Our department has quite the accumulated dating history and insight. Between the roller coaster romances of our student employees and the dozens of people we caution, cite, and arrest for stalking, we are connoisseurs of crazy love. Here’s some wisdom gleaned in the last two weeks.
(Discussing when to make a move to hold a girl’s hand)
Bebe: You just have to feel her vibe. If she wants you to hold her hand or kiss you, she’ll let you know.
Stuckford: Her vibe, huh?
Bebe: Yeah. Feel her vibe.
C.: Just, ah, don’t feel anything else!
(Know the correct name for foreign foods you intend to order. For example, when desiring polenta do not say…)
Random girl one of our officers went out with: I like Italian food. I’ll have the placenta.
And finally, if you’re married, don’t ask out one of your co-workers! Trust me, that news will travel
Michael: Yeah…the bishop’s going to have something to say about that.
C.: …And God. Daisy: Well, I hit him on the head with a book and said “Begone!” It worked.
“But I feel…I don’t know…” “Daisy. Allow me to disabuse you of this social-moral qualm. It is perfectly all right to not want to go out with a guy who seems to be universally disliked, who’s married and has a kid.” “Ok!” – Daisy and C.
Our department is a pit of intrigue and private vice. Or, rather, it would be a pit of intrigue and private vice if we weren’t so poisonously good and had such marvelous senses of humor.
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.
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!
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.
“Is this Plymouth? We’ve just come from Plymouth. We’ve gone round in circles, lads…”
– Eddie Izzard
I’ve decided to just stop panicking. First of all it’s exhausting and unsustainable, and second panicking will have absolutely no effect on my fate anyway. For all I know, Chief is just as puzzled as the rest of us seem to be and just wants to get my side of the story. Of course, he could also be preparing the Iron Maiden and Rack, but I’m choosing to be optimistic.
So, we’ll continue as if nothing is wrong until next Monday. Play along. There’s every chance that I’ll lose my cool and completely disintegrate into a useless puddle sometime over the weekend and I may need you to drag me out of whatever darkened corner I’ve thrown myself, in the fetal position, into.
In other news, my whole family seems to be finding life Stateside a bit of a chore. Mum is putting a house together, Dad is job hunting and running his small business, Gio is pacing rings in the carpet trying to work (in spite of torrential rains at our Uncle’s house where he is staying) and waiting for university to start, Buddy and Snickers are “looking forward” to (another) new school.
“One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least someone is listening.”
– Franklin P. Jones
…and it seems utterly surreal. Last week, Dr. F called me up and asked me to go to lunch with him. Dr. F, as a refresher, was my boss for three years as a student when I worked in the International Student Services office on campus. It was a fantastic place to work, I was sorry when I graduated and was forced to give it up (although I was otherwise perfectly done with university for the time being). Maetanikei works there, as does Dr. S, whose favorite pastime is to pull me into his office and talk England. I loved the people, the office vibe, and most importantly the work: helping international scholars navigate the incomprehensibly tortuous immigration and visa laws.
And suddenly, munching on Subway sandwiches, Dr. F offered me a job.
Completely out of the blue. I choked a bit on my lettuce while my brain scrambled to catch up as he went on. He asked me to find a way to transfer departments, as the ISS office hasn’t had a full time office manager since the University put the kibosh on all hiring, and apparently they are suffering. The nature of the hiring freeze is such that transfers can be allowed (with sufficient groveling) though, and so he made me an official offer, as long as I could work it out with the Police Department.
As you may imagine, I spent the weekend in a fog of panic, excitement, and confusion. I felt that accepting was the right decision, but that didn’t mean it would be easy to inform people of my decision. The only times I’ve left jobs was when I graduated, or when Dad took us off to a foreign country!
Unfortunately it took less than an hour after lunch for the specter of Corporate Loyalty and his hired goons to find me and work me over and by the time I got home that night I was in psychological knots.
“Hennessy will have to take over lots, and so will Wise,” I thought to myself, wringing my metaphoric hands. “I’ll be leaving them completely in the lurch. I’m an awful person for even considering this! Angst angst angst!”
At the same time, Ambition hovered slyly on my peripherals. “Who knows where J. and you will be in a year? An office manager and supervisor is a lot higher up on the hierarchy than an entry level secretary, after all. Your resume and skill set would be upped tenfold. Any future job searches would be vastly enhanced with such credentials. You are an idiot for even thinking twice.”
