I’ve had to learn the hard way that many temps just don’t give a crap. Whenever I’ve hired temporary secretaries to fill in for my regular assistant, they’ve displayed the kind of disinterest typically seen from the people in orange jumpsuits spearing roadside trash. And those were the smart ones! The less intellectually gifted souls who’ve shown up at my office compounded their lackadaisical attitudes with an equal dose of ineptitude. As I discovered today, the temp who messed up my holiday gift order must be the poster child for both deficiencies.
Every year, I deliver gifts to my most valued clients and certain lawyers who refer business to me. I send fruit baskets, gourmet cookies or other food delicacies to most people. Where I know a person’s particular interest, I occasionally try to accommodate it. For instance, I once arranged a sampler of Belgian ales for a lawyer I knew to be an aficionado of those beverages.
Although I always decide what to send and to whom, I leave it my secretary to place the orders. This year she decided to take an early December vacation. Consequently, I gave my handwritten list of instructions to the temp filling in for her. In addition to the standard items, my list included one special order for a lawyer who’d sent a lucrative case my way.
The woman provided by the employment agency made a number of boneheaded errors during her week with me. Through phone calls this morning, I learned that those careless mistakes included a switch of two holiday gift orders. For the life of me, I can’t fathom how she mixed up the recipients; and since she’s no longer working for me, I’ll probably never get an answer.
The lawyer for whom I’d intended the special order provided the first hint of my temp’s error. “Richard,” he said, “I suppose I should acknowledge the enormous basket of chocolates I received from you today. You do know I’m a diabetic, don’t you?”
One hour later, an intended recipient of the chocolate basket solved the mystery of the special order’s whereabouts. My mentee’s teacher, Ms. McDaniel, called to thank me, more or less, for the gift her class received. She opened the conversation with a question: “Richard, you don’t have kids of your own, right?” When I conceded the point, she continued: “Well, as much as the children and I appreciate your gesture, I have to tell you that third graders don’t have much use for an assortment of cigars and smoking accessories. For future reference, you might consider sending a basket of chocolates instead.”