossed.  This is probably why every single piece of paper ever handed to P.P. is copied immediately. 


She still has every single copy.


P.P.’s reaction got me thinking.  What is going to happen if someone comes looking for these files?  Mind you, I didn’t lose any sleep over this fear.  Most nights I leave the office and completely forget I have a job (alcohol helps) but as I sat at my desk, when I probably should have been concentrating on something else, or during one of the several meetings about this move, the thought did occur to me that I could get in a lot of trouble.


So I resolved to get married.  I am going to marry a really rich man this weekend, quit my job and let Patient Paralegal deal with the fallout from my trashing spree. 


She can also finish boxing up all the files I didn’t get to yet.


September 21, 2006

Sarah Klem – Legal Assistant, Friend, Diplomat.

Posted in Happy Hour, Lessons Learned at 7:27 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Once, back when having multiple key rings for just one key was cool, I had one that read “Diplomacy:  the ability to tell a person to go to hell so that they look forward to making the trip.” 


At the time, I couldn’t say for sure I even knew what this meant.  I just liked the idea of telling people to go to hell.  And as I grew older, I certainly didn’t grow more diplomatic.  I was raised in a family that didn’t really mince words.


One day, after piano lessons I was crying and told my father that I thought I was awful.  A typical Dad would have taken the child into his arms, smoothed the child’s hair and told her that she was being silly; that she was a terrific piano player. 

My father took me into his arms, smoothed my hair and told me I was a great piano player for a five-year-old. 

I was seven, and he knew that.

Unfortunately for my boss, he doesn’t get to be so blunt when dealing with attorneys, assistants and  even partners.  He has to smooth over, misdirect, coddle and yes sometimes lie to get things done and make people happy.  Watching him over the past few years has made me better at handling sticky situations both in and out of the office. 

For instance, we were out at a bar, K2, L, Lauren and I, watching the Eagles blow it all against Eli and his boys when a gentleman approached and asked if he could join us. 

Before I go any further, I have to say, I give the Suitor major kudos for approaching four girls at a bar. I don’t know many guys that would be so brave. But he did, grabbed a barstool and started talking to K2 and L. 

When the Suitor got up to use the restroom, K2 and L filled Lauren and I in on what was going on; it seems the Suitor was well on his way to asking K2 out.  K2 used this time to inform us that she was not interested and that she needed our help.  L and Lauren looked at me.

As a side note, a lot of guys blame “the friends” for interfering when they are trying to make a play for some girl.  Wise up boys. If her friends keep butting in and pulling her away into other conversations, it is because she asked them to. 

But back to my point, Suitor returned and Lauren pretended she really needed to talk to L. L and I switched seats and I prepared an embargo on communication with K2.

I immediately engaged K2 and her Suitor in a conversation guaranteed to bore the crap out of him – fashion.  He turned his attention back to the game and K2 thanked me with her eyes.

For the rest of the fourth quarter, every time the Suitor turned to talk to K2, I started another group conversation.  We discussed schools, jobs, travel plans, how we all knew each other, which Manning brother was hotter, anything and everything to keep him from pulling K2 into a private conversation. 

Now, somewhere between the Giants scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter and them scoring a touchdown in overtime, the Suitor got it in his head that I was interested in him.  I saw it happen and was weighing my possible exit strategies just as he was preparing his pitch.  “Well since your friend isn’t interested, maybe I can get your number?”

We were shaking hands.  I blinked a couple of times and bit my lip.

Here I was almost feeling bad for this guy and then he drops that line. 

I smiled a tight smile and told him that just how cold in hell it would be before that happened.

I may have mastered the art of diplomacy but I am still my father’s daughter.

September 14, 2006

Its Official, I Am Coming Back As A Cockroach

Posted in Office Hijinks at 6:24 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I was out celebrating a good friend’s birthday when, over cocktails, the conversation turned to karma.  One friend told us that she had recently ordered a couple of t-shirts from an online retailer and said retailer threw in a pair of brown leather boots, in her size absolutely free.  These boots sold for $350.00 and said friend, an admitted shoe whore, found herself in a bit of a cosmic predicament.


After weighing the pros and cons and consulting her more morally sound friends, she decided to return the boots.  Her reasoning was that it was bad karma to keep boots she did not pay for.


I abruptly took away her shoe whore card – after all the term implies that there is nothing one wouldn’t do for shoes – and suggested that maybe those boots were the universe’s way of saying thank you for all the crap she had to endure.


And while at the time I said it as a way of justifying my own karma-corrupt position, it got me thinking.  Some of us are quick to do the right thing as a way of preserving our good standing with the universe, but what if these opportunities to enrich our lives aren’t actually the cosmos way of balancing the scales.


I’ll give you another example.  Back when I was still slinging beers at a corner bar we had several regulars, some of whom were lumped together by genre; most notably our teachers, our construction workers, our old heads and our rowers. 


Most of the rowers I already knew from my time spent on the river. However every year a few new faces would arrive, I would be introduced, discussions over who we knew would be had and I would leave and return with a lager.  There was one rower, however, that no matter how many times we were introduced he still had no idea who I was. 


