Sunday, March 25, 2012

Other Duties As Assigned

Each of us has this little caveat at the bottom of our job descriptions, right? The fine print that allows your supervisor to send you on odd errands or assign you to that committee that nobody else raised their hand for. I'd like to share a few of my recent "other duties" that an OMS might encounter. By no means were these horrible, in fact - they were pretty fun, but just slightly off my usual beaten path:
  1. Situation: The Doc Drop.
A VIP visitor from DC needs some important documents delivered to him NOW. These documents will be emailed to me, the OMS staying in the office keeping the home fires burning while my supervisor is with VIP out and about at high-level meetings all day. The documents are classified, therefore I can't just request a courier to deliver them. But where and how to rendez-vous with this moving party? The visit is going to be in a police-escorted motorcade following a Minister to a meeting with the President and the VIP must have the documents before the meeting. I arrange with motor pool for a car and driver to take me to the route the motorcade will be using. We park alongside the curb and wait and wait and wait for our moment to pounce. Finally, the motorcade driver warns us by cell phone that they're approaching. We can hear the sirens of the motorcade; the driver starts the engine and gets ready. The motorcycle cops with lights and sirens come first, then the Minister's vehicle, then the embassy's van with the VIP inside. Our driver guns the engine and we fly from the curb, tucking into the motorcade behind the embassy vehicle and in front of the (probably  rather concerned) rear police escorts. We're flying down the hill now towards the Presidencia, where our vehicle has not been authorized to enter, and realize we have to make the document hand-off somewhere very quickly. A red light with cross-traffic stalls the motorcade for just a second before the escorts can clear the intersection and I see my chance. With the vehicle hardly stopped, I leap out the door and run up to the VIP vehicle, the door opens, my boss's hand appears, and as his vehicle pulls away - we complete the hand-off relay-baton style. I then walk back to the car where the driver and I are smiling and relishing in our success, before we head back uptown in the heavy traffic. Two hours of sitting in the van for two seconds of fun - but it was worth it!

     2. Situation: Who's a Scientist Now?

My Econ Officer colleague has invited me to a lunch at the embassy for Women in Science, not because I have any science background - but as a nice thank-you for my daily efforts (and, I suspect, because she wants all the seats filled). She promises that while all the guests will be Colombian except for the few from the embassy, I won't be called on to speak. I figure I can muster some polite chit-chat  in Spanish between bites and accept. The lunch starts with the guest of honor speaking of the importance of encouraging more young women to continue their studies in the sciences and how we should all be mentoring such in our various fields of science. Naturally, she has no idea there is an impostor at the table - me. As she finishes her talk, she then turns the  group's attention to the rest of us, seated in a U-shaped table eating our lunches. 
(Keep in mind this is ALL in Spanish:)
"Please, introduce yourself one at a time and tell us a little of your background."

As the introductions begin, I hear from the president of a university, a physicist, a professor, a cancer research scientist... and look, it's my turn next.

"Yes, my name is xyz and I'm actually an OMS. Yeah, it's kind of like a secretary. Yup, got a B- in Biology in high school. That's it. Really. Sorry for taking up your time. Shall I give back my chicken and fruit salad now and just leave politely?" what's coming to mind.

Oh dear, all eyes on me. In Spanish now, I say something like:

"Hello my name is xyz and I'm your host's colleague (thought that sounded more impressive). This is my first year with the embassy and in my previous career (true, even if it was six years ago) I was a professional riding instructor, a career for which I studied equine sciences for years (two years, to be exact - but who's counting?)."

Ha! There was even a hushed, "Ohhh...? around the room as no one was expecting to hear that.

As the rest of the room introduced themselves, naturally, I thought of silly plays-on-words I could have managed to say regarding working in the "field of equine sciences - literally" but those things never come to us when we need them, do they? The rest of the lunch went fine and I used the old trick of engaging people by asking them questions about themselves, leaving little time for me to have to answer any about myself. Phew.

Moral of the story: Being an OMS means being ready to chip in anywhere and being able to punt with accuracy to get a job done.

Thank heavens they didn't ask us all to sing!

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