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September 26, 2022

Cappuccino Is the Answer for Job Dissatisfaction 3

By Hillary E. Peak



Chapter 3

Initially, I was sad to have been exiled to the third floor, but by the end of the fourth day, I wouldn't have changed it for the world. My fellow exiled analysts and I made friends. We started to have a really good time -- going out to lunch together to a new spot each day and out for coffee before we began each morning. For me, it was a great working environment. The only problem -- that I pushed to the back of my mind -- is that I wasn't really learning anything, and it didn't seem like this was leading anywhere. I was sure that before I reached the end of the month, the person I needed to meet would appear, and everything would work out.

Soon, I came to understand why people complain about politics. Nothing ever really got done. We spent time discussing what should be done, the implications of doing this or that, but when it came to actually doing it, the people in charge pulled up on the reins and brought the horse to a complete halt. It depressed me. Maybe politics wasn't where I could change the world.

Toward the end of the second week of the session, Jane, Rick and I were having lunch at the famous Pink Adobe, where all the most important people have lunch. From our table, we could just make out the conversation around the corner. It was clearly important people from the Round House. They were discussing the age-old fight over water rights between Texas and New Mexico.

"Just no reason to fight it, I say. Just give Texas the water and be done with it."

"You must be kidding. We need that water. Besides, Texas has plenty of water. We must keep fighting for what is ours."

"What difference does it really make? The water comes from down south. There's hardly anyone down there. I can't worry about those few people. It isn't worth the time or money to keep fighting."

We were all sitting there open-mouthed. Being from the southern part of the state, I understood the devastating effects of giving away our water. The fight was absolutely necessary as far as I was concerned. Who was standing up for our interests? I wanted to spin around that corner and give them what for, but Rick put a hand on my shoulder to stop me. I felt totally helpless. Here was what I had come for, to make a difference, change what was happening, and the first time I had come near someone with any power, I was powerless.

"It is our decision. We aren't fighting it. Too much wasted time and money for too few people. We'll spend those resources elsewhere."

Working at the legislature meant solving New Mexico's problems to me. After all, I understood the problems, I was excited to help, and I had all the answers to the problems the state was facing, so I was certain that being an analyst would give me the chance to give my solutions to the people that could use them. I was going to shine.

"Why did you hold me back?" I hissed at Rick.

"Because, if you went over there, that would be your last day at the Round House. If you butted in, they would know you had been listening in on their conversation, and you'd be ruined. Just in case you want another job in the state, I thought I should hold you down," he whispered back in a furtive tone.

I nodded, not wanting to believe it, but knowing it was true. No one wanted to listen because no one was interested in me at all. I could've walked naked through the Round House and not a single person would have taken note. Talk about frustrating -- I sat through committee meetings, talked with lobbyists and even talked with some Senators, but nothing came of any of it. My hopes of making a difference and starting to change the world here and now were dashed. Suddenly I knew that what I needed was an outlet to make this worthwhile.

I was so glad there was another girl around my age. Jane and I had a great time gossiping during our breaks, and it gave me a reprieve from feeling sorry for myself about not solving the state's problems.

"I don't think Joe likes me," I confided to her one day.

"Oh, I know he doesn't," she responded knowingly.

"How do you know?"

"Because we're sharing a house."

My mouth dropped open.

"Not like that. My dad knew him, and he couldn't find a place to live. My house has three bedrooms, so my dad rented him one of them."

"Ug, is he awful to live with?"

"I don't see him, really. But he has been complaining about you. He thinks you are trying to run things -- undermine his authority."

I was stunned. Everyone likes me! Well, maybe not everyone. When I was in law school, I kind of had meltdown with the librarian. She was teaching a class in legal research, and she told us we would have weekly assignments. Then she'd given us our first assignment when the class met on Monday. When we met again on Wednesday, she gave out another assignment. At that point, I might have flown off the handle just a bit.

"What is this?" My voice had been about five octaves above normal. "You said we were getting one assignment a week! Not one every class. This is asinine. We can't possibly do all of this."

My classmates had stared at me, but I didn't care. I was going to get this straightened out. She had told us one thing, and she was going to stick to it.

"I," she had mumbled in a voice so timid that it was barely audible, "must have made a mistake. You have an assignment each class period." Her eyes made her look like a scared rabbit and her entire body had been twitching, almost quivering.

"That is NOT what you said," I'd growled.

"I'm sorry." She had turned and fled the classroom.

