April 03, 2006

A Perfect Ending

Back in the late seventies, I was working various jobs through a temporary agency in Manhattan. Most of my assignments were receptionist or telephone operator positions in midtown and downtown law firms, publishing companies and stock brokerages.

One day the agent called me to see if I could take on a position as executive secretary at a posh ad agency. I laughed. “I don’t know how to be an executive secretary,” I told the woman. She assured me that not only could I handle the job, but that the man I would be working for was easy going and rarely ever in town. It was a one month assignment so I decided I’d give it my best shot.

I was nervous as hell. I’d be working for the president of the agency and I had no clue what kinds of duties would be assigned to me. But this was a high paying gig and I had to feed my hunger for stylish shoes back then… so off I went. All the way up Broadway, as I walked from the ferry, I worked hard convincing myself that I could pull this off.

The job turned out to be incredible. I guess the higher up you go, the less you actually have to do. No, seriously.

My desk was situated just inside of wide, double glass doors … the carpeting was so thick you had to really watch that your heels didn’t catch on the nap. It was a large organization that spanned three floors of a typical Manhattan skyscraper. When I first saw all of this, the whole place screamed at me "Carol? You're in over your head, babe." And yet, I wasn't.

The man I worked for turned out to be the nicest and most accommodating boss I’ve ever had. He was rolling in money and was very well respected in the world of advertising; neither of which ever got in the way of his down-to-earth humor and wit. A typical assignment for me during a day’s work was to book reservations for him to fly off to England or France to hold seminars or host great ‘business’ parties. My very first task was to phone his daughter’s school in Switzerland (yes, Switzerland) to check in on her progress. I believe she was twelve. I was impressed.

There was one other desk in the open area of the executive floor, and that one belonged to Amy. Amy was secretary to the vice-president. She was a riot a minute with her spiked heels and pink hair. She helped to “break me in” – giving me all the dirt on everyone there.
She made no bones about letting me know who to like and who to avoid amongst what she referred to as “the underlings.”

The thing is, this punked-out beauty was brilliant – though you’d never suspect it from her multi-pierced ears and nose, and tattoo-legged appearance. It wasn’t unusual to find Amy filing her nails while reading Nietzsche (propped up on her typing stand). We two had a blast together … I knew I was in good company the first time her boss popped his head out of the office asking, “Amy, coffee?” to which she slowly pointed to the pot-full on the étagère.

One day I was mortified when my boss caught me typing up my singing repertoire. Even though my work was caught up, ethics told me this was just plain wrong. Instead of blasting me, he leaned over, took a look at the list and started singing verse after verse of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

From that day forward, we bonded like glue. He loved jazz and we talked about “the old songs” almost daily. He even hired me on permanently when the month was over, paying a hefty price to the temp agency and offering me a handsome salary.

I’ll never forget the first time he asked me to come into his office to take a letter. I sat there with my pad in hand, twitching a bit from nerves as I listened intently to every word he said. Around the middle of the letter, he looked over the top of his reading glasses, paused and said to me “So I take it you don’t know shorthand?” “Nope,” was my answer … “but I can write really really fast.” We laughed it off and he continued – a little slower than before.

I didn’t stay at this job more than a year; typical for me. I’ve always hated the whole 9 to 5, Monday through Friday thing. It just felt “off” for the night-owl that I was back then. It interfered too much with all the things I really wanted to be doing. So, as much as I loved working for this wonderful man in such a cushy job, I resigned. But not before having one last blast.

Below is my actual letter of resignation that I handed to my boss. The italicized words are all song titles from the Big Band/30s and 40s era. I took them from my repertoire sheet that Michael had caught me typing. I found it the other day amid my treasure of “old stuff.”

Dear Michael,

I just wanted you to know that no matter Where or When I work, There Will Never Be Another You. I’ve given this matter a great deal of thought, and I have No Regrets about my decision to leave Albert Frank Guenther Law, however, I will miss The Nearness of You.

I thought Night and Day of ways to Try a Little Tenderness when breaking the news to you, but there’s no sense trying to Pretend. Although I may have some Twisted reasons, I can’t just wait around and Watch What Happens here – I feel that to satisfy All of Me, I have to reach for it, no matter How High the Moon. But don’t worry Michael, in my mind, we’ll always be Inseperable.

So some lovely evening in the Summertime, when you look out over the Harbor Lights and think Tenderly of me, just know that I’ll be out there somewhere, with The Man I Love, perhaps on a Sentimental Journey or enjoying the Moonlight in Vermont; maybe traveling along Route 66. But wherever I may be – rest assured that I Ain’t Misbehavin.

Boy, Am I Blue now – I hate to say goodbye this way. I get Misty just thinking about Embraceable You … but since It’s a Sin To Tell a Lie, and for the Second Time Around, I’ll just say, it’s been Unforgettable working for you.

That’s All.

Your blonde bombshell* secretary,

*a name assigned to me by Amy that swiftly became the joke of many staff members


Blogger Don said...

No matter how plush the surroundings, and how great the company, unless we're stretching ourselves, we won't be satisfied.

A great post. S'wonderful! S'marvelluous!

9:07 AM  
Blogger katie said...

It's refreshing to hear of sucessful people who are still down to earth, all too often you only hear the horror stories.

10:16 AM  
Blogger dan said...

wow, what a great way to resign.

it beats mine: "you can shove your job up your arse."

how's the smoking thing going?

12:57 PM  
Blogger Grant said...

