The temp

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The Independent Culture
Almost a year down the line, and Melissa wants me back. She was horrible when I was there last, but Tracey says that she specifically requested "that girl I had before. You know, the stroppy one with the red hair". So here I am among the travel itineraries and manicure appointments again.

There have been a few changes since last summer. For a start, it's no longer Melissa and Suzanne, but just Melissa, as they had one row too many and Suzanne went off and formed her own company, taking half the client list with her. This company is called Achievers' Incentives and Suzanne has called hers Incentives!, and they are locked in legal battle over the name.

I once read about a village in the Cotswolds where a large family called Buggins had a feud 100 years or so ago, and half the family changed their name to Gubbins. Having decided that they were no longer family, they promptly forgot that they in fact were. It was only two generations down the line, when an unusual number of three-eyed babies started popping up, that the old-timers started shaking their heads wisely and saying "Arr, well, that be what you gets when you marries your auntie". I know this isn't particularly relevant, but it's a good example of what can happen if you don't get names sorted out.

Anyway, Melissa still specialises in terrorising Florida hoteliers into giving discounts on group holidays for car salesmen, and terrorising large companies into thinking that they must reward salesmen with something other than large bonuses for exceeding targets. My work, though, is more interesting than last time, as I don't just get to type up the itineraries (11.30am: Gentlemen: golf tournament with senior management. Ladies: shopping (optional). 6.30pm: Poolside cocktail reception, dress smart-casual. 7.30pm Old-style Bar-b-q, poolside, entertainment by Lester Cramps and his Good Ole Boys. Compulsory karaoke). I now get to organise the diaries and liaise with the venues about things like menus, contents of rooms (very little, as even pictures have been known to walk on these junkets), and decanting generic spirits into branded bottles. I also ring round the winning software salesmen to check that they've got passports, visas, clean criminal records and so forth, to save embarrassment and repatriation costs at the destination. I have to admit, I'm enjoying it.

My other duty is to report that Melissa is in a meeting, take a message and try to sort out whatever the problem is while she's undergoing one of her beauty/health/dietary treatments. There are three types of woman: low maintenance, high maintenance and Ivana Trump. Melissa, who is herself evidently not unacquainted with the surgeon's knife, falls into the third. She has her hair washed daily, nails done on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, weekly reflexology, acupuncture and crystal healing, face packs on Tuesday and Thursday, and is visited by her personal trainer at 11am each day, at which point everyone rushes around with dustpans and brushes as showers of plaster moulding cascade from the ceiling below her office.

I am, however, making inroads. Melissa's PA goes to the florist twice a week to buy flowers. The whole process takes an hour, because Melissa is very particular about the flora that grace her vases. Now we have a permanent delivery order, and a permanent table at Le Bougie Glissant, a swish restaurant where Melissa lunches clients nine days out of 10 on rocket salad, grilled vegetables and local chablis. Every day I go through a pantomime of begging a snotty Parisian for a table. Now, I ring before 11am to cancel, and save an hour a week.

When she found out, Melissa was temporarily lost for bile. "You what?" she shouted. Then "Hey! Smart girl! Maybe I could use someone like you round here," before snapping out an order for decaf. I just hope she never finds out that, in a slip of concentration, I told a client that she was having colonic irrigation on Monday.