As many of you know, I released the second Elsie W book a little more than a week ago, so now it's time for a little bit of a sneak peak for you to see what you should be buying for yourself and your friends!
To purchase for the Kindle or in print form:
Elsie W. and I were the only two women in the office at Stuff, Installed, a fact that never ceased to annoy me. The sales guys called her my “partner in crime.” I think they did that just to get me riled up. See, there were a few things about Elsie that…well, made me want to distance myself from her as much as humanly possible.
Elsie W. was a non stop eating machine and a complete disaster mess of a human. She worked an odd shift, Monday through Thursday eleven to eight, and then Saturdays she worked eight to five. Maybe her odd work hours were a contributing factor to her social and hygienic quirks, or maybe she worked those odd hours because she was socially and hygienically off kilter. When I worked with her during the week, she spent the bulk of her time gathering, preparing, eating, and relieving herself of food. She got hired at Stuff, Installed about six weeks before I did, back in the summer of 2011. She told me by the fall she’d gained eighteen pounds. Three months, 18 pounds. Given the amount of food she shoved down her gullet in that time, I was surprised it wasn’t a bigger number. I’ve battled weight my whole life, so I’m to the point I don’t eat that much during the day. Just watching her pack it away made me gain weight.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me see if I can start closer to the beginning of things so you don’t think I’m a horrible person telling stories about a poor little old lady.
Shortly after I began working at Stuff, Installed, the company moved to a new location. It was a beautiful office, with a wide open showroom. Everything was shiny, new, and clean.
And then Elsie moved in.
When I say she was a non-stop eating machine what I mean is that from the time she walked through the door with her rolling cooler and four purses, most of which contained food, she started eating and she didn’t stop eating, as far as I know, until she drove home at night. Then again, I’ve seen the front seat of her car. There’s a very real chance she didn’t stop eating even then.
When you work in an office, most of you know, snacking typically consists of a small bag of something that isn’t sticky, doesn’t melt, and won’t interfere with your work, especially if you need to be on the phone. A snack is something you can eat quickly, you can eat it walking, and you don’t run the risk of spilling it on a surface that needs to stay clean.
Elsie had no such snacking guidelines. A typical morning for her involved arriving at 11:07 (Her start time was 11, but she was never, ever on time.), making one phone call, (to prove to NBM, our boss, just what a dedicated employee she was) and then heading to the galley kitchen to make the first “snack” of the day. This snack usually had three parts: salad, wilting under a layer of heavy dressing; a protein, chicken legs, pork chops, meatloaf; and a hearty helping of mashed potatoes.
Just to contrast, back then I got to work at 7:30. My breakfast prior to arriving is usually a bowl of cereal or a bagel eaten quickly over the kitchen sink while yelling to my youngest child that I was LEAVING IN FIVE MINUTES and if she wanted a ride to school she’d better turn off the Fall Out boy CD and get a move on. I ate lunch, usually some sandwich and fruit I packed for myself, at 1:30. Between those two times, I consume two cups of coffee. Can someone explain why I continue to have a weight problem?
So it took Elsie roughly half an hour to prepare this snack and eat it at her desk. She then shoved the mostly empty plastic container back into the fridge where she also stored, just in case she gets peckish around noon, a six pack of yogurt, a head of lettuce, four bottle of salad dressing, a loaf of bread, a large jar of peanut butter (She never had any jelly. She’d steal NBM’s home- made jam. He never figured out why he couldn’t remember eating so much of it.) and a pan of brownies.
That’s just the fridge. In her desk she kept two family sized bags of snack chips and a complete series of two liter bottles of soda pop.
Do not misunderstand. Elsie W was not what most would think of as obese. She was heavy, sure. But she was heavy in a sort of cute old lady way (she was in her early sixties, not at all old) She was just a complete, total non stop eating machine. Like sharks, you know, if they stop moving they die. Elsie, I think, if she stopped eating, she’d die. At the very least, she wasn’t taking a chance.
That Elsie treated the office as her own home was a source of constant irritation for NBM, our boss. He was a very tidy fellow, and he expected those who work for him to be tidy as well. Our shop, where the guys who install the stuff we sell store their stuff, is clean. How clean? The fire inspector told me recently it was the cleanest place he’d been to that month.
No one can say the same for any space Elsie occupied. You knew immediately that you were in her presence, or at least on her trail, by the marks she’d leave, and the clouds of fruit flies hovering nearby.
I wasn’t aware of this when I first started working with her, however. At first I thought she was just an odd, lonely woman who liked her snack food. As a new employee, I wanted to make a good impression on those around me, so I kept a candy dish on my desk and filled it with those little chocolate kisses. Everyone was a fan of that candy. Especially Elsie.
Elsie thought of the candy dish as her own personal snack machine. Our desks were about six feet apart and she found a reason multiple times a day to roll her chair over to my desk and scoop up a red press on nail claw full of kisses and then roll back to her desk.
Elsie’s job at Stuff, Installed was that of ISP, Inside Sales Person. She was to make at least one hundred outgoing calls per day, mostly following up on customers who had had an estimate done by one of the sales guys, but hadn’t purchased. These calls were calls Rebounds, and if she managed to get one of these people to agree to take another look at their estimate, and if they did buy the stuff we install, she would get a bonus. In short, not only was she paid a nice hourly wage to make one hundred phone calls, she got a bonus when one of those phone calls goes well.
To make one hundred phone calls in an eight hour day is not that hard, especially when that’s all that is required of you. My job at Stuff, Installed was CSA, Customer Service Assistant. This was a broad brush of a job description that encompassed basic office work, filing, scheduling both sales and service appointments, helping the PM with the scheduling of installations, filling building permit applications forms, scheduling building inspections, and yes, making outgoing sales calls. As I got better at my job I sort of became the office mom, helping the sales guys find the correct address for a sales call when they were lost because Elsie had typed in the wrong address. Some days the install guys would have me help them placate a grumpy customer. I have a great phone voice and, apparently, a lot of patience. NBM liked to push small administrative things to me, since he was very busy watching the weather or baseball on his cell phone. By the time I’d worked at Stuff, Installed a year, there wasn’t a piece of paper in the building that didn’t cross my desk at least once.
Oh yeah, and I still was supposed to make as close to one hundred outgoing sales calls a day as I could.
But this isn’t about me. This is about Elsie, and how her job, her ONLY job was to make one hundred sales calls a day.
To do that, one would expect she’d be at her desk most of the day. Not so. She spent quality time in the bathroom, typically making personal phone calls. Or she’d be in the galley kitchen, making food. Or she’d be wandering through the shop to the neighbor’s office where she took advantage of their very cheap soda pop machine prices.
The good news was that we always knew how to find her. We simply followed the trail of bread crumbs, food stains, coffee spills, or, thanks to my chocolate kisses, those little paper flags. And it didn’t matter where the stain, crumb trail, spills, or kisses flags started, you always knew exactly where the trail would end: at Elsie’s desk.
Looking back, I like to think Elsie left the trails so she wouldn’t get lost in the office. When I’m feeling charitable, I like to think of her as a confused lady who liked her snack food.
And then I think about things like how she loved to microwave trout for her lunch, making the entire office smell like a fish hatchery, and I remember why a book like this had to be written.