Being in charge for the last couple of weeks has not been all it was cracked up to be. Dana had several meetings at the Capitol Building. Usually, I am not perturbed by his absence, but there is always something that someone needs to know, 'NOW!', and it is always something that is a 'rules' or 'statute' violation. Dana always insists that when you start working for him, before you get stuck into the administrative side of things, you must read the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and to acquaint yourself with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Both are part of larger books, which pertain to the rules of both Courts, and he suggests it doesn't hurt to familiarise yourself with both. The books, which gives one a hernia if you try to pick them up without a truss, are, as they suggest, full of all the legal particulars that pertain to the law. Although we are not required to know them, as are the lawyers, it is always helpful to understand, as if a writ is issued incorrectly, once the trial starts, and it is brought to the attention of the judge, by an astute defence attorney, it can jeopardise the case. Of course, it is not our responsibility to do the attorney's work for them, but we, as process servers, are at the bottom of the 'legal' food chain, and if someone is looking for someone else to blame, guess who is in the firing line. Most of our clients are very grateful for Dana's input, but there are a handful who resent being told; and there are those that resent being told by someone with a very heavy English accent.
Reading through the rules is akin to ploughing through all four parts of War and Peace, but not as interesting. I am aware of the rules, but cannot quote them verbatim. Dana, on the other hand, will rattle off, 'oh yes, Rule .... in the TRCP, section.... paragraph ... which clearly states. Crystal is opaque by comparison!!! When it comes to Texas Law, even Jeeves, asks Dana! However, to give credit where credit is due, he does 'know his stuff', and has taught me very well. This does not make it any easier when he is out of the office, and the emails start popping up in the inbox, all starting with the word, 'RUSH!'.
Last week started quite well, and I was not as overwhelmed as I could have been. On Monday, our faithful server, Jerry, agreed to be our 'pick up' and 'delivery' person, which kept Samantha and Kelly in the office, for the morning, to help with the telephones, which always seem to ring constantly when the office staff is depleted. By lunch time, Dana was back, but then he was out again in the afternoon. He announced that he had no outstanding emails, and would be back in a couple of hours. Our attempt to party was very short lived. I generally sit myself at his desk upon his departure, so that I am at the hub of activity. 'Ok, girls! Tea and cake!' Samantha had wanted me to visit with our Senator, to try and get a bill passed, last session, demanding that all English ex-pats be given a fifteen minute tea break, each day. Unfortunately, my Senator is not particularly sympathetic to our pleas regarding our industry, so I didn't think a request bearing my name would get very far, despite it's obvious advantages!! Before putting on the kettle, I took up poll position at Dana's desk and clicked on the mouse. 'You have 24 unread emails'. He had been gone for no longer than two minutes, and his electronic account had overflowed. I was convinced that there was an onlooker with a 'walkie talkie', who watched Dana leave, and then sent a single multiple message which said, 'Press send, now!' Although I could not see anyone, I resigned myself to the fact there would be no respite. 'Party's over, girls', came the cry from behind the desk, and I set to work.
My sense of humour is not always appreciated, or understood, when spoken and heard by the ear, but on paper, (screen,) it is often totally lost. The first two emails were purely for an update, and I responded, adding my usual bit of banter, which explained that Dana was out of the office, and how I was at the helm. Unfortunately, the third message failed to amuse me. 'We need these served, like the others', was the direct message. Fortunately, I was familiar with 'the other's' which were to be delivered asap, and I asked if this was the case. It was. However, the delivery was to be made in El Paso, Texas. It is quicker to get to Oklahoma or Louisiana, than it is to get to El Paso. Thank goodness for the Internet! I sat back, glared at the screen for a few seconds, took a deep breath, and checked the paperwork. It was not the usual, run of the mill, writ, and that concerned me. As I mentioned, we are the bottom of the food chain, and if I was missing the critical piece of the puzzle, it would be, to use an Americanism, my 'butt on the line!' I went into professional mode. I am always conscious, when quoting the law to paralegals, and realise that I am at a disadvantage. The first, obvious reason, is that I am not an attorney. The second is that I am English. The contact was one of our regular clients, and they are always very grateful for Dana's imput, and consider that his tutoring is sufficient to take me at my word. However, they were adamant that the papers were to be delivered 'as is', and if possible, before the end of the day. My advantage was that El Paso is actually an hour behind Austin, but for every good point, there comes a bad. I had to explain that the addresses given for the delivery, were residencies, so there would probably be no one at the addresses provided until after office hours. I forwarded the papers on, and called to make sure our server was available to take care of them.
Of course, spending as much time as I did on the one project, caused a back log and the message read, 'you have 54 emails'. Being boss does have some advantages, (although not enough for me to want to plot a take over coup) and I managed to send a dozen over to Kelly and Samantha, with a message, 'please deal'. This left me with just over forty to deal with, which I managed to whittle down quite quickly. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I took a breath and started to sort through all the documents I had downloaded. Most of them were to be served locally, but there were a few that had to go out to our guys, and gals, 'in the field', and I put them to one side.
