to go: 607.48
remember how to change the back-up tape, right?" JoAnne asks me again,
an unmistakeable wobble of doubt in her voice.
afternoon, and the two of us are standing in front of a towering bank
of network servers and computer-related gizmos, going over
a list of basic office administration duties. Part of me -- the part of
me that hates to be criticized, even if the criticism is oblique and
constructive and utterly non-threatening -- the part of me that chafes
at authority, even really really nice
authority -- the part of me that resents being treated like a
four-year-old, except in the endodontist's office maybe (and then only
if he gives me a Vicodin lollipop afterwards) -- that's the part of me
that wants to snap "Yes of COURSE I remember how to change the back-up
tape." A bivalve
could change the back-up tape, forcryingoutloud. It's not
the other part of me
new/improved/super-calm/hormonally-regulated part of me -- is able to
reign in her snottier emotional impulses these days.
in front of
her really really nice
don't you show me
one more time?" I say to JoAnne sweetly. "Just to make sure I've got
can't exactly blame
her for being worried. The last time
she went off on vacation
and left me in charge, it turned out to be a disaster of
Ishtarian proportions. (Around The Dirt Company they still whisper
about the afternoon they found me on the floor of the supply closet,
huddled in a fetal position, whimpering
"Benzene, toluene, methyl tertiary butyl ether.")
No wonder she's nervous about going out of town again next week.
*I* would be nervous
about leaving *me* in charge, too.
to be on the safe
side, we're reviewing the entire Administrative Department Procedures
Manual from beginning to end. Do I remember how to assign a P.O.
Number? Do I have any questions about boring logs? (Yes!
When they grow up,
do they become interesting
logs?) Do I understand the difference between an invoice and a
statement? She shows me where to find the company credit card, the
company checkbook, the critically-important emergency phone numbers
(building management, the local police, Kinko's, Four-Star Pizza). She
drills me on sieve analysis forms, accelerated blast valve forms,
parallel flange indicator forms, fax toner cartridges.
is going to
be just fine," I say to her, in my most soothing, most efficient
Super-Ass tone of voice. "Just go and have fun in Las Vegas."
she still looks
doubtful. What if Armand drops into town, unexpectedly? What if the air
conditioning breaks down again? What if we run out of Moisture Barrier
Intrusion Handbooks, or the ancient Minolta copier blows another
gasket, or somebody breaks into the lunchroom and steals all of the
little fruity sponge snack things?
if her incredibly
efficient, incredibly reliable Super Assistant has another major
realize, of course, is that this time around
I have a new secret
weapon in my arsenal.
It's been like night and
I've been taking the
meds for three months now -- long enough to officially quit calling
them "the new meds," I suppose -- and it feels like someone has thrown
open the curtains, somewhere deep inside of my brain. All of a sudden I
can see sunlight filtering through the windows again.
Every single day of
We're not talking
a miracle drug here. The "meds" are simply your basic, garden-variety
birth-control pills: a nice, manageably-low dose of estrogen and
progestin, taken every night at bedtime. It's not the first time in my
life that I've been on The Pill, but it is
the first time that I've taken it for reasons other than birth control.
At this point in my evolution, I'm a lot less interested in the Pill's
prophylactic qualities than I am in the cycle- and mood-regulating
the reason I finally started taking it again, after a couple of years
of resisting the idea. Using artificial hormones to regulate my wacky
non-artificial hormones seemed ... I don't know ... counterintuitive,
somehow. Unhealthy. Slightly perverse. Plus it seemed as though for
every five articles I read, touting the benefits of oral contraceptives
to treat perimenopausal symptoms, there was another article screaming
about risks! risks! risks!
... especially for Women Of A Certain Age. All can tell you is
that by last spring things had spun completely out of control. I was
regularly losing five or six days a month to hormonal horror ... and
that was during the good
months. I was at the end of my rope. I needed help. I'd tried
everything else, and nothing worked.
