I used to be a legal secretary and occasionally I fill in as a temp in a couple of the law offices in town. Basically what this means is that I get to spend a day or - God forbid! - a week feeling inept. Since the people in the offices where I work are all basically decent (Don’t tell me any of your sleazy lawyer jokes!), they are kind and forgive my lack of up-to-date office know-how. One secretary tells me she loves it when I come in because she knows she’ll have a good laugh that day. She’s even threatened to write her own book and call it "Sandy Screw Ups." Oh well, they do pay me and it’s always nice to have a little extra mad money.
If I used to work in a law office, how come I’m not more efficient? Have I forgotten that much? Has it been that long? Not really, but in the past few years, the machines used in offices have changed drastically. I’m a writer so I know my way around a computer. But those other machines! One office has a phone system with more buttons than there are squirrels in my backyard birdfeeder. The copy machine does everything but grill sandwiches for our lunch. (Actually, maybe it does and I just haven’t pushed the right combination of buttons yet.) The postage meter is pretty straightforward, but they keep getting a new one, so – you guessed it – I have to be led through the operating process every time.
However, as a writer, an occasional lesson in humility has its upside. The feeling of being slightly off-balance comes in handy when I’m plotting a murder mystery. (Not that I’d ever go that far – unless Diane makes good on her threat and writes that book) It’s not too hard to imagine humility mushrooming into a sense of total inadequacy. In other words, I can empathize with my villain, for I am convinced that a sense of inadequacy is at the heart of most crimes. Think of the usual motives: greed, lust, jealousy, revenge, shame. All have at their core a feeling of being not quite enough – an emotion most of us experience at least occasionally. I certainly do. Fortunately, there are people in my life who are quick to reassure me that my good qualities outweigh my shortcomings. And that is something I acknowledge with grateful humility. People who are willing to grant unconditional acceptance are a wonderful gift - one that I wish I could guarantee to every person on this planet.