I had looked over at my friends. "That isn't fair. That isn't what she said!" Then I noticed their faces -- they were all red.

Finally, one had opened his mouth and guffawed out loud. "Jessica, you scared her to death." They were all choking trying to suck in a breath after laughing so hard.

"I did?" I had been shocked to hear I had scared the woman. I had been merely having a panic attack due to the massive amount of work they were loading onto us in this second quarter.

But I found out that I had in fact scared her. Not enough for the work to be any less, but for the next two and a half years, whenever she saw me, she had turned and practically run the other way.

But, other than that, everyone liked me.

I couldn't imagine what Joe had found in me that would be cause for him to not like me. OK, I had made that comment about the Versace suit, but it was orange for heaven's sake. Did he think anyone with any fashion sense wouldn't notice that fact? He looked ridiculous. At least I didn't say that -- I think I didn't say that. No matter, he should like me. I am fun and friendly and very likeable. I was deeply offended that he would be negative towards me, but more furious that he would be so bold as to make any injurious statements about me to people that I work with. But what I could possibly do about it?

After the first few days, Joe informed us that we would all need to clock in and out of our jobs -- literally. There was a large clock that you put your card into each morning, and it stamped the time on.

"Joe, I don't mean to be difficult, but what is the point? We were hired for a set term, the length of the session, and for a set fee. Why do the hours matter?" I wasn't trying to be insubordinate, but I couldn't understand why you would want such a thing.

Joe turned. I almost laughed because here was a guy, around my own age, struggling to be the "Chief of Staff" for a group of people twice his age. He was obviously working on looking older and more mature. I could see he felt my question was undermining his authority.

"That is what we need for our records," he snapped. His eyes were warning me to watch what I was saying. So, I just nodded even though I still didn't understand, but obviously, I wasn't going to get an answer -- that was clear from Joe's tone and demeanor.

It was so ridiculous that it took real effort on my part not to roll my eyes. However, when he "dismissed" us, I decided I needed more than my usual cappuccino -- I needed an éclair from the French Pastry Shop on the Plaza. The walk would do me good because I need to clear my head. Next door to the French Pastry Shop was a gorgeous boutique called Suzanne's; I decided that a few minutes of shopping couldn't hurt.

I opened the door to Suzanne's and stepped in. Nothing brightened my spirits like a little shopping. I walked around admiring the beautiful leather books and purses. Then I started touching the fur coats. Stroking the mink made me want to start sucking my thumb. Perhaps I should buy one for therapy; I found it so relaxing. I spent just a few minutes more in the calm of the shop. Then, I purchased my éclair, acquired the necessary caffeine boost and headed back to the Round House. I could do this. It was a relatively short time. "You can do anything for a couple of months," I told myself firmly.

So, each morning I walked in and had my card time stamped, and each night I clocked out. Overall, it was a boring job since I had little to do. I tried to learn about politics, bills and analysis. I was eager to learn, but no one was interested in teaching. So, I sat at my desk and drank Dr. Pepper.

The first weekend, we were supposed to have a three-day weekend. I was so excited. Sam and I had been dating about six months at the time. I figured we could find out how serious we really were when we could see each other most days instead of just the occasional weekend.

As soon as I had announced I was coming up to Santa Fe to live, Sam told me that his work was sending him to California for a month. So, now we would be about a thousand miles apart instead of just four hours. I had been so depressed. With the three-day weekend, I could go out to California to see him. Everyone assured me that the first weekend was always three days because they had to have the extra day to print up the bills that were going to come up this session.

On Thursday, Joe informed us that we would not be getting a three-day weekend. We would need to work at least half a day on Friday to get "up to speed" on our bills. I was crushed. The time I'd longed for had been snatched away. I was so looking forward to getting out of there right away and having as much time as possible in L.A.

"What's wrong?" Joe snarled.

"Nothing."

"You look like someone ran over your dog. Do you have a problem with working tomorrow?"

"No, I was just looking forward to a long weekend."

"Gee, I think it is a little early to need a break. This is only the first week."

I felt like I had been slapped. Was I the only one with a life outside of this place?

I went to work the next morning. First thing, I ran into Joe.

"Still moping?" he sneered.

"No," I was trying to look all bright and shiny. "I'm excited to get to work." I pushed my chin up and walked resolutely to my desk.

At noon, people began packing up to leave. I hurriedly put my stuff into my bag and slipped out the back stairs. I didn't want to have another run-in with Joe before I left. Even if he was mad when I got back, I would have been able to spend my weekend with Sam.

