A high-five for the frontline

I remember well my first job interview. Senior year at George Washington University and I stepped into the office of a local community newspaper.

The first woman I saw was the receptionist. With a big smile, she nearly shouted, "I don't know what you are here for, but with that suit, you should get the job." My nervousness faded as I patted the sides of my lavender suit, yes lavender, and took a seat to await my interview. This woman not only put me at ease, she presented a friendly face - a first impression - for the entire company.

My first impression of the Arlington Catholic Herald was two older women - the receptionist and bookkeeper - sitting in the very quiet sixth-floor office. I recall a thin blue veil of cigarette smoke and the not so subtle scent of Giorgio perfume. Those days, smoking in the office was allowed. These ladies were professional and pleasant, and they showed me how to navigate the climate of the office run by Editor Charlie Carruth, a Southern gentleman with an intimidating personality.

Over my years at the Catholic Herald, we've had many secretaries, receptionists, administrative assistants and administrative professionals. Yes, the titles and job descriptions have changed.

Each one brought something different to the job and to the atmosphere of the office.

One was a young woman who desperately wanted to have children, but could not. The day she found out there was a baby awaiting adoption by her and her husband, she squealed with delight and put in her notice.

Another had an illustrious career working closely with a notable cardinal in Chicago.

One grandmotherly woman ran the office with the precision and efficiency of a Marine Corps general, obviously from a lifetime of being a general's wife with decades of experience making things run more than smoothly.

A young woman from Costa Rica, who had left her parents behind, found a needed fatherly figure in Editor Mike Flach, even bringing in her boyfriend for Mike's approval. Another woman had tried to find her niche in the convent, but decided the lay single life was for her. Not long ago she sent in a note with her wedding photos. She looked exuberant.

Just like all the personalities that have come and gone at the Catholic Herald over its four decades, many stand out, but perhaps none more than the women, yes they were all women, who "manned" the front desk. The polite handling of cranky readers, the wild goose chases of locating old photos in bygone editions to the keeping us all on task with timesheets, expense reports and birthday celebrations.

Secretaries, receptionists or administrative professionals - they are often the unsung heroes of our offices. Seems fitting to give them a high-five, a greeting card or a sincere thank you April 27 on their day.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

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