Friday, July 22, 2011

Today is not Secretary's Day

In April, I think, some people observe Secretary's Day (or if you are still other some people: Secretaries Day, which may or may not be the same thing but more of it), & it turns out what still others may or may not observe is Administrative Professionals Day.  When I worked in an office, Secretary's Day was always a touchy subject.  I have lost track of how many women who answered phones, dealt with correspondence, filed, organized calendars & all other things secretarial got VERY OFFENDED when they were recognized on Secretary's Day.  My feeling was if "secretary" worked for Kissinger, it worked for me: bring on the chocolates.

But none of that matters just now because today is not Secretary's Day.  Today is an older holiday that honors a much older, much more under valued profession:  it's Ratcatcher's Day.  Or not, there seems to be some confusion there, too.  The actual Town of Hamelin celebrates Ratcatcher's Day in June, but the Robert Browning poem puts it on July 22.  Puts what, you ask?  The day that the pied piper is said to have returned to Hamelin & led off the children of the town.

Chances are you know the story:  the people of Hamelin hired a ratcatcher to clear their town of rats (they had quite the problem with rats).  When the job was done, they decided not to pay him.  He said "you will rue the day", disappeared & then came back later & lured all the children of the town away, using the same technique he used to dispose of the rats & the children & the ratcatcher were never seen again.  The moral of this tale varies depending on who tells it, but I have always understood it to be "payback is a bitch".

Let me update this story for modern times.  An individual entered into a verbal contract to perform a one time service.  After the service had been performed, the contractee declined to honor the contract.  Various reasons were given.  While none of these reasons given were satisfactory to the contractor & the work was such that it could not be undone, the contractee had considerable influence over all methods of arbitration & the contractor was left unsatisfied & went away.  The contractee thought everything had wrapped up nicely & went back to business-as-usual...until...the contractee lost something he never thought was even on the table.

Many years ago I worked for an accountant who, for many years before that had worked as a contractor.  A government contractor.  Her job was to review Medicare claims for fraud & she had an EXCELLENT record.  In fact, she found fraud in EVERY CASE she reviewed.  Every single case, 2 or 3 or 10 or 20 a month, depending on how many came in, for YEARS.  Before you take this as given that every doctor is committing Medicare fraud (they aren't), you should understand that all of the referrals she got were as a result of complaints directed to a single individual.  & for years & years & 100s of audits, all of those complaints came from a single source:  disgruntled former employees.  The case that sticks with me best was a very personable, very pleasant older internist.  As I recall, his office manager of say 10 or more years (really it could have been 25 years, they were both old enough) had used all of her allotted vacation when her mother/father/someone became ill & she went to take care of whoever it was.  Because her vacation time was used up, she was doing this without pay, which maybe pissed her off & maybe didn't, I don't know. This went on until finally she was told that she HAD to be back at her desk the following day or she was fired, period.  & so she was fired & even that, while probably not making her super happy, had not yet pushed her over the edge.  The final straw was when she filed for unemployment & her former employer contested it.  According to him, by failing to appear for work she had quit & the judge ruled in his favor.  She left that courtroom & went straight to the Medicare fraud office (in the same building, how convenient) & reported on the duplicate billing system, dead patients, etc. scam her former boss had going.  I remember it NOT because it was the most egregious bad-boss-behavior I saw (it's not even close) but it was the biggest whistle-blower payout the office had ever made at the time.  I am guessing the doctor went to his grave wishing he had just let that unemployment claim ride.

So Happy Ratcatcher's Day everyone!

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