I drove the hour to the airport and waited in the cattle lines at Southwest to board. I was so ready to go! Even though I wasn't going to get in until eleven, we'd have Saturday and part of Sunday together.

When I arrived at LAX, Sam was there to greet me with a huge bouquet of yellow roses.

"Hey, beautiful, I was afraid you wouldn't come."

"Of course I came. I was so disappointed that I couldn't come last night."

He gave me a kiss, and I knew even more so that he was something really special.

That night we had a late dinner and walked on the beach in the moonlight. It was wonderful. The sound of the waves on the beach, the light from the moon, the cool breeze off the water smelling of salt.

"This is perfect." I said dreamily

"It is now that you are here." He pulled me down into the sand. We pressed our bodies together longingly. We definitely needed to live closer.

The next day, we drove up to Malibu and ate right on the water. Then we went to Rodeo Drive and laughed at all the crazy things you can buy for amounts of money I doubted I would ever have. It was so relaxing. I forgot all about Joe and the crazy Round House. I didn't want to leave on Sunday, I wanted to stay in California with Sam.

"I'll come home next weekend," he assured me as I sniffed, trying not to cry as we waited for my flight to board.

"Really?"

"I promise. We'll only have Saturday, but at least we can be together."

That cheered me up -- I knew it would help me get through the week ahead.

Reality hit home when I arrived at work on Monday morning -- all my relaxation in Malibu was gone in under two seconds. I had just put down my coffee when Joe stormed through the door.

"You skipped work on Friday!" he yelled, pointing his finger at me.

"No! I was here. You saw me! You told us it was a half day. Everyone up here was leaving, so I left too."

"You are NEVER to leave without asking permission. Do you understand?" His tone was menacing and his face looked like my dog when he's guarding a bone. I choked back the giggle that formed in my throat.

"I am sorry. I didn't understand that was the protocol." I was trying to sound contrite, but it was clear he wasn't buying it.

"One more screw-up . . ." He said waving a finger in front of my face. I really wanted to grab that finger and give it a good twist. Perhaps I needed to start some sort of meditation.

I didn't know what he was trying to imply, but I assumed that it wasn't good. I hated to flame the fire, but I did it anyway.

"Joe, I still don't have a phone or computer. It is very difficult to get my work done when I have to wait for someone to finish with their computer. Do you think I can get one today or tomorrow?"

He looked like one of those cartoons of anger. His face turned all red and if it had been possible, I know steam would have come out his ears. "I'll try," he said without any conviction in his voice. Then he turned on his heel and marched out the door.

Sighing, I picked up my coat, walked to the door and checked to be certain he was gone. When the coast was clear, I went down the back steps. The Indian Market was on today at the Plaza. Although I had been planning to wait until lunch to go, the run-in with Joe convinced me that I needed a little shopping to relax me. I was dying for some silver jewelry. The Indian Market was genuine. Sellers are required to obtain a permit to do business in order to guarantee the jewelry to be real Native American pieces. I wandered from blanket to blanket gazing at the magnificent jewels. At the end of the row, I found this unbelievable piece.

The necklace was round, one solid piece, with a black onyx stone dangling off of it. When I put it on, I knew I had to have it. It was screaming my name. Black is my color of choice, so I knew I would get a lot of wear out of it.

I hoped I hadn't gasped when she said the price. Three hundred was much more than I had planned to spend. I stood there holding it -- I really wanted it. In fact, I needed it. Joe was a plague on my days. "This necklace will help make it better," I told myself feeling a small pang of guilt. I bought it -- happiness flooded through me.

Rather than hurrying back, I took my time returning to the Round House. Tourists passed me in droves. They were incredibly easy to spot. Always dressed in broom skirts, fringed ponchos, turquoise and silver concho belts, and more silver jewelry than they would need in a lifetime -- they had overdosed on Santa Fe style.

A routine began to develop; the other exiled analysts and I would head out after clocking in to have breakfast. We found a place with excellent breakfast burritos -- eggs, cheese and green chili on a homemade flour tortilla. My friends added bacon or grits, but I am a purist and never deviated from eggs, cheese and green chili.

