A coworker messaged me today.
“Word on the street is that you’re looking for something bigger and better.”
I was bewildered, considering I’d never before mentioned my intention to pursue a graduate degree in Creative Writing. People at work – bless their hearts – take you for granted after a while. Or do they? Sometimes I think my boss wants to strangle or throw the quartz paperweight on his desk at me, but then he gets strangely polite at times, tiptoeing on the phone when he calls, saying, “Is this a bad time?”
The absolutely honest answer is, “Yes.” But the other absolutely honest answer is, “No. You’re my boss. I’m your assistant. Call me whenever the hell you want.”
And seriously, he can. When I read the job description I had raised an eyebrow at the “24/7” part, knowing in my heart that I’d interviewed with someone who seemed rather personable and had more than an ounce of humanity in him. He wouldn’t abuse that privilege and certainly, he hasn’t. He called me at 7PM today, 1.5 hours after our standard 5:30PM “I’m outta here” time, and sounded positively awkward.
“Is this…are you…busy?”
I was sitting where I sit now, at my brother’s desk, reading the paper from two weeks ago (I have a perpetual back log of periodicals waiting to be read. I “catch up” by reading the news from two, sometimes three weeks ago. It’s absurd), and instead of saying, “Yes, I’m reading my backlog,” I sat up and laughed.
“Of course not. What’s up.”
He wanted me to cancel a flight, yada yada yada. The details of which are not important – but this is what kills me.
Word on the street is that it looks bad if your assistants are constantly leaving.
Though I’ve been here for almost eight months now, and truly, everyone whom I need to know knows me as well, I still get the occasional phone call looking for Bonnie. Sometimes, a character not unlike Rip Van Winkle calls asking for Gina, the very first assistant who I think quit nearly three years ago. Or was it two? I don’t know – but at the Company, a year is like dog years. 8 months is like 5 years. At the Company, I am almost a Veteran.
Well, until they ask me about stuff that happened in the Gina Era. Anyway. There were more than a few times when a gentleman called and thought he was being glib by saying, “Whoa, another new assistant? What’s he doing over there, scaring all you young girls away?”
And I laugh hollowly into the headset thinking, “Whatever, it’s none of your business,” but inside I’m wondering too.
The thing is, I’m doing a little survey now. I’ve come to know more and more EAs and when the conversation goes there, I always ask, “How long have you been working for so and so?”
And it amazes me, the devotion some of these women (always, they are women), have to the man or woman they are assisting. A few of my boss’s acquaintances have EAs that have been with them for nearly twenty years. TWENTY YEARS! That’s…almost as long as I’ve been alive. Most of the other EAs, while not twenty years in, are running the same marathon. Four to seven years – much longer than I’ve ever done anything in my life. I try to see myself in four years and the picture is almost blank. I try to see myself next year, in 2013. I think I’ll still be at the company in March, but like a watercolor brush at the end of the stroke, there’s not quite enough pigment to form a clear picture. It peters out – the page is white.
I perpetually waffle back and forth between loving my job, then despising the mistakes that I make which lead to my belief that I’m not cut out for this kind of work, then loving it again, because my boss forgives me and then asks me ever so politely to do things that I ought to do. It’s not just him – my other boss, David, the guy who’s utterly self-sufficient, also has his moments. In the beginning I accused him of having low expectations. He practically applauded when I printed an excel spreadsheet for him and glued it together.
“So smart!” he said, when I presented him with one long sheet, “Great idea!”
But I took advantage, began building decisions on past exchanges and at some point, decided it’d be okay to make certain choices for him.
He called me from a different time zone this afternoon and said, quite angrily, “Don’t ever make a decision like that for me again! It’s my prerogative to do this! It’s my prerogative! Why can’t you just follow instructions!”
I said, “Okay, I’m sorry. I’ll change it,” and did, but wondered what had brought on such a strong reaction.
Miranda the new EA downstairs just happened to stop by my desk.
“Is everything okay?”
I looked at her face. She wore no makeup today. She seemed stressed. I was stressed. No need for a stressed out vomit fest. I shrugged and said, “David just yelled at me, no biggie.”
“Why?” she said.
I thought about it for a minute. He was jet lagged, definitely. And if he slept poorly on the plane, then he was probably damn exhausted. He went from plane to train to meeting. Not exactly a recipe for bubbles and sunshine.
“He’s probably tired. I get snippy when I’m tired too.”
She smiled, “Oh tell me about it.”
But still. I don’t like getting yelled at, especially not at the end of the day. I went home, my exhaustion compressed with my irritation and throughout dinner my parents chided me to keep an open mind. Look how I was acting now, and someone had cooked dinner for me! Was going to pack my punch for me! And I was there, pouting because my boss had yelled at me.
My phone pinged.
It was David.
“I’m sorry.” He wrote, “It was my fault for not reading your first email carefully. Normally I would not mind you making that decision for me – but I have been traveling so much and am tired.”
My heart melted, the smile poured back onto my face. I was still exhausted – but it helped knowing that David was even more exhausted and that he had taken the time to apologize. It’s stupid. Petty. Selfish. But I collect these little moments because it proves to me that we are humans working with humans. It keeps me sane and helps me stay one more day.
Bigger and better things for me are on the horizon. But for now, this will suffice.