So I got that promotion earlier this year, turning me into the office manager for several more departments than I used to oversee. About every time I turn around, this job entails an extra level of fuckery. This summer, as part of the process to turning these departments into a cohesive administrative unit, I was supposed to take 4 mail rooms, 4 copy rooms, 3 storage rooms, and a junk office, and turn them into 2 copy rooms, 1 mail room, and 1 storage room.
We threw out a whole lot of junk, including 4 old microwaves, 7 mini fridges, and a mountain of old office supplies, including typewriter ribbons for typewriters we no longer have, mimeograph materials, slide projectors, and obsolete equipment of all stripes. Basically 40 years worth of crap that nobody would take responsibility for getting rid of. It might be needed at some point. Of course, I had to be the one to say, “No. We are not going to need a fucking slide projector again. I have a portable goddamn digital LED projector.” That was actually what I had to say to my former boss when he got upset at finding the slide projector in the discard pile.
So there I was, in early June, steadily whittling down all this crap, and waiting for an important delivery: my brand new modular mail room. 5 tables and 5 mailbox risers to fill one room and handle all the mail for 150+ people that until now was being handled in 4 separate mail rooms all over the building. This was going to produce an enormous economy of staff time.
When the boxes arrived, I notified our maintenance department to ask when they could begin assembling the mail boxes. A guy arrived later that day, and we looked over the piles of cartons. Within a few minutes I realized that they weren’t all there. We were missing 3 boxes, 3 of the ten pieces. I sent the maintenance guy away with my apologies, and called our official state vendor.
“Oh, it looks like we don’t carry those three pieces anymore,” they said.
I went back to purchasing and said, “I need to return these 7 items and find a non-contract vendor who CAN provide me with a full modular mail room.”
Of course, I’d need special permission for that, buying something off contract. So I got started on the paperwork, and each time, I was kicked back and asked why I didn’t get it from our vendor? Each time, more phone calls, until that day, my first day back to work after my pop’s funeral, when I just had enough.
“It’s a MODULAR mail room. It doesn’t work if 3 of the 10 pieces are missing. You can’t substitute other items from other manufacturers because IT IS A FUCKING MODULAR MAIL ROOM! DO YOU UNDERSTAND MODULAR? CAN YOU FUCKING UNDERSTAND WHY THAT WON’T WORK? BECAUSE MY DAD JUST DIED AND I AM CRYING MY EYES OUT EVERY DAY AND I CAN STILL FUCKING UNDERSTAND THAT FOR A MODULAR MAIL ROOM TO WORK, I NEED ALL THE FUCKING PIECES! SO STOP GIVING ME THE RUN AROUND AND EITHER RETURN THESE ITEMS OR FIND THE OTHER PIECES!!!”
Silence followed, so complete that I thought the person had hung up on me. After a minute or two, he said, “Let me do some more investigating about those missing pieces.”
Two hours later, he called me back and said, “So, it looks like one of our subsidiaries in Minnesota has those missing pieces. We can get those shipped out next week.”
“Thank you,” I said, meek as a mouse.
A mere two weeks later, the other three pieces arrived. I immediately called maintenance to inform them that at last, the mail room could be assembled. Then I waited with baited breath for the transformation to occur.
And I waited. And I waited. And the first week of August, the same maintenance guy from before showed up. Great! I left him to his work, and went on with mine. As we neared lunch time, he came by my office and said, “I got called out on an emergency, but I’ll be back later.”
After he left, I went to see how far he’d gotten and found this:
A morning’s worth of work?
In the course of that first morning, he’d managed to unbox one set of mail box risers. Now to me, that seemed foolish. After all, he’d need a table to put the riser on, so why unbox a riser first? I would have unboxed and assembled all the tables first, but I’m just a secretary. I don’t work for maintenance. So I didn’t say a word.
I just waited for him to come back and finish the job.
And I waited. And I waited. And by then it was the week before classes were to start. I still had 4 mail rooms, and now they all needed to be updated for the new semester. Plus I had an empty mail room, and a mountain of cartons scattered all over the main office. Monday, I called maintenance. Oh yes, they said, we’ll get back to that right away. Tuesday, I called maintenance. Oh yes, you’re next on our list. Wednesday, I called maintenance. Oh yes, don’t you worry. We’re going to work on that today.
Thursday morning, I packed a bag full of tools and toted them to work on my bicycle. I thought, if someone from maintenance shows up this morning, fine. If no one shows up, I will build this mail room myself. So I started unboxing and putting tables together. By the end of Thursday, I had heard nothing from maintenance, but I had all the tables assembled. Took me 6 hours.
Friday, I started in bright and early on the risers, while alternately fielding the ten thousand random things that people need the last day before classes start. I built risers, I made copies, I solved computer password problems. At about 2 pm, I had all but one riser constructed, and maintenance finally made an appearance.
“Oh, you found somebody else to do this project?” he said.
“So I guess I can close that work order?”
“No, you should cancel it.”
He nodded and went on his way, and I built the last riser. Voila! New mail room:
Or 12 hours’ worth of work?
You know what I got this morning? An invoice from maintenance for assembling my mail room. I will not bother to transcribe the expletive laden phone call I had with the supervisor over there. He first tried to claim that they had done the work. When it became clear that I had 40+ witnesses to contradict that claim, he tried to claim that they’d done some of the work. So I sent him the photo showing the exact quantity of work his employee had done. Then he tried to claim that was four hours worth of work, at which point the words, “I’M A FUCKING SECRETARY AND IT TOOK ME LESS THAN AN HOUR TO UNBOX AND ASSEMBLE EACH OF THOSE RISERS!” came out of my mouth. Followed by, “YOU’RE TELLING ME A FUCKING SECRETARY COULD DO IN LESS THAN 12 HOURS WHAT WOULD HAVE TAKEN YOUR GUY TWO GODDAMN WEEKS?”
We will not be paying the invoice. The mail room is pretty spiffy if I do say so myself, but I wonder why I’m known on campus as The One Who Swears All The Time.