That's so much better than being escorted out of the building under heavy security, although you should try that sometime just for the experience.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous John said...

This was great Carol. Your writing is so nice! I felt like I was there at the office with you... :)

1:34 PM  
Blogger dulciana said...

I loved this! I worked as a temp one summer while I was studying music. I found myself in lots of unique and sometimes intimidating situations, so I really identified with that "you're in over your head" feeling. Actually, it was a great experience. Enjoyed reading your memories.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Dave Morris said...

Wow, most people only leave jobs when they're moving, which means you'd also have A Cottage For Sale, but what a great way to resign!

You've had a lot of jobs, so you must have lots of experience telling your bosses I'll Be Seeing You.

I better sign off now, my car windows are down and Here's That Rainy Day.

PS - This is my favorite genre of music. I've written about it on my blog Time After Time.

2:04 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

What a great experience for you! I wanted to come up with some songs in my comments, but I am too dense at the moment. I'll bet that guy still has your letter.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Smitty said...

Great letter!

7:12 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

I bet he has that letter framed somewhere and spoke fondly of you everytime he had to hire/train a new temp.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous colleen said...

The higher up you go, the less you actually have to do... so true. That was a fun upbeat story to read. Pink hair! Filing nails!

I took shorthand in school...wish I still remembered it.

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

About a week ago, I think it was on my comment page, I said I was going to do something about working in the phone company, but darn, I forgot. Your post, with it's, "oh so Carol" wonderful style has prompted me. Won't be anything like yours (promise), mostly because I don't express myself as effortlessly as you. What a fun read! Great letter of resignation too. I hope your boss apreciated it as much as your readers have.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Spinning Girl said...

Wow, what a wonderful letter, and how wonderful to have a boss who would appreciate it. Brava!

11:03 PM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

Fabulous story, Carol, and very well told. Is there anything you haven't done?

11:05 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

This was fantastic. I think your boss was not only a great guy but lucky to have you. I loved the letter, I bet he still does have it.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

This was great! Beat's being escorted by security gaurds out the building! Sounds like you had a great relationship :)

3:16 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

Great post and great job.
The people you work with are the ones that make worth going in for. They sound like a bunch of nice people.

3:25 AM  
Blogger brooksba said...

What a wonderful letter! I bet he enjoyed it, even if he was sorry to see you move on.

5:15 AM  
Blogger PBS said...

Yep, that's so true, "I guess the higher up you go, the less you actually have to do. No, seriously" I'm the lowest ranking person in my office and by far, the busiest. That's a great letter!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous pink said...

How come i can never come up with a witty resignation letter like that.Mind you a jazz loving boss does sound cool.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Chrissie said...

I loved this story too. This is the exact type work I do too and actually am a temp. right now. I worked for a lawyer who sounded similar to your guy.
Interesting resignation letter, did he think you were in love with him? I wouldn't have had the guts.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

You must have been one fun colleague to work with. Too bad you didn't tackled any public service jobs, maybe our paths would have crossed.

6:14 PM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

Happy spring Carol! Sory it's been so long. I do keep up with you, just don't post much myself these days. Thank you once again for an entertaining trip down memory lane!

6:52 PM  
Blogger J said...

I could read your work stories all day.

10:00 PM  
Blogger the Monk said...

hey, great post...it really is good to see such successful people being so down to earth and stuff...and you totally deserved him...

4:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to leave such a narcissistic comment, but you brought back memories of my year as a temp. May have to blog about it sometime! Thanks for your inspiration! Great post!

5:43 AM  
Blogger frustratedwriter said...

excellent story and fantastic finish. clever as always carol!

10:48 AM  
Blogger Wicked H said...

Was his response as musical as yours?

2:17 PM  
Blogger GEL said...

Clever post! I love to listen and dance to Big Band music.

1:42 AM  
Blogger MYSTIC said...

I love the way you submitted your resignation. I bet that you were missed. We hire lots of temps, some are just plain crazy but the others are a blast. Very hard working and lots of fun. You have to be fun to work around me otherwise I'd kill you...you haven't seen the girls in the office stuff...Maybe NEXT Post. I have a theme...

9:18 AM  
Blogger Swathi said...

wow, double wow,
i wish i did such interesting jobs ***sigh***
i have a dull n mundane boss n still i havent yet resigned!!!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Raehan said...

Oh, that was Magic, Carol.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael sounds like an amazing man. I loved the letter. Way to go girl!

9:20 PM  
Blogger annush said...

That's a very cool way to resign though I wonder if after that letter you guys didn't at least go out on a date...

8:57 AM  
Blogger L said...

that really IS true-- the higher up you are, the less stressful the job and the less work you do....

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure you worked at Albert Frank? As an ex-employee, I can say AFGL was about as close to un-posh as I've ever seen.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

Anonymous ... too bad you couldn't state who you are. If you were a copy-writer, I would have to say "No wonder" ... they usually showed up in jeans and hung out eating popcorn all day until some five thousand dollar "idea" came to them.
Posh is in the eye of the beholder - although, I don't recall having used that particular word.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Did you know Steven Witt? Jack Cowell? Probably not.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I now who those people are. And yes, I was a copywriter there. I was in the "regime" after that.... So you are ex-Albert Frank! :-)

8:13 PM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

Well... great to 'meet' you. I've struggled to come up with any of the writer's names I worked with there; too many years ago now. This was around '82 or so. Can't even recall that... would have to refer to some old documents I have someplace.
How long ago did you work there?

8:30 PM  

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