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“You’ve gotta be kidding! Unbelievable!” I shouted into the phone. “She’s gonna be out of work for three months! And this is our busiest time of the year!”
“That’s what I just heard,” replied Gillian, our HR director, trying to be calm (which I appreciated). “If she heals quickly, it might be 10 weeks maybe.”
“She’s gonna be all right, isn’t she?”
“Oh, yeah. But she won’t be back until first of next year.”
“Christ! Jesus H. Christ!” I muttered as I began to think up a plan.
As General Manager of a design and manufacturing company, you can always work through absenteeism, strikes and walkouts, supplier delivery problems, and sales slowdowns, but when your lead shipping coordinator is put out of commission for three months, your company becomes “constipated” you might say. You can build all the stuff you can, but if it doesn’t get out on time, you’re screwed. Lorna knows everything about picking orders for shipping, dealing with the freight companies, working up the customs paperwork for foreign shipments, and a million other things that no one else in the company knew well. And now she would be out for the final three months of the year, our busiest time. That’s what I get for dragging my feet about implementing that cross-training project.
“Get a hold of the agency and see if they can get someone over here. Someone with experience.”
“How about the one we used when Charisse was out?”
“QualTemp? Their people usually are pretty good. I’ll see what they can do.”
“Great. Keep me posted,” I said hanging up the phone quickly.
Great indeed! Things had been going too well since the summer slowdown. I knew it wouldn’t last but you can always hope. And with all that had been going on in my personal life, the last thing I needed was another problem, another headache, or another ulcer. I had lost–in order–my parents in a car accident, my longstanding girlfriend to a bleached out, beach bum bartender, then my apartment when my roommate got married. But what hurt as much as anything was when I lost my dog, just a couple of days after. Old Kelsey Dog had been my best friend through everything and now I had no one. Thank God I had my work to keep me going. And just when everything else was settling done and falling into place, another pot began to boil over. First things first, I went over to the sales office to select a “volunteer.”
“I’ve been informed by Gillian that Lorna will be out until possibly the first of the year,” I announced. “It’s a recurrence of the problem she had a couple of years ago and required surgery. She’s at Eastlawn Memorial if anyone is interested.” I paused as the news sank into the half dozen staff members gathered about. “So who wants to take over shipping for the next three months while she recovers?” I asked, not at all surprised when no one stepped forward.
“We’ll be bringing over a temp in the next couple of days, but we really need someone to fill in until then. Any volunteers?”
“Lorna is the only one who really knows it all,” remarked Sandy. “I’ve helped her a little bit but I don’t really know anything too well.”
Sandy would have been my first choice, but she was a little indecisive and would probably struggle with the responsibility. The others looked around, shrugging their shoulders or trying to disappear from view.
“It’s only for a couple of days,” I added again. “We just need someone to fill in. I could just volunteer someone for the job.” My last remark produced a look of fear on a couple of faces.
“I’ll do it,” said Terri in her Southern Belle voice. “I worked with her on a couple of the shipments to Mexico last month. I’ll give it a try.”
“Thanks, Terri. I really appreciate your help in this. Stop by my office when you’re ready and we can review the open order list.”
One crisis dealt with. How many more to go? As I strolled back to my office, I wondered about Terri. She was a steady worker, always here, always on time, and now volunteering for a special project. She was a nice girl who worked on the phones in customer service. With her sweet southern accent she was able to charm all but the most difficult customers, and those just took a little more time. There wouldn’t be any problem with her working alongside Derek the lady killer, our Sales Manger, for Terri was the kind of girl that people would compliment as having lovely hair, a great phone voice, and a wonderful personality. In short she was a big girl, fleshy as my Dad used to say. Not that there was anything wrong with carrying a little weight. But Derek’s taste had always been for tall, slim women, so he would be thrilled when he was back in the office on Monday.
Monday afternoon found me in the conference room interviewing the last of three candidates sent over by QualTemp. The first was a real young girl who had worked in receiving at a shoe warehouse: neither very experienced nor very bright. The second was an older guy who had been out of work for a while and seemed real shiftless: güvenilir bahis not at all what we needed as a temp. We needed someone who could jump right in and take over without a lot of training and handholding.
