Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In Which I Come Perilously Close to Dividing by Zero

Today is Secretary's Day*. I know, right? We make sure offices across America actually do something, anything, and we get our own artificial holiday, too? It's a betrayal of capitalism, I tell you.

Seriously, I know I am merely a secretary, to be derided and dismissed, doing "woman's work", without a college degree. I am generally referred to as one of the "girls"**, and any expression of gratitude for all the things I do every day to ensure that my bosses actually have work to bill for is delivered in a joking tone. Mind you, this is from the guy that doesn't know how to turn on a computer in a day and age when almost all filing with all courts is done electronically. Yeah, laugh away, buddy. I'm sure you could learn it all in the 20 days you have to file that brief.

This is a typical day for me:

Print out all emails. There are at least 20 every morning, most of them have Word or Adobe attachments. This takes at least half an hour.

Reply to emails in complete sentences translated from the vague instructions given. "Tell him I'm okay." Sure. I can make a paragraph out of that.

Type dictation. The boss who dictates is a nice guy, but I deeply suspect English is not his first language. (This is not unreasonable. His mother emigrated from France as an adult- after spending two years in a concentration camp. Oddly, he's the only partner who isn't Jewish.) In conversation he is fine, but as soon as he starts dictating, he entirely drops "a" and "the", subject-verb agreement, any understanding of singular and plural, all understanding of verb tense and, quite frequently, any remembrance that sentences require subjects and verbs. I have to translate that on the fly, for at least two hours every day.

Retype handwritten materials for the man who writes entirely in code. Technophobe boss handwrites his materials, which wouldn't be so bad, except that he abbreviates everything. That sentence, as written by this man, would be: Tnp bs hadwri h matls, w wn't be so bd exc tt he abb evyt. Wtf am I supposed to do with that?

Perform corrections to typed materials. Dictating boss can't spell. Really can't spell. And he has the handwriting of an otter on meth.

Answer constantly interrupting phone calls from complete idiots who don't listen to a word I say and who seem to think that I'm involved in some vast conspiracy to keep them from talking to their lawyer, who is standing right next to me and would love to take their phone call, if only I would let him. Oh, and they think they're funny.

Find files. In a file room larger than my house with no filing system whatsoever.

Make copies. Sometimes of entire files, sometimes of one page, because the person with the juris doctorate is too fucking good to put a sheet of paper on a copier and press start. It is beneath them.

Translate my boss for billing. My boss has me open files under a name he will never refer to the file by again. Which would be fine if he'd put the file number on the billing sheet. He doesn't. Which means that I spend a portion of each day trying to figure out which file he means to have billed for 2.5 hours of work.

Find [person]. Last week, in the driving rain, I spent my lunch hour wandering around downtown looking for an associate attorney. My boss needed to ask her a three word question that could not possibly have been that important to anyone, ever, in any alternate universe, not even the one where dividing by zero is possible and always results in purple.

That is a regular day for me, guys. That's not an extraordinary day where I get to type a 35 page brief in 2 hours or anything. Just a regular day.

For that, on Secretary's Day, I get . . . nothing. In years past, we all got huge baskets. "Hey, thanks for not greeting Mondays with a flamethrower, here's a gross of bagels!" Not this year. This year I get jack shit.

Here's a lesson in capitalism: my boss may as well have handed me a memo that said, "Please be as annoying and nonhelpful as you possibly can without getting fired. Seriously, have at it," because that's exactly what I'll be doing.

*Hilariously, there is a Boss' Day, but as I've said to my boss, every day is boss' day.

**I once inquired about child labor laws, but it sailed right over the attorneys' heads.


  1. Should I assume your overlords don't know about this blog?

  2. You mean the overlords that think the internet is a place you can visit physically?

  3. "You mean the overlords that think the internet is a place you can visit physically?"

    Oh. It's not? I'd better cancel that moving van.

    Also, that image made me think of a certain video game.

    Also also, I feel for you. It sounds like your workplace would greatly benefit from a custom database system that filed the stuff for you and made it easy to search and filter the whole lot (speaking from experience: I've designed a couple of those and they save rediculous amounts of time once you're past the initial learning-how-it-works phase), except that then you'd probably just be fielding more and more calls to print out the files for those who are allergic to the soft glow of the computer screen. Plus, since it'd mostly save you time, don't expect your bosses to shell out for it.


  4. I feel your pain.

    But seriously, don't feed you otter meth. It's only funny until they explode.

  5. sorry :(

    happy late Secretary's Day?
    of COURSE they didn't get you anything, they "gave you continued employment in these troubled times". at least, that's why my friend's boss told HER.

    and this is why i quit being a secretary - i got MORE respect [and more MONEY] working as a waitress at Waffle House.

  6. Thank god someone has said this.

    I'm a receptionist/personal assistant. I had an argument with my boyfriend last week, who is an electrician, about who's job is harder.

    He couldn't understand the concept that though his job is technically harder and requires more knowledge, he doesn't have to respond directly to the whims of his boss about everything. And boss's are the equivalent of toddlers.

    One small example - whenever my boss makes me get him lunch from a cafe, he will always order something that is not on the menu. So I have to stand there being that arsehole who can't just order off the fucking menu, regardless of how extensive it is, and who is pissing off all the staff.

    I doubt that if he had to order himself he would be so demanding. He'd just pick something off the menu.

    This is a small example of how receptionists/PA's/Admin chicks basically cop abuse from all sides (he would yell at me if they refused to do his weird order, they give me dirty looks if I do).

    I think in a way it is a feminist issue, because I have noticed that female admin staff who work closely with bosses are often treated like a surrogate mother/slave figure. I have seen bosses refuse to hire male admin people and I think it has to do with their discomfort of treating a man like that.


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