Thank You Letters

The greatest irony with Josephina Steele was her obsession over thank you letters. On the one hand, she believed the beneficence demonstrated in thanking a subordinate just once was sufficient for an entire career. On the other, after every project she coordinated on behalf of a politician, she would see to it that an underling prepared some form of appreciation document that would be sent to everybody, and their mother, who had anything at all to do with the undertaking. In some cases, the process of preparing thank you letters took longer than the work for the actual event. Needless to say, getting stuck with thank you letters was one of the worst assignments inflicted, along with coordinating signage.

For some reason, I was the unfortunate go-to gal for thank you letters. Our manager tried to blame it on my literacy, which had some credibility considering one of the other three staff members at my level spelled the Philippines with double Ls and Ns, but singular Ps. Okay, I know what you are thinking, Philippines isn’t the easiest to spell, but neither, apparently, were: there; you; or efficiently. Equally challenging were the agreement of verbs with quantity and the proper use of apostrophes and commas. And for some reason, she ended every sentence with ellipses, as if all her thoughts were somehow incomplete or she was drawing lengthy breaths in between, but I digress.

One day, I was summoned to Josephina’s office, which befittingly was reminiscent of a bunker, having no windows and only one entry leading out onto a dead-end hallway. Her computer was set up so as to face the door, eliminating the chance of a surprise attack. Adorning the concrete walls in an orderly array hung snapshots of Josephina captured accidentally with world leaders alongside thank you letters from said important personages, undoubtedly drafted by some other poor sap working underneath her at the time.

“Lee-AHH,” Josephina bellowed from the depths of her bunker, “Lee-AHH!” I begrudgingly got up from my not-so private workstation and headed towards her office. Without turning away from her computer, Josephina continued, “Lia, I need you to draft some thank you letters for the Minister to sign.” Forever afraid of angering her, I shrugged submission. “I have some examples in that filing cabinet there.” Josephina pointed to a low two-drawer cabinet, barely closed due to the overflow of disorganised papers. “Find them.”

I cautiously moved to the filing cabinet, which sadly was situated behind Josephina’s chair, and crouching attempted to open the cabinet as quietly and carefully as possible. The crunch of papers caught between the drawer and cabinet irritated Josephina, who quickly spun around, “Oh forget it! I’ll find it myself.” Rummaging among the mess of documents, she at last retrieved a stuffed file of letters. “I have tons of thank you letters,” she purred, opening the folder and admiring her own handiwork. Pulling a favourite from the pile, Josephina thrust it at me, “I write good thank you letters.”

Taking the letter from her outstretched hand, I quickly read it through. While Josephina was certainly no Tolstoy, the note was well-written. And like all subordinates, the importance of sucking up isn’t entirely lost on me, I took a chance, “Yes, Josephina, your letters aren’t bad,” inflecting the sentence upwards at the end to ensure the phrase was complimentary.

Apparently, I failed.

Josephina’s deep olive complexion grew a lot darker, while her droopy eyes scowled from behind that long, Grecian nose. “Not bad?” She sneered and sat silent looking at me with disgust for a few moments. “Not bad? You better watch how you talk to people, Lia; you have a long career ahead of you.” With that she tossed the bulky file at me, returning to her computer.

Stunned and a little confused, I scrambled to the door and the relative safety of my cube.

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