I started my new position on Tuesday.
Wait. Let me rephrase that. I was unceremoniously hurled in to my new position on Tuesday. Because the office manager was laid off, there was no chance for any kind of transition. Because the office manager was crazy and a paranoid hoarder, there was no chance for any kind of sanity in this process. To her credit, she seemed to take the news stoically. (I don’t know for sure, since I wasn’t in the room, but it looked that way from afar.) She packed up a few things and left pretty quickly. I was actually surprised at the speed, since she has twelve years of personal trinkets and doodads in that office. She conveniently left them to me.
After she left, my boss and I headed in to her office to discuss what items would be priority. The first order of business was to change the passcode to the safe (for obvious reasons.) But while I was figuring that out, my boss started rooting around on shelves, in boxes, and in drawers. Before I knew what was happening, he and the office temp were tearing apart the shelves in the storage room. Within an hour, they had thrown away a pair of rubber boots, a broken cash box, a wicker coffee cup rack, three busted keyboards, a box of framed safety awards from 2008, and myriad other ridiculous things that never should have been in that room.
That room was just the tip of the iceberg. My boss was nearly hysterical with glee at the chance to finally clear out the clutter that has been steadily growing over the last twelve years. He moved from spot to spot around the office like a hummingbird on speed. The more drawers we opened and the more places we looked, the more unbelievable things we found. What do you think could possibly be in this box that was so carefully preserved and so obviously necessary to the running of our business?
Why yes, it is time cards from June 1997 through October 1998. You’re so smart. No, I’m not joking about what that is. And no, I have no idea why we still have them. In fact, my company didn’t acquire this branch from private owners until 2007, so it makes even less sense.
There are a couple of locked file cabinets in the office containing sensitive employee records or money-handling miscellany. We started looking for the key to it in the set she had left behind. No dice. So we looked through her desk for another set. Dice. Yahtzee, actually. There were multiple sets, containing no less than 75 keys. Honestly, it’s probably more. There were keys to file cabinets, to doors, and to vehicles. There were keys to things we don’t lock and there were keys to things we don’t even have any more.
Once we finally got in to the file cabinet, we found the employee records we expected to find. We also found a small expanding file. When we opened it, we found four uncashed payroll checks for various people. One from 2005, two from 2006 and one from 2007. Really. This is the point at which I started to get angry. There is absolutely no reasonable explanation for why any of the above things are true. I can’t decide if she was lazy, forgetful, disorganized or certifiable. I’m guessing it’s a combination of all four. I wonder now if she saw the end coming, because she had the office temp start to clean out old files last week. The temp told me that she found files that dated back to 1989. Since the office manager had only been there since around 2000, this means she had not only saved everything she had ever done (sometimes in triplicate), but everything that had been done prior to her tenure.
Beyond the physical state of the office and the files, the most frustrating part of the transition is that I don’t know how to do anything. I had gotten pretty comfortable and capable where I was. But this position encompasses so much that I never even had to hear about much less do. Having to tell people over the phone, “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out for you” feels like a cop-out. I don’t like feeling helpless or useless, and that’s where I am right now. I’m confident that I’ll learn what I need to, in time, but this middle ground where I don’t know anything is very uncomfortable. In the mean time, I’m going to keep posting the insane things I find stashed away in the office. Because it’s either laugh or have impotent rage. I’d rather laugh.