When the original settlers first arrived in the New England, they found a world that was, well…just that: new. Indigenous plants such as corn, beans and squash dominated the landscapes. Furthermore, the land was populated with strange natives who didn’t speak their language or worship their God (two challenges which, let’s face it, those of Anglo-Saxon descent haven’t always handled with the utmost poise).
Even animals were different. For the first time they encountered medium sized mammals with a masked appearance on their face, that quickly lived up to the Native folklore for being tricksters and thieves:
Pilgrim Child: Dad…Dad…where’d the corn go?”
Pilgrim Father: I left it outside, in the “Coleman’s Anti-Raccoon Cooler”.
Child: Are you sure?
Father: They’re gone!?!
Child: Yea, and there’s a note here that says “nice try”…
Score: animal kingdom: 1, profanity sputtering so-called “Puritan”: 0
On the oh-so-temporary bright side, the first few settlers found amusement from chasing black cat-like creatures, which were sluggishly slow and walked in a manner guffawingly equated to the French. It was quite a thrill to sneak up on the buffoons and give ‘em a good scare. That is, until they learned just what could be produced from the rear end of a startled skunk. Score: animal kingdom: 2, befuddled and suddenly-ostracized-from-the-community-until-further-notice pilgrim: 0.
It really was a strange, strange, new world… kind of like me getting a desk job.
As I mentioned earlier, my post summer plans didn’t pan out the way I had expected. After much debate, and a few more “don’t call us, we’ll all you’s” from employers outside of Maine, I came to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, the big man upstairs didn’t want me to leave. This wasn’t exactly a calling to martyrdom. With a national park as my backyard, world-class skiing a couple hours away and a box full of “must-read” books, I could ask for nothing more.
Well, except perhaps a job. Problem is, you can’t exactly guide kayak tours through the winter. The ocean freezes over after all…right?
So I resorted to several part-time jobs to support myself (and my antics) through the winter. One such job was with a non-profit agency just off the island. Their administrative assistant was taking a maternity leave and they needed a short-term replacement. I applied for the job and (wonders never cease) was offered it within two days. They told me I would start the next week training with Ashley (the actual administrative assistant) before she was scheduled to leave.
The thing is, I’ve never really had a- oh how shall I say this?- real job. Eh, okay. Maybe that’s a little too black and white. Perhaps we’ll call it a desk job. Sure. Yea. Whatever.
The point is, somewhat like the pilgrims, I had spent the past few months working on the open ocean. I’d lived in salt stained shirts and duct-taped Tevas, rescued capsized family members, created beautiful fiction, chased trailers down rainy streets and, for the most part gotten away with general doofuscity while on the clock. Suddenly, I was expected to adapt to this culture that demanded paperwork, showering, professionalism and shoes.
What a strange, strange, new world.
I showed up for my first day clean-shaven, sporting ironed dress pants and with my hair…well okay, not combed but presentable. Ashley lead me to my desk, right next to hers, and assigned me to the immediate task of setting up my computer and going through a list of items she’d prepared for me to work on.
I sat down and turned on my computer.
It asked me for a password.
I typed in “password”.
I was rejected.
I tried “thisisyourpassword”.
“Eh hem.” I jumped; Ashley was behind my chair. “You need to set up a new account,” she said, patiently, “maybe start by clicking the ‘new account’ button in the corner?”
Well, wasn’t that the proverbial equivalent of chasing a moronic black creature only to have it fart deadly chemicals into your face? Yes, this was going just spiffy.
I set up my account and Ashley gave me a crash course on accessing the company’s database. She handed me a stack of envelopes and asked me to look up phone numbers for each of the donors, so our boss could call and thank them personally.
“Sounds great!” I said. Look up numbers? I could handle that.
“Oh, and when the phone rings, feel free to answer it.”
“Okie, doke.” Easy enough.
But then the phone actually rang. I turned to Ashley; she was on the other line so I picked it up:
“Bryn Clark,” I said, “how can I help you?”
“Hey,” came the crackled response, “this is (in-coherent muttering) with (in-coherent muttering) can I talk to (incoherent muttering).”
Huuuuuuh? “Uh…yes. Sure, ma’am.”
Voice deepening. “Um, not ma’am. I said it was (incoherent muttering).”
“Oh, sorry sir…uh…who did you want to talk with again?”
“SIGGGGHHHHH, I said, I wanted to talk to (incoherent muttering).”
I was at a loss. “Okay. Yes, one moment, I’ll forward you to them”
I clicked a button and placed the phone back in the receiver. I stared at the other buttons; they might as well have been the controls of a Boeing jet. I can hardly operate my cell phone, let alone figure out how to forward a call to Miss “Fhumboa Humhumhoo”.
I glanced at Ashley but didn’t want to appear clueless (which I am) or inept (which I also am). I picked up the phone.
“Hello sir? I’m sorry, but it appears she called in sick today…can I take a message?”
I heard a dial tone; I glanced at the phone board and realized that I certainly hadn’t pressed the hold button and certainly had hung up on Mr. Humba Gooma.
“Okay!” Ashley said turning back to me.
I jumped a little and placed the phone back on the receiver.
“Oh, sorry; we’re you in the middle of something?” she asked.
I shook my head, perhaps a little to eagerly.
“Okay, great! Now I’m going to show you how to update the website!”
Ashley logged me onto the company’s website.
“Okay, so here…” Ashley clicked on a link, “is where we put updates for any program cancellations.” She opened a text box. “Whenever there’s a lot of snow or anything, it will be your job to make sure these cancellations get posted.” She “x’ed out” of everything.
“Now go ahead and show me how to post a cancellation,” she said, “just grab my attention when you’ve finished.“
I nodded and Ashley returned to her desk. I repeated the steps she’d shown me, and opened up the text box under the “Cancellations” tab. Now what might be a good reason for cancelling?
In the text box, I typed:
“EVERYTHING IS CLOSED TODAY ON ACCOUNT OF THE APOCOLYPSE. HIDE YO KIDS, HIDE YO WIFE, AND HIDE YO HUS-”
“Eh hem…” came the jump-prompting response from behind me.
* insert rapid pounding of the “Delete” key*
“Looks like you’ve got it down, eh?”
*insert extremely embarrassed and I-swear-I-can-be-professional blushing*
“Yea…um…think I got it down.”
Ashley laughed and returned to her desk. “Good. So why don’t you work on those letters for a little bit?”
“Sounds good,” I said.
And then the phone rang.
“Hey, could you get that?” she asked, without looking up from her screen.
“Absolutely!” I said out loud. “Heaven help me,” I said in my head.
“Hello, how can I help you?”
“Hello, this is (incoherent muttering) I was on the line a couple of minutes ago and someone hung up on me!”
Gulp. “Well I’m sorry to hear that, sir, can I hel-“
“It was you! I know your voice! You also referred to me as a female! Just what is your name, Mr. Smart Alec?!”
My palms were getting sweaty…
“Yes, your name!”
I glanced at Ashley, who apparently had no clue as to the incompetency of her replacement.
“Bunky,” I said, “Bunky Deadwillow, and I’m very, very sorry. It was unintentional I can assure you.”
“Hmph. Unintentional or not, I don’t appreciate this type of attitude, you can assure you I’ll report this to your supervisor. Now can you PLEASE forward me to (incoherent muttering).”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir. I’m so sorry, sir.”
I covered the receiver with my shoulder.
“Hey Ashley,” I said.
She looked up.
“I’m really sorry, but I’m having trouble working the phones and there’s a man on line one who’s asking for someone and I can’t understand him.”
She smiled. “No worries,” she said, “I get that a lot.”
“Thanks so much.”
And there you have it. It’s official. I would have never made it as a pilgrim. Not if it’s anything like getting a desk job. There would’ve just been too much for me to handle in that strange, strange new world.
Ashley picked up the receiver. “Hello-what? Oh? Oh-I’m sorry. Yes…yes… I’m sorry, wait…Bunky who?”
Yes…too much indeed.