By Amber Robbin
It was a grey day. A forebodingly overcast sky drained every speck of light from the smutty Chicago streets. I sat in my rolly chair at the front desk and gazed through the window as the storm clouds rolled in. I was on tight deadline. My weekly phone fact e-mail was due for submission to the whole office, and I was at a loss for what typeface to use. I had almost ruled out Garamond as too stiff and settled on Elephant for a little good humor, when suddenly, I looked down at my attendance sheet and had a heart-stopping realization…
None of the partners had come to work! It was a Friday, like any other…except different. I called my supervisor, but she didn’t pick up. Surely she’s not missing, I thought. I rang the one assistant I felt I could trust, but she was away from her desk too. Then I recalled, Dorothy never came to work less than a half hour late. My pulse relaxed a bit. I’d have to try another assistant. I dialed Ashley’s extension and held my breath. She picked up. “Ashley, what is going on? Why is no one here today?” “Ohhh, ya knowww, they all left early for that partners’ outing this weekend. Jest the secretaries in the house todayyy, hehehe!” Mystery solved. Or was it…if the partners were all gone for the weekend, including my boss, what were the receptionist and all the secretaries going to do all day?
I took lunch at one and sat sipping my coffee pensively in the lobby Starbucks. I’d only been at the firm for a few, extremely long weeks, but I was starting to pick up on things. The projects I’d been given were all busy work. The secretaries took their precious time relieving me for breaks. Every Friday, the head partners and my boss went for a three hour lunch at Capital Grill. Dorothy was up to her britches in credit card debt! (Ok, that one everybody had picked up on. Her creditors called daily.) But then there was the fact that the most-famed attorney at the firm was slipping slowly into madness and would drag you down with him if he caught you alone in the break-room. And finally, my most shocking discovery: I was working an hour more than everyone else each day and not making any overtime! But why? The question echoed in my ear like the drone of the copier. I had to find out the answer.
That afternoon, the office became an anarchist breeding ground. With no partners to crack the whip, secretaries were up and about walking the halls freely. Dorothy passed by my desk and let out the roar of a wild animal, followed by a cartwheel. Ashley paraded uninhibitedly in her miniskirt, without the restraint normally inspired by the head honcho’s ever-present leer. It was insanity! I ate at my desk and didn’t even try to hide it. Still, the greatest threat were those storm clouds rolling in. Breaking news reports said there would be flooding throughout the city, and many of the assistants had to cross the highways to get home. We waited and waited for word from our bosses, but not a single call…until four p.m… “Yes, Amber, I’ve just sent an e-mail to the office. We are hard at work here at the retreat, but I suppose if anyone is affected by the flooding, they can leave early from work just this once. I will see you at 8:30am sharp on Monday…well, 8:15am. You should be arriving 15 minutes earlier to turn on the lights…” “Oh, yes, about that, Georgia…” She’d hung up.
Monday morning came, and I got to the light board by 8:15. I walked straight back to Georgia’s office and asked to take a seat. I stated my case, how every other salaried employee worked 9 to 5, questioning why I wasn’t earning an hour of overtime every day for working an 8:30am to 5:30pm schedule. Her answer was simple. Because my contract said so. “Yes, but why do you need me here that extra hour?” “To watch everyone come and go.” I walked back to my desk, picked up my pencil, and waited for everyone else to show up.
To be continued…
Amber Robbin is the creator of Tumbleweed Diaries. She is passionate about languages, world travel, and currently working on a book about her adventures in Italy.