I am at two with nature

On October 19, 2009 by Eden M. Kennedy

For reasons that must remain unexpressed at the moment, I am no longer employed. I am incredibly, dare I say joyously busy, just not in an office-clothes, twice-a-month-paycheck sort of way, and that being the case, I am now somewhat free to blog about my (former) job. “Somewhat” in that I still respect that boundary and would never do anything to jeopardize the goodwill I built with the people I worked with. Especially since some of them now read my blog. (Hi, Robyn!!)

My former boss was always trying to get me to pay attention to what was going on in the office, and rightly so. Part of my job was to make sure things were looking good / coffee was made / there were no slicks of vomit in the copy room. Usual admin. asst. stuff. But part of his big-picture view was to stretch everyone employed there beyond their boundaries. Which I thought was kind of great, him taking an active interest in our achievements, but since I travel in a magic bubble with a radius the length of a bratwurst, my uncertain boundaries and distinct lack of achievement came under his scrutiny almost daily.

I could cope with normal office demands — I mean, if something was beeping I’d answer it, open it up, turn it off, or aim a fire extinguisher at it — but it was the above-and-beyond stuff that revealed how intensely horizontal my learning curve could be. And one duty that was definitely above-and-beyond for a serial plant-killer like me was to keep an eye on the office greenery. Once my boss learned that keeping things alive* was a weak area for me, he was on me like a hornet.

*Plants, children, relationships . . .

“Do you know what kind of plant that is?” he asked me one day, gesturing toward a new inmate in a clay pot.

“Uh, some kind of fern?” I asked hopefully.

“It’s a coffee plant. See how the leaves are drooping?”

“. . .”

“They’re not supposed to do that.”

I took the hint and found a watering can. “You might want to get a book,” he suggested.

“On plants?” I asked in amazement. “To read?” Clearly he had no understanding of how deep my strain of underachieving runs.

Meanwhile, it was also my duty to train the temp who came in on days I needed off, and apparently the universe’s idea of a joke was to give me a temp with a botany degree.

“Does anyone take care of these plants?” she asked, hands on hips. She took nearly an hour to walk around the office and take stock of every life form confined to a pot. “Where are you getting your compost from?” she asked me seriously.

I told her. (I knew that! I knew where the compost was from! Ten points!)

“Well, it’s the wrong kind,” she said, shaking her head. “And those listeria albicans in the back have half an inch of water in their saucers! They don’t like getting their feet wet, you know.”

Uh, no, as a matter of fact, I didn’t know.

The game of “Which Plant Is Eden Not Paying Attention To Today?” reached its climax two weeks ago when I was sitting at reception and my boss walked up to the counter, flicked a mouldering frond of autumn bouquet not two feet in front of my nose, and asked me if I thought its condition radiated anything other than SCREAMING DEATH.

I guess in my defense I should say that I was pretty good at other office stuff. I opened the mail without stabbing myself. And I wore shoes almost every single day!



51 Responses to “I am at two with nature”

  • You have made me feel so much better. I am an admin asst, and everything I do is a struggle. Opening the mail every day is my favorite thing because it's something I CAN DO. I think I'm fairly smart and good at some things, but to keep someone else (and their plants) happy and organized is so far out of my realm of capability that I can't even describe it. I can barely find something to wear in the morning; I have no idea how to keep in mind what my boss's schedule is for the next three months. (And I should have it memorized! And I should have put it together!)

    So you're smart and accomplished and likeable and witty and all those things, and I'm relieved to know that you are not comfortable in this position either.

    Please know that you have made my day by helping me realize that I'm not the only one that is bored (uninterested?) with the mundane task of supporting someone in an office setting.

    I hope you find something you love to do for a living.

  • WAIT? We're supposed to be putting compost on indoor plants?

    I GIVE UP.

  • Nissaday, some of us are cut out for it and some of us are less so. I hope you find what you love to do, too.

    Rhiannon: Uh, maybe? She could have been asking about the outdoor plants? Can you tell that I know less that nothing about these matters and could have remembered this particular exchange completely upside down and backwards?

  • See, I believe that this is why they make silk plants.

  • My last office job found me sitting at a desk and editing books about plants. When asked (by my boss) if I wanted to go on a company-wide nature walk in order to brush up on species identification, I politely declined. "Look, man, just because I have to identify these things in order to butter my bread…"

    I have never loved my job. And sometimes that makes me feel like a jerk. But sometimes? Not so much.

  • But, did your shoes match? You can't really call yourself an underachiever if your shoes match.

  • The title to this post is without reproach, but an alternative one might be "The Garden of Eden."

  • Now *that* was hilarious and should be mandatory reading for every office dweller and dweeb the land over! In my (small) office we have a joke about the plants of the former CEO– if someone forgets to water them, they are willfully killing "Dr. X" and will have to take remedial classes in patient safety, etc. I guess I'm grateful that even though there's a title in front of my name and a small group behind it, that I still get to water, run for beeping objects and am forgiven for not changing out of my tennies before noon. Congrats, Eden! Here's to shucking the corporate shackles (and the heels, too!)

