Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bitch on Wheels?

I had another prize winning day at work yesterday. As I hung up the phone and prepared to make yet another change to my boss' travel plans, I felt the rage and despair of an intelligent woman at a dead end job begin to boil somewhere around my solar plexus. It was one of those moments where it takes a concerted, physical effort not to throw the telephone across the room and run screaming out the front door. I have changed the flights for the man's trip to New York this week more times that I remember now and he's still calling to try and adjust things. Every time he calls it gets harder and harder to get him on a different flight and the cost goes up and up. So does my stress level.

After dealing with Mr. Indecisive's travel needs all day, I got a call around 4:30 from a female executive on her way to our office. Apparently she was meeting one of the guys here for a meeting and had not been this way before. She wanted to know what freeway exit to take from the 5 South to get to the office. Now, I'm really not very good with directions and this kind of abstract thought after the day I'd had was not going to happen, so I asked her to hold on just a moment so I could take a look at the mapquest page I have saved for just such occasions. She was less than pleased and wanted to know what I do when people need directions to the office. I wanted to scream at the demanding little wench that I take surface streets to work and am not familiar with that stretch of the 5, but I muttered some polite apologetic platitude and continued looking for the exit on the map. She got pissed off because I could not give her an immediate answer, told me she'd figure it out and hung up. Needles to say, when she got here around five, it took a Herculean effort to keep my receptionist's smile plastered on my mug. She gave me this derisive look and made it clear that she was not going to concern herself with a pathetic little creature like me who couldn't even come up with street directions at a moment's notice and clearly has not graduated from Smith or Brown with honors.

Oooo, the cattiness of women in the work place. Yep, I was wantin' to bitch slap this person that I had talked to for about four minutes total. She became the personification of all the crap that is wrong in my life right now. I realize that I am working towards a degree in a field that I am actually interested in. I know that one day I will be working at a job that doesn't make me cry on Sunday nights. But right now, I'm feeling pretty hopeless about the whole situation and her smug derision stalking through my office door in her prim little skirt suit about put me over the edge.

Why, oh, why do we do this to each other? She seemed to feel that she was not only superior to me but that I was clearly offensive. I'm sure she has had her own battles in the workplace as a woman. Perhaps she sees 'the receptionist' as a stereotype that she has had to overcome. Has she been expected to bring coffee into a meeting or to make the travel arrangements for a business trip simply because she is a woman? Does she get paid the same wage as her male co-workers? Recent statistics show that most women earn about 76 cents to the dollar that their male counterparts do. Maybe she's a mom as well and she gets shit about taking afternoons off for doctor's appointments and school plays. Perhaps her company isn't very forgiving with their flex time. Maybe she had had just as difficult a day as I and simply wanted someone to help her get out of the late afternoon traffic with a minimum of bloodshed and drama. Or perhaps she was just a stuck-up type A personality ice queen with an MBA and something to prove. (sigh) Bad, bad, bad me.

I don't particularly like working as a receptionist/office manager myself. I cringe every time someone asks me to order lunch for a meeting or fix the copier. I am an intelligent person and this job isn't exactly stimulating. As a matter of fact it's downright demeaning most of the time.

However, it does pay the bills. It does provide health insurance. It provides enough money so that I can attend school and get the hell out of here when the time comes. Someday I will be taking a meeting at a corporate office and I hope I will show the 'girl' at the front desk a little more consideration. I hope I will remember that it's a thankless job and even though it's far from the worst one I've ever had it's not one that people dream about as children. I don't think anyone of us girls sat around the lunch table fantasizing about what they would do when they finally landed that gig as a secretary.

I hope that lady had a better evening. Maybe next time I can try to remember that we're all out here doing the best we can. As women we need to stop scratching each other's eyes out and try a little more sisterly understanding. Whether you're an administrative assistant or a VP of Marketing, it can be pretty brutal out here in corporate America. Wouldn't it be nice if we could try to offer a little more understanding to the lady across the hall and a little less venom? We might actually be able to get something done about that pesky little wage gap.

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