May 30, 1999
Details

.
I know what you're thinking.

You read yesterday's cranky little journal entry -- the one where I'm given the opportunity of a lifetime and STILL manage to find something to be unhappy about -- and you just want to scream "Gawd! Isn't this woman ever satisfied??"

Or else you're thinking, "Gawd! So she gets moved from Department A to Department B, and now her friends in Department A don't like her anymore. Welcome to the grown-up world!"

Or else you're thinking, "Gawd! I wonder how long it's going to take her 'newly-executized-butt' to screw THIS one up?"

That's what you're thinking, isn't it?

(Oh. Wait. This is all stuff that *I* am thinking.)

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Early Sunday morning. David is still asleep, but I've been tiptoeing around The Castle for a couple of hours already.  I was afraid the coffee grinder would wake him up, but I'm on Cup #3 already ... and he is still obliviously sawing logs in the next room.

We spent most of Saturday running around Alameda and Berkeley -- cleaning out the Subaru, dropping clothes off at the thrift store and the dry cleaners, getting new glasses -- the usual nerdy-domestic weekend stuff -- and it wore me out. Fifteen minutes into "Mad TV" last night I was sound asleep, dreaming about plane crashes and ex-spouses and assorted other disasters. I woke up this morning exhausted. But the good news is that it's Sunday. And tomorrow is Memorial Day. And that means I still have 48 hours to putter and snooze and write and read and do laundry and fret and complain and destroy my last seven fingernails before I'm thrown back into the lion's den on Tuesday morning ...

Just thinking about going back to the office is making me grind my teeth into those little pointy stubs again.


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One of the things I loved the most about being on the front desk, the past three months, is that I never dreaded going to work. Not even on Monday mornings. I wasn't always thrilled at the prospect -- especially if I was coming off a nice weekend, or if I knew The DRIP was going to be in the office that day -- but I was never filled with the sense of impending disaster that I used to feel when I was working, for instance, at the phone company, or at the doomed newspaper, or even sometimes at The Knife Factory. I never woke up in the morning desperately praying for laryngitis. I never felt my stomach execute a perfect Hangman's Knot as I pulled into the parking lot. And I never wasted a perfectly good weekend obsessing over it.

It was just a job.

But now I've been tossed into this incredibly complex, detail-intensive, stress-ridden, "relaxation is overrated anyway" non-stop rollercoaster of a position ...

... working for this incredibly complex, detail-intensive, stress-ridden, "relaxation is overrated anyway" non-stop rollercoaster of a BOSS ...

... and I know that my * Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho! It's off to work I go! * days are over. Maybe not permanently, but at least until I figure out what the hell I'm doing and start feeling competent again. And that may take a while.


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And no, this isn't me complaining again. At least, not much. And it's not me manufacturing ways to be unhappy, either, or looking a gift promotion in the mouth, or expecting everything to be instantly perfect. It's just me mourning, a little, for the ease and simplicity of the past three months ... and trying to figure out how I'm going to get some of that back, once the dust settles. Because things like "ease" and "simplicity" are what keep me healthy, these days.


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I officially started the Exec Ass job last Monday.

("Hey!" David objects, reading over my shoulder as I type. "That's Executive Ass!")

Catherine plans to stay at the Totem Pole Company for another week or two, depending on how quickly she finds a new job. In the meantime the both of us are squeezed into an office roughly the size of a postage stamp -- when she leaves, it will be *my* office! a wondrous concept I can't seem to fully wrap my brain around! -- while she trains me to take her place.

The training process for the first three days went something like this:

* Day One. Catherine takes all phone calls, transcribes all voicemail messages and e-mails, types all correspondence, organizes the executive schedule, sends all faxes, sorts all incoming mail, and organizes the landfill atop Franz' desk (who, I should point out, is out of the country for most of the week). I watch and take copious notes. When she goes to lunch, I empty a couple of desk drawers ("Phone Message Logs, 1991-1993"), pin a photo of the Tots to my new bulletin board and eat a banana.

* Day Two. Catherine takes all phone calls, transcribes all voicemail messages and e-mails -- etc. etc. -- while I watch and take notes some more. Franz is still safely out of the country. When C. goes to lunch, I investigate the hard drive on the secretarial 'puter ("Staff Meeting Lunch Menu, April 12, 1991"), program a few speed dial numbers and eat a banana.