  • My 9yo daughter calls me The Plant Murderer. I tell her the only reason *she's* still alive is because she can actually tell me when she needs food or water.

    Plants. Meh. Who needs 'em.

  • I'm afraid I'm one of those plant people, but only for indoor plants. I took a plant away from a coworker once due to impending plant death. She comes to visit it sometimes.

    Outside – my gardens always fail. Which means I think I'd do well in one of those dome experiments.

  • In many states it's legal to kill a temp.

  • I just can't even put in to words what I want to say about this…

  • Plant services and fake plants. You (and me) and people like you (and me) are why those things exist.

  • I was an admin. asst. I made all these rules because there were some crucial things about my job I was not very good at. Like putting the letters in the right envelopes. Finishing the phone numbers on the receptionist thingamadoodles. I mean, I was Phi Beta Kappa. Secretarying was too hard for me so I went to grad school.

    Not a plant lives in my home. Not a one. Some live in the backyard where nature does its thing. That's where they belong! Sheesh people. It is cruel to confine them to captivity.

    I could never keep my shoes on the whole day. How do people do that?

  • Just FYI, at Earthling you were the person I went to when I wanted something done right. :) Plus you had the most delicious handwriting!

  • But did anyone bother to say you had the best written memos?

    ""Sue's birthday party in the kitchen at 12:30 pm today.""

    Pure gold.

  • wait… are you no longer employed because of some silly office plants?!?

  • Oh, you've got me having administrative assistant-ship flashbacks. Arrrrrggahhhhh *plop*.

    I've never had a job that I was more craptacular at. And they never even asked me to keep a plant alive.

  • Cheers to newfound freedom! I too live in a world where I don't have to go to someone else's office (rather my own, just on the other side of the house from my bedroom!) and there's nary a live plant to be found. FO, Temp Lady.

  • I once worked as a clerk in an office. Just before I worked there, everyone had been given this one kind of flowering desert plant, which coincidentally is the only kind of plant I can manage to keep alive for any length of time, so I ended up being the office plant caregiver. I knew that this was a bad area of responsibility to fall into, but I didn't know how to stay out of it.

    A superior, though not a boss, of mine later started dragging in a string of plants of different kinds, expecting me to take of them. Each of them died under my care.

    Now that I look back, this might explain why she didn't seem to like me much. It looked like I was killing her plants out of spite.


    Your comments section has turned into a personal therapy session.

  • hey! me too! At least, come next monday I'll be unemployed.

    I'll bring the tequila, you bring the lime. Meet you on the deck.

    No shoes required.

  • I was once brought into a particular workgroup because according to HR I was a 'Positive and stabilizing influence'. I was desperate to suggest they let me sit in on interviews so I could weed out the psychos, thus diminishing the need for my playing hostage negotiator between neurotic accountants with anger management issues and CSRs whose lives were an epic train wreck.Some things just aren't worth $41,000. Though I'd be equally destructive to plants.

  • I once worked a job where the boss wanted me to make the coffee every day, despite the fact that I don't drink coffee, and that he didn't hire me to be a waitress. So I purposefully made really awful coffee. Some days I'd put in two tablespoons of ground coffee. Some days a cup and a half. Some days, I'd brew a perfect pot of decaf in the orange carafe and giggle as everyone stayed angry all day. Sometimes I'd sprinkle herbal tea on top of the coffee in the filter. He showed me how to make coffee at least once a week, until finally, after about a month of my endless secret abuse, he just gave up. "I guess some people just can't make coffee," he concluded.

    Mission accomplished.

  • I have three plants on my windowsill at work and they all seem to be hanging on for dear life (Matilda's lost all of her leaves except for four). I've even put it on the calendar to water the plants once a week. Still…nothing. I just didn't get the "southern lady gardener" gene from Mom.

    Sorry about the job (?). Could be one of those blessing in disguise things.

  • I was an admin for years thanks to a useless degree in Anthropology. I have to agree with Caitlin. I would always try to screw up the order if the boss would ever try to get me to pick up lunch. If I wanted to be a waitress, I could have just been a waitress and probably made a lot more money.

  • So sorry to hear about the job. You deserve to be paid like a quarterback for your writing.

  • Yeah, what Betsy said. And I'm not surprised at all that you have nice handwriting. I think I'd be a better writer if my penmanship had a little more flair, and a little less spaz.

  • All I'm saying is, you'd better be gone from that job because you got a wicked good book deal worth at least six figures. There are too many crappy books around. I'm waiting for some publisher to scoop you up so I can finally find a book worth buying.

  • Hah! You sound TOO much like me. My career as an admin assistant was an abject failure! People think that's some kind of wimpy little girly job that can just be poo-pooed! Shoot, it takes a very special skill set – none of which I posessed. Congratulations on your freedom!

  • You make me laugh.

