Friday, April 28, 2006

I'm in the office a bit early today, still digging out from a mess on Wednesday. Wednesday was "Administrative Professionals Day," a politically correct and utterly absurd renaming of "Secretaries Day," which itself was a transparently pandering and ridiculously unnecessary "holiday." We used to celebrate Secretaries Day with the childhood birthday tradition -- punching our secretaries in the arm one time for every year they'd been at the firm, plus a bonus punch at the end for "good luck in retaining your job through one more downsizing." Then someone broke an arm and a partner had to do his own typing for six weeks, so we stopped that practice.

Over time, the celebration morphed into a sheet cake in the conference room, and having the janitors clean up the crumbs and throw away the plates instead of making the secretaries do it like we usually do after conference room celebrations. There's no point in bothering the maintenance staff when we have secretaries to clean things up. They're the first line of defense against things like vomiting in the halls. We just grab the sweaters they've got on the backs of their chairs and put them right on top of the vomit to cover it up until the janitors arrive with the wet-dry vacuum.

Ever since the name changed to "Administrative Professionals Day," we've turned the festivities into an Olympics of sorts, to test the administrative skills of the "professionals" we're recognizing. First, all of the partners get in a few minutes early and completely clear off each secretary's desk, making one pile with everything mixed up that used to be organized in some way on top of the desk. The secretaries race when they arrive to see who can restore order fastest. The one who finishes last gets fired. Then after lunch we put them all in the records room and tell them there's a piece of macaroni hidden in one folder, in one filing cabinet, somewhere in the room. And whoever finds it gets $10,000. Then everyone gathers in the lobby to watch them race on closed-circuit television, pulling apart files, tossing papers in the air, clawing at each other -- to see who wins the money.

This year, my secretary won. I pick them well. But the winner, besides receiving $10,000, has to spend all of Thursday cleaning up the records room, as well as dressing the fingernail-scratch wounds of her beaten competitors. So I spent all of yesterday with a temp, and nothing got done, and now I'm cleaning up that mess before my secretary returns this morning, probably with a new piece of jewelry. No will power to save for the future. Impulse purchases. Like socks for her son. What does he need socks for? That's how we could tell the difference between the rich and the poor when I was growing up. The rich had socks. The poor didn't. How can young people make the right class judgments today when everyone's wearing socks no matter what their parents do?

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