As Roy's assistant...

Contributed By Heather Velez

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For the past two years I worked closely with Roy as the administrative assistant for the Center. In spite of the fact that most of my work was on the clerical and mundane side- budgets to update, forms to have signed- I now recognize that my job entailed more than just merging cells on a spreadsheet. Working at the Center and with Roy, day to day, couldn’t fit a classical job description of an administrative assistant and I should have been more mindful of the response I got when I asked during my interview what a typical day was like- no day is typical. No matter what came up during the day or the night before at 10pm, I always tried to brew a pot of coffee before Roy arrived.

There are many fond memories that I have of Roy. Whenever, I think about my time at the Center, there are two things that come to mind first, black jeans and Roy’s walk. I know that there’s been a lot of talk about Roy’s red shirts but I always remember the black jeans. His apparel choice was about as consistent as a cup of coffee in his hands. There was one occasion when Roy came in wearing blue jeans. I was stunned. Absolutely baffled. I couldn’t process Roy in blue jeans- it totally blew my mind! After a couple of minutes, I recovered and we proceeded to launch into one of the many hundreds of conversations we had about budgets. I’d have to say about eighty percent of our conversations dealt with Center finances, but i don’t want to bore you with that!

Roy had a very unique gait. He shuffled a bit; had a slight roundness in his shoulders (I’m sure from years of walking around reading or responding to emails on his Treo). I always knew when he was approaching, - which leads the first item I want to share about working with Roy.

Walking… Roy had a habit of starting a conversation at my desk and towards the end of his thoughts (while I clearly wasn’t aware of) he would begin walking away, his back towards me, still speaking– I couldn’t enhance my hearing ability so after a couple of conversations where this would happen- I started to stand while speaking with him- that way I could follow him and thus ensure that I wouldn’t miss any detail.

Details were very important- being uber-prepared was de rigueur. When I had my first event to plan on my own, I was incredibly nervous. I wanted to do everything right and make sure that the event went off without a hitch. I booked the room, sent out emails, provided directions, and ordered food. I did everything that I needed to and assured Roy that everything was prepared, snafu-proof... Fast forward to the event, the catering was to arrive at 5:45. By 5:46, Roy discreetly made his way to the back of the room and asked me about the food. My worst fear materialized when I called the restaurant and they were surprised to hear from me- isn’t the event tomorrow? I almost choked. I did not want to tell Roy. I, at the point, didn’t know how he would react. Thankfully, he remained composed when I told him the situation but he was clearly flustered- he paced about, kept going in and out of the building, and had me call the restaurant about every five minutes. After the longest thirty minutes of my newly professional life the food arrived- we had leftovers for a week in the office and I self-imposed a double-check policy on all future events. Also, my personal moratorium on Moroccan food stands.

Checking-in was a regular aspect of communication between Roy and I… every week, sometimes every day, a new problem presented itself or issue arose- Roy would explain the situation, his desired outcome and then I would figure out the rest. He definitely had a lot of faith in my ability to find a solution- but I had to think on my toes… I didn’t havemuch time before Roy would come back for an update sometimes within a half hour of presenting the issue! If I couldn’t get in touch with anyone or the situation got more complicated- Roy’s response was usually the same- “oi!” followed by, “let me know if I can do anything.” I quickly made best friends with my phone and memorized the most relevant numbers- it was clear that I couldn’t wait for the rest of the world or Mason to catch up, and as in most academic settings there is a lot of bureaucracy to wade through, but that didn’t stop Roy and subsequently didn’t stop me from, I wouldn’t use the word “harassing” but persistently contacting someone until I got an answer! I’m sure that I tested a few people’s nerves but I realized that was beside the point- we had a purpose, we didn’t want to waste any time, and no one was hurt in the process! And, to clarify, no decisions were ever made in haste- everything was well thought out it’s just that Roy worked about ten times faster than everyone else. Roy knew how to quell most potential roadblocks or issues. It wasn’t working the system, per se; we didn’t break any rules, perhaps we bent the rules a little… but I’d characterize it as resourcefulness and determination to remain committed to the Center’s mission. He never pushed his agenda to a point of overstepping bounds or treaded on any toes- we just made a lot of phone calls!

Roy was very patient, especially since I had little experience in accounting and a lot of trouble sitting still. He was lenient with deadlines, in my case- a few extra days to finish updating budgets, and always considerate when I made mistakes. I knew Roy was busy, but he never failed to take the time to talk with me- he invariably had an answer for any question that I asked.

The only things that were predictable about Roy were his attire, his lunch order of a ham sandwich and apple, and his never-ending battle with the projector. Everything else...

Thanks!