I can't say I have had "many" jobs, but I've worked a few, including in customer service, medical secretary and, thankfully, as a legal secretary. You might say that I enjoyed legal work most of all. And there's a very good reason for it. I was young, 24 years old and a mother of two very small children when I first entered the legal world. Thrust into the role of single mother, I agonized over how I would juggle all the roles I now had to play; mother, father, bread-winner, housekeeper, cook, laundry-woman, etc., etc.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes a job offer: Legal Secretary for the county Prosecutor. Are you kidding me? I didn't know anything about lawyers! So far I'd pushed groceries down a not-so-fast-moving conveyor belt at the A&P grocery store in Natick, meeting and chatting with the locals. I'd also sold bagels, lox and chale bread at a wondeful Jewish bakery. "What in the world did a Legal Secretary do?" I asked myself. I had no idea, but I filled out the form and sent it in, knowing that I would never get a phone call from that office. Surely there were better-qualified women that me to do that job.
But I couldn't have been more wrong! Before both of my feet were over the threshold, my telephone started ringing. Throwing my purse across the room, where it landed squarely upside down, I ran and picked up the receiver.
"Interview?" I asked. "Sure! I'll be there." Now what have I done, I thought. What do you wear for a personal interview with a prosecutor? I quickly ran to my closet to shuffle through my meager wardrobe and pulled out the most appropriate thing I could find. I applied some light makeup, arranged for a babysitter and headed down the dirt road leading from my house into town.
Outside the courthouse I did not see one person. I expected people to be scurrying back and forth between the two large county buildings that were separated by a short walkway. Nonetheless, I entered the hall that led down to the prosecutor's office practically shaking. The young woman behind the desk welcomed me, told me that the attorney would be with me shortly and to please take a seat. I did so with great relief. After waiting approximately 15 minutes, a youngish man with glasses propped atop of his very narrow nose, came out to greet me with a smile.
"Hi," he said. "My name is Phil. Come on in."
Gathering up my resume and purse I had to nearly run to keep up with his long, gangly legs! Phil closed the door behind me and walked around to settle down in his soft, burgandy office chair. We had a quick exchanged about whether I found the office all right and if I was enjoying the warm weather. Then, it was down to business!
Phil began, "So, how long have you lived in this area?"
"Oh, about three months," I replied.
"Are you married?" he queried.
Surprised by the question, I paused. I wasn't sure whether he should ask that question or not; I had heard there were new laws about asking personal questions. "Actually, I am separated," I offered.
"Well, how well do you and he get along?" he asked.
"Um, well, okay I guess," I stumbled.
Phil then looked me straight in the eyes and said, "That is all the personal questions I am going to ask you. And you must never ask me anything personal."
I was so shocked, that all I could do was to blubber, "Oh, I would never do that!"
We quickly moved onto my professional skills, and the interview ended a few moments later. Outside his office door, I looked at the young secretary, who's place I would take if hired. I am sure my face registered shock when I shook my head at her.
"Don't worry," she said, "you have the job."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I can just tell," she replied.
I practically ran from the office! It was the strangest job interview I had ever experienced. Phil was nice enough, but I found him to be a bit strange. And I was still contemplating the rather personal questions he asked me. Once I picked up my kids and arrived home, however, I was able to relax. Just to hold my small children in my arms and feeling their warmth made me feel much better.
To my surprise, an hour later my telephone rang. I was hired!! Phil asked me to be in the office the following Monday. Oh my goodness! I had two days to make full-time arrangements for daycare and, more importantly, I had little time to prepare myself for the position of Legal Secretary.
Monday morning came quickly, but I was very excited about beginning a new career. I slid in next to Phil's current secretary and she ran through the high points of the position. When it was time for a coffee break, she and I walked down the hall into a small library/conference room. There I was introduced to a District Court Judge, the Probate Judge, the District Court Clerk, and her assistant. Phil was not among them. They were a very friendly group of people and I laughed easily with them.
Ten minutes into my coffee break, I hear Phil's booming voice, "What do you think you're doing?"
Jumping up, I muttered, "Um, oh, I was just taking a break. I'm sorry. Did you need something?"
"No, but I do need to ask you something," he said.
"Sure," I replied.
"I want to know why you did not bring me my Playboy Magazine this morning when you came into work?" he asked, sounding angry.
I looked him with my face flushed in rage and said, "I wouldn't bring you a Playboy Magazine if you were the last man on earth stuck on a deserted island with nothing to eat or drink!"
Phil looked over my shoulder at the group behind me and said matter of factly, "She's going to work out just fine."
That was my first real encounter with the man who, as my boss, would bring laughter and happiness back into my life. Phil's prosecution skills were second to none. I had the pleasure of sitting in the back of his courtroom one time and was amazed at how brilliant he was. But as impressed as I was at his professional prowess, it paled compared to his wonderful sense of humor. And I had only begun to open that can of worms!
Phil did some private practice work along with his role as prosecutor, and part of that included drawing up Wills for people. One of my favorite experiences while in his employ is the day I had to type Wills for a husband and wife. Back in those days, we had only manual typewriters at our disposal. And Wills had to contain no errors, no erasures, no corrections. Well, I was on the very last line of the second Will, when I saw Phil exiting his office to my right. Assuming he was going to the District Court Clerk's office, as he often did, I paid no attention to him as he walked by me. Unfortunately for me, Phil had decided to make a detour first.
