Dodge & Burrow: Setting the Scene

I’ve been meaning to write up the next part of this. I have told multiple ridiculous stories of my job at Dodge & Burrow of late, so I really should write them down too. I wondered if I should tell you just the funny stories, or do some groundwork setting up recurring characters.

I have set up a page which details all recurring characters in this farce, but you will get spoilers, so… wait. Can you get spoilers from my life? Especially over ten years after the fact?


Moving on.

Probate means Dead People
Probate means Dead People

When I joined Dodge & Burrow, I was assigned to the probate team. On my first day, Joy the Ironically Named Secretary (who can’t spell) tried to scare me off by informing me that probate meant we dealt with dead people.

At the time, I didn’t realise that she was being territorial, I just thought she was stupid (she’s actually both). So I gave her a big smile and said, “Yes, I know. I worked for a funeral director for two years. I used to have to arrange baby funerals. I’ve seen the deceased.”

This probably creeped her out, come to think of it.

(It’s actually true though. I really did have to arrange baby funerals. They take less doing than adult funerals, so if you’re making the move from Office Junior to Girl Friday, it’s a good way to learn.)

I met the lawyer I was to work for, enter Ken the Bullying Lawyer. Ken constantly had the same look on his face as Joey from Friends describes as “smell the fart acting”. This is probably the kindest thing I can say about him. (But it is worth noting that Ken frequently passed gas, loudly and stinkily, without a hint of embarrassment.)

On my first day, I heard Nina, the other secretary in probate, yell, “For god’s sake, Ken, in a minute!”

By the time I looked up, Ken was walking away from her desk, shrugging helplessly.

Given that I had worked in one of the most toxic work environments – think of every movie or TV office in a sit-com written by a guy, emphasising how woman need to stab each other in the back – I worried that once more I had joined somewhere that fostered a bullying environment. I was right, but for the wrong reason. Nina wasn’t being a bitch. Nina was, for the hundredth time, trying to get Ken to get out of her personal bubble of space.

Also, she’d been on the phone when he had been pestering her.

Nina loathed me. She was helpful enough, but she made it clear she had no interest in being friends. Until I wound up standing behind her in the queue for the midnight release of the final Harry Potter book. At that point, fandom trumps personal rules – and her decision to no longer befriend any more of Ken’s secretaries, because they never lasted any longer than four weeks, quickly got torn up.

(I lasted five years. Nina left before me. We now both work for the same firm again.)

I want to make it clear, Ken wasn’t lecherous, he was just… creepy. He would always stand in your bubble of space; he would lean in to talk to you; he would spell out the most obvious words (and always explained homophones on his dictations, despite me repeatedly telling him I got that down in 1992); he would talk to any secretary/admin (underling) as if we couldn’t possibly comprehend his astounding knowledge; he couldn’t read a room; and he would always pester, even if you were on fire.

He also made the most astoundingly unfunny and uninteresting witticisms.

Here is one such example:

Ken: Dove, do you have broadband?

Me: *takes out earphones and stops working on dictation* Sorry, what?

Ken: Do you have broadband?

Me: At home? Yes, don’t most people?

Ken: Are you sure?

Me: *eyes urgent dictation and tries to keep calm* Yes, Ken, I’m sure I have broadband at home.

Ken: So you don’t have anything else?

Me: Like what? *dictation is not doing itself, hurry the fuck up.*

Ken: Like for example… Cable! *grabs the Cable file from my desk*

Me: Oh… *fake laugh*

(The fake laugh was obligatory. If Ken thought you didn’t understand his marvellous jokes, he would explain them. In great detail. While leaning over you. And reeking of garlic and farts.)

Nina waited until Ken left our desk, then spat out in an acidic tone, “Dickhead.”

Nina was awesome to work with.