The Coffee Maker (that’s my street name)

If you go to Google and type in “define: secretary”, this is just one example of what your results will be:

An assistant who handles correspondence and clerical work for a boss or an organization.

Oh, please.  Give us more credit than that.

These days, most companies hiring a secretary…ahem, I mean administrative assistant, require a bachelor’s degree.  Why?  I have no idea.  It’s not really all that difficult to operate a copier machine or a printer. In the case of a malfunction, I just push a few buttons in no logical sequence whatsoever until the red light stops flashing.  When my computer freezes, I turn it off and curse at it, hoping to make it feel like the soulless bastard it is, and restart it again.  That usually works. The machines just need to know who’s in charge. 

It’s the secretary.

I also operate a multi-line phone system and a two-burner coffee maker that calls itself a part of the “Professional” series.  I’m surprised a bachelor’s degree is all that’s required.  With all this technology coming at me, I just might need to get myself a master’s degree in engineering.  No, I probably won’t need a degree in IT.  That’s what the IT department is for.  I only need to have the smarts to pick up the main line of my multi-line phone system and call the IT department.  I’m sure they teach that in college.  Of course, I was lucky enough to learn all my secretarial skills in the school of hard knocks.  Or, you know, by just having common sense.    

I, being a secretary (without a bachelor’s degree, no less), know a lot more than people might think I know.  Do you want to know what I know (and what every other secretary in America knows)?  Here we go:

  1. I know your birthday, your home phone number, your address, your spouse’s name, your parents’ names. your personal email, your spouse’s email, your parents’ emails, and 10 different ways to bug the crap out of you on your day off.
  2. I know the first names of our maintenance staff, our café staff, the building managers and their staff, the catering staff, and the UPS/FedEx delivery men.  (FedEx guy’s real name is not Mr. McDreamy, but oh, he is so dreamy).  They probably don’t appreciate being called “Maintenance Guy” or “UPS Man”.
  3. I know why you’re calling in sick because you’re giving me every single gory detail of the night you just spent in the bathroom pulling your head out of the toilet and changing your shorts.  STOP TELLING ME THIS STUFF!  It’s not that I don’t care about you, I just don’t care to hear about it.  “Awww, you’re sick?  Hope you feel better soon!”  and *CLICK*. 
  4. I know when you’re in a bad mood or a good mood just by the look on your face when you walk into the office.  You’ve shared both kinds of moods with me personally, sometimes simply because I’m just the secretary and not a supervisor.  As long as you don’t make me feel like I’m just the secretary, I’ll believe that you’re not a bitch.  Sounds fair to me.
  5. I know we are not magicians.  Of course, I had those kinds of expectations placed on me in my prior hotel management positions, so…maybe I am?
  6. I know I do everything in my power (which, sadly, isn’t a whole lot) to keep other directors from calling you on your day off.  I believe in days off.  Very, very strongly. 
  7. I know I have never spit in the coffee.  I’d rather just not talk to you and give you dirty looks all day.  That sounds like the more mature route, don’t you think?
  8. I know that when your director causes such a disgraceful and rude commotion with an outside vendor that we heavily rely on for services, I will call the vendor back and apologize for her behavior.  Corporate enemies = crappy quality and sabotage = more work for the secretary.  Besides, very few mistakes in business warrant getting screamed at by a customer.  Lives are not at stake here, people.  And in our office, deadlines are laughable.  Why take them seriously now?
  9. I know I roam the internet throughout the day.  Sure, I check my Facebook account and read some blogs here and there, but did you ever wonder where that article on preparing middle school students for college came from?  Or how about that study on the high school dropout rate in the Southeastern United States?  The internet is a treasure chest filled with intellectual booty!  It is my job to find for you the things you need to make your job easier.
  10. I know, and you probably know by now, I hate my job.  I like you, but I hate my job.

I’m working on my bachelor’s degree now in Supervision and Management.  My job has taught me a few things, one of them being that I do not want to run my operation like this.  I like order and organized chaos and excitement and knowing what the hell is going on at any given moment of any given day.  I feel like I’m missing this at work. 

Another thing I’ve learned at my job is that I don’t like being the secretary.   If I ever have one of my own, I will certainly never demand that she make me coffee.  In fact, I’d like to send her off to Starbucks and pick me up something…and a little something for herself.  Then we’ll sip our iced caramel lattes while I pat her on the back, all motherly-like, and say, “There, there…let me tell you about a time when I was a secretary.”

While there is an upside to being the secretary, such as providing free emotional therapy as well as turning my desk into our office’s version of the water cooler,  I can’t do this for much longer.  My brain is turning to mush and I’m losing my abilities to think outside the box and to remember important things. Very important things!  I was hoping to entertain you all with a little clip from one of my favorite New Twilight Zone episodes, but unfortunately, the episode called But Can She Type? is nowhere to be found on YouTube.  But if you are, or ever were, a secretary, than this is for you (where being a secretary is a rather glamorous line of work):

http://postcardsfromthezone.blogspot.com/2006/01/131-but-can-she-type.html

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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2 Responses to The Coffee Maker (that’s my street name)

  1. Aunt Debby says:

    Dena, that was great and so many can identify with this! You captured the frustrations perfectly! I so enjoy your blogs. Aunt Debby

  2. Maira says:

    I insist Dena…u are so talented….u should be doing other things…u are an excellent secretary…but so wasted there…..I wish you the best because you deserve it!

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