As he passed my desk, he reached out at the speed of light and returned the carriage on the typewriter, leaving a trail of x's across the bottom of the page. Needless to say, I was beyond furious. I bounded out of my chair and chased Phil all the way through the courthouse, across the walkway, into the Circuit Court House and down the hallway until he disappeared behind a locked door. The entire way, I was calling his name and telling him I was going to kill him. Now . . . remember where we were at the time. Courthouse? Ring any bells for you?
Completely frustrated, I stomped back to my office and locked the door behind me. I was determined to get that will done before Phil had a chance to mess it up again! Halfway through the project, he was standing outside the door - knocking. "Nope!" I called. "You are not coming back in here until I am finished with this Will. And you can stand there and knock and scream until the cows come home. I don't care!"
Phil looked at me completely shocked. Turning on his heels, he surprised me by walking away. A few minutes later he was back, pouting and asking me to let him in. Again, I refused. He walked away once more.
About 30 seconds later my desk phone rang. It was the District Court Clerk begging me to please come down and get Phil out of her office. I asked her why, to which she replied, "Just come and get him - now!"
I finished the last couple of lines of the Will and headed down the hall to the Clerk's office. There, in the middle of the office (where people go in and out all day to pay fines and conduct all kinds of other business), stood Phil. He had a package of 100-count paper plates and was flinging them all over the office. I could not believe my eyes!!
"Phil!!!" I yelled. "Get back to your office - NOW!"
He had no idea that the Court Clerk had called me and jumped upon hearing my voice. To everyone's surprise, he hung his head low and scuffled slowly down the hall and into his office. Everyone in the Clerk's Office asked me how I managed to get him under such good control! It was hysterical. I actually thought I would get fired, if you want to know the truth! We all had a good laugh at Phil's expense, until I walked back to my office and found the door locked.
That is my second favorite experience with Phil. The best is yet to come.
Phil was really a very kind man, but what I loved most about him was his sense of humor. He was born that way, and it seemed as though he made it his life's goal to make others laugh. In wondered how many times he had caused the court room to giggle before the gavel came down!
One particular day, he came in exhausted He had evidently experienced a difficult evening the previous night. As he glided past me by the file cabinet, at the same time giving his hat a toss onto the rack in the corner, he asked me to hold his calls. I told him I would, and settled down behind my desk.
Without warning, the door flew open and in walked in the District and Circuit Court judges, along with the Chief of Police. As I started to reach for the phone, they went right by me, opening the door to Phil's office. I cringed. And I waited. I knew the moment was coming; Phil was going to exit that office. When he did, his face was beat red. He gave me a look that would sour milk and walked his visitors out into the hall. When he returned, he scowled, "Didn't you even try to stop them?" He pointed toward his office, and I could not stop laughing. The more I tried to hold it in, the more hysterical I got. Phil finally saw the humor in it and joined me. You see, when the judges and the chief entered his office he was lying back in his chair with an unlit cigar in his mouth, arms behind his head. It was just another day of excitement shared with the best boss ever.
Phil was a funny man to be sure, but just when I thought I had seen it all, he provided the proverbial icing on the cake. As I mentioned, Phil had side practice. Included in his work was making sure that absent parents paid child support. On a Friday afternoon a new client came in and sat across from my desk. We chatted for a bit, waiting for Phil to emerge and greet him. When he didn't come out of his office, I called him. No answer. I tried again - no answer. I knew Phil was in there! He had to walk by my desk in order to leave the office.
I decided to try knocking on the door. No answer! Now I was getting worried. Several thoughts went through my mind at once. Is he asleep again? Is he hurt? Is he dead? Could a man 28 years old die? I knocked on the door for the second time. Nothing. I reached for the doorknob and nearly had a heart attack myself! In a split second the door was yanked open about six inches and then slammed in my face. From behind the door I heard a childlike voice yell, "You're not coming in! You're not coming in!
Shocked, I stood there for a few seconds and then grabbed the doorknob once more. Again, Phil opened the door the same way, slamming it and cried out, "You're not coming in! Your not coming in!" This time, I turned around and, with nothing better to say, I stammered to the client, "I'm sorry. He isn't usually like this." The client just looked at me in confusion.
Once again, I reached for the doorknob while holding onto the new client folder. When the door opened, I threw it into the office, knowing the paperwork inside would be spread all over his office. From inside I heard, "What's this?"
"Um, that is the file of the person who is sitting here waiting to see you. He has been here for 30 minutes already."
Needless to say, Phil was extremely embarrassed. He asked me to give him a minute (while he picked up his office), so I turned again to his client. After reassuring him that Phil is an excellent attorney, and that he just has a strange sense of humor, the client broke into a smirk. Once Phil called him into his office, I went immediately down the hall and into the District Court Office. Their office was devoid of customers, so I let loose with the loudest, longest laugh I ever had.
Finally, and maybe my favorite memory of Phil, was on my last day working for him. He found out that I was going to take my car to the shop to have new tires put on before I headed east. He offered to take me to the shop. Suffice it to say that I was surprised. Phil had always been such a jokester, so I didn't expect his warm suggestion.
Phil and I dropped the car off and then headed back to the office. On the way, Phil suddenly pulled the car over into a parking lot. He put the car in park and turned sideways in his seat. It was only then that I saw the tears in his eyes. Phil looked me in the eye and said he would really miss me. He wanted me to stay. But he knew my family was on the East Coast and it was best for me to be with them following my divorce.
Then Phil hugged me. It was a tight, brotherly hug. And it was very comforting. We cried together for a few minutes. He thanked me for being a wonderful legal secretary and friend. I thanked Phil for being a fantastic, entertaining boss and friend. Our relationship was always easy, always fun, and never more than like siblings. I still miss him today.