Friday, September 30, 2005

Would you like sugar with that?

When I started my temp job this week at a high-end-shall- remain-nameless furniture dealership, the office manager spent twenty minutes explaining to me the intricacies of making coffee. Twenty. Minutes. This has happened before at other jobs, this coffee-creating tutorial. The sessions vary in length and minutiae, but they do, most often that first Monday morning, occur with predictable frequency. At first my Mormon self was grateful for the education, as the sight of the large, seemingly impenetrable coffee maker, and the knowledge that I would soon be required to produce something drinkable from it, produced slight pangs of anxiety. My mind conjured horrible breakroom scenarios in which my ineptitude caused the coffee maker to explode, spewing scalding liquid all over myself and the president of the company who just happened to enter the kitchen at that precise moment, and also less violent but equally humiliating predicaments in which the entire coffee maker was reduced to a pile of molten plastic because I'd forgotten (silly me!) to put water in it before I turned it on.

It's not that I think these givers of coffee tutorials think I'm stupid. (Do they??) I try to give them the benefit of the doubt whilst hoping they are doing the same for me. These office rituals seem important to them. Very. Important. Not to generalize or anything, but, in general, I've encountered the same type of office manager personality over and over again. Answering the phone the right way ("It's a great day at Drinkworks!" "Thank you so much for choosing Steiner & Son!", "How can I possibly thank you enough for calling Andrich and Associates!"), putting the mail face-up in the mailslots ("Rhonda likes hers folded like this."); these details bring order and purpose to their office world, holding the fabric of their cubicle universe together. Often during the phone lessons ("And then you put them on hold by pushing this big orange button that says 'hold'"), I have an almost overwhelming desire to leap onto the desktop and exclaim with all the force of my Globe-trained diaphragm: "I have a MASTER'S DEGREE!! I think I can FIGURE IT OUT!!!" But I am checked by the realization that they would probably look up at me and ask "A master's in what?" and I would say "Theatre." and they would say "Great! Anyway, this big blue button that says 'speaker . . .'"