The Gate Keeper (Chapter 1: In which help is secured)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
Mama E takes the helm at the TBWSJWBN executive offices and realises that not all is well. Nonetheless, she does her best to reassure a nearly naked – and now jobless – young graphic designer.
In which help is secured
They started calling her Mama E as she arrived. Technically it was a play on her surname, but really everyone knew that this particular spirit did not reside within a delicate frame. She was, obviously, the Mother Elephant.
In her younger years she would have taken offence, but she’d been through most of it before and besides, she was as aware as everyone else that she had been hired precisely for her elephantine, post menopausal powers.
There was, she liked to say, ‘nothing I haven’t seen’. In quieter, more hushed tones she would let them all know that she had been through the line, over it and under it, around it, all her adult life. Mama E was particularly proud of the fact that she really did know viral from experiential from advertorial from PR – digital, social and otherwise.
She was also proud that they had called her at all – personal assistant to the executive office at TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande was no small gig.
Ok, yes, she would admit to those who cared to ask that it felt a little odd at her age and girth to be pulled back into the muck, but they called and she answered and, well sometimes life is just like that. Now she kept the gate. She set His agenda and vetted His emails and answered His calls and bought flowers for His wife and that little bit he’d been snipping in the downstairs ladies every couple of mornings.
And that’s probably all you need to know. She was almost 70 years old. They called her Mama E. She could smell the BS before the pot was even on the stove.
Oh, and she was prone to keeping a little memoir. A small jotting down of the thoughts and observances of one shooting through the media pipe a second time.
I haven’t had as much time as I though to create this. Mothering this little pack of monkeys is more time consuming than I thought. I’ve been here two weeks and we’ve already had a jealous lover’s rage, an emergency rehab booking, three client showdowns and God knows how many calls from the wife, who is as aware of His dalliances as she is artificially boosted in the chest.
Nonetheless, I will do my best to document my experiences, as and when I can. If there’s one thing old age has taught me it’s that we never know the good stuff, the important stuff, at the time. We think it’s just stuff. It’s only years later, decades even, that we look back and think, damn, that was good stuff.
Like this morning, for example. Some government guy called asking for a brand audit and re-fresh for the SANRAL pot hole division, for God’s sakes, as if their problems are in anyway related to communication. They fill holes in the ground. Still, I understand. I booked a full Friday strat session at one of those golf lodges and sent the invoice.
Then, just after, a nearly naked little girl started sobbing on my shoulder. She literally fell to her knees and snotted violently on my skirt trying to get an audience with Him. Apparently they’re cutting viral back by three quarters (and really, who can blame them? Everyone knows there’s just no such thing any more. Chest colds aside, the mystery is gone), and she is one of the poor little lambs who will be forced to discover what actual work is again.
I did my best to placate her. I told her that every change is an opportunity, that freelance has always been the way and that real talent inevitably wins out. As far as I could tell she’s a graphic designer, so, to be honest, I really was choking back the tears. It can get quite emotional, this stuff. The thought of that pathetic little thing ending up at Post Net, well, shame. She’ll catch the death of cold.