Adventures With Mitchell – Am I His Legal Secretary or His Janitor?
In June 2013 I took a part-time job as a legal secretary to an attorney here in my town who was closing his practice. My hours were 8am-1pm M-F. Mitchell was a nebbish but a nice person. He had terrible tremor, and he often opened up files and then closed them, accidentally, due to his tremor, putting them in someone else’s files….I spent so much wasted time looking for documents, client bills, etc. that Mitchell “lost in the computer.”
After about a month working for Mitchell, his idiosyncries came out. We worked out of his home. He had taken all of his work materials, client files, documents, office supplies, etc. from his office building and moved them into his home in preparation of closing business. Boxes and boxes everywhere; in the garage, in the basement, in his bedroom. Mitchell’s house was old and unkempt. It had that “old’ smell to it, and when I needed to find someone’s files from a box in the decrepit garage the mildew smell was overwhelming; there were 3 dehumidifiers running in the basement constantly but it smelled horrible anyway.
Mitchell has terrible habits. The bathroom is next to the room we use as an office. Mitchell consistently uses the bathroom to urinate without closing the door or flushing the toilet although I am only several feet away. He also forgets to close his zipper. Mitchell is completely “out to lunch.” When I need to use the same bathroom, I have to flush away his urine first. These are my working conditions; knocked down many pegs from my last job 15 years ago working for a Forbes 400 millionaire with class.
We had some trying moments because Mitchell is neurotic and so am I, we are both OCD, we both have tremor, we are kind, we both are patient, but he is forgetful and clumsy. But together we cranked it out! Year-end stuff. I’d been with him for 6 months, and he gave me a nice Christmas bonus gift anyway – very kind.
I had worked many years ago ….for another Mitchell…this awakens my memories of days on Park Avenue in a VERY large, very prestigious law firm that I worked in for several years … fond memories and great times (times of economic abundance) … when if you could produce flawless work (I could and did), you could get away with being naughty sometimes – so, of course, several of us ladies did! Funny stories… we had one attorney, Mitchell, who was a pain in the butt – smart as heck – brilliant – but a pain – we all knew he was anxious about losing his hair and he was balding, so we would take turns snipping pieces of our own hair from the back of our head underneath (dark hair like his) – little pieces – and leave it on his desk from time to time when he wasn’t there just to make him nuts ….and he was sooooo anxious about everything; his wife called every night asking him to pick up milk or bread on the way home. One night we made up a long, long list of impossible groceries to pick up at a NYC deli and gave it to him and said, your wife needs all of these things. Poor guy – we left him with the list for 20 minutes while he pondered where he would get all these groceries in NYC at midnight (I worked the 8:30pm-3:30am shift). And that’s just some of the naughty…. We had a good time.
Work with Mitchell is erratic. As our computer tech once asked me, “how does it feel to have a job where your assignment is to phase yourself out” and in these last 8 1/2 months I can see that the work is slowing. This is not good. Mitchell, ever the lawyer, looking for value in his dollar, looks for “make-work” for me. He begins to ask me to do things that are actually housekeeping; I don’t think it’s fair to expect me to get filth on my clothing, find rodents while digging for boxes and files (yes, his house was that old and dirty) when I am a secretary. I offer to be of assistance in alternate solutions using a handyman, cleaning lady, etc but Mitchell gets so worked up he stops listening and becomes apoplectic.
After 3 months, I get hit with two issues: his daughter comes home from college and his pipes burst. I enjoy legal work, the projects, the clients, etc.. However, the work environment has become too unpleasant. First the pipes start leaking, banging and AND spewing black muddy water threw the radiator pipes. No problem – I throw down paper towels and call the plumber. I’m in the middle of cleaning the mud when Mitchell asks me to get someone on the phone. I call; secretary answers; I’m explaining who it is – we are in the middle of closing a big deal and this person is critical to the deal – now, I know the secretary is telling me the woman is on the other line with the bigwig of the deal but I can barely hear her …. Mitchell is YELLING at me …Kathleen ….I told you to call her direct line, Kathleen, Kathleen, stop, stop, ….he’s having a mini tantrum so I have to put the secretary on hold. This motherfucker Mitchell just got on my last nerve. (Hey, I have stress too!!!!) so I YELL back at him. “Mitchell, you are so rude to me. Mary is on the phone with Richard. I called her direct line. I know what number to call. I’m not a moron. Seriously, you are very rude”. I turn around and go back to the call. He then makes a quiet, “oh, I didn’t know.” Sometimes I want to throw a book at Mitchell.
Every day is an adventure….so the boiler at Mitchell’s is still not fully repaired and Steve, the plumber is back this morning – and just great – Mitchell can’t come in – he calls me at 9 (I’m here at 8:30) to say he had a car accident last night – someone hit him and his car was totaled but he is okay. The house is freezing, but I have a space heater. I’m sitting here in the office alone with the door closed, saving the heat to myself with Mr. Hottie, the plumber, in the basement who wants my cell number. Geez.
And up arises my problem #2…Mitchell’s daughter is home from college…and she is a complete slob. Mitchell’s 21 year old daughter lives in the house alone when she is not in college (read winter break) and Mitchell reverse commutes from his apartment in NYC. Over the weekend, she had another one her parties…this time she chose to make room in the kitchen and living room by putting appliances, food, clothing, suitcases, unopened Christmas gifts and filled garbage bags in the office to keep them out of eyesight for her party. I was ok with clearing out the office yesterday morning until I went into the basement where the safe is with stock certificates I needed. Well, the party had had happened there too. Food and beer cans all over the floor. I don’t care. Not my business. I go to the safe. Nope. Can’t get to the safe. She’s loaded up all the dirty laundry in front of the safe to keep it out of view. It’s now 12 noon. I’ve had it. I don’t tell Mitchell. I just go upstairs where she had been sleeping and shout her name. As it turns out, while I was in the basement she had gotten up and gone into the kitchen. “Whaaaaaa?” I told her the mess she caused and that I couldn’t get to the stock. She said “I just woke up, shut the fuck up”. Grrrrrrrrr. I went in to Mitchell, who is drafting a document and oblivious. I told him, next time your daughter tells me to shut the fuck up, I’m out of here. He got up from his desk and starts screaming her name. I do not know what ensued. My cup is filling up and beginning to overflow with this job.
The next day, Mitchell dropped a 3 1/2 inch file comprised of single sheets of paper held into the file with an acco fastener on the floor but he had taken out the fastener – of course. All of the papers on the floor and he needs the file for a conference call in 10 minutes. All of these papers are dated and TIME stamped and have to go into the file in that order. Again Mitchell – again? And today he tells me he needs me to help him carry in his Christmas tree Thursday morning. This job is nuts.
After 6 months I decide to give Mitchell notice – I will give him one month to find someone (seems fair) – hubby is complaining all the time about my working …. yada yada yada … disrupts the home schedule he has become accustomed to, upsets the dog who misses me, just disruptive (to him) … I like the job but it’s not worth all hubby’s crabbing and his dark mood when he gets on the low side of his damn mania. I do it for the mental stimulation and to get out of the house. And summer is coming, which means is daughter will be home full-time….Oh my God, I do not NOT NOT need that….see ya!