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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

500 Envelopes

Summer student and pianist Gloria, hapless EA Earl and ED Leslie at the glamorous Western Board of Music offices.
It was the spring of 1995. I was twenty-six, unemployed, and living in my parents' basement. A young woman I'd once dated took pity on me and told me that a friend of hers was looking for some temporary help at something called the Western Board of Music, which I later discovered was a charitable organization fostering music education.  Temporary or not, a job was a job, so at the appointed hour I showed up on the doorstep of a little old house on the east side of the University of Alberta campus, right across the street from the HUB mall parking lot.

The Executive Director was Leslie, a brilliant woman about my age whom I'd met in passing back in 1991, shortly after I graduated from university. After some words of welcome and a brief orientation, she ushered me upstairs and sat me down at a small desk, upon which rested a large box of newsletters and a stack of envelopes.

"Just fold these newsletters and stuff and seal the envelopes," she said. "Have fun!" 

Simple enough. I dove into the box, folded the first newsletter into neat thirds, slid it into the first envelope, licked the enveloped, grimaced a little at the taste of the glue, sealed it, stamped it, set it aside. I repeated the process for the next newsletter, and the next, and the next, and the next...

After the first half hour, my tongue was numbed by a thick coating of envelope glue. As the afternoon wore on, glue was the least of my worries - my tongue  and the corners of my mouth became crisscrossed with tiny paper cuts. The stack of newsletters diminished as the stack of sealed envelopes grew, but my endurance was waning. How many newsletters were in this box, anyway?

At last, in the late afternoon, Leslie reappeared - just as I was dragging my tongue across the last envelope. Her eyes widened as she shrieked in horror, wrapping her hands into her long brown hair in consternation.

"I can't believe you licked five hundred envelopes!" she exclaimed. "You were supposed to use the envelope sealer!"

I froze in mid-lick, tongue bloody.

"Uh?" I said, not comprehending her meaning. She pointed at the desk - or more specifically, at a small bottle, filled with water, with a sponge on top: an envelope sealer. Leslie had helpfully placed it in plain sight before I'd begun my task, but having never seen one, I didn't understand its purpose: to seal envelopes without risk of lacerations or glue poisoning. My tongue grimaced in annoyance at my stupidity.

Displaying immense compassion, Leslie hired me to serve as her Executive Assistant. There was no lasting damage to my tongue - only my dignity.

Still, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything; not only did I earn valuable experience during my time as Leslie's EA (and later, after she moved on to bigger and better things, as the organization's Executive Director), we developed a friendship that I treasure to this day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awwww.... Good times, good times! : )