Here is a forgotten piece of writing I found which could have gone in ‘People and Places’. I actually have no memory of the person now, or which office it must have been in, which shows how writing things like this can capture a moment in your life you might not otherwise have remembered.
Cathy’s Temping Characters – James the Marketing Director
He is introduced to me by a disgruntled receptionist; she rolls her eyes and makes a disparaging comment – she obviously can’t stand him.
He asks me to type a letter, and I see he has used a mixture of open and closed punctuation – my pet hate. I wonder if I should do it exactly as he’s done it, but after twenty years of obsessive consistency, I can’t stop myself removing aberrant full stops and commas. I gently comment on this, and he informs me he ‘hates open punctuation’, and says that no-one knows how to use punctuation properly. What a joke, when he certainly doesn’t! Later, I have the pleasure of correcting his misused apostrophes, in relation to a Directors’ (not Director’s) Awayday.
A huge palaver ensues, as I struggle to print his letter onto headed paper. In fact, there is no printed headed paper available; I argue with the uncommunicative IT man about where I can find a template on my PC, whether I can edit it, why the printer refuses to work after innumerable tries. No-one knows whether the white or coloured side of the paper is to be used for letters. The receptionist insists it’s the orange side – she’s been there three years, surely she knows? But she’s wrong, orange transpires to be only for invoices.
James is asked by the IT man which side he thinks it should be. He replies aggressively, “Why are you asking me?” (Because maybe you remember what colour paper you’ve signed in the past??)
At last the letter is printed and signed, and I’m informed they use window envelopes not labels. The address fits in the window but only if you knock the paper to the top of the envelope. I think this is acceptable, but James makes a point of rejecting it, saying no, the Post Office won’t accept it. I have sent and received many such letters over the years and know this is rubbish – nevertheless I reprint it to fit, beginning to bridle at the guy’s attitude.
He next annoys me by asking if I would mind filing some business cards for him. There are about ten cards, which take me approximately one minute to file.
Maybe you disagree, but my opinion is that asking someone to file a large number of business cards – maybe a hundred or more, or at least, say, fifty – is an acceptable task to delegate. Asking someone to do a task that would have taken a minute to complete comes across as a deliberate power trip. I’m pretty sure that most people with ten business cards to file would have done it themselves, and felt it an inappropriate thing to ask someone else to do.
The guy has such a smirking, self-regarding manner – he is unbelievable. I make a comment – a pleasantry about knowing the establishment he was writing to. He makes no comment whatsoever in reply, not even, ‘oh really’ – he just turns away and ignores me. Later when I say ‘goodnight’ to the few people in my proximity, the other people respond but he ignores me again.
All day he makes patronising and self-important comments to people on the phone.
“Now what I need you to do for me is this…”
“Can I just point out to you that I made this request first thing in the morning – if you want to get anywhere in this industry…”
“Can I give you some advice? Your message said you’d emailed rather than called – when I get a reference to an email, I assume it’s someone trying to sell me something…”
I think it’s an outmoded style. Lots of people will mark him down as an aggressive, arrogant prat; it won’t earn him any respect.
At one point he asks how I travelled in. When I make reference to there not being much parking around, he brandishes a huge bunch of keys and informs me he drives everywhere, and has a space in the Directors’ car park.
I’m amazed by this response – he’s like a schoolboy bragging! Am I supposed to be impressed by how many car keys – and hence presumably cars – he’s got? Is he seeking to humiliate me for not being a Director – reminding me I’m just a minion, who has to get in by train?
James the Marketing Director is an utter caricature, and it’s a great pleasure never to have to see him again.