    I also live in a bubble (my excuse is that I am a lawyer, and I write, so I'm a nerd, so I don't need to pay attention to anything else) so… my office plants are dead, I still have a mini Christmas tree up at home (but it's almost Christmas again!), my lawn is often 6 inches tall and twice, recently, I have put the wrong month on documents (because, really, February-May, whatever). But I get the stuff right that is nerd stuff (or in my area of interest).

    Oh, and I have one of those wooden poseable sketch model hands (a life sized hand, but a cousin to the 12 inch poseable art figure people) on my credenza, and someone put a rubber glove on it once, and I'm all whatever, I'll just leave it (so it is wearing a 2 year old rubber glove).

    We pay attention when it MATTERS.

  • Experiences like yours are why my last "real" job was in 1993. (temp bank teller who's skirt length was measured & eyed & called-out on by the head teller). Decent money since then cleaning homes, some days wearing your tee shirts, which lend even more of a superior edge. No insurance on my own though, but I guess that leads into the topic of marriage and "hey, let's keep this here thing afloat!"

    Good luck to you. :)

  • Time for a Plant Killer tshirt, I think. I've always had a black thumb. And I am too much of a smartass to be a good admin.

  • What J said.

  • There is nothing worse than working at a job that does not feed your creativity. It is soul sucking. Trust me, I speak from experience. I know money is tight, but somehow it always works out.

  • I sincerely hope your current unemployment is due in no small part to you cramming a watering can up someone's ass.

  • Got you beat. I've managed to become the office plant typhoid mary as well — they're all turning an inexplicable fungal yellow since I brought mine in….

    The space bubble was something addressed with me by a mentor senior secretary once. I think all creative people have it; since I'd just come out of art school I was classic space cadet material. I was very grateful and have now got stellar systems in place that enable me to appear connected in between the more important thought bubbles like "HEY! If you stand a strawberry box upside down you have a perfect soap dish strainer thingy. NOTE TO SELF: DESIGN STAINLESS STEEL UPSIDE DOWN STRAWBERRY BOX FOR BATHROOMS."

    Fortunately my attorney knows that when I do tune in, I'm serious as a starving Rottweiler. But you know where that keeps me. Employed: 10; Wasted soul: 2.

    I truly hope you can do what I dream of doing (Not the strawberry box! ::slaps hand::) and obtain payment for enrichment.

  • Why is an admin assistant expected to be a horticulturist?

  • Lord have mercy how you comfort me Fussy!

  • If you are sad about your job (i.e. paycheck) being over, I'm sorry that I'm sort of giddy about it. Glad to have you back!


  • I am sorry to hear about the loss of a paycheck. But this sounds like a miserable work environment.

  • Odd woman out here – but I make coffee when it needs to be made and I've never had a cup of the stuff in my life. Figure it helps everyone else in the place with their productivity, so why not? It's not like I'm being asked to do something criminal – which happened on one job and which I refused to do and never got fired.

    At one former employer, there were about 6 of us admins working in the corporate office, each making minimum of $50K annually, and we took turns bringing in lunches (and serving them) – not a big deal, again helping with the senior management productivity.

    I love being an admin, wasn't so crazy about being an extremely "hands-on" mother, just raised my kids, and try to nurture them and the people with whom I work. Still do.

  • This also reminds me of all those past jobs where I was told to "act interested" and likely gave them my best blank face. Interested? In selling brake lights? Or pricing shipping costs for pallets of alternators? Someone is interested in that? Why – what's wrong with them? I just want to write stories…

    Ah yes. Employment.

  • A coffee plant? Really? There's such a thing? On your last day, please tell us that you walked up, with an unpotted plant in hand, holding the roots above your head and asked, "Do you know what kind of plant that is? …NO? …THIS is a coffee plant."

    Splash!…Inside his mug.

    Glad you got out of there before your leaves were drooping.

  • I must chime in. I once worked as an admin assistant and during one particular exchange with my boss, I said, "I think…" and he said (yelled), "I don't pay you to think." It was that day that I quit.

  • I'm a PhD student doing academic research on momblogs at the University of Florida and would like to contact you as a leading momblogger. Please email me at linda.s.hallam@gmail.com so I can email the pertinent information to you.
    Linda Hallam

  • Erin stole my horticulture comment.

    But really. Once I temped long-term in an office where the guy wore singing holiday ties and ordered me to squeeze them. "Squeeze my tie," he'd say. I went and got a Ph.D. so I would never have to squeeze a piece of menswear again.

  • What the fucking fuck?? Plants were an issue? Who hires an admin. asst. and expects him/her to take care of plants? That's a load of crap and you're better off working somewhere else! In my office, the people who bought the plants and like the plants take care of the plants. Period.

  • "Which plant is Eden not paying attention to today."


  • I hope whatever is coming your way is three times more awesome than this.

  • I'd love to blog about my former employers, but just can't bring myself to. I'll affectionately refer to them as horse-face and Botox queen when I finally do.

    P.S.I can't keep any plants alive either so can totally relate!