Friday, June 17, 2005

Susan Strangebird

I had yet another run-in today with Susan, the HR secretary who I can only describe as both cooky and bitchy. My official supervisor is Shandace, the staff manager, but the person I usually have to deal with is her secretary Susan. This morning’s incident resulted because I arrived to work late (I was getting my Texas plates at the DMV). Work starts at 8:00 and I had previously gotten approval from Shandace to arrive as late as 9:30, but I actually got there at 8:30. I dialed Shandace’s extension to say that I had arrived (so they wouldn’t be trippin come timesheet day). Susan answered, so I told her I was in. An hour later, my phone rings and it’s Shandace, wanting to make sure I was at work. Apparently Susan never gave her my message.

I was delighted to detect a hint of annoyance in Shandace’s voice when I explained to her what happened – it was as if she and I tacitly acknowledged we were on some higher level than ditzy Susan. Shandace knows that I’m going to law school in the fall and I think she views me as someone who is smart and only doing this job as a temporary gig.

For some reason it’s important to me to have my intelligence recognized, although I’m (just) modest enough to not go around advertising it (in person, that is – not here, obviously). Even though I like to think I don’t give a damn about dolts like Susan, I still find myself wanting them to know that I'm smart. And Susan seems to have the impression that I'm a bit of a dimwit.

Part of the problem is the confusing glass door in the HR office. Handles are supposed to be vertical on the side where you pull and horizontal on the side where you push, but this door has vertical handles on both sides. Even though I consciously try to remember when I should pull or push on the HR door, I always choose the wrong way. It's like when you always misspell a word that you know you always misspell. I can never remember if “separate” or “seperate” is the correct spelling and every time I go to write the word I stop and consciously think about it. But all I can think about is how I always choose the wrong spelling. Sometimes I even try to fool myself by picking the one I think is wrong so that I might actually choose the right one, but it still always ends up being the wrong one. (You would think the immediate reinforcement of spell-check would have helped me learn it by now, but it has only eliminated my need to care. All I have in my brain under the category of “separate” is the knowledge that I don’t know how to spell it.) Anyway, I can never open this HR door correctly and it makes a loud “clank” when it wobbles from being pushed or pulled the wrong way. So every time I go in or out of HR, it’s “CLANK,” followed by, “No...push, dear,” and I know Susan’s thinking that I'm a moron.

Every trip to HR is comical like this. One time I was dropping my timesheet off with Susan and I asked if I could use her stapler for a minute for a few personal papers. That’s not really a question so much as a courtesy statement: “I’m going to borrow your stapler right now, please pass it to me.” But Susan didn’t have the normal reaction (handing me the stapler). Instead, she looked at me strangely and asked, “How long do you need to use it?” What kind of a question is that? I'm just asking to use your stapler, not to sit in your chair or use your phone or filter my blood through your kidney. “I just need it for a minute,” I said, “I have three or four personal things I need to staple.” She handed me the stapler – reluctantly – and told me, “You know, people don't usually hang around here in the HR office.” I quickly stapled my stuff and got out of there, clanking the wrong way through the door, of course.


Blogger JLR said...

Wow, that was like reading something that I wrote. First of all, I have the separate/seperate problem as well. It helps me to remember how to spell separate by thinking se-PAR-ate, and thinking about par, as in golf. I don't golf, and I don't know why that helps me, but it does. As for the door thing, I'm in law school and am clerking this summer, and the doors to the offices where I work . . . I have to stop EVERY time I go through one and think whether I should push or pull. But at least it's not just me. One of the paralegals guessed incorrectly once and pulled off the door handle. I think sometimes that builders like to make it confusing so that they can feel superior to the rest of us.

June 22, 2005 9:33 AM  
Blogger The Quintessential Negro said...

To distinguish between seperate and separate, I was taught to think of rodents. There's "a rat" in separate, the correct spelling of the word.

June 22, 2005 11:44 AM  

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