Why I come with a manual

It can be sobering to learn what other people think of you. I am not alluding to my 360-degree appraisal, but something worse. Observant Olivia has moved from being my guardian angel to another, more grown-up job in our company and has written a 15-page manual on how to look after me, in order to assist her successor. But 15 pages? How long does it take to explain how to retrieve my BlackBerry from the black cab lost property office?

I am not sure OO’s document was meant for my consumption, but I had a look anyway. The contact details of my immediate family, my parents, and even the names of my dogs, are all there, as you might expect. But reading on, I learned that Mr M, apparently, is to be e-mailed my updated diary once a fortnight. Since when?

Some of the comments are nice: “Mrs M is very clever at sending thoughtful presents,” says one. Others imply, correctly, that I can be less than organised. “Go through Mrs M’s handbag when she gets in; check she has enough business cards, put her keys, hearing aid and make-up back in the bag and ask her about any paperwork.”

There is a page entitled “Mrs M beauty”, which makes me sound as though I am beautiful, which I am not. It does, however, remind me how much time and money I spend on maintenance: there are numbers for hair, nails, eyelashes and waxing, with a reminder not to put details of the latter in the central office diary.

Health also occupies an entire page (eg where to get batteries for the aforementioned hearing aid). Transportation demands a full two pages, starting with where to have my bike punctures fixed, through a reminder always to include airport terminal numbers with travel itineraries, and ending with contact details for my flying instructor. He is described as “a very helpful and nice man”. However, it seems Observant Olivia has had a rather more troubled relationship with my manager, the Prominent Theatrical Agent. “Even if you say Mrs M is busy, he still tells you to put things in the diary; he is not great at getting back on e-mail; he can be quite critical, but don’t take it to heart, I am sure he doesn’t.”

There is one paragraph under the heading “Holidays”: “Mrs M does not take holidays in the conventional sense. She works throughout. Make sure she takes the correct chargers for her laptop/phone.” Am I really that sad?

By the time I have finished reading I am amazed that anyone would want to work for me at all, and feel enormously grateful that we have found someone to take over from the admirable Olivia. However, we are struggling to recruit anyone for our entry-level intake, even though youth unemployment in the UK is at an all-time high. Where are the graduates who are interested in business and the City but don’t want the 6.30am starts and the 1am finishes that investment banking demands, and would like to get client interaction far earlier in their careers than banking allows? I don’t seem to be able to find them.

I think my parents would enjoy OO’s document, for they recently gave me all my school reports:

1967: Writing can be good, but rather careless. She has plenty of drive.

1971: Her work is promising but her enthusiasm needs to be more controlled; too talkative in class.

1975: Self-discipline and self-criticism will help her realise her full potential.

1976: She seems to think that by putting on the charm she can bend the rules to her liking!

1978: She is a somewhat exhausting companion.

1980 [my leaving report]: an enchanting and infuriating person … An able girl with such a diversity of interests that she has not always organised her time to achieve the right balance.

Note that none of this testifies to any academic ability whatsoever. It does though give a clear indication of what would be in OO’s report 31 years later. Quite sobering.


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