Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
As a second-year associate at a large law firm in New York City, I'm required to work very long hours. That's not true of all the associates at my firm--the patent department has it pretty easy, as do the bond lawyers--but my personal gig is litigation. It means I'm always being asked to put out fires or do things at the last minute. On a good day, I'm not home until ten in the evening. I throw down my briefcase, kick off my shoes, and plop down on the sofa. I sometimes think about calling an old friend or two but it's always too late or I'm too tired. It's been this way for as long as I can remember. Except for once in awhile with my older brother, I haven't had a real conversation in months. It was two summers ago that I had my last real date with a man. Sure it's great to be able to pay off my student loans, but this job is just making me so terribly lonely.
It was for these reasons that I decided to keep a hamster at the office. His name is Fred and he's my friend at a time in my life when it seems I have no friends. At any time of the day, no matter how frantic things are or how many things are going wrong, I can look over at Fred with his chubby little tummy and his cute way of sleeping on his back and feel reassured that someday, hopefully very soon, everything will be all right. I've had Fred for three weeks and although my mood isn't great, it's certainly getting better.
Maybe you can guess my problem. Earlier this week, after a number of complaints from my fellow associates that Fred was "creating a racket in his plastic tubing" and was "stinking up the hallway," one of the partners told me that I was going to have to take Fred home. Don't ask my why, but all of a sudden I started crying. I mean, crying uncontrollably. All of my frustrations about being a young associate at a 1,500-lawyer firm seemed to come pouring out at once and I started pounding the partner on the top of his shoulders. I wanted to stop and knew I should stop, but I just couldn't. He finally turned around and ran down the hallway in the other direction. Later in the day, I was called before a special panel of the management committee that was assembled on an emergency basis to decide what to do with me. The five partners, all of them looking quite severe, delivered an ultimatum: either Fred goes or I go.
I'm so confused, Mr. Schaeffer. What do you think I should do?
Signed, Remarkably Mixed-Up in Midtown Manhattan
You have a very difficult problem to which I'm not sure there is any good answer. While it might be true that the five partners on the special committee would warm up to Fred if they got to know him, your real problem is those back-stabbing associates who are hoping to drive you--a hard-working competitor for partnership, after all--out of the firm by leveraging your basic human need for companionship into a firm-wide crisis. Certainly the plastic tubing was a bad idea, and it's my personal opinion that everyone who owns a hamster could do a better job of cleaning its cage. But those are menial sins compared to what your heartless fellow associates have done to you.
Even so, I see no way around your problem except one: you're going to have to kill Fred and have him stuffed. Sure it will be difficult, but good taxidermists are easy to find, and for an amount equal to only two week's salary you will be able to remember Fred at the office however you want--on his back fast asleep with his belly in the air, crouched on his hind legs in a defiant springing pose, or perhaps frolicking wildly in one of those colorful plastic tubes. He'll be quiet, he'll be fresh-smelling, and you'll still be able to look at him in times of crisis. It will give you the level head you'll need to begin the task of finding out which of your fellow associates were responsible for your problem. Once they're identified, you can take names, keep working hard, and wait for the perfect opportunity to have them stuffed too.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]
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