Monday, March 23, 2009

Permanent Solution

I don't have any food or drink recipes to share with you this morning, nor do I have any fun projects. What I do have is another stupid story. You know, the ones where you can laugh at my ridiculous predicaments?

Years ago, before my kids were born, I worked in the legal department at the headquarters of a large retail company. I was a legal assistant and my job included things like preparing merger and acquisition paperwork, being a liaison between store managers and the in-house attorneys, compiling legal documentation, and preparing materials for legal seminars. I know, it doesn't sound very exciting, but I liked it.

My boss was an accomplished attorney named Deborah. She was extremely intelligent with a wicked sense of humor. Before taking the job, I had heard that she was demanding and difficult to work with, but we had very few problems. She was demanding but if you did things her way and on time, she was happy.

Deborah had no patience with incompetence, so she disliked a woman in our office named Marie. She had nothing against Marie personally, she just didn't care for the way she went about her work. If we were in a crunch to get a project done and needed some extra help, she would say "Anybody but Marie."

Preparing for Deborah's legal seminars was a big job if they were to be held out of the building, so I was relieved when she told me she was going to hold one in-house. It wasn't going to be a large group, so I thought I could handle everything myself without extra help. Everything went smoothly until we went over the check list the morning of the seminar. All of the materials had been prepared and the room had been reserved, but I had forgotten to have an overhead projector delivered. When I called the AV department there were none available.

"Just drag the white board from the storage room down there," she said.

"I can't move that thing by myself. It's huge." I told her.

"Get someone to help you, then. Anybody but Marie."

As you might have already guessed, no one was around to help except for Marie but she was more than willing. She even remembered that we needed to grab a pack of dry erase markers, which I had forgotten.

The white board was on wheels, so it wasn't heavy, but it was awkward to get it around corners, through doorways and into the elevator. We managed pretty well and had it in place fifteen minutes before the seminar was to begin. You could still see some writing on it, so I ran to the bathroom to get paper towel to clean it.

While I was gone, Marie got out the markers and wrote all over the board. She drew a crude caricature of Deborah, and in giant block letters, the words "Now presenting Deborah and her amazing assistant (Willoughby) performing for your entertainment". She was laughing hysterically when I walked back in the room.

I handed her some paper towel and told her to start wiping it off. She started on one side while I started on the other. We both noticed right away that it wasn't coming off. A quick glance at the pack of markers told me why. Instead of dry erase markers, she had grabbed a pack of colored Sharpies. You know, the permanent markers?!

I freaked out! What gets permanent marker off a white board? We tried everything we could find; water and hand soap from the bathroom, window cleaner from the maintenance department, alcohol wipes from the nurse. We got it to lighten a bit, but you could still clearly see what it said. It was a two sided board, so we could flip it around, but I couldn't leave what she had written on there, even if it was on the back side. What if Deborah flipped it over? We were literally minutes from the beginning of the seminar when I did the only thing I could think of. I used a black marker and scribbled over everything she had written. The board was a mess, but at least you couldn't see the offending pictures and writing.

I caught Deborah as she was walking into the conference room. I told her someone had scribbled on the back side of the white board with permanent marker and not to flip it. She shrugged and said nothing. The seminar went off without a hitch.

A few weeks later, Marie had the bright idea to cut all of the legal files down to letter size and cut off (and disposed of) important information in the process. Deborah was livid. She told me that was a perfect example of why she never wanted Marie to help with any of our work.

"Can you imagine letting her help with a seminar?" she asked.

I shrugged and said nothing.


L.B. said...

That was a great story! I guess Deborah had a point about Marie! Did you want to smack Marie around after she drew on the board? If you didn't, you showed some great restraint!

Raoulysgirl said...

That was hilarious! I would have conked her on the noggin.

5thsister said...

It's said that there is a Marie in everyone's life! I worked with a Marie (okay, her name was Vickie) and it never failed that when we worked together there would be some sort of crisis, whether patient related, equipment malfunction, etc... Whenever a piece of equipment inexplicably malfunctioned I was sure that Vickie had just worked the prior shift. ABM (anybody but marie) should be everyone's motto! Thanks for the great story!

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Willoughby said...

Nope, no smacking or conking took place. I think I was too panicked to be mad at the time. It seems funny, now. Time has a way of doing that, I guess.

Polly's right, there's a "Marie" in every workplace.

Ordinary Housewife - Glad to have you here!

Lissaloo said...

That is too funny, there is such a thing as too much help isn't there :)

Donna-FFW said...

Funny story. One of those never forget moments for sure!

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

That's too funny. We all have Maries in our life, don't we? I had a young college girl as an assistant once; she was really sweet and meant well, but she was such a ditz. She couldn't tell time on a standard clock!