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Monday, February 1, 2010

A Veritable Well of Untapped Potential

Hey! Welcome to the start of a new work week.

Didn’t think it would come to this, did you?

No, I didn’t either.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but I was a straight-A student. No, really! Spelling? No problem. Math? Yep. Science, philosophy, music? You bet.

And so what? Spellcheck has relieved us of the need to spell it correctly in the first place. Calculators are on everything from phones to, well, calculators. Science comes in handy during Trivial Pursuit and while watching Cash Cab, philosophy makes me a thoughtful and open-minded drunk, and my music knowledge – well, again with the Trivial Pursuit.

I made a mistake in not going directly from high school to college.

And I made a mistake in learning to type.

This is probably going to blow your mind, so you may want to brace yourself against a large bit of furniture, but I type like the freakin’ wind.

Cool, huh?

No. Not really. Because once it’s been discovered that you’re good at something, suddenly, no matter where you are, if there's a need for a typist, no one else in the room can do it.

“Could you just do the typing? I type with two fingers. It’ll go so much faster if you do it.”

A number of years ago we had a college student, an intern, at work. Nice guy, probably 22 or so. He was young and unblemished and wore earnest business casual sweaters with khaki pants. We called him “Intern Boy” in our discussions of him over the lunch hour.

I wouldn’t say he and I were friends. But we were colleagues; and at work, that’s enough, don’t you think?

He stopped by my desk one day.

“Hey,” he said.

I looked up from the report I was furiously typing. Could I get a 25-page report typed and proofread in an hour? My boss had seemed to think so.

He placed a pile of papers on my desk. “I’m going to need these faxed by the end of the day.”

I frowned slightly. “You are, huh?”

“Um,” he said. Was I one of those saucy, quirky secretaries he had seen on prime time TV? He wasn’t sure.

I cocked my head slightly and continued to look at him.

“I don’t know how to fax,” he said.

“It’s easy,” I said. “You see that machine over there? You put the papers, face-down, in the feed. Then you punch the fax number in on the keypad and press the big green button.”

He didn’t move.

Perhaps he hadn’t noticed that the fax machine tutorial was over.

"So voila,” I concluded. “Fish and chips.”

He smiled flirtatiously. “Oh, come on. I’ll just mess it up if I do it,” he said coyly. “I’m sure you do it better than I ever could.”

I thought about the As, the gold stars. I thought about the Pythagorean Theorem, my interest in Russian literature, about how great I had been on those Word Find puzzles in elementary school.

I sighed. Whatever he had been studying the last four years, there had not been time spent on office equipment – or office etiquette.

“I support four of the people on this floor,” I said. “I’m sorry, but you’re not one of them. You’re going to have to learn to operate the fax machine for yourself.”

And I went back to typing.

Poor Intern Boy. He walked over to the fax machine, and I lost track of what he was doing. I hoped he had taken that as simply and as directly as I had phrased it.

There was a large frosted cookie on my desk the next morning.

“Thanks for the Advice,” it said.

Good ol’ Intern Boy.


Lilly said...

Great post - least Intern Boy appreciated the tuition. And I like a girl who sets her boundaries. I dislike the way we are pigeonholed. Do your collegues know what else you are capable of I wonder? Need to catch up on your blog - seems I was away a couple of weeks but its more like 4 months, yikes!

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Great story, as always. You rock.

Pearl said...

Lilly, I am so glad that you are back. :-)

Maureen, thank you! Honestly, the gray has been getting to me around here lately...

powdergirl said...

Intern boy gets an office education and scores a hit.

Pearl scores a cookie.

Win win

Ms Sparrow said...

I'm so glad you didn't give in and coddle intern boy. My blood was starting to boil that he even had the gall to ask you! Good goin', gal!

Molly Potter said...

My general air of incompetence has served me really well...

Douglas said...

There is a rule of work that I have obediently adhered to throughout my period of servitude...

Never let them know how much talent you really have, they'll expect you to do even more.

This is also known in some circles as the "80% rule" (never put out more than 80% effort).

Chantel said...

I have the sasme freekin' problem with cooking! I swear at every family hoo-ha my sisters do nothing as I slave away basting and roasting...if I'd only had the sense to burn the mac and cheese years ago, this wouldn't have happened.

However, I did succeed in breaking two glasses, a platter, and a saucer in a single night...no more dishes for me!

sage said...

