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« Very Important Things | Main | Actual Overheard Morning Commute Conversation Moments »

On Top of the World!

At the Department of Government Governmenting, I sometimes put my Master’s degree to work at the receiving desk. Here, I find myself precisely where I was six years of resume-bankable experience ago: Temping. I answer the phone. I remove binder clips from one stack of paper in order to place them on another stack of paper. I autograph thousands and thousands of delivery receipts (current worth on eBay: -47 cents). I also put my extensive background check and security clearance to work by divulging the code to the lock on the bathroom door across from the elevator.

There’s one for the women’s bathroom, and one for the men’s bathroom. I am extremely useful for the female couriers; not so much for the men. The men have to use the toilet in the outrageously overpriced café on the first floor, because I was told what the code was once, during my orientation, it was in the midst of 1.1 billion other piece of numbers-intensive information. It’s something terrifically complicated and state-secure, I’m sure, but still: If you are a visiting male and you need to pee while I’m working the desk, it will take you less time to receive complex hormone therapy and negotiate a sex change operation before I remember the mens’ room bathroom code.

By investing my time in such vital activities, it stands to reason that when a visiting cortège from the State Department showed up, and one member, noticing the office coffeepot across the hall from the waiting room, produced his travel mug and demanded decaf. I responded as my temp training dictated: “Of course. Just a moment.”

I high-heeled my way to the nearest cubicle and quietly explained to the occupant, in my best professional manner, that I know precisely eff-all about making coffee, for in my world, coffee descends from the clouds, is blended with ice and four pounds of caramel in a clear plastic Starbuck’s cup, and then proceeds directly to my right and left buttocks. Could he show me how to use the machine?

He was first shocked, then offended,  then offended some more.

“They… asked you for coffee?”

The answer, of course, was OF COURSE. They asked me for coffee. I’m flourishing my name on delivery slips like Congress signs checks for whores, I command an obedient army of paper clips, I answer the phone in vocal inflictions couched somewhere between Slightly Pissed-Off TransAtlantic Stewardess and Automatic Female Voice Announcing That Para Español Oprima Numero Dos, and I’m wearing a suit jacket with little bows at the sleeves. I’m the person who gets the coffee.

“We don’t… do that,” he said. “You’re a GS-7. Go back and tell them they can get their own damn coffee.”

I went back and told them the machine was broken and out of beans and also festering with eColi, then suggested that he step into the convenient café in the lobby to purchase twelve ounces for the special post-Inauguration price of $14,790. Because while I am required to organize rubber bands according to thickness, tear apart envelops addressed to The Honorable Secretary to the Undersecretary’s Assistant Associate, and exchange banter with the FedEx guy who is apparently dropping off a package between panty sniffing sessions and killing sprees, it seems that coffee is beneath me.

Perhaps it's just as well, because in the immediate moments after after he finished the coffee, he'd have only his travel mug to turn to when it came time for an Exit Strategy.

four hours of leave every two weeks at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

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Reader Comments (8)

[...] Beth would like to get you, and also the whole entire State Department, some coffee. Share and [...]

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter| Morning Works Media

Wow, what an arrogant guy. It's one thing to ask, "can I drink the coffee over there," but another to want the coffee AND try to get the reception desk temp woman to be your waitress.

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterj.s.

Your answer, even though it was a lie, was definitely the correct one in that given situation. I'm sure you could handle tough foreign relationship negotiations quite nicely ;)

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

[...] Read the original post:  On Top of the World! [...]

Sadly, I LOVE reading posts like this, because it reminds me so much of when I started with the government, only with more wit.

It has improved since then, but I occasionally still get people that like to put me in my place, so to speak. Love working in HR.

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLespsu

Dang, you're pulling down more than I thought you would.

Need an assistant? I do know how to make coffee.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterINCITEmarsh

You're thinking by Indiana standards. Here in DC, I barely make minimum wage. I could afford my own personal coffee production plant before I could afford an assistant.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMB

[...] volume of paper waste the Department of Government Governmenting produces.  When I am posted at Coffee Obtainment Position One, I hold sway over two wastebaskets– not the useless dainty powder-room kind, mind you, these [...]

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