I had been working for Dodge & Burrow and Ken the Bullying Lawyer for a month or so when it became blazingly apparent that Nina was incubating spawn.
Nina worked for Ellen, the other probate lawyer. Ken was an Associate, and Ellen was a solicitor. After only a few months in, I could already tell that working for Ken was not good.
He treated me like I was stupid, he made terrible jokes, he would ask for things in the most roundabout way and then complain that I didn’t understand him – see my previous post where he wastes about six minutes asking if I have a file, which he can clearly see is on my desk. He constantly ate garlic, scratched his bum, picked his nose and farted – not to mention all the times he sneezed hard on me and bits of his snot would land on my face.
Also, he would frequently fuck up and blame me. An urgent letter landed on his desk, I chased him three times and when he missed the deadline, he called the client and said that his secretary had accidentally shredded it, “But she’s still on her probation period, so don’t be too hard on her.”
He lost original wills, misplaced files, overcharged clients, and everything he did, he blamed on me.
On the plus side, literally everyone in the firm hated Ken. On the downside, management couldn’t be arsed to deal with it.
Joy was my manager at this point, and she was largely set decoration. I’m not saying she was picked because she was pretty – because she wasn’t. She was picked because she was best friends with Shirley, the queen Senior Secretary – but she was very good at looking smart, walking in heels and having very shiny hair, not so much on the dealing with people or doing work. She had a fleet of office juniors doing her work for her, and then she would sweep past and say incredulously, “I don’t have any work outstanding, it’s not that hard!”
(And her fleet would follow her, looking close to tears.)
Nina organised her mat leave, and I finally plucked up the courage to approach Joy and ask if I could move to Ellen, and Nina’s mat leave cover could take Ken. Joy said no. For once, she wasn’t snappy with me, the whole conversation had an unnerving tone of amused exasperation, as if we were great friends. I found Joy’s moods alarming.
I was stuck with Ken.
Without Nina’s acidic observations to get me through.
Sloane had just finished law school and was slumming by taking a secretarial job as she couldn’t get a training contract. Sloane was tall and slender, probably very beautiful if you could get past her personality, but had the minor flaw of, to quote one of my beloved apprenti, “walking like she’s been gang-banged hard.”
It fell to me to train Sloane.
Unfortunately, everything I tried to tell her was immediately cut off with, “Oh I know that, I do have a law degree, you know.”
“Law degrees cover which way round the headed paper goes in the printers specific to Dodge & Burrow?” I asked.
“Oh, you!” she giggled.
And then she started applying her makeup.
I couldn’t get her attention past that, and work was piling up. It became clear that Sloane wasn’t going to do any secretarial work, not when her lashes needed another coat of mascara, so I headed back to my desk and started clearing the urgent work for both Ellen and Ken.
Jodie, who was on the other side of Sloane, separated by a partition, dropped by my desk to check out the new girl. “What’s she done so far?”
“Lip liner, four coats of mascara, and now she’s drawing an A4-sized heart with ‘Sloanes Desk’ written on it. Without the apostrophe.”
Jodie, who also works in my current firm with me (not everyone left Dodge & Burrow to go to my current firm, but a lot did) was suitably offended.
On one of my trips to the printer, I said to Sloane, “You missed the apostrophe.”
On the way back, it read, inevitably, “Sloanes’ Desk.”
I emailed the other Sloane in the building and told her that all desks to my left belonged to people of her name, and would she please swap with the vapid numpty that I had to mentor? Other Sloane – who I will refer to from now on as Tiny, because she hates sharing a name with Sloane – sent me a new stapler by internal post as her response. I still don’t really get it, but I appreciated the gesture. Tiny is still one of my closest friends.
Ken, naturally, was utterly charmed by Sloane. He spent hours chatting to her and – to my delight – farting on her. Sloane didn’t really enjoy being farted on, but she did like being pandered to and listened to. And she really liked being able to say, “I’m sorry, I’m in the middle of a discussion with the head of department,” any time anyone asked her to do some work.
Sloane sent an email on her first day, introducing herself, telling everyone that despite the fact she had a law degree, she was “kwerky” too. It took Jodie and I a few minutes to figure out she meant “quirky”.
At this point, Ellen and I went rogue. Ellen started telling Sloane that she was too good to be a secretary, and she should apply for the first available paralegal job that came up – no matter what department it was in. I covered Sloane’s work so she looked fairly proficient, although there was no way of hiding she was always touching up her lipstick whenever anyone walked past.
And after only a couple of months, a paralegal position came up.
The moment Sloane applied, I got Ellen to run over to Joy and demand I be her secretary should Slone get the position, and why wouldn’t she? She had a law degree.
I think even Joy put in a good word for Sloane. Everyone was so desperate to offload her they were moving heaven and earth to get this barely literate moron a better job.
At the six month point in my job, I had managed to swap away from Ken, get rid of Sloane, and I thought everything was getting better. Especially when Joy called me into a surprise meeting to announce that she was making me management – I was going to be a Deputy Assistant Senior Secretary – a DASS.
I felt like a winner.
It lasted all of three hours.