When I moved here, I felt blessed. For the first time years, I have a secretary that can type faster than me!

Anonymous said...

Am always amazed at the simple things people haven't learned.

Pat said...

It was tough love, but he needed it. Good for you, Pearl. See? And he appreciated it, too, I think.

Anonymous said...

Did you say to Intern Boy -- "Aw, go fax yourself!" Just wondering.

justsomethoughts... said...

an interest in russian literature, huh....

well, i have some typing in exchange for which i will gladly part with 5 frosted cookies

Mary@Holy Mackerel said...

I had a boss/friend who once confided to me that he never admitted to knowing how to do anything, because that way, no one ever asked him, or expected anything of him. Yeah. Wish I had known that...

Nice to see you again! I've been gone awhile, but am now trying to catch up with my fave blogs.

Anonymous said...

I took typing in high school. I used it in college typing my papers and for some friends.
I admitted I could type when in the Army and ended up mis assigned a couple times. It's also done that to me in a couple jobs. Even though I was the most versatile worker in my last job, I was laid off because I was last hired. So knowing a lot does not always help.

troutay said...

An old boss told me this:
"Never try to be the best and never try to be the worst. Keep yourself someplace in the middle. The first and last always get noticed. And that is never a good thing."

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

A lot of college students work on our office. They are hired for various talents - writing, design, photography, etc. But one of the most important things we teach them is how to do the practical office things for themselves...faxing, copying, mailing, answering phones, etc. (Everyone does their own typing.) That intern learned from you, and he appreciated it--good for both of you.

Tracie said...

Oh, you are good. I'm such a wuss. I would have done it for him. Cursing and mumbling under my breath the whole time.

Not The Rockefellers said...

You're a tough cookie, Pearl :)

Way to handle the lad!
btw...did you eat that cookie?

Peace ~ Rene

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Wow! You're my hero!! I worked as a temp secretary for years (I'm also a fast typist!) and was horribly "work abused" by many, many "intern boys." I never, ever stood up to any of them like you did! Now that I'm older and wiser, BOY do I wish I had!!

Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you for a few minutes!!

Great blog! So glad I found you!!

blueviolet said...

You are tough! I love that!

Jeanie said...

Intern boy will be writing a blog someday about the lady that forced him to learn what he need to know.

Warty Mammal said...

Well done! I wonder how many others' simpered under Intern Boy's compliments and protestations of helplessness and let him get away with using them?

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Good for you. Every so often my boss wanders downstairs as he's making a beeline for the door to go home for the day and he tries to pass his job off on me. I either (A) Tell him I don't know how to do it, or (B) Tell him I am too busy to get to it before I have to go home.
He generally either takes care of it himself or gets someone else upstairs to handle it.
I've seen too many people try to take advantage of others because they just think they can and that really irks me.
I love my job and I do my best to do it well The way I see it others should do the same.

fingers said...

Sorry but where I went to school/uni, learning to type was considered the first step towards a career in hairdressing for guys.
Those of us who could type (and I'm not saying I was one of them) kept it to ourselves.
A bit like being able to play the piano-accordion...

Tempo said...

Wow, you're hard as nails you are...LOL
You probably helped him learn much more than you might think. Where ever he is now I bet he still respects and fears you a little!!

Roses said...

I hate fax machines. And photocopiers. With a passion.

I marvel at your social skills. I wouldn't have got a cookie.

Anonymous said...

I recognize myself as a young fast-fingered student typing to earn money in the hols... except I never got any thanks or cookies.

Great post!

Kurt said...

He's like having a kitten. Only not cute. And not inclined to dangle precariously from a branch on a "Hang in There!" poster.

Charlotte Ann said...

Ha! You learned to spell? I did too but I'll go you one more...I learned to take Shorthand! Now where do you see anyone using that? I feel so dinosaurish at times.

Golden To Silver Val said...

.....and you didn't eat that cookie, did you?

Cloudia said...

lesson learned, eh?

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Patricia said...

That bastard!

I would be PISSED if somebody left me a cookie. And a FROSTED ONE?

You know what that's gonna do to today's calorie count? %^$@#^

The Retired One said...

You got a cookie for telling him reality?
Boy, the rest of the office should bake you a frickin' cake then, right????
Thanks from every female and from every Assistant for setting him straight...we owe you a TON of gratitude!

R. Jacob said...

you know what they say, one cookie will lead to ...another cookie!