When a full staff adds up to one

Someone called the other day and asked to speak to me. She was surprised when I said that it was me. Sounding disappointed, she said, “Oh, I thought you’d have staff.”

Hey, so did I.

I don’t have staff.

I almost had staff.

There was a time when high school and college kids, aspiring to be columnists or writers, or just get out of class, routinely asked if they could shadow me to learn what a columnist did all day.

My husband is still asking.

In any case, I explained that I worked from home and spent much of the day sitting in front of a computer trying not to fall asleep or fall off my chair.

If they claimed they couldn’t wait to see the heart-pounding excitement of a real-life columnist sitting in front of a computer screen, I usually said yes they could shadow for a few hours, but with the stipulation that they sign a waiver in the event they died of boredom.

A very polite young high school student once asked to shadow me for an entire morning. After a couple of hours, the poor kid was so dazed that I asked him go to the kitchen and make me a cup of tea to make sure he was still conscious.

He seemed to perk up. So then I asked if he’d like to go get the mail.

He bolted for the door.

He returned with the mail and I was just about to ask if he’d like to wash a columnist’s car when his mother arrived to pick him up.

What rotten timing.

Students don’t ask to shadow often anymore. These are hard times for columnists. Hard times nothing—being a columnist today is like having a deck chair on the Titanic and hearing a dull thud.

If I did have staff, I know I could keep them busy.

First, I’d have them bring coffee. Good coffee, not the cheap kind we make here at home, but coffee from some place where they write your name on the cup. That seems so upscale and professional. You don’t write your name on the cup when you work at home. You can, but there’s nobody who’d be impressed.

Then I’d send my staff out for a Fidget. I never needed one before, but your needs grow exponentially when you have staff. Make that two dozen Fidgets.

By then it would be time for my staff to go get lunch.

After lunch, I’d have my staff tackle my backlog of bookkeeping. When they finished logging in income, expenses and figuring my estimated quarterly taxes, they’d understand why I was letting them go.

Hardly anybody has staff anymore. Corporate execs, middle managers and business owners all used to have staff, but financial whizzes discovered tons of money could be saved by having people be their own staff or outsourcing work to other countries.

You can always tell those fortunate enough to still have staff. They’re the ones who like to say they’ll have their people call your people.

When my people call your people, it’s really me calling, but using a very deep voice.

Oh well.

Somedays I do wish I had staff. Like right now.

The laundry needs to be transferred.

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