That brought us to Number Three. Michelle was kind of plain looking with old-fashioned large glasses and light colored hair pulled back and pinned severely behind her head. Her lumpy nondescript business suit was a size too big and hung on her like a grocery bag. No makeup, no fingernail polish, and heavy functional shoes. As I reviewed her resume, she was content to sit quietly legs crossed primly and her hands clasped together in her lap. In her late twenties with several years experience in various warehousing and clerical jobs, she seemed knowledgeable, smart, and competent. Derek wouldn’t be too excited but she was only a temp and Lorna would be back before we knew it.
Gillian and I looked at each other and smiled.
“When can you start?” I asked.
“As soon as you’ll have me,” she replied quite matter-of-factly. I finished my last assignment last Friday.”
“Gillian, I think we’ve found our person,” I said.
Gilliam nodded in return and we started the paperwork rolling. There was a physical exam (if you were warm and breathed in and out you passed), and some forms for the agency and we had our temp signed up.
She dug right in the following day, working with Terri all morning. By the afternoon, Terri was back at her desk in the sales office, and the Temp had taken over the shipping office. I stopped by Terri’s desk to see how it went.
“She knew more about it than I did,” Terri said, somewhat impressed. “”I showed her how to log onto the system and some of the quirks about it, and that was it. She took right over.”
“Great, Terri. Thanks for helping out.”
“Sure, Kevin. Anytime,” she cooed in that soft Southern Belle voice. “But only for you. By the way, where did you find her?”
“One of the agencies we use. QualTemp I think. Why?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Terri began, lowering her voice and leaning toward me.
“But she seems a little strange. I don’t know what it is. It’s like there’s something going on behind those big old glasses and it kind of put me off.”
“Hmm, thanks for the tip. We’ll keep an eye on things,” I replied. “And thanks again for the help.”
There turned out to be little to keep an eye on. Over the months she worked real hard at getting ahead of shipments, staging paperwork and shipping boxes a few days in advance. Jerry the shipping clerk often remarked that she was great to work with, always helpful and prepared.
“If only she wasn’t so, so … so vanilla,” he remarked one day.
A couple of the girls remarked how she dressed like a man and hinted that she might be a lesbian. Michelle had worn her business suit just for the interview. Most of the time she wore bulky sweatshirts or sweaters and baggy blue workpants. I met with her on a couple of occasions when Derek was out of town to make sure that important shipments were getting out. When I asked her about some missing paperwork for an international shipment, she got all flustered but quickly found the documents.
“Sometimes I am so blond,” she said in a disgusted voice.
It was the closest that any one came to seeing her display a sense of humor. But it got me to thinking about her. I hadn’t noticed that she was blond. She kept her hair pulled back all of the time and with the large glasses and no makeup, she seemed to sort of disappear into the background. It wasn’t as if she was unattractive or anything, and maybe if she dressed up a little she would look quite nice.
I started to notice how she would always be out in shipping whenever I came in after lunch, which was part of my routine, and especially in the afternoon when I would go out for my run. She would always greet me and give me a little report on how many shipments we made and their value. I would stop and try to engage in conversation, but she was so very businesslike and never revealed any personality or femininity. She got the work done so well and her reputation was so widely communicated throughout the company that Lorna found out and decided that she was recovered enough to come back early just to hang onto her job. Gillian and I set it up so that Lorna would spend her first day back with Michelle to catch up with things. At the same meeting, I approached Gillian with an idea that I had been mulling over for a couple of weeks.
“So, Gillie, you know how I’ve often suggested that we could use an extra person for special projects if the right one came along?”
“Yes, Kevin,” she nodded with a smile. “Has the right one come along?”
“Well, I’ve been noticing Michelle, our temp. She seems very dependable and businesslike.”
“She tests out very well in the reviews I’ve had with her. Would you like me to talk with her?”
“I’ll handle it if you don’t mind. She may not want any part of it.”
Gillian agreed and we set up an interview türkçe bahis for the next day, although we didn’t call it an interview.
