to go: 594.92
New Girl and I are
the only two people in the office so far this morning.
saw her when I was
letting myself through the door a few minutes ago: she's sitting alone
in her cubicle, at the very end of the hallway. Frankly, I'm amazed to
see her here so early: she's never in the office before eight o'clock. As a matter
of fact, most days -- depending on the excuse du jour ("I
missed my bus/I disabled my alarm clock/I think I've got food
-- we don't see her until the middle of the morning.
probably be annoyed to find her here in the office already. Then
again, I would probably be annoyed to find ANY
of my co-workers here already. Coming in to the office early, before
anybody else arrives, is one of the chief pleasures of my professional
life. It gives me a bit of rare, precious,
increasingly-difficult-to-come-by *Alone Time.* It gives me a chance to
upload a little caffeine into my system before the phones start
ringing. It clears my head and empties my "In" Basket and allows me to
gear up for the day ahead. The mere presence of another human being
here in the Dirt Company office -- even if that other human being is
all the way down the hall, sitting in her cubicle with her headphones
on, ignoring me completely -- upsets the delicate balance of *Alone
here's the amazing
thing. I'm not annoyed.
a matter of fact,
I'm actually glad
that she's here. I've been waiting for an opportunity like this one
ever since our last Stoopidly Unpleasant Encounter, earlier this week.
I feel like I handled the whole thing very badly, as usual. Instead of
getting all snippy and defensive, I should have either explained
to her in a calm, rational manner that I am not
her personal assistant, placed here on earth in
order to lick her envelopes/unjam her faxes/rinse out her coffee
cups/facilitate her late arrivals and early departures ... or else I
should have just told her to go to hell and been done with it.
hang up my coat and
march down the hallway toward the Marketing Department,
tell The New Girl how I really feel.
and for all.
on my *Just Because* List.
From The Aluminum
Company to The Knife Factory ... from The Tuna Label Manufacturer to
The Doomed Newspaper ... from The Auto Body Shop to The Fitness Club to
The Totem Pole Company ... there has always been at least one
co-worker, every place I've ever worked, towards whom I've felt an
immediate, illogical, profoundly visceral dislike, for no reason
them 'just because.'
This is not to be
confused with *The Person I Don't Like Because They're A Big Pompous
Gasbag* (Redneck Jerry; Jesus of TicTac; The VP of BFD) ... or *The
Person I Don't Like Because They Have An Annoying Personal Habit That
Drives Me Out Of My Mind* (The Main Marketing Guy and his stoopid
whistling) ... or *The Person I Don't Like Because They're Really,
Really Icky* (Droopy; Buttcrack Steve; The Constipated Little
That's a whole
kind of 'dislike.'
*The Person I Don't
Like (Just Because)* rarely does anything to actively merit my
Most of the time they're perfectly nice, perfectly normal people. Most
of the time, everybody else in the office likes them just fine. As far
as I can tell, it's purely a chemical reaction on my part ... one of
those weird, oil-and-water things you just can't explain. Keep your oil
molecules as far away from my water molecules as possible, and we'll
probably get along just fine.
Put your oil molecules
in the same vicinity as my water molecules ... and the universe
That's how it's been
with The New Girl and me.
You may not believe
this, but I was actually planning to be friends with The New Girl, when
she was first hired to be Jane's assistant. I really like Jane, for one
thing. I saw how overworked she was, day after day. I tried to step in
and pick up some of the slack until she hired an assistant, by
pitching in and doing as many of the Marketing Department shidt jobs as
I could -- typing her correspondence, babysitting her faxes, running
her copies, making her lunch reservations. But I had my own towering
pile of shidt jobs to take care of every day, of course, and I couldn't
be of as much help to her as I wanted to be. Jane needed an assistant
of her very own. I helped her sort through
résumés and send out 'no-thank-you' letters. I
felt her disappointment when the first couple of candidates didn't work
out. I genuinely shared her joy the day The New Girl signed the job
What I hadn't counted
on, I guess, was taking one look at The New Girl and having that
instantaneous *Just Because* thing happen.
I hadn't counted on
pretty much loathing her on sight, for no reason I could ever pinpoint.
I hadn't counted on feeling vaguely irritated by everything
about her: her voice, her clothes, her pigtails, her facial
expressions, the way she stomps up and down the hallway all day long
... the way she eats everything that isn't nailed down and never gains
a pound ... the way you can hear her laughter from all the way down the
hall, morning, noon and night.
And I certainly hadn't
counted on turning into a cold, crabby, hateful bitch every time her
oil molecules come within a four-foot radius of my water molecules.
heart is banging
against my larynx as I walk down the hallway toward The New Girl's
may look cool and
calm and professional on the outside, but on the inside I am a
nineteen-year old Assistant Manager on her way to deliver her first
attendance violation warning. Part of me wants to turn around and head
back to the front desk and just leave things the way they are, with
neither one of us speaking to each other unless absolutely necessary.
Maybe uneasy silence IS
better than confrontation. Who knows? But I don't turn around. I keep
going. I've been stewing about this all week: knowing that the
situation is just going to continue to deteriorate unless I take
control ... unless I grab The New Girl by the pigtails, as it were, and
shake her as hard as I can. And I'm never going to have a better
opportunity than right now, while the two of us are alone in the
office, and the caffeine in my bloodstream is still fresh, and there's
nobody around to hear either one of us scream.
I remind myself
of all the things I want to say.
was a 'receptionist' in 1978, I
could begin by saying. Back
when you were still eating crayons and toddling around in your training
pants. I could inform her that
I've got twenty-five years' worth of admin experience, including a
couple of years as the Executive Ass to the CEO of a major engineering
company, so treating me as though I'm vaguely incompetent all the
time is incredibly insulting. I could point out that technically I am
JoAnne's assistant -- a member of the admin staff -- and therefore I
should not be coming into the office every day and finding my "In
Basket" filled with all of the Marketing Department shidt jobs that she
didn't get around to doing. I could further point out that unlike some
of our larger Dirt Company affiliate offices, our tiny group prides
itself on its self-sufficiency and spirit of cooperation. In
this office, I could say to her,
we ALL try to carry
our own weight. We don't shove a
35-page fax into the machine and then walk away from it for the rest of
the morning, expecting that Someone Else will make sure it goes
through. We don't accumulate eleven days' worth of dirty coffee cups in
our cubicle and then dump them all at once into the lunchroom sink,
assuming that Someone Else will come along and sandblast them clean at
the end of the day. We don't use the very last hanging file
folder/drink the very last Coke/run the very last twenty dollars' worth
of postage on the meter without mentioning it to Someone ... preferably
the Someone who does the supply ordering. (Namely: me.) This
is a place of business, I could
remind her sternly. Not a
playground or a fitness club or a singles bar.
If you want to flirt with The Main Nerdy Geoscience Guy, do it on your
own time ... and don't
do it in the middle of the front lobby while I'm trying to answer the
phones. Don't "borrow" stuff from my desk without asking. Don't refer
to me as "the receptionist" when you're talking to people on the phone.
Don't spell my name with a 'y,' goddammit.
offered me your job before they gave it to you,
I could say to her. But I
couldn't afford the cut in salary.
I storm into her
cubicle, The New Girl looks up at me, all Gwyneth Paltrow sincerity
and wide, unblinking blue eyes. (She
wear any makeup, does she?
mutters the Bad Angel, sitting on my left shoulder. God,
we hate her.)
says, pulling her headphones off and smiling at me tentatively.
think I owe you an
apology," I say, swallowing hard. "Can we start all over again?"
I hold out my hand
throw a rock