I’ve decided that I’m not suited for office work.
Of course, this really isn’t a surprise, considering that I’ve held one office job, ever, for a few months when I was 20-- a colorful patch of employment that ended in a spectacular inferno fueled by so many missing memos and lost message slips.
If she doesn’t already, Dr. S may soon regret that she didn’t ask for enumeration of my office credentials before taking me on as her graduate assistant. At the time, last winter, when she selected me for this opportunity, she was wooed by my creative writing pursuits, and by the fact that I’ll be around for awhile, considering that it’s going to take me an unnaturally long time to obtain my masters degree in English, having done all of my undergrad work in psychology.
I’m two weeks into the gig, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my particular graduate assistantship is likely going to wind up light on teaching, grading and literary pursuits, and heavy on the messages, copies and secretarial skills.
Too bad I don’t have any.
A typical shift—two hours, twice a week for me this semester—consists of taking messages, filing, making copies and sundry tasks.
Nearly 45 minutes into my Wednesday shift, I was still attempting to communicate vital information from the three messages I found on the voice mail. I had to replay each one any number of times, as the callers had random names with ambiguous spellings and a collective tendency to mumble. Ten post-it notes and five message slips later, I took at look at the filing. The folders were topped with notes containing ominous instructions such as “remove from program.” Quickly determining that no one’s academic future should be tossed to the erratic winds of my organizational guesswork, I moved right on to copies.
By this time, I was two hours in and ready to go home, but I had to put in an extra hour to make up for the shift I missed on Labor Day. I was pale and fighting the effects of vitamin D deprivation. My muscles were succumbing to atrophy. I was thankful for the opportunity to travel to the second floor copier, a fickle, computerized monstrosity with a tendency to die as soon as I cross the threshold.
I’ve never personally made copies. Generally, I look so confused, poking and peering at the copying device that some kind soul within the department takes the papers off my hands, and performs a little smoke and mirrors routine with the machine that I never seem to be able to replicate. The single time I attempted a complex, two-sided job, the machine instantly jammed and I stood there saying helpful things like “That’s not a good sign” as office personnel pulled shredded paper from deep within the inner workings.
I spent the last hour of my extended Wednesday shift attempting to impress Dr. S with my detective skills and web acumen in my attempts to dispose of a surplus piece of computer equipment I was asked to have removed. I scoured the campus directory for listings from three departments--IT, Housekeeping and Plant Operations—looking for the mysterious “warehouse” to which I was to banish the unwanted equipment. I came up empty, and finally had to ask for help. Wouldn’t you know, there’s a whole department called “Warehouse,” listed right under the W’s.
Of course Warehouse needed some forms before they’d even think about coming for the computer, so I had them talk me through a trail of links so I could download all the forms and have them ready for Dr. S. I spent no less than 20 minutes trying in vain to make the forms print. When Dr. S happened by, I casually mentioned that I was having a bit of trouble with the printer. Turns out, the computer is hooked up to three printers and a simple click of the mouse sends the printed matter right where you need it to go.
Of course, Dr. S. had already filled out the forms. They were sitting, all signed and dated right on top of the surplus computer.
On Friday, I made up my other missed Labor Day hour by attending a free lunch with Dr. S and taking the minutes of the Important Meeting that transpired over the sun dried tomato wraps and lemon cake. It was my duty to sit with my laptop like a court reporter, noting the details of key events.
Not knowing the names of the key players posed a bit of a challenge, but I soldiered on, typing up important quotes from “guy with the green tie,” “Justin, the student” and “Artsy guy in black.” Which would have all worked out just fine if my computer hadn’t frozen up just as “Important Person from the School District” made some fine observations that made Dr. S nod deeply in agreement.
I began making hasty notations on scratch paper with the pen I’d had the good sense to borrow just before the meeting began, but quickly discovered that I couldn’t keep up. Turning back to my computer, I discovered that my document was frozen, but the computer in general was not. I opened a new file and carried on, until THAT file froze as soon as I attempted to save it. By the time the meeting ended, I had the account thereof recorded on three unsaved files I hoped to keep on life support by plugging my computer into the outlet in the back of my van.
By the time I got home, my entire computer had locked up, and the annals of the Really Important Meeting would have been lost to history were I not married to a resourceful computer guy who managed to save two out of the three files.
Thank goodness for all that creative writing experience. Dr. S was right on. When it came to filling in the information from the missing file, it really came in handy.