“Well, Miss Robinson, tomorrow is your last day in shipping,” I began. “I’d like to say that we were lucky to get you when we did. You’ve been a real hard worker and become an asset to the company.”
“Thank you,” she replied evenly. “You can call me Missy if you’d like. The other employees kept getting me confused with Michelle Monroe in marketing. My Daddy always called me Missy.”
“That’s cute,” I said somewhat distracted by the personal reference. “Well, okay, Missy. I was wondering if you’d consider staying on with us in another capacity.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“We’ve been needing someone for a while, someone more than just a secretary who can take on special projects. You’re very dependable and organized and efficient. You volunteer to stay late and finish the job. I think you would be a good fit for the job.”
“Would this be a front office job?”
“Well, yes. I was thinking of putting the person in the spare office a couple doors down, you know the one everyone call the broom closet.”
“Just what kind of special projects?”
“A number of things really. The benchmarking surveys, the warranty registration program to name a couple. I also want to look closer at coordination efforts between sales and production. Maybe even some efficiency evaluations with engineering and production.”
“Although I’m flattered, I’m not really sure that I’m qualified for something like that. I’ve always done warehouse management, shipping and receiving, that sort of thing.”
“Sure, but you don’t mind working hard, you take direction well, you make decisions quickly when they’re needed. I think it’s the kind of job that you can grow into.”
“Well, I must admit that I’m very interested.”
“I’ve been keeping the position open until the right person came along and I feel that you just might be the one.”
“When would I start? I mean if I accept it?”
“Well, you’ll be spending much of the day tomorrow with Lorna, but I would like to meet with you for a little bit tomorrow and set up a work plan for the next couple of months. Then you can get a clean start on Monday.”
“It sounds like a challenge, but one I think I could take on.”
“Then it’s decided. You can spend the day with Lorna catching her up but try to save a couple of hours for me.”
“What’s the dress code in the office? It’s hard to tell from shipping.”
“We don’t really have a code. Most of the management wears dress shirts and ties but the guys wear slacks and pullovers a lot. It’s a little more open with the ladies. Gillian goes for that neat professional look, skirted suits and dresses, that I kind of like, but many of the girls wear slacks. I won’t object as long as it’s neat and clean.”
“I guess I may have to upgrade my wardrobe,” she said, tugging awkwardly at her baggy workpants.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine!”
We stood and shook on the arrangement and she quickly left. Special Projects Coordinator. Yeah, that sounds right. I called Gillian to let her know so that she could put the paperwork together. After hanging up the phone, I pushed back in my chair and thought about what I had just done. A neat professional young woman to tackle some of the lingering projects that no one else had the time to do. This should work out well, I thought.
On the next morning, from the moment I walked through the front door, I could sense there was something going on. Above the hum and drum of the everyday workweek, there was a sense of excitement, like the last day before a long holiday. Charisse greeted me with a smile and a laugh.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Oh, nothing Kevin,” she replied with a snicker.
I called Roy into my office to talk to him about fixing up the “broom closet” as an office for Miss Rob–er, Missy.
“Make it nice for her, okay?”
“Yeah, right Bossman,” he said with a chuckle. “You must have been the only one who could have seen it coming.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, when Missy came in today, I mean like no one knew who it was. I mean we all thought she was another special temp for Derek.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Haven’t you seen her?”
“Michelle Robinson. You know, Missy, the shipping temp.”
Roy was normally pretty calm and easy going, but I could tell from the excitement in his voice that this was something I needed to check on. As I rounded the corner leading to Lorna’s cubicle, there was a distinctly different scent in the air. Nice perfume, I thought. Lorna was seated at her old desk and the side chair was pulled around so that the guest could sit next to her. For a moment I thought it was a service person from our IT company giving her a review of some new software. She was dressed in a soft white cable knit sweater and dark skirt with her long golden blond hair topped by a cute little black beret.
“So güvenilir bahis siteleri I found the OPQ program in the routine,” said the guest. “This way you can roll up the shipments in an inquiry instead of having to spool that entire report and have it come out wrong and need to redo it.”
