The Job description was my middle name. Executive Assistant. It’s what I do, and I’m very good at it. I am old, however, and at 68, the job interviews had always ended with a generic email rejection suggesting that the company would “be going in a different direction.” Over my 10-month search, I have a one-inch-thick folder of rejections like this.
Companies are not allowed by law to say, ‘Um, we’re not going to hire you because you’re just old.’ You can tell which ones they are, however, because the interviewer is usually in his/her 20’s, and the minute they get a gander of a 68-year old woman’s wrinkled visage, it’s all they can do not to shriek. When I witnessed this at the beginning of one in-person interview, knowing that I was not going to be hired for that job before we even sat down, I looked at the efficient young woman in charge of my future employment, and simply said, “Okay, take as much time as you need to get over…this…pointing my index finger to my own face and neck area.” Sure’nuff, the ‘different direction’ email came the next day.
The new job opportunity came through another online job search…job description was perfect, even inclusive of some writing and editing, which surprised and delighted me. Introductory call the next day…successful…check. In-person chat with a recruiter at a café… successful…check. Another in-person interview the day after with the actual employer seeking help…successful…with the caveat and request by…let’s just call him Snidely, to write an essay about our interview…wow! I’m a writer, so I was all over that!
The next day, final meeting with Snidely, anticipating an offer. He took me to lunch, expounding on how “brilliant” my essay had been…how he’d been gobsmacked at my writing talent, and that he wanted to work with me! I’d asked for a high salary based on the recruiter’s recommendation; I mean way higher than I had planned to ask. Snidely was fine with that. My long-sought-after dream had come true! Can you start on Monday? YessireeSnidely!!
A description of Snidely is not only necessary as a point of context but just fun because I thought that I had found someone with whom I would click. He’s 78 years old, so age discrimination was not even a consideration. A nicely-dressed, short old man whose face closely resembled a frog. A man who was so ‘thoughtful’ in his speaking style as to pause with his eyes closed almost long enough for one to wonder if he’d fallen asleep. No problem for me…I just waited.
His main goal in this last chapter of his life was to “save the world!” Who wouldn’t want to partner up with someone like THAT? He had money and time…was a lawyer who owned a successful firm. His specialty was mediation. His aim was to teach the world how to ‘think like a mediator’ in existential problem-solving…lofty, but why not? He allowed as how he was the ONLY PERSON TALKING ABOUT THIS in the entire world. I humored him and agreed. The ultimate reason for my employment was to help him set up an online platform…HUGE platform where everyone in the world would come to solve problems collectively. I was impressed with this philanthropic endeavor until he told me that people would have to pay for the privilege of providing their solution to whatever problem was proffered. I asked why he wanted to monetize his philanthropy, and he replied that ‘people are incentivized by MONEY!’ Little bit of a red flag there, but he was paying me a LOT Of money, so…okay.
As it turned out, Snidely was so technologically inept that he didn’t know how to check his emails, much less respond or forward or file or ANYTHING! He would need some help with that, he said. “Let’s just spend a half hour each day in our own little computer class,” I said. “Fine,” he said, but he wanted the platform up and running NOW.
Executive assistants can set up company logistics…it’s kinda part of who we are. So, I set about doing just that…Office Depot, here I came with his AMEX card in hand to purchase every single thing needed to set up a physical office that would be very efficient…$2,500 later, no problem. Then came setting up an accounting system for all of the monies that would pour in from ‘people’ who wanted to ‘solve the problem.’
Here’s the part where I ran into a bit of a buzz saw! Snidely wanted me to set about reaching all of the youth in the whole world…oh, and the other audience to teach…women. I suggested that women were already born mediators, so they might not be the ultimate audience to preach to on that subject. Snidely frowned.
I then suggested that a website for him should be the very first step so that when all of the folks in the whole wide world wanted to find out who this lunatic, I mean, old man was, their online research would land on a professional, creative, highly visual and artistically-done website. He told me that he wanted to create the platform at the same time. I’m a week into this perfect new job, now realizing that my employer was, in fact, a lunatic with NO clue about how something like this might work.
We had weighty conversations during which he would re-iterate that he was the ONLY PERSON TALKING ABOUT THIS in the entire world. I suggested that there might be others who shared similar concerns about problem-solving. He shouted, “SHOW ME ONE!” This coming from a man who doesn’t know what Google does or is or how to perform a search of any kind. The red hue of this new flag was a deep, Chinesey crimson.
I’ve always prided myself on having a perfect balance between the creative side of my brain and the organizational other half. I can set up a company AND write essays on mediation…but the setting up of the company has to come before the implementation of his plan. Snidely was not about to accept my voice of reason to rain on his parade. I figured that he might calm down after reminding him that I was doing my best and that once the company was set up, he could fly.
Our last weighty conversation ensued, wherein…sure’nuff…he let me know in no uncertain terms that he was the ONLY PERSON TALKING ABOUT THIS in the entire world. Snidely said that he was ‘the preacher,’ and he wanted a flock consisting of “THE WHOLE WORLD!” He even raised both arms, swinging them around in big circles to show how really beeg this flock would be. “I want followers!” I asked him if there would be any room in his flock for debate or questioning, and he shouted, “NO!”
Of course, I would share my perfect-new-job experiences with the lunatic with my sister, Sally, every evening over our 5-pm Martini. She would nod and giggle, but I’ve since learned that she REALLY thought that he was crazy and that this was NEVER going to work. As a self-proclaimed pessimistic optimist, I always remain ever hopeful until I realize that it’s just a lost cause. First 11 days under my belt, however, and I’m ready to accommodate his insanity again first thing Monday morning.
Monday comes, and so does he, into my office with his coffee to chat, as per our new ‘usual,’ and I cheerily say, “Good Morning!” He smiles, sits across from me and says, “This isn’t working.” Wait…….WHAT?! He then tells me that he wanted to hire “a writer.” I remind him that I AM a writer, one whom he has already described as “brilliant.” He says that I don’t need to be doing all of the “other things” that I’ve been doing. I begin to tell him, once again, that he needs a foundation upon which to build his world-wide, paid-problem-solving flock for his HUGE platform. He raises both arms to start the whole-wide-world gesticulation thing again, and knocks over his tall, full cup of hot Latte over every paper on the desk and onto my lap.
I cleaned up my desk, packed up my shit and left! A last day to remember, certainly, because I then had to walk out of an office full of people, into a crowded elevator, down hallways and through the lobby to the parking garage…all the while sporting a full-frontal, dark-brown, reverse, doo-doo-like stain on the crotch of my white linen pants.
I’m accepting any recommendations on how to get out a dark-brown stain from white linen.