Just before Dana arrived back in the office, I had managed to clear all the emails, and averted a crisis. However, the invisible 'walkie talkie' person, who had sent the original message, must have seen Dana step back, and sent out yet another 'press send now!' message. As I stood behind him, to go through the afternoon's incoming business, he clicked on his Inbox button. 'You have 24 unread emails!' My claims of 'but, but, but....', were accepted, sympathetically. He felt my pain! I told him about my stressful afternoon, and he was quite complimentary on how I had dealt with the emergency. As I returned to my desk, quite relieved to hand over the wheel, the telephone rang. I answered with more confidence, as I knew I had my 'cushion' in the other room, I was asked if it would be possible to add another 'paper' to the rush service in El Paso. Although my brain screamed 'Nooooooo!', my mouth added the word, 'problem!'
Dana did not respond very well to my statement, 'I don't want to play anymore', as he left the office again the following day, for another meeting. He did not take my draft 'bill' for afternoon tea, neither did he take seriously my request that Courthouse clerks go on a course to use a stapler! (I constantly puncture my fingers on broken metal pieces, and do not agree that my decrease in purchasing band-aids/plasters, as I do on a weekly basisd, would cause a slump in the economy)
Our weekend was, as reported last week, less busy than anticipated, but then on Monday morning, it all started again. Dana disappeared for several hours. Admittedly, when I look at the clock and see that he has been out for much longer than he anticipated, there is a sense of satisfaction, knowing that his meeting is going well, and it generally means that those he is meeting with are sympathetic to his cause. I was less sympathetic than those at the Capitol, and considered, very briefly, looking through the local 'positions vacant' section in the newpaper. We went through the same routine, cancelling the tea-parties and riotous behaviour, dealing with emergencies, one of which was a repeat performance of the El Paso deal, which was not as over-whelming a second time, and by the third round, it became second nature to just 'pass them on', to our guy 'out west'! Monday was not all bad news. As I sat at Dana's desk, my cell phone rang. Dana has a habit of calling me on my mobile when he wants something, and is not in the office, probably because it is on speed dial, which the office is not. (Considering he is very rarely out, he has very little need to 'call in'.) I dashed from behind his array of furniture, avoiding tripping over the dog, (who has been very confused at the comings and goings, and due to his OCD, not particularly happy) and started to rant, 'why does he have to call on that phone..........'. 'Hi Tracie, this is Maria, from the radio station. How are you today'. I lied. 'I'm great, how are you'. Her health was also good, and she continued. 'You have won...' I think I have mentioned the sensitivity of my 'touch screen' phone, and how even my ear can put someone on hold, and ring another number. What had I won? Maria had gone, and a recorded message proceeded, 'For baggage options, press 1. For United Airlines flight times, press 2'. I am not quite sure from where the number for the lost luggage had been dragged, as I had not called the number since the first week in January. Unable to retrieve the original call, I attempted to contact Maria, at the very same time she made her second call, back to me. Fortunately, all went to voicemail, and I did have an email to say that I was the lucky recipient of tickets to see Christopher Cross, on Saturday. Tickets would be at the usual place, until Thursday, at 5pm. The office phone rang again, I returned to Dana's desk, and all I could manage was a husky whisper, 'I won!' The enthusiasm had wained.
However, as I believe I have managed to convey, life is not always so much fun in the fast lane. Being in charge, again, became quite tiresome. Despite my attempt to sound confident, there were a few, (and the number grows) that prefer to hear the answer from the 'real' boss, and not the lady who answers the phones. Although Dana has explained that I am proficient, and that my judgment can be trusted, I was left wondering, more than a couple of times, if it was the English accent that put them off, or whether it was, indeed, the loss of my husband's deep southern drawl that was missed. (He was dubbed, 'the voice' by a friend of mine.) Several clients asked if perhaps Dana could call them back, 'to clarify'. I considered my recommendation of, 'Go look in the flippin' rule book!' would not go down too well! Instead, my sweetness shone through and, I promised I would have him call upon his return. I will add that once the legislative session is over, and Dana is back in the office, I shall be making a trip to the dentist to see quite how much damage I have sustained, gritting my teeth!
There was a slight period of respite, on Wednesday, when I took myself off to my manicurist, and then to pick up my prize. However, I arrived back at the office just in time for Dana to announce that he had been invited to a 'follow up' meeting, and would be leaving immediately. I don't think it was a look of joy that spread across my face, but I told him, 'Go get 'em, cowboy!', and bit the bullet! Thursday was a similar scenario, although I did not have my time out! Kelly and Samantha did! They had to go to the courthouse, three times, while Dana was out gallivanting with the hierarchy. I was left with the neurotic dog, who had taken up residence on the edge of Dana's desk, and who growled at anything and everything. Attempting to keep him from leaping off the desk to sniff a visitor, at the same time as answering the phone, and attempting to accommodate the mail man, would probably have got me that new job...in the circus!
The Texas Legislative session continues until the end of May. As my confidence battles with my emotions, and I go from being the 'receptionist' to 'top dog', and back again, we still have a life outside the office (Dana has tried to convince me) and this weekend was very pleasant. Our trip to the Austin Symphony, featuring Christopher Cross, was a wonderful outlet, and .......... another story.