This was my last
It took a couple of
months, once I got the prescription filled and started taking the meds,
for everything to kick in and settle down and start working the way
it's supposed to work -- break-through bleeding was a problem the first
month, erratic moods the second month -- but now that I'm on my fourth
little plastic container of pills, I can tell you that I absolutely
feel the difference. This isn't placebospeak. This isn't the 'do-I-feel-it-or-don't-I?'
uncertainty of the herbal remedies. We're talking about actual,
verifiable results. I'm more 'regular' now, for one thing: that's the
most noticeable and dramatic difference. No more waiting ten weeks (or
ten minutes) between periods ... and never knowing which it was
be, from month to month. I know exactly
when stuff is going to happen, now. (And then when it does
happen, it's about as offensive and disruptive as a hiccup.) I've
some of my natural energy back. I'm free of killer cramps and chronic
headaches. The weird mid-cycle food cravings are gone, along with the
bloating and the edema and the muscle aches. My skin is starting to
clear up -- for a while there, my face was beginning to resemble the
surface of Mars -- and I'm losing that bruised-and-battered look, under
my eyes, mainly because I'm actually getting some sleep at night.
I'm interested in ...
uhhhhhh ... playing Yahtzee again. David was getting tired of rolling
those dice all by himself, I think.
Best of all, I finally
seem to be getting a grip on my runaway emotions again. I'm not doing
handsprings, exactly: I still have my share of blue moods
and cranky spells and stoopid unprovoked *Boo Hoo* Moments. (Tensions
between The New Girl and I, for instance, seem unavoidably headed
toward fullscale war.) But overall I just feel markedly less
overwhelmed ... especially during the fourth week of the month. No more
sitting at my desk, weeping into my Italian Dark Roast. No more telling
the Good Morning People to go to hell. No more stoopid one-sided fights
with David. Just this past week, I found myself being nice to a
telemarketer ... graciously accepting a grammatical correction [damn! damn! I KNEW it was 'laid']
... politely asking a group of children to to stop screaming outside my
kitchen window ... all without yelling or crying or using the sort of
language that used to make my Grandma blush. I feel calm and centered
and more emotionally stable than I've felt in a couple of years. I
don't even remember what
The 72 Hours From Hell
(OK. That's a lie. I
what they felt like ... which is why I'm so damn thrilled NOT
to be feeling that way anymore.)
the time we've
finished reviewing and quizzing and double-checking for accuracy, I'm
feeling pretty confident. In fact, I'm feeling as though I could do my
JoAnne's job at the same time. Blindfolded. In the middle of a
hurricane. Wearing hideously uncomfortable shoes. Surrounded by howling
is good, since
that's pretty much exactly what next week is going to be like. (Except
part about being blindfolded, maybe.)
there anything we've
forgotten to go over?" JoAnne asks again.
remind her that in an
emergency I've always got the Administrative Department Procedures
Manual to rely on. Plus I've got her cell phone number, her hotel
information, her personal e-mail address and her ICQ number.
is going to
be OK," I say to her gently. "Put a quarter in the slots for me."
she seems to
relax a little -- Maybe Secra
won't burn the office down, after all
-- and she goes back to her office to take care of a few
last-minute/pre-vacation odds and ends. I sit at my desk with a rare
mid-afternoon cup of coffee and reflect on next week. I have no
illusions that it's going to be easy. "Prepared" or not -- fortified by
groovy meds or not -- I know that next week is still going to be about
as much fun as an eighth-grade Spanish Class Christmas party. (Minus
the soggy bean dip and the José Feliciano records, maybe.
But still.) Without JoAnne around to yell at people and manage
and run interference, I'm going to be a sitting duck for every bit of
Dirt Company folderol and nonsense.
nonsense are Dirt Company specialties ... along with mold remediation
and eight kinds of boring logs.
I'm glad that
last June's hormonal fiasco hasn't permanently eroded my supervisor's
trust in me as a back-up. She could
have hired a temp (or a babysitter) to look after the office in her
absence. But she didn't. She's trusting me to do it. I'm being given a
second chance here -- a shot at a little Dirt Company redemption -- and
I'm not going to screw it up this time.
on purpose, anyway.
throw a rock