As the guest turned around, my jaw must have dropped. It was Missy, the former shipping temp. Gone were the large glasses. I hardly recognized her face, done up so nicely with a touch of rouge and eye makeup. Her large dark blue eyes sparkled. Her lips were covered with a glossy pink lipstick and looked full and luscious as she smiled. It was the same young woman, but she looked completely different, a beautiful difference at that.
“Nice to see you back, Lorna,” I stammered. “I see you’ve met Missy. Glad to have you back.”
“I’m glad to be back, Kevin,” replied Lorna. “She’s been showing me some shortcuts in the system that she found out about.”
“Missy, be sure to save some time for me later, if you can. We need to lay out a work plan.”
Missy smiled and nodded, her smile bright and startling. Was it the lipstick and makeup that transformed her into this gorgeous creature in front of me or did she always look like this but we never could see it beneath her plain façade. I let my eye drop and caught just a glimpse of her long legs, now covered in black stockings and crossed politely with a black pump dangling from her foot. I grinned like a fool and excused myself.
“I told ya, Bossman,” cracked John as he saw me head back to my office. “No wonder you wanted her to work for you. Derek’s gonna be jealous.”
“I didn’t know she looked like … I mean, whoa, don’t think that I …” I mumbled as I tried to find the right words.
“I know what you mean. She took us all by surprise.”
At break time she came to my office and stood by the door clearing her voice to get my attention.
“Hi, Missy,” I called out. “Can I help you?”
“Do you have a few minutes?” she asked demurely.
“Well, sure. I always have a few minutes for any employee.”
“I want to apologize for creating a disturbance,” she began. “I guess I shouldn’t have shifted gears so suddenly and maybe eased into the role a little more gently. I didn’t think people would react like this”
“No need to apologize. You haven’t done anything wrong; at least as far as the employee guide goes. Besides, people are always going to talk and I think you just surprised everyone. They all thought you were kind of a plain drab young woman and gees, look at you. I mean you look quite lovely.” I hoped I hadn’t gone on too far.
“Well, you see I’ve always had a hard time getting and keeping good jobs when I dressed like the other girls, like this” she said stepping into my office and toward my desk. “So I thought I’d try dressing down and playing it safe. Besides it keeps the sharks away, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, again, no apology needed. Just as long as your work ethic remains the same.”
“I’ll try dressing more conservatively next week, but I couldn’t help it this morning. It’s been so long since I dressed in a feminine way like this. Like the old song, ‘I enjoy being a girl.'”
“No complaints from me,” I replied. “I enjoy that you enjoy being … well, you know what I mean. Now go and enjoy your break.”
She excused herself and headed back toward the break room. I could hear the sound of a good-natured wolf whistle. Later on, I saw her in the hallway leading to the cafeteria with a few of the guys from production gathered around. She was smiling politely as they tried to make small talk and catch her fancy. As she saw me round the corner, she politely excused herself from her group of admirers and called out to me.
“Kevin!” she called. “Have you got a minute?”
“Sure! What’s up?” I asked as she scurried up to me.
“I’ll have some time in the afternoon to meet with you. There are just a few more things to catch Lorna up with.”
“Great, just let me know.”
“Okay. And thanks for rescuing me.”
“Well, those guys never had the time for me until now and it makes me–don’t know–uncomfortable.”
“Well, sometimes it takes some fancy wrapping paper to get a man interested in the nice present inside.”
“Thanks,” she said with a laugh. “I needed that. Besides you seem like you could see through the wrapping.”
She gave me a pleasant little look, smiled and moved away toward the front office. She was like a puzzle that was falling into place. I wondered about how she had been treated at other places and began to understand her better. To be a smart and beautiful woman is a challenge in this world. Working with her started to seem like a more intriguing opportunity.
The rest of the morning flew past. As I was heading out for my usual late lunch, I saw Missy hustling in from the parking lot. As she hurried, her black leather jacket opened up and I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a bra. The sight of firm her young breasts bouncing as she scurried inside was captivating. I sure could see enough through that wrapping, I thought, as I held to door open for her before heading out.
“I’ll be ready to meet with you this afternoon,” she remarked with a warm smile.
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