In early August, my dad’s partner hired someone part-time to fill in the blanks. Someone who could jump right in according to her claimed experience in the field. Someone who could hit the ground running and lighten his load as we started in on our crazy season. A married thirty-something with mousy brown hair, mom jeans and a two year old was the only prospect. Neither my dad nor I were involved in the hiring process since she was not technically one of our employees but we were asked what we thought.
“Well,” the partner said as he leaned on the counter by my desk and peeled a piece of licorice free from the wrapping.
“I didn’t really talk with her but I will say this much – she totally gave a dead fish when I shook her hand.”
That was the extent of my opinion.
Two weeks later she was hired. Four weeks later she started. And last week I almost slammed her head into a filing cabinet. It started off innocently enough with her aimlessly wandering around my open work area clutching a large envelope.
“Hey, over on the wall by the postage machine is a sheet with additional pricing. It varies according to size and that’s considered a large envelope,” I informed her, my head nodding in the direction of the item in her hand.
“The Postal Service rolled out higher prices for larger envelopes. It’s different than what reads on the scale,” I elaborated.
“Go look at the sheet on the wall.”
Blank stare with slow shuffling of feet.
“The wall. By the meter. To the left,” I directed.
Blank stare with shuffling of feet to the right.
“The left,” I repeated.
Shuffling of feet to the right while looking blankly to the left.
“The left,” I said one more time before getting up from my desk and walking over to the wall by the meter, my presence acting as a beacon on her horizon of confusion. She adjusted her trajectory just before completing a full circle heading in the wrong direction.
“You have to weigh the letter and agree it to the fee schedule on the sheet,” I said while pointing to the paper pinned to the wall. The one with 'large envelopes' highlighted in yellow.
Blank stare with an ever so slight twinkle of recognition.
Content she understood or perhaps too frustrated to direct her any further, I went back to my desk. I settled into my chair and returned my attention to the files spread out in front of me. Or at least I tried to get back to work. It was hard to focus on much of anything when ten feet behind me all I could hear were quiet moans of despair and mutters that the act of calculating postage was hard. Very hard. Five minutes later, still not having heard the sound of the postage machine stamp anything, I got up and walked back over to where I had left her. She was in a crouched position with hands on her knees and she was looking at the scale the same way a mesmerized three year old stares at a snow globe.
“What does it read?” I inquired.
Blank stare with a crinkled nose.
“Four ounces,” I answered.
“It actually looks like it’s a little less than four ounces,” she countered.
“Right. So find four ounces on this grid and that’ll tell you the price you need to plug into the meter,” I instructed, my tone and annunciation similar to that one would use when speaking to a foreigner.
“Oh, I get it.”
No she didn’t. And I was officially done with my original approach of let’s-learn-from-this.
“It’s one thirty-one,” I squeezed out between clenched teeth.
With the envelope finally stamped, the coworker went back to her cubicle and I went back to the clutter on my desk. An hour later, my phone rang. It was my mom.
“What’re you doing?” she asked in between munches of something crunchy.
“Trying to not kill the new girl.”
“Let’s just say that even though Olivia is only two and a half and can’t count to twenty without saying thirteen twice and fifteen never, she’s more qualified for the position.”