So it came to be that I did a few nice powerpoint presentations for the #2 in my organization. (This is a person so high up I never saw him in my previous job, although his office was onlytwo flights up)
Next thing I know he's decided I'm the most suitable replacement for his #2 while she is on maternity leave. Now this is an extremely talented, capable and motivated young lady, who holds a highly qualified position which requires a great deal of understanding and knowledge in a field of expertise about which I know nothing. Less than nothing. And it consists of a lot of little numbers and moving positions and round and things. (I'm pathetic with numbers. My mind just shuts down). It's a bigwig organization executive sort of thing. To make things worse, she's a really, really lovely person who everyone loves to work with, even while she's gently but firmly explaining the inner workings of the next major cutback to the top brass of the field departments. At least if she was horrible, people would be happy with me even if I was hopeless. Oh and there's that too. Her job means dealing out unpleasantness to the bigwigs all the time. It's her job. Me? I get all tongue-tied and embarrassed and forget what I wanted to say, even if I've been rehearsing in my head for hours.
So anyway, I learned I was to be her replacement a week before she was due. She gave me a short and hurried tutorage and then she was gone.
I thought I'd died and gone to hell.
A week and a half later I'm still not sure that that's not what happened. I stare blankly at every e-mail I get on the organization intra-net, racking my brains, trying to understand what it means and what I have to do.
Luckily for me, (or is it unluckily? I'm not sure as yet) the young lady in question is so very motivated, she actually took a computer home with her, hooked up to the organization network. Now that she's home from the hospital with the baby, she answers most of the mail herself and generally tells me what to do. This not only makes me feel utterly useless (which I am), but also terribly guilty that I'm not being more of a help. It also means people tend to address their mail to her and not to me (I can see her mail as well as mine), so I feel even more of a fool.
Friends remind me that taking the computer home was her choice and this is true. I also remind myself, as does my regular boss (who isn't too happy about the situation), that I actually can't lose here (well, except face, and also I hate to disappoint someone who has put his trust in me). If I fail dismally, I will be off the hook in the future for such additional duties.
And additional duty it is. My usual stuff is piling up. People are calling up all the time to beg me to update this table or that database, and the most I can do is promise to try and find time. You see, I haven't got a replacement. Too lowly and insignificant. From this new temporary position, I can actually see that when I leave my current position, for whatever reason, be it retirement or in search of a better one, the position is marked for something near to cancellation.
Now, in case you were wondering, this replacement business cannot become permanent, because of certain bureaucratic perculiarities of my organization among other things. First of all I'm too old to switch to management. Secondly it's not worth my while from the point of view of salary. With twenty years on the job, I currently earn more than I would as a rookie manager. Third, she's so dedicated, the young lady I'm replacing - why would anyone in their right mind exchange her with me? And last but not least, I love my regular job. I certainly don't want to move up to the top floor for good. It's dead lonely up there. I try my best to do all my duties, old and new, from my usual office, escaping upstairs to her drafty big office only when I need some peace and quiet to concentrate on the latest puzzling incoming e-mail.
One good thing about the whole business, besides its keeping me out of mischief, is that suddenly the spectre of organization reshuffles, that could find me doing something really awful, doesn't seem so scary. Whatever they could get me to do, in that eventuality, it couldn't possibly be as hard as this, or as ill-suited to my abilities, could it?
Mind you, grumble grumble, I did manage to pull together a major project last week (no great feather in my cap - it was yet another major cutback program. What a start!). And I'm doing quite a good job at the moment, if I do say so myself, of reducing the whole 2010 overview onto an intelligible four slide presentation. So what if most of the time I feel as out of place, frustrated and mystified as I did as a twenty four year old new recruit?