* Day Three. I take all phone calls, transcribe all messages and e-mails -- etc. etc. -- while Catherine looks on and points out what I'm doing wrong. Which, basically, is everything. (That's OK. I would infinitely prefer to have her point out my mistakes than have Franz do it.)  Mainly I appear to be overlooking the *little* stuff ... like phoning his hotel in Quebec to verify that the FedEx we sent him arrived, or double-checking the calendar to make sure we haven't booked him for two luncheons the same afternoon ... 

...  or making sure that there is paper in the &*$#ng fax machine before leaving for the evening ...

Details. Details, details, details. Details are what this job is going to be all about ... and details are what will prove to be my undoing, if I'm not reallllly careful and pay attention and take lots of notes and focus on what I'm doing ... instead of, say, playing with my wind-up chicken ... or planning website journal entries in my head ...

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Excerpts of an e-mail from my mom, who never fails to make me feel better:

" ... I just wanted to tell you the story of Carol--the school superintendent's secretary for the past 8 years and my good friend.

"Carol came to work in the district as the personnel office receptionist. She was bright, attractive and friendly. Everyone (meaning yours truly for one--so it must have been everyone) thought she was such a terrific asset to the front desk in personnel. Well, she wasn't there for long. Within a couple of months she was sitting outside the personnel director's desk and we all thought that was nice--the personnel director was a real dragon lady and so no one thought Carol would last any longer that the rest of Shirley's secretary's.

"In the meantime, my good friend Betty (the superintendent's secretary) was getting ready to retire. She had spent about two years grooming me to take her place and we were both supremely confident that I would get it. I applied for the job--so did Carol. I'd been with the district for nearly 25 years, she for about 2.

"To make a long and fairly painful story short. Carol took Betty's place and the whole building was indignant and there was a lot of unpleasant speculation about whether she was the right person for the job and if she would last, etc., etc.

"Over time, Carol has earned everyone's respect because she does exactly what the superintendent who hired her knew she would. She does her job with efficiency, creativity and class.

For myself, I will never be sorry that my response to hearing she had been hired was to go to her and congratulate her and offer my support. We work closely together because I do the school board secretarial work. We've roomed together at conferences, go to lunch and movies together and share secrets about our respective love lives (or lack of same).

"It can be lonely at the top. The lower chairs on the company totem pole will probably always react as they have with you. There are reasons you need to stay a little remote--you'll have a lot of confidential information and it's hard not to share it to be one of the gang. I very seldom spend any time in the coffee room anymore. But I always smile and have a friendly word for the ones who are still plugging away, I make it a point to know who they are and what they do. It will probably take some time but one of these days what is now unnatural will be normal and nobody will think anything but what a nice person works in the big boss's office. Be glad you now have a perfect excuse to hang out by yourself and read at lunch time. (Or, that you'll be making enough money to buy a really GOOD pair of comfortable shoes) ... "

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Excerpts of an e-mail from Mizz, who once again manages to zero in on THE most critical detail:

"... The devil truly IS in the details. There will be a honeymoon period here, I'm sure, as you and Franz get used to each other. The stuff about transcribing the voice mails, etc., is the easy stuff, and you'll get that under your belt pretty quickly. As I'm sure you've figured out, the tough part is really getting to understand Franz's job, the company, and how you can ease his way between those two. In my company ... the exec secretary ... does stuff that he never sees -- has become his silent co-CEO in some ways. I don't mean to scare you, but you are not merely a servant in this position. The more you can focus upon understanding Franz's role, the things that he cares about most (and LEAST, most of all LEAST), the more successful you will be. Details are certainly a big part of it, but I suspect that you will get that part right once you are "broken in," so to speak."

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And finally ... from Feef:

"...You took the ExecSec position, huh? Well thanks for TELLING us, you big Queer! I thought I was gonna hafta wait for the next installment of "Footnotes" to find out, and I planned to complain long and loud about that. After all, Guerrillas should get preferential treatment when it comes to these things.

"But I gotta tell you -- I was reading about those decisions made at 2:17 a.m. and 3:17 a.m. respectively, guffawing loudly, and thoroughly identifying.

"Hey -- congratulations! If you love it, you'll be making so much money that you can buy me a Panda Toaster like yours for Xmas! Gawd how I covet that toaster!! But if this Franz guy makes you all twitchy and you hate it, I hope you prove that you are far more intelligent than I have ever been and bail immediately! Honestly, I'd be perfectly happy next Xmas with a soft pretzel and a couple mustard packets."

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A huge, heartfelt thanks -- and a Panda Toaster next Christmas -- to all three of you.




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