The Dean and I | Part 6

by Elouise

Things don’t always go smoothly at the office. Here’s an example of something that didn’t go smoothly for me. It may seem small and inconsequential. But most big things in my life started out small. 

Tennis Court Blues
The university has an inconvenient way of controlling access to tennis courts during the summer months. No advance reservations for peak hours until 9am of the day you’ll play. First come, first served. No favorites!

What this means: At 9am each morning the phone in the tennis court reservation office begins to ring. Don’t bother dialing seconds before 9am. You’ll just get a busy signal. The phone is off the hook–literally! At 9am sharp the receiver is placed on the hook. Within less than 3 minutes, all lines are busy. By the time I get someone on the line there may be nothing left for me.

Fact #1: I’m not calling for myself or for my husband. I could be. D is a skilled tennis player. I play slightly above beginner level. But I’m not calling for us.

Fact #2: I’m calling for JM, the ‘senior’ secretary in Mr. Griswold’s office. It’s summertime! While Mr. Griswold is away traveling, JM enjoys leaving work on time and playing tennis before she drives home. I hear she’s really good. Extremely competitive, in fact.

Fact #3: I routinely arrive at the office by 8:30am. During the summer, I’m frequently the only one there for the first hour or so. That’s because my two part-time coworkers come in to work later. It’s also because JM sometimes comes in later during the summer, especially when Mr. Griswold is traveling. Or she sometimes has trouble finding a parking spot because she doesn’t come in by 8:30am.

Problem: What will JM do about her tennis court reservations? She’s an avid tennis player. Sometimes she can’t call in to make the required reservation.

Solution: Me! I’m at my desk. The phone rings. I answer. JM explains that she won’t be able to make the call at 9am. Would I please do that for her? No problem. I hang up, dial at precisely 9am, get through, and the reservation is made. She’s happy. I’m relieved I didn’t get a busy signal or find out there are no more spaces left on today’s tennis court reservation calendar.

My Problem: Over time, resentment and maybe a tinge of prideful jealousy (is that the right word?) creep into me. I’m a good girl. I’m keeping all the rules. Why can’t I come in late? Why am I spending my time doing ‘her work?’ This little seed of resentment begins growing in me. I resolve to ‘do something about it.’ But for some reason, I just can’t do it.

Thinking it over:

  • JM has helped me in small and large ways since I began working in this office. I’m grateful.
  • Yes, making these reservations for her is sometimes inconvenient, especially when I don’t get through right away and have to keep calling back. Or when there aren’t any slots left.
  • On the other hand, I’ve noticed something. Almost every time I call, I say (as she instructed me to say) that I’m calling for JM. The man on the other end laughs a bit and does everything he can to accommodate her request! A couple of times I could almost swear he was commiserating with me. Just a wee bit. Maybe.
  • The man on the other end convinces me (without saying so) to just let this one go. In fact, I end up laughing with him a few times, and thank him profusely for his understanding.

This may seem a small thing. There are a few other things like this. They all amount to the same thing: I’m not the boss; JM isn’t the boss. Mr. Griswold is the boss of this office, and he’ll be returning in a few weeks. I want to be ready when he arrives.

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2015