Tag Archives: administrative assistants

Jeevus Cocoa Addicticus

Jeevus Cocoa Addicticus


In high school I worked in the daycare room at a local gym. It was a nightmare but I hung in there for the free membership. Whatever those hellion tots threw at me, snack time always took that circus to a whole new level of crazy. I dreamt of the day I would enter the “professional” working world where there were grownups. Sadly, I was wrong.

Here are five food habits of my coworkers that I could live without:

1. Using the Fridge as a Petri Dish: Pay no attention to the numerous signs I post on the fridge asking to keep it clean and not leave food festering in there. Even though it is sternly worded, please, consider it as not a request but just a suggestion – sort of like the traffic lights in Rome. Here’s a hint: when the lunch you packed last month starts to look like it went and got itself a fungus sweater, it’s probably a good time to throw it out.

2. Displaying Pigeon Behavior: The number one rule of pigeons is never feed pigeons. If you give them food, it will just encourage to keep coming back. I made this mistake early in my time at Berrett-Koehler when one of our editors (I will not name him here, oh wait, I will – it’s Jeevan) came to my desk asking for chocolate. I just so happened to have some stashed away so I gave it to him. Now he keeps coming and asking and won’t leave me alone. Now I’ve had to resort to locking my desk.

3. “Let the Maid Clean It”: Here’s the problem, we don’t have a maid, but since I am responsible for the general upkeep of the office, guess who is on permanent feather-duster duty? Picking up loose napkins or the like is okay, but I went to college so that I wouldn’t have to bus tables and abandoned meals. Then there’s the microwave, let me tell you – the savory mélange that results from that blended, congealed mess of a hundred nasty exploded microwave meals is truly a treat.

4. The Leftover Combo-Nightmare: I know that throwing together a bunch of leftovers and making some sort of hybrid dish can be fun, but there are limits. Some combinations were made for consumption and others for the trash compactor. Some of the food I’ve seen staff eat is Frankenstein-ish – an unholy amalgam created from the remains of several long-dead meals.  Oh, and the smell of 2-day old tuna with cauliflower emanating from the microwave? An olfactory garden of delights, I tell you.

5. The Envious Palate: There are many food options around our office but few of them are any good (and the ones that are, you get tired of quickly). So sometimes I’ll actually walk a death-defying three blocks to get my food from elsewhere. But the moment I get back to the office and begin eating, others will start to stare, and then the dance begins:

Them: Oh! That looks good, where did you get that?

Me: I found it in some homeless guy’s hobo bag and stole it (it doesn’t matter what I say, this was only an instigative question).

Them: Oh! Wow! That smells so good…and it looks tasty. All I got was this crappy sandwich from Lee’s, but I’m so busy, I just can’t…you know

Me: Yeah, totally busy, I know. [Thought to myself: but you have enough time to stand around and chat about my lunch?]

Them: Yeah…so…it looks really good…hmmm

Me: Um, do you want to try some? [Thought to self: which is what you really wanted all along but just couldn’t say.]

[The dance ends with me losing a precious portion of my lunch, usually followed by “Oh, that is good!” Yeah, I know, that’s why I hiked three frickin’ blocks to get it only to have you eat half of it.]

Oh, excuse me, clean-up on aisle six…


Wondering if there’s enough room in the budget to hire this guy as an assistant.

The proposal guidelines on our website are for authors, but no one seems to pay them any mind. Apparently there’s a rumor among authors that if they can skip the pesky proposal stage and cleverly navigate their way to an editor, that editor will not only be so impressed that he will immediately stop the presses and demand an immediate printing of their masterpiece, but also commit suicide immediately thereafter, because once they’ve felt the presence of such genius, all life is a pale disappointment

This means that these writers will try some innovative tricks to get past me to an editor. Here are my five favorites:

1. Brazen Confidence:  Authors will simply show up in person, unannounced with manuscript in hand, and demand to speak to an editor – sometimes even trying to walk over to the editorial offices. But I am impervious to their imperialist self-important vibes and have gotten into the practice of standing up when someone unfamiliar and unexpected opens our door. They may think I’m graciously receiving them and honoring their genius, but really I’m getting ready to tackle them if need be.

