Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Patron Saint of Real Estate

posted Sat, 28 Aug 2004

We had a little going-away party for Stephanie, the secretary to the VP. Stephanie’s husband has a new job in another state; she is quitting after seven years with this VP, who will be mourning for a long time.

Stephanie always leaves at 4:30 sharp, which has created some resentment with the other secretaries in the group. It bothered me as well, because I saw how the other women had to take up the slack.

But then I started to applaud Stephanie. The company wasn’t going to pay her any overtime, but it’s not like she was going to get the huge salary or bonus that her boss gets. (There may be overtime now, but for a while, they weren’t authorizing any.) Another VP’s secretary doesn’t file for overtime, yet will stay late into the night finishing up. Most support staff positions have been eliminated, even though the work has not gone away. And the senior execs don’t seem to have a problem asking secretaries to do strictly personal chores for them, like making travel arrangements for their (the execs’) grown children.

When I worked at Ryder, the secretary for my group made the VP’s doctor and hair appointments and took his car to get the oil changed. She never had time to do anything for the rest of the group. I didn’t think this was an appropriate use of shareholder money.

We talked about the four-month period one woman was having and all that she had been through trying to figure out what was wrong, then we talked about the thyroid problems that three of the women had. We talked about packing stuff for moving – what to keep, what to throw away.

We talked about selling Stephanie’s house. Her husband’s new employer won’t buy the house if it doesn’t sell, as is common with large companies. He is a Lutheran pastor – I guess that’s not part of what happens when you get called to a new congregation.

“Have you buried a St Joseph statue in your front yard?” I asked.


She didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s not just that she is Lutheran but also that M’town is not a Catholic town. Only about four percent Catholic, which is probably higher than in Atlanta. We have six Catholic high schools here – apparently, there is only one in Atlanta. Catholics are not too common in the south, but M’town is a river town more than a southern town.

But the two other Catholics in the group knew exactly what I was talking about. The Baptists were fascinated. Course, they didn’t get the idea of a pastor changing congregations, either. I said that in the military, at least, they on purpose move people around so they don’t build empires. The military needs to be about the process, not the person. It also helps diminish problems with embezzling and other things that can happen when you don’t worry about someone looking at what you are doing.

Back to St Joseph. I told Stephanie I didn’t know if it would work for Lutherans but it was worth a shot.

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