That is until the one night I was hanging out with my friend who was putting herself through school by modeling. Wouldn’t you know it, the Rower knew exactly who I was and insisted I introduce him to my friend. 


The next time I ran into him, he claimed we had never met.


So when his resume landed in my boss’s “In” bin I cringed.  Typically when I get a resume, I will review it, circle spelling errors, highlight things that just shouldn’t be on it or point out impressive items.  With the Rower’s resume I just wanted to crumple it up and throw it away, but I was worried that doing so would bring a reign of terror down on me by the powers that be.  Instead, I took a deep breath and placed the resume back in the bin.


My boss called me into his office that afternoon.  He was holding the Rower’s resume.  He pointed out that he was training for the Olympics. 


I rolled my eyes and explained to my boss that any rower could say they were training for the Olympics. The question was did he actually train with the National Team.  Chucking his resume was one thing, not letting him slide on semantics was an entirely different matter.


My boss shrugged his shoulders and asked if I knew him.


I nodded, trying my darnedest to not betray any emotion in my face.


He asked if he rowed with the National Team.


I shrugged my shoulders.


He asked what I thought of him.


I did a quick mental equation trying to figure out just what would be best for everyone in this situation.  The Rower could get a job, which would be good for him.  But I would have to work with him, which would be bad for me.  The Rower was hot and the girls in the office could use the eye candy.  But the Rower was a complete jerk and would probably drive those same girls crazy. 


It was a lot like trying to figure out if you were really doing a person a favor by letting them bum a cigarette. 


My head couldn’t take it anymore and just took over. “He’s an asshole.” 


My boss crumpled up his resume and chucked it in the waste paper basket.


I wondered if I would now suffer for hindering the Rower from getting a job or if this was punishment for the Rower being a big stupid phony creep. 


A few weeks later I saw the Rower walking around Suburban Station, looking homeless, I said hello, he stared back at me blankly and I smiled.  The universe had given me my answer.


Still I would have preferred a nice new pair of boots.

September 6, 2006

Who Does The Walk of Shame in a Suit and Tie?

Posted in Lessons Learned at 1:01 am by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

We have all been there. It’s too early, and you are over-dressed, and as you are leaving a building that isn’t yours, you run into someone who knows you don’t belong there. For whatever reason you are looking for another job and you didn’t want anyone else to know about it.

Wait, what did you think I was talking about? Dirty, readers. I’m 28 years old now; I’m too old for those sort of antics.

A while back I had a meeting at The Legal Intelligencer’s office. I dressed nicely in an effort to make a good impression. I scheduled the meeting over my lunch hour, so as to not take any time away from my boss or my regular work.

I was on my way back to my office, out the front door of the building when I ran smack into the chest of our copy services vendor.

My eyes grew wide, my mouth went dry and my armpits started sweating. Immediately I searched for a reason why I was in this building, but before I could do or say anything, Copy Service Vendor asked me if I was cheating on my firm.

Why did I feel guilty? My boss knew where I was. And meanwhile, my dentist is in the same building and I could have been coming from there. Still I felt guilty.

Now, back when I was still a dirty little stay out, I did my fair share of long walks home in the cold, bright light of morning. However, one such walk was not a walk of shame, okay possibly more than one, but one I distinctly remember.

I was coming from a friend’s house. We were all out late the night before, and as it sometimes does, it seemed like a really good idea to go back to her place and continue drinking. I fell asleep on the spare bed and the next morning, Sunday morning, I awoke, yawned, stretched, wiped the sleep from my eyes, looked at the clock and cursed.

I was seven blocks from my house and I could not think a single route between my home and my friend’s place that did not involve a restaurant that was already serving all of my neighbors brunch.

The route I opted to take home had only one open restaurant, and really was the least likely place for any of my friends to be brunching. I walked up the opposite side of the street, my head down, my hair a mess. Then, I heard a shout that made my head spin and my stomach turn.

“Sarah, I know you are not trying to sneak by here without saying hello.”

Our resident gay hairdresser, who was holding court outside the café with his life partner of nine years, was waving over his head frantically, indicating that I needed to report to him.

I forced a grin, looked both ways and crossed the street.

The outdoor dining area was crammed with couples that didn’t close any of the local bars. The Hairdresser and his Life Partner immediately start pressing me for details as to how I spent the prior evening.

I looked around at the smiling faces that were trying not to pay attention.

I tried humor first, “What do you mean; I’m on way back from mass.” I looked down at my black tube dress and then back up at the Hairdresser and shrugged my shoulders.

He eyed me incredulously.

“It’s not what you think; I’m coming from my friend’s place. A female friend. But not like that. I slept on her couch. Alone.”

But the more details I tried to leave out the deeper the ditch I was digging. Finally I just threw up my arms and said, “I need coffee.” I pulled up a chair and join the Hairdresser and the Life Partner for coffee and eggs.

Outside the building, facing down our copy services vendor with his knowing grin and my sweaty pits, I tried to play cool but goddamnit my face got in the way.

His smile just broadened and he said, “Don’t worry your secret is safe with me.”

Every ounce of me wanted to protest, wanted to tell him the whole story in the shortest way possible. But I knew it would just sound made up and make the whole situation worse. So I walked away, letting him believe whatever he wants.

See, I’m learning.