“Well, yes, but…,” murmured Niceness, ” although we’ve had our managerial issues with some department decisions and projects, I have no desire to put them in a bind. Especially the ladies who would have to take on my responsibilities in addition to their own, as my absence could not be filled until the freeze is lifted by unfeeling, un-hearing HR gods.”
“Um, hello!” snapped Practicality. “We’ve had multiple responsibilities taken away from you this year, and not had a lot to replace them with. We’ve also streamlined lots of the stuff you do to cut down on unnecessary time being wasted doing simple things. We’re a good employee, and our current department is not in the position to offer us a raise, promotion, or manager’s job in the near future. This is a genuine opportunity, kid.”
“Not to mention,” put in my Sense of Nobility, “it’s work you know you enjoy and feel strongly about, yes? You feel as if you’re doing something important there.”
“Whose side are you on?” demanded my Guilt.
“Truth, honor, justice, and right,” answered Nobility smugly.
“You’re no help,” Guilt mutter and turned back to face Ambition and her lot. “You don’t understand how badly I feel about some of this. Not that I have the offer, but what its effect is going to be on my friends and co-workers.”
Sympathy finally perked up. “We get it, Guilt. We do. But honestly, we feel that the benefits outweight you. Maybe when you’ve had a lie down, this won’t seem quite the drama you think.”
“To put it nicely,” said Practicality, “you’re outvoted.”
“I’m heavier!” Guilt yelled in desperation.
“You could stand a diet,” Ambition muttered under her breath, after which a chilly silence descended as Guilt turned up an injured nose and stalked off to a corner to sulk.
I, me, C., paced a while longer thinking hard. To everyone’s credit, they managed to stay quiet. Even when I tried to reexamined each emotion or get a second opinion from my Conscience, which was oddly quiet on all of this. In fact the only input it had was, “Is this a matter of life and death? Morality? Ethics? No. You’re on your own here, C. If you needed to consult me you would have done so. This is a purely mortal, terrestrial, uninteresting topic, not my department. I’m going back to pondering the Universe.”
Finally I threw my shoulders back and announced I’d come to a decision. Guilt huffed in the corner but refused to turn around. Ambition smiled benevolently, while Sympathy patted Guilt on the shoulder but gave me her attention. Even my Sense of Nobility was twiddling her thumbs, the picture of innocence, hypocritical thing!
“We’re doing it.”
Cheers and acclaim, even from those who hadn’t been consulted. Guilt sniffed and muttered something about how we’re listening to her less and less. I let her wander off. No doubt when the day of transfer actually comes I’ll give her a holiday to nag me about what I could have forgotten to train Hennessy on, but Practicality is right. She’s outvoted.
Tiny twinges of guilt aside, I was going to do it.
“The play’s the thing…”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet
There are countless versions, interpretations, and the occasional horrifying slaughter of Shakespeare so the choices are vast, but I was raised from a young age with the Bard. And so will my children be. Thus I bring you, C.’s Definitive Guide to Obligatory Shakespeare Adaptations:
The Taming of the Shrew
The best version of this is The Taming of the Shrew, Franco Zefferelli’s 1967 version staring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Why? Because however you choose to read the original play (pro wife-beating, proto-feminism, lighthearted, or sinister), Zefferelli’s adaptation turns the tale into a marriage of equals perfectly suited to one another. Taylor’s Katherine is the less-loved daughter of a man who dotes on her sister (Bianca, a spoiled and manipulative wench). She’s second best and spends most of her day hearing about it, and can only throw tantrums to get attention or satisfiy a sense of injustice. Burton’s Petruchio is a loudmouth bore who’s never learned to behave himself and, in trying to turn Kate into a lady, becomes a gentleman. Fantastic.
My mother watched this movie with me for the first time when I was fairly young and I loved it. It was my introduction to Shakespeare, and I’ve never looked back. Years later, when I found it one day on DVD in a bookshop, I snatched it up and mailed it home ten minutes later. Of course, I also bought one for myself. “Fear boys with bugs!”
