Hello – I hope you’ll take a look at an excerpt from a book that has been hiding in my creative files for a few years. Because we all have a book in us, don’t we?
Launch – Chapter 1
Cindy Clarke walked through the glass doors and stopped, blinded by the change of light. So bright outside and such a shock to suddenly see nothing but spots as her eyes adjusted to the indoors. She had forgotten her damn sunglasses at the house and had squinted her way through the drive to Marshall Technology. When she could see around her, she looked at the directory. She was sure she needed the second floor, but she’d better check. What if it was the third floor? Did she have enough time to make that mistake and get there in time?
Second floor. She waited at the elevator, feeling on display for not taking the stairs. The wait seemed unbearably long and she was sure anyone who saw her would laugh at her, think she was lazy for not taking the stairs. But Cindy was somehow off-balance that day and didn’t even want to open the stairwell door and experience the echo of someone else’s feet as they clomped up the waffle-textured rubber stairs, giving her the inexplicable feel of going to class years ago, when she was young and confident but no longer so.
As the elevator doors opened, she stared out stupidly, her eyes widening as if they were in charge of making the next decision. “Left or right?” she wondered. She had been alone in the elevator and she wondered if it looked worse to hesitate inside the elevator or to exit and then stop and look like a lost fool in front of people she might have to impress. “Just go,” she told herself, feeling somehow stronger at the thought of motion.
“So, what can you tell me about yourself that would convince me to hire you?” It couldn’t possibly be right that the woman across the desk from her would be a decision-maker. She looked so young. Cindy calculated. This woman was probably twenty years younger than Cindy. Her future was in these manicured, professional, unspotted and confident hands.
“Well, I haven’t worked in quite a while, as you can see,” Cindy started. She felt sweat trickling down her back. “But I’m a good typist, and good on the phone.” Were these skills even necessary anymore? Cindy wondered.
Ms. Doyle, looked at her with a plastered face. She was all confidence, but new on the job. She had been interviewing candidates for an administrative assistant and had somehow pictured mentoring someone just out of college, someone she could feel naturally superior to, by the timeline of growth. But the candidates she’d seen so far were not young. They were all older women. For goodness sakes – they were all mothers! Did she want a mother working alongside her, running office errands? She had pictured going out to lunch with a young protégé, telling her what the world was like, maybe sharing a few details about her romantic life. She imagined giving sage advice to some young newbie. No, you must not call him! Wait, don’t chase.
Cindy was all nerves and sweat. Ms. Doyle would definitely have the upper hand.
“How are you on computers, Mrs. Clarke?”
Cindy tried to focus. She wanted this job. She knew she could do the work. It wasn’t that long ago when she worked in an office, was it? How different could it be? She felt fairly up-to-date with technology. Her children laughed at her but she could work email, she had an iPhone, was on Facebook. She took a leap.
“I’m okay at the computer,” she answered. Stupid answer, where’s your confidence? She took another leap, imagined herself just out of college.
“Look, I’m not a young college girl. I know that. But I’m going to take a chance here. I need a job. I want to work and I think I can do this. You’re much younger than I am, and that is strange to me. Maybe to you, too. I’ll be honest. We have a computer at home and I use it for email and social media, but I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life being a mother, not learning technology. There have to be some skills I’ve learned along the way that apply to a modern office. I’m not applying for an executive’s job, here. I just want a chance to work.”
Cindy’s heart was pounding. She was shocked at what she was saying. Where was it coming from?
Ms. Doyle’s face had changed. It had taken on a mixed appearance. Half condescension, half childish need. Maybe this was someone she could use.
“Well, the job requires knowledge of Word and Excel. Do you know those programs, Mrs. Clarke?”
“I know Word a little bit. We have it at home. I haven’t been on Excel much, but I’m sure I could learn it.”
It was Ms. Doyle’s third week as Assistant Director of Marketing at Marshall Tech. She had won the job and, besides having an office, she was given the one new perk of having an administrative assistant. She’d never had someone helping her. She’d had to do that all on her own. Her own boss, Jenny Sorano, had said to her, “Get an assistant, Kendra. Line up some interviews, find someone you can work with and get working.”
So Kendra Doyle posted the job description and had been interviewing for a week. She looked at Cindy Clarke and then she thought about all the work that was piling up in her office. She could only program her phone to voicemail for so long. And she didn’t want to waste her time sorting through the hundreds of emails that were filling up her inbox. She thought about some of the other candidates she’d interviewed. They all looked the same to her, in fact, there wasn’t much that distinguished one over the other. It exhausted her to think about choosing one of these women over another. So in an irrational fit, invisible to anyone who was looking, and certainly unnoticed because no one was watching, Kendra Doyle looked closely at Cindy Clarke and made the decision right away.
She organized the papers on her desk, lifted them and banged them into formation. “Okay, let’s do this. We usually give a test on Word and Excel, to check on skills and accuracy. Why don’t you take the weekend to practice at home? Make sure you know how to create documents, work with files, move things around. Learn some Excel, how to enter numbers, sort, edit cells. Then come back on Monday and I’ll give you the test. We’ll see how you do, okay?”
The feeling of being given a break had not quite settled on Cindy, but she thought she saw some hope in this offer. She wondered what it could possibly be that would have made Ms. Kendra Doyle, all confidence and authority, all youth and power, what would have caused her to look at Cindy Clarke and think she could do this job.
Cindy was all rubber, but she mustered up a decent response. “I’m a good learner, Ms. Doyle. I’ll come back on Monday and take the test.”
“Please, call me Kendra.” And Kendra, having thrown Cindy Clarke a bone, softened a bit. She stood, signaling the end of the interview. Cindy stood and felt the sweat on the backs of her legs and she suddenly remembered those hot final days of elementary school, when the Formica seats glued themselves to all the girls and made a strange wet, sticky sound when they stood, like a Band-Aid being ripped off.
Cindy walked through the lobby doors and was again blinded by the change in lighting. She wondered how her family would react. She hadn’t even told her husband, Ted, that she was looking for a job. And now she had an assignment to learn Word and Excel, not a job yet, but something told her she would get it.
She hadn’t exactly liked Kendra Doyle. Kendra was older than her own two daughters, very polished, but also much rougher than Jessie and Katie. She couldn’t help but think in a motherly way. That was how she had been programmed. She wondered what kind of mother Kendra had.
Thank you for reading.
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