Secretarial: Ivana comes up trumps yet again

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The Independent Culture
The final instalment of the Temp's adventures in publishing and sales

AND THIS is when I realise that Martin keeps his outfit profitable by ripping off his staff. Not all of them, obviously: just the ones who show up with big signs hanging round their necks reading "Sucker". Never, ever, trust someone you think is a friend in business. It'll be too late when you find out the truth.

No pay packet. Four weeks I've been with this outfit, and then there's no pay packet. Ivana has walked past me, and when, going cold all over, I've gone, "Ivana, how about me?", she has turned with the largest grin I've ever seen crossing her face.

"Vot do you mean, ek-zectly?" she says. "I was wondering where my pay was." She pauses, frowns a little, rolling her eyes to heaven to simulate an attempt to recall. "Vot pay?" Something big and phlegmy has blocked my throat. "The pay for the month I've been working here," I squeak. "No," says Ivana, and it feels like being played with by a very sadistic cat, "I done unnerstent." "I've sold 21 slots. That should be over pounds 1,000 in commission."

Ivana looks puzzled, then fakes leaping back in amazement. "Aah, no, no, no, no, no," she says, "I sink you are mistaken, Amy." She still hasn't got my name straight. "How do you mean, mistaken?" "Bud Amy," says Ivana, "you are here as a trainee. You are here to learn. And I heff to zay, I done sink you heff learned very vell. Ze scribt..."

"No," I say, flinging myself to my feet. "You can't be serious. I sold those ads fair and square." Ivana gives me the look that chills. "Ve heff given you a chance, Amy," she says. "You came asking for helb, and ve heff given you helb. Is zis how you are going to rebay us?"

I rush to Martin's office, and bash on the glass panel. A voice goes, "Come in", and I burst in to the room. Martin is in his leather director's chair behind his leather-topped director's desk. "Ah, Laura," he says. "What can I do for you?". He fiddles with his cufflinks. Today, I notice, they are little silver skulls and crossbones. He steeples his fingers, presses them to his lips, looks at me.

"There's been a mistake," I stutter. "Mistake?" enquires Martin. "How so?" "The 21 ads I've sold, I haven't been paid for them." "Paid?" says Martin, and sits so far back in his chair I think it's going to tip over. "How so, paid?" This can't be happening. "Commission," I say. "The 10 per cent commission." Martin laughs gaily. "Commission? You want us to pay you commission? But Laura, I'm doing you a favour here. The way I see it, you ought to be paying us." "WHAT???" "Well," he tips forward, fetches a cigar from the box on his desk, clips the end off with a silver clipper, lights it. "Well," he says as he sucks, "the way I see it is that - " He sits back, blows a smoke ring at the ceiling - "You've had a damn good training here. You are beginning to have a skill you didn't have a month ago, and we've let you have access to our phones, our desk space, our lists, and Ivana's expertise for absolutely nothing. I agreed to give you training. I must say, I think you're being very ungrateful."

"You've got to be kidding." "Kidding? Far from it. You told me you didn't have a job, didn't you?" "Yes." "And I told you we didn't have anything here, didn't I?" "Yes." "Well." "I thought-..." I fight for words. Then, pathetically, "I thought we were friends." "Friends?" says Martin. "Friends? You're somebody I bumped into at a cocktail party and did a favour for. I don't believe this. This is the last time I - get out." He rises from behind the desk, bears down on me, and I find myself backing toward the door, the scene I witnessed when I first came here rising in my memory.

"You can't do this!" I shout as he propels me from his office. "You can't! I earned that money fair and square! I'll bloody well sue you if I have to." "Sue away, Laura," he says. "And if you can show your lawyer a copy of our contract, you may have a leg to stand on."