Yeah, yeah, Lawrence Olivier, blah blah blah. Best version in my opinion goes to Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V from 1989. Did I mention Paul Scofield, Dame Judi Dench, and Emma Thompson are included (along with a not-yet-legal Christian Bale)? This adaptation is sweeping, epic, gritty, poetic, occasionally funny, powerful, and gripping. Again, Mum got me hooked young. As I recall, I hid my eyes during the gory battle scenes or she fast forwarded through them (remember VHS, darlings?). I had memorized the St. Crispin Day Speech before I was 10 and in high school, my friend Moll and I had to make a movie for French class, so we acted out the scene where Alice teaches Princess Katherine English. Honestly, probably one of the best Shakespearean films of all time. “God for Harry, England, and St. George!”
Venice is probably the authority on this play, she teaches it each year and by the end, any Bard holdouts are converted. She always has the best stories about the day the kids act it out (with stabbing, naturally) and we always go into raptures about the 1953 version of Julius Caesar directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Not that it’s referred to as Makiewicz’s movie, it’s invariably called “The one with Marlon Brando.” And with good reason. One of the best scenes of the film is Marc Antony [Brando] orating to the people in Rome’s forum and slowly, subtly rousing the mob to rebellion. The moment when he turns away from the screaming riot and walks into the senate chamber smirking darkly still makes me feel chills.
Brutus is conflicted, Cassius is sly and evil, the actual assassination is a little off as Caesar just seems to take knife after knife without too much complaint, but still: best version. Honor, loyalty, friend, patriotism, betrayal and the conflicting tug of each is brilliantly laid out. “Et tu, Brute? Then fall Caesar.”
So, we’ve covered one of my favorite comedies, histories, and tragedies, but wait, kids, there’s more!
Much Ado About Nothing – Branagh again, this time as the irrepressible Benedict and Emma Thompson as the fiery and fiercely loyal Beatrice. A classic tale about the vicissitudes of love, the interference of friends (and enemies), and kicking up a great row about nothing much at all. Sparkling. “The world must be peopled!”
William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – a tale of justice, honesty, and deceit, this film is utterly stolen by Al Pacino as Shylock. Now, Scarface has never been one of my favorite actors, but the levels of emotion he poured into one of the most villainous (or victimized) Shakespearean characters is incredible. The whole thing is nice and morally ambiguous. “The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
Twelfth Night – I first saw this version in the 8th grade, under the tutelage of my teacher The Friar, with whom I keep in contact to this day. It’s never too soon to expose children to gender-bending, right? “Most wondrous.”
Other Other Adaptations
And because the most odious thing in literature or culture is people who can’t take a joke, I have to recommend Shakespeare Retold, done by the BBC and first introduced to me my Angel two weeks ago. Shakespeare brought into the modern day and frighteningly funny. Hero doesn’t marry Claudio (and good on her, because he was an unbelievable ass and I could never believe she forgave him!) and Katherine, a vicious and snarling MP is tamed by Petruchio, a lonely aristocratic exhibitionist who really just wants someone to think the world of him. “And all we do is set around in front of the telly all day eating chocolates. I know I do, when I’m not running the country.”
C.’s Quick Translation for Online Oppinuendo on Health Care
You liberal/conservative idiot! : I respectfully disagree with you.
Don’t you have a brain?! : I respectfully disagree with you.
The Republicans/Democrats are out of touch with the American people! Down with them! Drag them into the streets! : Rep-R/Rep-D voted against my personal opinion!
Obama is the Antichrist! : I’m conservative.
Obama is brave to take this problem on! : I’m liberal.
Stop making asinine comments! : I have weighed and measured such information as I have found, and I now find myself on the other side of the aisle from you.
You socialist nazi! : I respectfully disagree with you.
You conservative nazi! : I respectfully disagree with you.
This is a choice between good and evil! : This is a choice between political ideologies, about which I feel very strongly.
It’s unconstitutional! : It personally offends my sensibilities.
I can’t even begin to tackle your logical fallacies! : I refuse to attempt to see things from your liberal/conservative point of view and prefer to argue.
As a future doctor I don’t want to have the government dictate the terms of my work (requirements, treatment standards, paycheck, etc.) to me! : I much prefer to dictate the terms of my work (requirements, treatment standards, paycheck, etc.) to my patients myself.
Go ****/$$$$/@@@@/%%%% yourself! : I’m afraid we just can’t see eye to eye on this.
