My first day there, I noticed some blunt yellow No. 2 pencils in the out box. “Clarice, what do we do with these?” I asked the other assistant. Mr. Joslin was out at a meeting at the time, and I was barely on speaking terms with the old grouch, anyway. He made it known that you only spoke to him when spoken to. . .
“I dunno,” Clarice shrugged, going back to her work, which was mostly as a Portuguese/English interpreter, as far as I could tell. She fielded a considerable volume of phonecalls from Brazil for Mr. Joslin. He had some businesses going in South America as well as his work at Hearst, as far as I could tell. . .
I took those blunt yellow No. 2 pencils from his out box to my desk and sharpened them, one by one. I then placed the sharpened pencils in his in box, awaiting a reaction.
I also put a draft of some typing I did for him along with the pencils in his in box. Later on, when he came back from the meeting, I heard him say, “Sharp!” in his office, with a happy tone to his voice.
I never knew by that monosyllabic reaction if he meant, 1. The pencils were sharp, which pleased him, or, 2. That I was sharp, for sharpening the pencils, or, 3. That I was a “sharp” temp who could type well. Beats me. . . other than that, he was truly cranky and deserved every mean wrinkle on his wizened-apple face.