I began to realize that no one was too busy. Although we all had some work to do, everyone seemed to have breakfast, coffee, lunch, coffee, an afternoon snack, coffee. The mañana attitude of New Mexico was showcased to perfection. We were having a great time, and we weren't alone. I learned that the other people working as secretaries and assistants to the senators and representatives came up each year. They loved the relaxed atmosphere and the fun environment. Plus, they received unemployment benefits after the term was over. What a system. Maybe I could get unemployment. A little money while I looked for another job would be quite welcome -- no, that was wrong when I was totally able to work. But I didn't want to go home and live with my parents. I wanted to stay up here and be with Sam. I smiled at the thought. I made a note to start working on that.

Because I did not have enough to do, I started helping the assistants in my office. When they wanted a break, I would answer the phones or take messages to the floor. I ran errands; basically, I was the gopher girl.

One day, I was answering the phone for one of the senators.

"I'm calling for Senator Helton. This is real important. I need to get a message to him and have an answer back from him before lunch." With his slow West Texas drawl, no one listening in would have thought this message was imperative. I didn't care; it was something to do.

"Can you give me the message and a number to call you back?"

"You can get it to him right away?"

"I'll try my best to find him and deliver it, yes."

"All right then, tell him Johnny is offering him some cattle at $250 a head. Does he want to buy and if so how many? I'm Jim and he can reach me at the ranch."

"I've got that -- cattle at $250 a head. I'd like to get the number, just in case."

"All right, it's 780-9876."

"Remember, I gotta know by noon."

"Yes, I understand. I'll get him the message."

I hung up and waited about ten minutes for the Senator's secretary to return.

"Marianne, the Senator received an urgent message from Jim at the ranch?" I was trying not to giggle.

Marianne didn't crack a smile. "Is something wrong?" She sounded very worried.

"No, he said that Johnny is offering cattle at $250 a head, and he needs to know if the Senator wants any before noon."

"Oh my gosh, that's fabulous! Can you take it to him right away at the agriculture subcommittee meeting on grazing? He's going to be thrilled."

"Absolutely. On my way." I hurried down to the committee meeting room. I slipped in the back and handed the Senator his note.

He looked up at me and gave me a huge smile. "Thanks sweetie! This is the best news I've had all session," he whispered. "Call Jim and tell him I'll take 500 head." He handed me a five dollar bill and said, "For your trouble darlin.'" I tried to give it back, but he just shook his head, turned around and starting firing questions at the witnesses.

The next morning I was sitting in my Commerce Committee meeting. Senator Garcia, the youngest senator, came back to my desk, which was behind the Senator's seat.

"Can you go and get me breakfast?" he asked.

"Sure," I responded, thinking it a little odd, but what else could I do?

"Great! I'm starving. Next-door is the Coyote Café. I'd like two eggs with green chili, grits and some Indian fry bread." He handed me a hundred dollar bill. "Get whatever you would like for yourself." He winked at me and returned to his seat.

I hurried out and over to the café. I ordered the Senator's breakfast and told the woman it was for Senator Garcia.

"Oh, he comes in every morning or orders in. Such a nice man. He is so handsome. You should get your hooks in him. He's mucho wealthy." She gave me an expansive smile.

"I have a boyfriend," I told her, thinking wistfully of Malibu. That would be the perfect place to be right now -- taking a long walk on the beach with him; the sand squishing between our toes. I sighed.

"Too bad." She looked extremely disappointed.

I returned to the Round House with the Senator's breakfast. Sneaking into the committee meeting as quietly as I could, I gave Senator Garcia his breakfast and change.

"You didn't get yourself anything." He looked disappointed.

"It's OK," I told him, "I've eaten already, but thank you."

I went back to my seat before someone else could tip me. I felt a little weird being paid to run errands. Perhaps my real calling was a personal assistant. I am capable of taking messages, getting food, who knows what more I can do? I sat down and twirled my pen. Someone was going on and on about mowing on the sides of highways in New Mexico. Who could possibly be interested in that? I wondered.

I looked around the senators seated in front of me, trying to see who was speaking. When I caught sight of him, I was fascinated. He was tall, well over six feet and very lanky. His face had multiple scars. His legs were bowed, quite obvious in his skin tight Levi's. He had a huge belt buckle on. I could tell if it was for broncos or bulls, but I could see that the man engraved on his belt was riding something that was bucking. As I looked him over, I realized I was looking at a professional cowboy -- turned lobbyist. Weird.

This meeting seemed to be taking ages. I started doodling Sam's name. Five minutes after I left the meeting room, Joe was in front of me. He had found out about the food run, and he was livid.

"I hear that Senator Garcia asked you to breakfast."

