Something Has Happened…Notes on a Scandal

Responsibility without power, the fate of the secretary through the ages.
– Ariel Dorfman
 

Tomorrow I’ll finally (hopefully) have that long-awaited talk with Chief about this big to-do that went nowhere.  The whole experience has been more than a little ridiculous, a lot of drama and politicking for next to nothing to show for it, and I feel that I may be on the chopping block for it.  Now, Common Sense is arguing pretty solidly that Chief isn’t going to fire me for trying to accept an offer that would have bettered my long-term work circumstances…but Paranoia is hinting darkly that he may for no other reason than he feels I tried to betray him and the department.  Which isn’t true in the slightest, but I know by now that if someone wants to think the worst nothing will dissuade them.  

That'll teach you to not to use your spell check!
Little known 11th plague, whch wiped out all the scribes and secretaries.

The truth is, Dr. F’s offer meant the one thing that the Police Department cannot give me: a promotion.  By moving to the IS office I would have become the office manager and supervisor (what Susie is to me now).  Promotions in the PD are hard to come by.  Something truly biblical would have to happen, at least three other people would have to die suddenly in order for me to receive a new position, and as those people are my close friends the whole situation would probably prove traumatic.  Even Wise, when she left my position for her current one, didn’t move UP the proverbial ladder at all, her new responsibilities didn’t come with a higher grade or more money or more recognition, if anything it was a big step sideways.  Now although Dr. F implied more money for me (certainly with the upcoming University annual raise), the reason I wanted to accept this position is not so mercenary as that. 

J. and I have no idea where we will be next year for his graduate program.  California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Massachusetts, Utah, or Gibraltar, for all I know.  And we won’t know for several months yet.  But there is a good chance that we will be moving and now is the time to start brushing up my resume.  I’ve been encouraged to take IT training classes to fill my free hours during the Spring/Summer, but I’m also taking them to add to my list of hireable skills.  I’ve been reviewing past projects I’ve worked on to see what else I could do to make me appealing to potential future employers.  And when Dr. F offered me the chance to move up to a manager’s position, I wanted to accept it because the additional experience and responsibilities would have made me more desireable in the workplace (because, if you haven’t noticed, it’s a cold, cold, dark hiring situation out there and a girl needs all the help she can get). 

I hope I’m not going to be punished for trying to improve my situation, but I’m forced to entertain the possibility that I might.  My dark humor cannot help but picture me at job interviews, “So, why did you leave your job at the PD?”  “Well, I wasn’t trying to…”  but I don’t totally expect it.  Que sera sera.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this whole event from a new perspective and I’ve come to some conclusions. 

First, there is no way that being a secretary is going to make me perfectly happy, fulfilled, or satisfy the immortal longings of my soul.  It is, in many ways, an utterly thankless job and acts of recognition are few and far between.  This irks me because I am a pretty ambitious woman, I like to move forward (and hopefully up) and dislike doing good work and receiving no credit for trying to be a good employee.  However, that is the nature of the beast.  I’m extremely well-educated but not at all qualified to do anything.  Margot and Venice are trained teachers, Janssen is a trained librarian, Brando is a trained stockbroker, Dad is a trained lawyer, Mum is a trained scholar…most of the people I know are a trained something.  What I’ve got (besides an encyclopedic knowledge of useless facts) is a good brain, common sense, and organizational skills, and these are apparently in pretty high demand because not everyone in my office has those. 

Second, I get frustrated, annoyed, and downright furious sometimes at how ridiculous my office can be and what I really need to learn is to let that go.  I can’t fix it, I can’t make the powers that be see sense, and things are not going to change.  I often feel that I’m smarter than my job, and I don’t think I’m entirely wrong.  In fact I think I’m positively right, but dwelling on that fact doesn’t change my circumstances and usually only serves to make me angry at my situation.  And hey!  I’ve got a job!  That’s a lot to be thankful for. 

Third, my job does not challenge me.  And I need to be challenged, as anyone who knows me at all will attest.  But it doesn’t and won’t and I need to stop fighting that fact.  What I need to do is adopt an Edwardian attitude towards it and make my life, as a secretary, my art.  Being an office monkey isn’t difficult, but being a class act and making it appear easy…now that’s a challenge! 

While I'm confessing, though, I think what I really want is the sense of value she gets. It's subtle but it's real. I'd love to be called into a meeting and have someone's reaction be, "C.. What a good idea."

In fact, while working out with Margot, it came to me in a flash of brilliance.  What I need to be, is Joan Halloway.  Er, minus the having salacious affairs with the men of my office (shudder).  Joan doesn’t necessarily want to be a secretary, but she enjoys being good at what she does and likes working.  She’s impeccably put together.  You don’t mess with her because she will take you apart (classily, but viciously).  And if you’re making an office coup, or some guy’s foot gets chopped off by a lawn mower, or someone is out because they’re having a baby and didn’t know they’re pregnant to begin with – Joan will locate your files, make a tourniquet out of a scarf, and step in to take over your correspondence.

I don’t have to adore being a secretary…but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a damn good one anyway.

4 thoughts on “Something Has Happened…Notes on a Scandal”

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