Friday, July 27, 2012
Guest Post: Elise Douglas
Looking For Work
When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.
—Henry J. Kaiser
I worked as a graphics computer consultant while also working on a novel. An agency called and asked if I would handle a “difficult and challenging assignment.” It was at a leading investment banking firm on Park Avenue. I said yes. I dressed appropriately—corporate casual: khakis, button down shirt, loafers.
I entered the soaring-to-the-heavens building, going through 5 minutes of grueling security, but was respectively called Mr. Pennington, because I looked akin to investment bankers who are important and prosperous.
I played the part, carrying an impressive shoulder bag that had nothing in it except a protein-packed peanut butter bar and edits for a new women’s fiction novel entitled, Wanting Rita, that my wife, Elyse, and I were writing.
I was whisked to the upper floors that looked out over the impressive, gleaming towers of Manhattan. I stepped across gold carpeted hallways and passed shimmering enclosed offices, where determined men and women worried and jousted over important financial issues.
I was led across the trading floor, around islands of printers and computers, down corridors that opened, vast and wide, to more cubicles and computers, with even more people, dressed like me, hunched over keyboards, working assiduously. I was about to be involved with powerful people doing important work and I was ready for it. I was ready for the difficult and challenging assignments that lay ahead.
I was shown my desk, my computer and my printer. I lowered my shoulder bag with a dramatic sigh, aware that curious eyes were watching, and pretended to strain under its weight. Let them think I have important documents inside, I thought to myself. Let this first impression be one of “this guy has come to do difficult and challenging assignments.”
I sat, adjusted my ergonomically designed chair—one that was so carefully and skillfully designed that I could have been shot to the moon in ease and comfort. I booted up the computer. I logged on, using the highly secret passwords. I waited.
A tall, focused supervisor arrived, quiet and serious. “Welcome. Good to have you with us. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He drifted away into the endless corridors and cubicles and glass-enclosed offices. I waited.
The district supervisor soon arrived. She was easy, friendly and attractive. “We have so much work to do. So glad you’re here to help us, Douglas.”
“Good to be here,” I said earnestly.
She soon ambled away, to some distant shore, where security doors released you through a hallway that led to more security doors and corridors and stairs and a bank of elevators.
I waited… At 1pm, I was told to go for lunch and return at 2pm. I did. At 6:30, I was kindly instructed to go home. Being the last worker on the floor, I did, shutting down the computer on which I had stared longingly for stale, protracted hours. I then wandered through the maze of cubicles and silent offices until I arrived at the bank of lonely elevators. They seemed to speak to me.
“Ah…Douglas, the vicissitudes of life: up and down, down and up.”
A week passed—one day looping into the next—each following the same familiar and grueling pattern. I never was given any work to do. Often, in quiet desperation, I worked on Wanting Rita.
One night, as I prepared to leave after a particularly fallow day, a co-worker drew up, flushed, perspiring and weary. “What a kick-ass day, huh? I’m beat.”
I mopped my brow with a tissue. “Oh, yeah. A real pressure cooker.”
On another evening, I left the hushed, empty cubicles, slouching my way to the elevators. I stood in an awkward silence. The CEO of the company was standing beside me. He stood aloof, dressed smartly in a suit and tie. No doubt he’d spent endless challenging hours wrestling with problems, financial quagmires and near life-and-death issues.
I, on the other hand—for nearly three months—had done absolutely nothing.
He eyed me suspiciously. I could hear him thinking: “Humm…last man out. Obviously, a dedicated employee. No doubt he’s been working on difficult and challenging assignments.”
I left the building with all the other essential people. I kept my head held high, but my shoulders a little slouched to show that I, too, had done important work and I was weary from it.
I never saw the supervisor again. I returned several times a week for about a year and was rarely given any work. When work gratefully arrived, it was elementary at best. Anyone could have done it.
Whenever I asked if there was any work for me, I was told “Oh, yeah, we’re going to be busy today.”
Then the day finally came: the assignment came to an end. Not with a bang but a whimper. “Good job,” I was told. “Thanks for all the hard work.”
Two weeks later, I received a call from the agency.
“Douglas, they want you back. They said you’re the only one they trust to handle the workload. Are you available?”
Copyright © 2012 Elyse Douglas
Elyse Douglas’ contemporary romance novels are entitled The Astrologer’s Daughter and Wanting Rita.
Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the married writing team Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse grew up near the sea, roaming the beaches, reading and writing stories and poetry, receiving a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Columbia University. She has enjoyed careers as an English teacher, an actress and a speech-language pathologist. She and her husband, Douglas Pennington, have completed three novels: The Astrologer’s Daughter, Wanting Rita and a Christmas novel to be released later this year.
Douglas grew up in a family where music and astrology were second and third languages. He attended the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and played the piano professionally for many years. With his wife, Elyse, he has helped to pen The Astrologer’s Daughter and Wanting Rita.
When asked how they write a novel together, Doug often answers, “Well… If Elyse is dismissive and quietly pacing, then I know something’s not working. If I’m defensive, dramatic and defiant, then I know Elyse will soon be scowling and quietly pacing. We remind ourselves of Rita and Alan James in our novel, Wanting Rita. How the books get finished, I don’t know.”
Elyse Douglas live in New York City.To learn more about Elyse Douglas, go to their website
To get your e-copy of Wanting Rita by Elyse Douglas at Amazon
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