March 15, 2002
No Thanks


I am the first person in the office this morning: always my favorite way to start the workday.

As I walk around flipping on lights, booting up office machines, making coffee  --  all of the regular daily first-thing-in-the-morning stuff that I love to do  --  I am suffused with a sense of purpose and well-being. My In-Box is pleasingly full: lots of new Dirt Reports that need to go out today ... lots of old Dirt Reports that need to be filed ... lots of dirt-related busywork with *my* name all over it. Plus my voicemail light is blinking, the color copier is out of toner, and there is a giant pile of outgoing California Overnight packages sitting on my chair -- dirt samples, no doubt -- waiting to be shipped out. 

It will be a busy day: just the way I like it. No time for boredom. No time for clockwatching. No time to sit around and obsess over court dates and cancer diagnoses and stoopid 'Survivor' developments. (They've voted my favorite person off the island already! What the hell am I going to do for the next ten weeks??)

I haven't felt this good on the job since those first golden weeks at The Totem Pole Company.

I tackle the easiest project first, while I wait for the Peet's to kick in: sending out 'no thank you' letters to the 43,897,621 people who have applied for the Marketing Assistant position this month. I volunteered for this task as soon as the résumés began pouring in  --  I went to Jane, the Business Development Manager Person in charge of hiring for this position, and I said "If you need help sending out responses to applicants, let me know" -- and she handed the project over to me. I immediately set up an Excel database to track the names and addresses of everyone who submitted a résumé, and then I composed a basic "Thanks but no thanks" mail merge letter in Word. Now whenever Jane gives me a stack of résumés that she's reviewed and rejected, all I have to do is print out another batch of letters, sign her name to each of them (using my best faux-executive scrawl) and mail them off. The interesting thing about this particular task, for me, has been having a chance to scrutinize the incoming résumés and see what works (Word attachments, simple layouts, clear information) and what doesn't (people who boast about their fabulous writing skills in one sentence and their "invaluable value" in the next sentence). This will come in handy when we start building David's new résumé, later this year.

When Jane finally wanders into the office, right after 9 a.m., I have the latest bunch of letters printed, addressed and ready to run through the postage meter. "Are you sure you don't want to be a Marketing Assistant?" she says, and she gives me a shrewd, speculative, hungry look.

Uh oh! shrieks the little warning voice in my head. This is how it starts!

If my experiences at The Totem Pole Company taught me anything at all, it's to think very carefully before you say 'yes' to anything. I had only been with The TPC for three months before they plucked me from a cushy front desk job I adored and drop-kicked me up the TP to work for Franz. It was the chance of a lifetime, of course. It was also the most miserable two and a half years of my entire professional life. In retrospect I would probably do it all over again: it's not every day that a non-college-educated/middle-aged/job-hopping/career receptionist is offered the top admin spot in the company. It toughened me professionally. It forever raised the ante for me, salarywise. (Plus it gave me tons of great material for *FootNotes.* Franz STILL gets more fan mail than The Happy Panda Toaster, The World's Cutest Nephew and Upstairs Neighbor Guy, put together.)  But just because I did it once -- just because I gave up a decent job I loved and was good at and felt comfortable with, in exchange for a groovier title and a moldy window office -- doesn't mean I want to do it again.

Besides: I know what goes on in the Marketing Department. I've seen them come out of those marathon Marketing Meetings of theirs. I imagine that if *I* were locked in the Conference Room with The Main Marketing Guy twice a week, listening to him whistle the theme to "Rawhide" for four fudking hours, *I* would probably be looking a little frantic and haggard, too.

"No thanks," I say to Jane. "I'm happy right where I am."  And to show her exactly HOW happy I am, I answer the incessantly ringing telephones with my trademark Crisply-Professional (Yet-Ever-So-Slightly-Slutty) Receptionist's Voice.

Jane shakes her head and walks down the hallway to her office. It's clear she thinks I'm nuts. Why would anyone in her right mind pass up an opportunity to move from the lowly receptionist desk to a position with more prestige? How could I possibly say "no thanks" to longer hours, more complicated job duties, a boss who whistles all the time AND a new buttload of freshly-squeezed stress on my plate, every single morning?

I just smile ... and wander off to file my Dirt Reports.



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