*Bringing back some old stuff I removed, just to remind myself that it exists.
In a few days my boss will leave on vacation. In his absence, I am to drive to his house twice a week, once to make sure the main water line is on (horizontal) and once to make sure it is off (vertical). Before his departure, I must see that his dog Fluffy (one cannot make up such a creative pet name) is safely boarded at a dog hotel and that his housekeeper is driven to her home in South Central LA, worlds away from her “office,” just as my mind is often, at the office.
When I first interviewed, the woman asked me if I would be okay doing the occasional personal tasks for my boss. I nodded gamely, thinking that personal things wouldn’t occupy more than twenty percent of the job. My main station, after all, was still at the office, at the massive desk right outside my boss’s office. I had my own printer, was just a stone’s throw away from the fax machine, and had drawers stocked with office supplies and company swag. But things change. Or more accurately, certain situations reveal themselves slowly…. roses bloom then wither and fade. Job descriptions can do that too.
Here’s the sad part. I’m pretty damn good at the personal stuff because it doesn’t take much brain power. Driving to and from my boss’s house is easy. Making sure his wife knows when the Kogi truck is in town so I can stand in line and buy fifteen burritos, fifteen tacos and four quesedillas before she comes to pick them up is easy. Making sure his kid has a ride to and from tennis camp is VERY easy. But when you’re tired all the time and you just don’t want to do it- any of it, regardless of whether it’s personal or for the company – everything becomes hard.
This afternoon my boss gave me a brief lesson on booking flights. The itinerary itself was slightly more complicated than his usual LAX – wherever – wherever – LAX. It was something like LAX – wherever – wherever – wherever – wherever -wherever – LAX. I showed him several options for the whole trip, then he started to ask questions about specific legs.
“What about from wherever to wherever? And what if I left at this time? How much is first class? How much is business class? Can I fly direct from LAX to wherever? Are the business class seats completely flat?”
None of this in one go, but in spurts. So I started to answer his questions in spurts and in doing so, confused the shit out of myself. I wasn’t blessed as my boss was, with razor sharp memory. I hang on to the tiny morsels – crumbs, really – of memory that I have and pray, like I did in high school biology, that those morsels would be exactly what he wanted to know. But of course it never is. Booking these damn flights took me a week.
“I could pick up the phone right now, call the agent, and get it done in ten minutes,” he said, “But you need to learn how to do this. You need to learn how to make it simple.”
He strolled to the easel he has in his office for grand ideas and quickly wrote down the route options I’d given him with the corresponding times. I watched in awe – I had read the itineraries over and over and still did not know a single one by heart.
“Look at it,” he said, “You’re making it too hard for yourself. I don’t know what you do that.”
The only thing he was missing now, he said, was the price for each route, “That’s the only information I need you to get now.”
I had gone bleary eyed trying to give him details about the shorter flights in-between, confusing myself and irritating him in the process, giving him B, C, D, E, and X, when really he just wanted to know the three different options from A to Z and how much each would cost.
He drew a squiggly line in between the A and Z and said, “All that shit in the middle is important, but you can tell me that later, when I’m done deciding the big picture, how to get from A to Z. When deciding A to Z, I need to know two things: how long, and what does it cost.”
He held up two fingers and said, “It’s all very logical when you think of it this way Betty. Time and money, right? I have money, so sometimes that allows me to save time. But I still want to know what it costs. How can I get there in the shortest amount of time and with the best value? Those are the two most fundamental things when it comes to making decisions in life: time and money.”
My boss doesn’t know it, but he’s quite the philosopher. I agree wholeheartedly with his statement but will add another fundamental: energy.
It seemed that this particular exchange, above all others, underlined to me exactly why my time at the Company is drawing to a close.