Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8-11-12 Survival Jobs for Writer-Musicians -- Starter Job #175 (Working Temp in NYC: Phoning Home for The Man)

I previously described a nightmarish job, working reception. Well, since most of my temp jobs were for more general office work, it didn’t matter about the phones as much. I grew a mounting respect for receptionists who had to handle so much at one time.

Most jobs, the phones I had to answer were just one of two buttons on an assistant’s phone on their desk outside the boss’s door. And that was a piece of cake, as it’s easier to keep track of a couple of lines/buttons than a few dozen. So today, let’s explore another one of the clerical/secretarial tasks in more thrilling detail. Today’s task: 2. Making phone calls for the bosses.

Hmm. Wouldn’t you think that answering the phone would be the thing we were exclusively responsible for? Ah, not so. In the old days of secretaries, they’d be asked to do any number of multitasks. That would include personal stuff for bosses, even if you were filling in for their assistant. It actually made me kind of laugh -- though I didn’t dare chuckle aloud.

One guy, with Shearson Lehman (before they became Lehman Brothers), had a great name: Dodge Dutcher. I worked for him for a week or two, and I always marveled at how little he seemed to do. Maybe it was because it was the summer? Anyway, he probably had a very patient assistant because quite soon he stared talking away to me -- not that he wanted me to talk, just listen -- and he had a lot of personal agendas.

He’d hand me a list of people to call/things to do every day. Being a hired gun, it was all well and fine to me -- because, with my sense of humor, it was constantly amusing to be around somebody in such a high place with such energy and such apparent ability to run his life AND a business. Then again, my work for him rarely had anything to do with business.

Dodge Dutcher had me call his dry cleaner’s; his Episcopal Church office; his travel agent (making travel arrangements was part of many jobs -- and this was when you called the agent and THEY did all the work that computers now do); his mother (!); old college friends; and last but not least, his wife (who he angrily called at one point “A World Class Bitch”).

He was mad at her all the time, so his assistant had to phone her with his plans. “Ah, Mrs. Dutcher? This is Lauren, Mr. Dutcher’s temporary secretary? Uh, he was hoping to have dinner with you and the Wests at the club on the 21st, at 7?”  I felt truly lame, having to call the boss’s wife, but I supposed that DD’s ol’ secretary/assistant was used to making such calls.

Thank the heavens for the way things have changed, since: now people call and text their friends and relations from work on personal phones in their pockets. Admin Assistants (not secretaries) now have other busy work that doesn’t include making awkward cold calls of a personal nature for the bosses. . . or at least, not that I know of (say something if you have a job where you have to do that kind of thing, still)!

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