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Inbox Noir

Cue saxophone. If there were a door, there’d be a sign on it that said “Ivan Juan Johann”—that’s me. I’m a scribbler by training and a talker by temperament. Which works out OK, as the particular side of the street I’m working these days is called Communications.

In this biz, opportunity don’t knock. It just strolls in, talking a mile a minute, itself, and plops down in your spare Aeron—usually crushing your fedora in the process. So, if you’ve got anything good on your shoulders above your neck, you can do OK just by keeping your eyes and ears open near equal to the time that other hole is busy keeping your tongue neighborly with your Florsheims.

Trick is in telling what’s opportunity and what’s a one-way ticket to an outpost minding someone else’s Outlook calendar. It’s well and good to assist, but “assistant”? Please, friend, the only thing in my life I want preceded by “executive” is the washroom.

So, when she spun—believe me, pal, you couldn’t get that many curves to travel straight without welding ‘em to rails—into my 9-to-5, I had to think fast. I saw a flash of manila in her hand, and I don’t mean a travel brochure for Southeast Asia.

“What’s the rumpus, doll?”

“Oh, Mr. Ivan Juan Johann . . . “

“Hey, now, lollipop. Mr. Ivan Juan Johann is my father. Please, just Ivan Juan Johann.”

The look she gave me would have had Al Gore securing funds for a sequel, and three Republican strategists working round the clock to prove that every Eskimo word for snow is a curse.

“Ivan Juan Johann, I’ve been trying to e-mail you this file. I’ve been getting an out-of-office notice since last Wednesday.”

“Just back from the tropics, sweetheart.” I hadn’t been anywhere more tropical than a Scorpion Bowl since last—or any other—Wednesday, but the sunburn from her earlier glance went some ways towards building my case.

“Well, I hope you had a nice time. But he’s hounding me about the status of the Kleiner report.”

She raised her arm toward my desktop, the folder—stuffed with every scrap of paper printed from Guttenberg to Google—inches from my inbox.

I took her by the wrist, gently, using a little Aikido move I picked up at an OfficeMax night course, and spun her on one of her more attractive axes.

“It’s in great shape, jellybean. We’re teeing some things up for Kleiner, trying to get buy-in. Just refining the elevator pitch, you know? We don’t need him drinking from the fire hose. We don’t need to get that granular. We’re working this one in modules. We can dial it up, dial it down, as needed. No pushback, so far. And, at the end of the day, it’s about the low-hanging fruit.”

She was almost back to the hallway. I was nearly there.

“But, Ivan Juan Johann . . . ” I had to wrap it up fast or I was going to lose her and gain another half a yard of dead tree.

I went for broke: “You know, cupcake, I think you and me should take this offline. I’m not trying to get you to drink the Kool-Aid, but I think we could really leverage your skill set on this one. I’d really like to empower you to own this.”

“Oh, Ivan Juan Johann, I couldn’t . . . ”

“Sure you could, cookie, with your core competencies, with what you bring to the table . . . ”

“Can I bring anything else to the table, sir?” Two hours later, the manila folder had found itself a new home in the surprisingly rectilinear attaché of my curvaceous companion, never to be seen again. In exchange, I provided for her a virtual tour of the tropics.

I love a deliverable with a paper umbrella.

“So, marshmallow, how’s Executive Assistant sound to you?”

Outro sax, and fade.

—John Rodat

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