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The Diva

Apparently, I've hit the big time. My employer has gotten me an assistant. Well, sorta. This is a two-week stint for a temp, who will answer the phones and file, and nothing else, while I catch up on a few neglected tasks (the list of which is about to get longer, starting next week).

I gripe about the phones a lot -- I don't mind talking to people, and it's mostly a matter of transferring calls over the PA, but what happens is, I'll be in the middle of something that requires a lot of analysis and detail, the phone rings, and then after the call is transferred, it takes me several valuable seconds to ask myself that age-old question "Now, where was I?" and retrace my steps. Providing, of course, that the party I paged picks up the first time. If not, I'm interrupted by the "Deedle-eedle-ee" of the ring-back and I get to do it all over again. Providing, of course, that the object of my page is even on the premises. If they're not, I can either offer them the cell number of the person they want to reach, or take a message. Message-taking isn't a high priority in our office; we don't even have pre-printed message pads. Because of this, I tend to scribble randomly on the wrong size Post-it note and then have to translate when the person eventually returns from wherever they were (usually the bathroom).

I just don't like the interruptions. I do, however, like the overtime that comes from playing catch-up with the filing.

Even with that, the multi-tasking gets to be a bit much, and the people who oversee our branch want me learning more stuff, which I'm all in favor of. To take off a bit of the pressure, we have Beverly (not her real name).

There's a saying out there:  There's a good reason why some people remain temps.

Beverly is a year younger than me. As of this writing, she is probably married, since the big event is planned for this weekend.


  • Couldn't find our office the first day, so she had her fiancĂ© call and get directions. He didn't identify himself that way, but I heard his voice again later when he called to speak to Beverly.
  • Still got lost on the way and arrived 10 minutes late.
  • Wears the type of outfits all the employment-advice columns tell you to avoid.
  • Ditto on the makeup.
  • And the hair (but then, I'm not one to judge hair. Give me a broom and couple of flying monkeys and I could have a new career...)
  • Worked about an hour and a half, then took off for an appointment she "couldn't reschedule." Most likely, it was related to the upcoming nuptials, which she...
  • Began talking about within 5 minutes of her arrival the first day.
    • Not because she was so terribly happy, but because she had serious misgivings about the guy.
      • He's a major control freak
        • But he obviously loves her a lot because...
          • He bought her a gun!  Yay!
  • Did come back, lo & behold, after about 2 hours.
That was day one.

During the ensuing week, she yawned roughly 63 times a day. I did keep track, but this is still a conservative estimate. More like a moving average. This apparently was something for her to do when she got tired of clearing her throat.  These are not "[quiet yawn with mouth covered] Excuse me!"  No, these sound like she's auditioning long-distance for the Atlanta Opera.  She has a two-octave range and can hold a note for over five seconds. It really is quite something. Some people chain-smoke. Beverly chain-yawns. When she combines this with stretching, people pause their phone conversations, stand, peek over the tops of their cubicles and say "Are you all right?"  

Here's a very representative illustration. Awesome, yes?

Now that we're all in agreement on that, I'll describe the rest of the week.

Understandably, she did not "get" the filing down to a science right away. She was very  helpful getting it put away, with new labels -- I got off to a roaring start in January but quickly fell behind, so we really were very happy to have her taking up the slack.

However, when one file turned up in not-quite-the-right-place, and she caught wind of this despite our best efforts not to give her any sort of a hard time about it whatsoever, we learned that she
  • is "a perfectionist" who
  • "can't sleep at night until everything is absolutely perfect"
  • maintains "higher standards than anyone expects" her to.
  • is "much harder on" herself than anyone needs her to be.
  • Gives "five hundred percent" on any job, any task, any assignment, no matter how big or small.
  • "would love to be hired permanently" at our company, since she knows she "would be a valuable asset." 
Resume?  What resume?  Oh -- her controlling fiancĂ© wants her to be a stay-at-home wife, so most likely, she'll just work part time.  What a loss for Corporate America!

I got treated to about an hour of this infomercial -- and yes, you guessed it, the phones were maddeningly quiet for most of the week. I did a happy dance every time it rang so that she could quit singing her own praises and let me get something done.

When she got tired of reminding us what an incredibly over-the-top potential employee she is, she made sure to remind us of how "underutilized" she is by virtue of not having a computer at her disposal.  Never fear, though, she does have a web-enabled smart phone. She kept the volume considerately low, but interspersed the yawns & stretches with periodic giggles at whatever she was viewing.  Cute little guns, perhaps?

A co-worker brought in some of his wife's homemade custard in a big container, complete with a spoon wrapped in foil.  "Oh, yummy, custard!" exclaimed Beverly, taking me up on the offer of a bowlful. But she didn't want to eat it just then - she'd save it for later.  "I'll just wrap it up with this," she said, snatching up the foil that was intended for the serving spoon and using it to cover her bowl.  There were homemade rolls, too. I saw her walk back to her desk with no less than four of those. She must have really liked 'em.

