Melissa rides her horse every morning before she goes to work, at noon, which is when her boss gets to work. I am sad that Melissa is happy because now she will not come back to the farm and be my permanent photographer.
I used to feel sorry for Brad and Angelina because they had photographers trailing them all the time. Now I think they are lucky because if they had a blog, they'd have so many good photos to use.
I feel like the parent of a twenty-something who wants their kid to stop feeling lost, but wants that feeling of being unlost to happen a little closer to home. I know that's selfish. And anyway, I'm not even Melissa’s mom. But I think I want to be because I wonder where my place is in her life.
I have not told you this about Melissa: She is smarter than I am. There are not many people I think this about. And definitely not a lot of women. I know this is not politically correct for me to say, but look, Larry Summers, the ex-president of Harvard staked his whole academic career on the research that shows that at the very very tip of the spectrum of high intelligence, it's mostly men. So it makes sense that only female I have ever met who lives on that tip is Melissa.
She has a photographic memory. I'm not sure what that gets her except the ability to talk endlessly about a wide range of topics to people who, for the most part, are not interested. She can't really read whether or not it's time to shut up, so sometimes I have to tell her.
Other times I am completely dumbfounded by her memory. She is like a Vaudeville act or something.
Her new boss, who I feared would ruin her life, has turned out to be great for her. He basically pays her to memorize stuff and hang out with him. I call Melissa ask if I can use his name.
“No,” she says. And, “Can we talk later? I’m on my horse.”
“But I’m going to write that he’s great. I’m going to write that I love him for seeing you for who you are and creating a job for you around that. ”
“Show me the post before you run it.”
So forget it. And who answers a phone when they are on a horse? I am not going to use his name because I have to confess that I'm a little worried that he is paying Melissa for companionship. He loves, for example, that she doesn't have good work/home boundaries. And that she is a good sounding board for his ideas because he has to think out loud.
I can see why he would love that. I love hanging out with Melissa, too. She is very weird and very smart. It's hard to stomach weird without smart, but with her they come together, with commensurate amounts of very.
The boss is very weird and very smart, too. Probably not as smart as Melissa. But whatever. Smart only goes so far.
In case you find yourself overvaluing your own IQ, there's an investment banker in New York City who was recently getting a divorce and tried to convince the judge that he should get more than half of the assets because his IQ is so high that you can presume that his wife could never have earned her half.
The judge threw out the argument. And I'm sure that any goodwill the judge might have had for this guy went straight to the garbage with the argument.
I miss Melissa popping up in the middle of my day to say something like, “Have you heard of the term social skydiving? You should look into it. Even though you’d never do it.”
Sometimes I'd say, “Melissa, look: Can't you see we're in the middle of practicing violin?”
She'd look and say, “Oh. Sorry.”
But other times, I'd say, “Melissa, will you come talk to me while I cook?”
The New Yorker is fixated lately on distraction: in the early 1900s some company in Buffalo found that giving workers breaks made them more productive. Psychologist Roy Baumeister shows that asking people to regulate their behavior without interruption probably makes them less focused overall.
I am thinking that Melissa is like a coffee break for me. Or for her new boss. If you hire an assistant the top priority is not having him or her do the work you don't want to do. The top priority should be to hire someone you want access to because their presence improves your day.
An assistant is the co-worker you have always wanted to make your workday great.
A great co-worker can change your job and, in some cases, change your life. You can hire them or sign on to work next to them, but don’t underestimate the importance of finding that someone who is a friend who you can take your breaks with. We each need someone who shows us new aspects of ourselves and opens doors we wouldn't open ourselves.
I tell this to Melissa, and she says, “I know. That's what my horse is like for me.”