I laughed. "No, he asked me to run to the Coyote Café and pick up his breakfast."

"You said no, I assume."

"No, I did what he asked me to."

"You are never to do that again, do you hear me?" Joe's voice was getting into the squeaky realm, I assumed that meant he was angry, but it didn't do much for his credibility.

"I don't mean to be insubordinate, but if someone asks me to do them a favor, particularly a Senator, and I can do it, I'm going to do it for them. I would never tell a Senator that I couldn't do something like pick up his breakfast or take a message or anything like that."

"You are not some bouncy girl Friday. You are supposed to be a lawyer -- someone with intelligence."

"Excuse me, because I went to buy breakfast for someone I'm not intelligent? What is wrong with you? I try to do nice things for people. I certainly try to help them if I am in a position to do so. I cannot comprehend why you would consider this wrong."

"It is a breach of ethics. You are working for the republicans, and he is a democrat." He was stammering in his anger.

"What? Are you suggesting that I can be bought? Better yet, are you suggesting I have influence of any sort? My job is a complete waste of time. You have an analysis of every bill. My work is redundant."

"Those analyses are not from the republican point of view."

"No, they aren't from any point of view, they are neutral. I can't imagine wanting one that was from a particular point of view. Besides, if you haven't noticed, the senators don't even look at our analyses. They already know which way they are going on every bill -- whether it is based on their agenda or an alliance to further their agenda. No one cares about the analysis of the bill."

"You have an extremely bad attitude. I do not think I could give you a letter of recommendation." He was turning a very nasty shade of purple, which was in terrible contrast to his green Gucci shirt and tie.

"Thank you for telling me that. I'll be sure to keep you off of any list of references I'm asked to give." I wheeled around and headed back to the solace of my desk, which was devoid of noise or of anything else because of my lack of phone and computer.

Fuming, I took my coat and headed out for a quick walk. A couple of blocks away, I turned into the Loretto Chapel. It was said that the chapel had needed a staircase to the choir loft, but they did not have any money to have one constructed. The nuns prayed to St. Joseph. Soon a man showed up looking for work, he completed the staircase, which has no visible means of support, and no nails in it. Then the man disappeared without asking for thanks or payment. The sisters determined it was St. Joseph himself.

I sat down in the back of the church. Perhaps, I thought to myself, in this place of miracles, if I throw myself on the altar and beg to get out of here, God will grant my plea. It took all of my willpower to force myself up and back to the Round House.

This job was my start for greatness. I was supposed to be able to come here and make New Mexico better, but instead I was exiled to an unimportant committee dealing with a boss that wanted to make my life miserable. "I've got really good ideas!" I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs then MAKE them listen to me. How was I ever going to make it to the head of the Senate Judiciary committee to revamp the Supreme Court if no one even knew I existed? I trudged back toward the building dragging my feet. This simply wouldn't do. Well, at least this job is temporary. At the next one, I'll certainly be able to make them see how brilliant I am, then I'll be on my way to fame and fortune.

But none of it helped me with the challenge of Joe. The actual analyzing of the bills was becoming easier and easier. I had a few to do each day, but not nearly enough to keep me busy. Additionally, the session was coming to the halfway point. When the session reaches that point, no new bills can be introduced, so the workload would decrease substantially.

Joe was constantly coming around to see if we were working. One day, I wasn't at my desk because I was answering the phone for a secretary who had to run an errand. I returned about twenty minutes later.

"Where have you been?"

"I was answering the phone for Senator Lone Wolf's office."

"Why? You have a job to do for the Commerce Committee."

"I have done all the analysis for the bills that have come up. I just like to help out where I can."

"There is no need for you to be doing anyone else's work."

"Are you saying that I can't help any one else by answering the phone for them to run out for something? He is a republican senator, you know."

"That's exactly what I am saying. I want you at your desk so that if anyone needs you, you are available."

"But so far, no one has ever come to my desk or called me, not that they could since I do not have a phone. I thought my job was helping the senators."

"You are only to be helping them by analyzing bills. That is what you are paid to do. Don't let me catch you doing something else again."

I was trying not to laugh. Here was a guy, my own age, trying to tell me not to do more than my job. "Excuse me?" I wanted to say, "Are you kidding? You don't want me to do anything other than my job no matter how much extra time I have. That is bizarre to me. Why don't you want me to help?"

Article © Hillary E. Peak. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-05-28
Image(s) © Mike O'Sullivan. All rights reserved.
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