2. The Doctor’s Office: Many authors will call and try to make an “appointment” to meet with an editor. Denying them an appointment angers them, so I keep reminding them of the proposal guidelines. They counter by asking again for an appointment. And when I explain why we can’t take appointments, they’ll resort to the novel approach of asking me yet again. Amazingly, the third time they ask, it works and I set up a meeting. Of course I’m kidding. The answer is still no.

3. The Call-Back: Every now and then I’ll get someone who claims they were called by one of our editors and asked to call back to discuss their work. However, all of our editors have direct phone lines, so if they wanted to talk to someone, they wouldn’t have given them the main line. Oh, and a note to you authors: if one of the editors spoke to you about a book over five years ago and you’re just responding now, the statute of limitations has run out and you need to start over (i.e. – get cracking on that proposal).

4. The Savior: Some authors believe that because they just know that their book is going to save humanity, end wars, cure cancer, and make the Kardashians disappear forever*, that they have the right to “skip the line” and talk to someone in editorial. Here’s a revelation: everyone has an answer to the world’s problems nowadays– have you noticed the Facebook postings where someone who can’t calculate simple fractions suddenly feels confident enough to challenge national economists? Or what about those people who couldn’t even get elected secretary in their elementary school class commenting on presidential campaigns? We are a nation of self-proclaimed geniuses and experts! I’m sorry, but even God needs to submit a proposal.

5. The Life Story: There are countless memoir writers who feel that if they can tell me their story that I’ll patch them through to an editor out of guilt. In some cases, there are genuine heroes among this lot but in most cases, they’re not particularly amazing stories. I’m not trying to belittle what they’ve endured or their triumphs over personal setbacks, but right now there’s a cocaine-addicted child soldier in Sudan who was forced to witness the rapes and murders of his own family and who now has been given an automatic rifle and told to take out another family or risk having his limbs hacked off with a rusty machete. Tell that kid about being bullied in junior high and the damage that it did.

Long story short: have you seen the PROPOSAL GUIDELINES?

* If you really can make the Kardashians disappear forever without breaking the law, I will actually patch you through to an editor.

Think I just answer the phone and photocopy things? Wrong! I am tremendously skilled – far more so than you may know. Here are five things I can do that you can’t:

1. I can weigh packages by hand: That’s right, you read correctly – I can accurately guess the weight of any mail simply by holding it in my palm, and I’ve got deadly accuracy. I can also tell you from memory how much it’s going to cost to get it to most major American cities and more than a few international locations by when via at least three different carriers. I am the Expedia of mail service.

2. I can navigate the building blind and armless: I can open doors with my knees. I can also navigate the entire building with my vision obstructed (usually by boxes I’m carrying). I attribute this to Belle from Beauty and The Beast. After watching that movie as a child, I realized how much time I was wasting by not reading as I walked. So, I’ve been practicing that one for a while. Good thing, because my hands are always full in this job, both literally and metaphorically. Bonus skills: elevator calling and floor button-pressing using my right foot only (it sounds easy but just try it).

3. I instinctively know how people want to be spoken to: A big part of my job concerns speaking with the countless guests in the reception area while they wait for a meeting, so I’ve perfected this technique with time and experience. Just by looking, I can see who wants to chat, who wants me to be impressed by them, who wants me to be interested in their work, and who just wants to be left alone. Prostitutes are perhaps the only other professionals who rely on this skill as much as I do. Maybe therapists. No, neither of these occupations figure into my long-term career goals.

4. I know how things really get done: Power comes from knowing and having relationships with the CEOs and upper management, right? Maybe for some things, but for everyday issues, your most valuable friends are the security guards who always give you a break, the caterers who show up and make no mistakes, and the janitors and maintenance workers who readily respond to emergency requests. To use an analogy: when you check into a hospital, you’re not putting your life in the hands of the surgeons. Your life is in the hands of the file clerk who makes sure your records are correct, the orderly who makes sure you’re in the right ward and bed, and the trainee nurse who knows your food allergies. Remember that.

5. I can predict the future. Sort of: At least in connection with office administrative issues, I can anticipate and prepare for the actions of any employee or guest. I can tell when a guest verbally commits to showing up that he won’t or that he’ll be very late.  I know which employees will ask for my help and when and with what. I ask certain coworkers to turn out their pockets as they reenter the office, because I know they’re walking away with the bathroom key. You may just think that this skill comes from experience but I knew you were going to think that! Proof!

Your resume seems less impressive now, doesn’t it?