The End Times are coming! : I am seriously displeased with the turn of events.
I’m moving to Canada! : I am not actually moving to Canada despite ranting to the contrary for some time.
There, now you find yourself able to navigate the intricacies of Facebook, comment threads, and forum mudslinging. Take a few calm breaths to recharge and think of some withering profanities, and when you feel ready, charge back into the fray. Discussion doesn’t seem to be the name of the day, so feel free to bandy tired clichés back and forth, quote the pundits/talking heads in lieu of actual original thought, and mistake insults/gloating for a solution. Carry on!
“Not for all the money in the world would I let any children of mine develop into Pendletons!”
– Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs
Dear un-named child of an extremely generous university alumni: I am very grateful for your father’s contributions and service. I am sure that the whole school thanks him for his patronage. You, on the other hand, are not your father and are not entitled to his privileges. He has given us a lifetime of service and hard work, you have give us a series of debilitating migraines because of your rude, unbelievable behavior. I do not care how much money another person has donated, you are an insufferable ass and no amount of money will make you less responsible for your actions.
Wealth doth not a gentleman make.
I got home yesterday absolutely burning with rage after dealing with this boy.
“If,” I snarled at J., “we ever become as successful as we hope, we are donating everything to PBS and cancer research. I’ll be damned before I see any of our family act like that! The things I wish I could have said!”
“You don’t have to take apart every jerk that you deal with you know.”
“But I want to. It would make the world a better place!”
I come from some WASP stock myself, but if I ever behaved the way this kid does, my parents would gleefully disown me!
“All writers are copycats, unless they’re bad writers. Then they’re plagiarists.”
– My writing professor
A sample of my writing classes offerings from last night.
1) The Unintended Romance: one person turned in a piece that had a paragraph including the words “the sun delicately kissing her skin,” “white teeth flashed in his olive-skinned face,” and “thick muscles and strong torso flexed as he picked her up.”
The teacher asked us all to review it and determine what was wrong with the paragraph. Some people said that some alliteration threw them off, other said it was an imagery technique. I said it sounded more like ripped-bodices-and-heaving-bosoms writing than what she was going for (a murder mystery). It’s good she and I get along because half of the class gasped/blushed and murmured things like, “Oh dear!” while she burst out laughing.
2) Teen Angst: Another girl (a rather rude one who has to have the last word in every group review we do, and likes to toss her editing experience in people’s teeth) turned in a piece that took place in a high school science class between a completely uninteresting girl and a boy acting strangely and awkwardly, seeming tormented by a secret pain. My pal (the bodice ripper) piped up immediately and said one word: “Twilight?”
The whole room dissolved into hysterics and debate. Some people tittered quietly to themselves while one or two started roaring about how amazing the Twilight series was and everyone else wouldn’t know great literature if it smacked them in the face! Others countered that it was adolescent fiction and no more, while some snapped that young adult writers have produced some first-rate literature, though not Twilight they hurried to say. The writer was mortified, while our teacher seemed secretly delighted.
“It’s January. Masterpiece Classic Season!”
“What are you, a fifty year old woman?”
– C. and Brando
I love PBS. Even with the unexpected gift from the cable gods, still gracing our TV by the way with no end in sight, I flick back to my beloved public broadcasting at almost every commercial break.
PBS has given me lots of fond memories. The first time I saw The Marriage of Figaro (my favorite opera) was on a PBS station when I was nine, I’ve watched countless Nature episodes with my parents, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Wishbone when I was younger, and BBC America now that I’m older. My particularly loves (currently) are Larkrise to Candleford and Sherlock Holmes…and whatever documentary is playing.
Some people’s entertainment lives cycle around the sweeps, but not I! I live and die by PBS’s Masterpiece! Contemporary I don’t really care for, but during Mystery and Classic season the TV is mine starting 8pm on Sunday evenings. January is the kickoff for Classic season and I’ve already swallowed Return to Cranford and the first episode of Emma whole. And! Not content with just Sundays, I usually develop cravings (staring early January) for costume drama mini-series not currently airing, which means I get on a long waiting list at the local library and torture J. with those on weekdays as well.
J. is tolerant and does homework while I watch, and is occasionally firmly shushed when he commits the cardinal sin of speaking before a commercial break.