The Temp

`She marched to my desk like the Germans through the Sudetenland. "Decaf!" shouted Melissa. "Decaf! I only take decaf! Whaddya trina do? Kill me?" '

This week I am shared between Melissa and Suzanne. Melissa and Suzanne are partners in a glorified travel agency, which organises group holidays as rewards for the sharkiest used car salesmen or the hundred insurance agents who have persuaded the greatest number of teachers to leave their vocational pensions. It's called incentive travel, and what I do is type up schedules for trips while Melissa and Suzanne ring hoteliers and call them Carlo.

The schedules are one long round of sybaritic self-indulgence: "8.30- 9.00am: Complimentary breakfast in Honolulu Cafe. 9.30am: Meet in Wakiki Lounge for high achievers' presentation. 11.00am: Cocktail party with MD, Automotive Engine Parts and Sales Director, West Europe. 1.00pm: Buffet luncheon, Volcano Grill. 2.30pm: Minibus leaves for afternoon's golf at Richie's Country Club. Green fees paid, clubs extra. Partners: afternoon at leisure. 6.30pm: Meet for cocktails, Wakiki Lounge. 7.00pm: Formal dinner, Palm Beach restaurant. Tuxedos only, please! 9.30pm: Rest of evening at leisure."

Suzanne is all right: she says "please" sometimes. Melissa does not. Like most people called Melissa, she is American, and her vocabulary is scattered with meaningless business-speak. While I'm bringing her herbal tea, I hear her saying things down the phone like: "I need a bottom line on this, Carlo, and I need to know when you will have a window of opportunity to update me on the best way to utilise the figures to maximise roomspace."

My first brush with Melissa was at about half-past nine on Monday morning. She marched to my desk like the Germans through the Sudetenland. "You're the temp, right?" "Yes." I stood up to do the usual hellos. Her hand whipped from behind her back, and a cup and saucer waved beneath my nose. "What do you call this?" It was the coffee I had left on her desk five minutes before. "Oh. Sorry. Isn't it right? Do you take milk?"

"Decaf!" shouted Melissa. "Decaf! I only take decaf! Whaddya trina do? Kill me?"

"I'll get you another one."

"Right." She marched away.

Trish, the other partners' PA, looked over her computer screen. "Melissa needs her decaf. She gets a bit tense."

She does indeed. If workload and noise were in any way related, Melissa would be on 18-hour days. As it is, what she spends most of her time doing is rushing around. It took me three days to realise that, like a lot of busy-sounding people, she actually achieves very little. Suzanne is the one who actually produces things for me to do: most of the chores I get from Melissa involve telephoning: telephoning restaurants for lunch, telephoning restaurants for dinner, telephoning the hairdresser, telephoning the manicurist, telephoning the minicab firm to book the car to take her to lunch. My name, by the way, in this office, is a full and formal forename and surname. My surname is "You!"; my forename is "Hey!", as in "Hey! You!".

On Thursday, Suzanne took off for Atlanta, Georgia, to supervise a three- day paddle-steamer cruise for prawn salesmen, leaving a 30-page itinerary on Melissa's desk for correction. It came back with changes sketched like spiderwebs in HB pencil in the margins. I put on my specs, went through them, printed it out.

Five minutes later, she was at my desk, face puce. "When I tell you to change something," she howled, "you damn well change it!" "God, I'm sorry, Melissa. What did I miss?" "This!" On page 17, near the bottom, looking like a fault in the paper, was a single dot, no indicators in the text of where it should be. I had missed a full stop. "I'll do it now. I'm sorry." "That agency!" shrieked Melissa. "Never, ever again! I might as well do it myself. Don't I have enough to do without ..." she broke off mid-sentence, stared at her hand, lower lip wobbling. "Get my manicurist. Now. I need an appointment this afternoon. Tell him it's an emergency"

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
I'm not worried about United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

International Promotions Manager - Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker