Once upon a time, in a far away land, The Boss assigned me a secretary. Not part of a pool, but a whole person. With a master’s degree from Mt. Holyoke. Pretty daunting, me with my little B.A. from Hofstra. So I said to The Boss:

“What is she supposed to do?”

“You write, she does the typing.”

He apparently thought I wrote in longhand. On paper.

I learned to touch type when I was 10 and hadn’t written anything longer than a grocery list by hand since then. Now, I had a secretary who was supposed to type for me? I was supposed to write longhand? I can barely hand write a list and decipher it later. I can’t think without a keyboard. Regardless, I had a secretary.

She was American, like me. Thin. Tall. Blonde. (Unlike me!) Very nervous. Twitchy.


We discovered a shared passion for horses and went riding together. She rode better than me. She had her own helmet, crop, jacket; the whole regalia. I had jeans and a pair of battered boots. I’d never worn a helmet.

About the same time, I had a less heartwarming revelation. I discovered my secretary was a dedicated nose picker — and she ate it. She was fast and sneaky, but when you spend every working day with someone in close quarters, it would have been impossible to not notice her long, nervous finger up her nose.

I’m sure everyone probably picks their nose sometimes, but this was different. She couldn’t stop. She admitted she’d damaged the lining of her nose from constant attacks with her fingernails.

Our offices were on the fourth floor of a warehouse. No elevator, so you got plenty of exercise. The boss was an orthodox Jew from Belgium. Other than Judaism, he believed in feeding his employees and giving everyone lots of vacation time. It was a good job. He was one of the kindest, most decent men  I ever knew, much less worked for.

Two floors below us was a chocolate factory. They made all kinds dark chocolate-covered citrus fruits (my favorite was grapefruit). If you were Kosher, you could eat them with meat or dairy. And oh my, they were so good. Around two in the afternoon, they fired up the chocolate vats and the smell would start drifting upward. I sent my secretary to get me chocolate. I didn’t know what else to do with her and watching her ream out her nose was getting to me. By mid afternoon, I not only needed chocolate. I needed a break.

She was such a nice woman. Smart. Well-educated. She objected to being sent on errands. I sighed. I didn’t really have much else for her to do. The nose-picking was wearing me down. I found myself trying to not look at her lest I catch her digging with a finger up to a second knuckle. One day I was sure she’d hit brain matter.


Finally, she refused to get me chocolate and I had no work for her. Moreover, she was unable to keep her fingers where they belonged. I went to the boss. I said I felt my secretary needed to move on, perhaps to someone else in the company who needed her services more than I. He looked at me.

“What is the real problem?”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Tell me.”

“She picks her nose. And eats it.”

I thought he was going to toss his cookies on the desk. That was the end of the story. In reality, not only did I not need a secretary, no one did. It was a computer development company. We all worked on keyboards. So her departure was inevitable. I just sped it up by a few weeks.

I didn’t mention the picking thing, but she knew. She also had to know she was underemployed. I’ve been in that position. You know when you’re redundant. No one will pay you indefinitely when they don’t need your services … unless your mom or dad owns the company and even that doesn’t come with a guarantee.

Still, if it hadn’t been for the nose picking and her refusal to get me chocolate, she’d have had a bit more time.

Categories: #Work, Anecdote, Humor, Personal

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16 replies

  1. Reminds me of old ditty:
    “Everybody’s doing it
    Picking it and chewing it
    They think it’s gum
    But it’s not.”

    Or it’s snot! 😋


  2. An entertaining post, although sad.


  3. I wonder if anyone has a secretary these days? Oh! Yeah I think doctors do. They still dictate medical notes into those tiny voice recorders and someone who knows medical jargon taps it into the computer so it can be sent to other doctors.
    Why on earth would anyone want to pick their nose and eat it, least of all in public??
    It’s weird what you say about touch-typing. I learned how to type in my late teens. The typing class I took had a 50:50 male/female split. This would have been the year 1990 at college. We all knew we’d be using computers in the future, hence the typing. I’m really glad I did it. Most non-touch typists struggle to go much over 60wpm but I can do 70wpm while smoking and drinking tea. I’m so glad I learned, and I think it’s crazy they don’t teach kids at school to type properly in primary school, considering that it’s still the best way of inputting large amounts of text to a computer. I can’t stand touch screens. Or mini keyboards. Because you can’t touch-type on them.


    • For me, it was 1957 — Junior High School — aka 9th grade. They said we were going to college (I was with the smarties who only had to do 2 years of JHS rather than three so I never learned fractions) and we’d need to type papers. So we ALL had to pass touch typing to get out of JHS 109.


  4. In these later years I’ve grown more hair on my face. Maybe it was an unconscious effort to make up for the loss of same on my head. Anyway, facial hair has its own drawbacks. I found myself picking away at my nose and startled myself thinking what people thought of me, as surely they had noticed. Some did, some didn’t, or just chose not to mention it? Never the less I was then obsessed with why I was doing this disgusting thing. It came to me in a flash one day when I was engaged in a serious pick. I realized that I felt relieved after, but only temporarily and it was back to the nostrils. Here’s the rub.., being new to having facial hair I had not paid too much attention to my mustache. Observing other bearded or mustached persons, i never liked those little pencil things made famous by “evil villains” etc., so decided to let mine grow full. I then discovered that hair has a life of its own and enjoys company. It seems that the protective hair-like lining of my nose enjoyed messing with the upper hairs of my mustache and would tease them incessantly. This of course tickled and pretty soon I was diving for that sacred opening to relieve the problem. I have since learned to shave the top my stache, and some of the nose hairs, to keep the kids away from each other, resulting in far less nostril diving. Still not as drastic as the “villain” style, plus, I seldom touch my nose anymore.


  5. You were kinder than I’d have been in your position. One might pick one’s nose but one also knows to keep that kinda activity PRIVATE FFS. In a secretarial job, one must maintain the illusion of professionalism at all costs. Clearly that woman didn’t get it, and “keeping her fingers to herself” might mean she was LIGHT fingered. That don’t fly at all.


  6. This is an entertaining story. Reads like something I might have written, but I would have had to make it up. Not sure I could have done that… Bravo

    Liked by 2 people

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