"Got a toaster?" she asked, and wasted no time finding the battered Proctor-Silex we keep way up at the top of the cupboard because not one person has used it since I started working there 19 months ago. I suspect the reason for this is that it gives off a less than pleasant odor when the coils heat up. Its history is a mystery ... but Bev wanted some toast in the afternoon, and I'm really glad we keep cinnamon air freshener handy in the kitchen as well. 

But I can't say she isn't generous.  She brought in a tiny dish of chocolate mousse from home, ate 3/4 of it (with ornate vocal descriptions of how incredible it was), then pointed the plastic spoon in my direction and asked "You want some?"

Each of the four days she's been with us so far, she has either asked for "a little money," just for a drink from the machine -- which she did pay back the next day -- or change for a $10 or a $20.

Each of the four days she's been with us, she's arrived at the office looking like some child colored her face with a different Crayola crayon. The hues range from Pale Yellow to Burnt Umber.  Beverly is a tan-a-holic, apparently. 

"I have just GOT to get to the yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah."  

I forgot to mention, Beverly prefers to make her most profound statements when she's right in the middle of one of her yawns.

"Get to the what?" I ask.

"The yaaa-in ah- on!"

No, Beverly does not speak any Chinese dialects -- she was simply trying to yawn "Tanning Salon," which I finally figured out after she added a bit of context.

Of course.  Silly me.

Since she didn't have time for the "ya-in-ah-on," she compensated by taking her 30-minute lunch in her car so she could "cop some rays." Except in Bev's world, 30 minutes is equivalent to 45 in ours.  More about Beverly's relationship with time below.

Most of you have figured out that "Vol-E" is not my real name, but for the purposes of this story, we'll continue pretending it is. Even so, "Vol-E" is not quite the same as "Valley."

One of Beverly's phone exchanges went something like this:

"Good morning, Consolidated.  Yes?  I think you need to speak to Vol-E.  One moment.  Oh, Valley, there's a lady on line one with a question!"

To her credit, though, when I picked up the phone saying "This is Vol-E, may I help you?"  I heard a loud gasp of dismay from her, followed by "Oh my goodness, I meant Vol-E..."  followed by another soliloquy about her impossibly high standards, etc. etc, which continued through my phone conversation and another ten minutes afterward.

Can you say "yaddah, yaddah, yaddah," boys and girls?  Sure you can!

The one phone that has the on-off switch for daytime vs. nighttime (voice mail) is at her desk, and I gave her instructions on how to use it. Very basic: You want the red light on in the morning, and off about 5 minutes before we close (or when I yell "Okay, Bev, kill the phone!"). In spite of this, on her third day, I asked her to shut down the phones; she said "Okey-doke," then ran for the door like her socks were on fire, and a call came in, an indication that she had not, in fact, properly turned off the phones. She was at the door, merrily waving me goodnight, phone ringing for all it was worth, and she took no notice whatsoever. The guys in other departments who take calls all day and look forward to the end of it were just overjoyed that afternoon.  That was the last time I took for granted that Beverly was going to take care of the phones before leaving.

And that brings us, finally, to Thursday. Friday and this coming Monday she's scheduled off, doing married-lady type stuff.  

At 2:45 pm, after her most spectacular, fortissimo yawn of the day (the one I think of as "The Grand Finale"), she turns to my supervisor (the one who "talks just like a guy I used to date -- just like him, OMG, it's incredible! Gives me chills!  Like a stalker movie!") and says "Vol-E and I have been talking about this, and she says I can leave early, since I have so much to do for the wedding and nothing's going on around here anyway."  The supervisor, not caring one way or another, just wanting to concentrate on the huge mountain of work he has to get through every day, said "Sure." 

"Great!"  Five seconds later, she's at my desk, one hundred percent fully packed and ready to go.  She was probably packed before lunchtime. 

"I already sent in my time card, but you have a copy, so just revise it and fax it to my supervisor, saying I left at four o'clock."

I looked at my computer, just to make sure, and then at the little gimme desk clock from the company. Digital on my right, analog on my left, and both say the same thing:

"Bev, it's three o'clock."

"Huh????" she replies, in this squeaky little voice.

"Three o'clock.  Not four.  Two fifty-eight, if you want to get really technical."

It's true that our office is situated about 45 minutes away from where the time zone changes, but nonetheless, there's no way to have a disagreement about the time. I'd be willing to bet she was debating whether to try that angle, or perhaps the old Jimmy Buffett "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" gambit.  Instead, she screwed her face up into this hilarious burlesque of pain and bewilderment, sort of like someone with an acute case of really bad poison ivy, and when that didn't have any effect, she said "Right, well, that's an hour and thirty minutes early, I guess." Correct, I said.  Have a lovely wedding and honeymoon, and we'll see you next Tuesday.  

And you better believe I had that time sheet revised and faxed to her agency before she was even out of the parking lot.

Looking forward to one more peaceful work day before the curtain rises again.


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