I used to think that I would not mind being the “second banana” in an office until I realized that the “second banana”, figuratively speaking, is like the banana that nobody wants because it is all shriveled and brown and swarming with fruit flies.
It is a good thing I have a healthy ego. At least that is what I used to think until my first year at my current job. At first, I did not mind a bit that the other secretary in our two-person office was everybody’s favorite. I even understood the affection for her (let’s call her Lucy) shared by the students, faculty, and staff.
Lucy could talk knowledgeably about classic Mustangs, cross stitch, or pop music with the students. She talked about toolbar options and servers with the tech staff. She shared bawdy jokes with the faculty and cooed over pictures of everybody’s babies. She always remembered to ask how your Aunt Florence is doing since the hysterectomy.
Lucy never forgot a name or a face or a birthday. Everybody got a card from Lucy on their birthdays. Lucy sent out hundreds of cards. Did Lucy care that she was responsible for the decimation of acres of rainforest, as thousands of trees were chewed into wood pulp to keep her supplied with cards?
Yep, that Lucy was a saint. I did not mind (much) shivering in the shadow of her glory while she hogged the sunlight, she and her hoard of adoring worshipers. There is no shame in being second banana, right?
A few months after school was out for the summer, several graduates returned for a visit. They burst into our office squealing with delight. Lucy and I threw open our arms in joyful welcome.
Did Lucy offer to pay my dry cleaning bill when her !#&%@! fan club tramped all over my back in their eagerness to embrace her? No, she did not.
I think half of the male student body that year had crushes on Lucy. They hung out in our office in droves, vying for her attention. One morning, one of them actually seemed to be more interested in me. Flattered, I batted my eyes and said, “What can I do for you young man?” He sighed dreamily and said, “I can see Lucy’s reflection in your glasses.”
The only time the I Love Lucy Fan Club ever spoke to me was to say, “Would you mind moving over? You are blocking my view of Lucy.”
My end of a typical phone call in our office went like this:
“Guidance Office, may I help you?…No, This is Denise. What can I do for you?…No, Lucy stepped out for a moment. No, I do not know when she will be back. What? How in the !@#&%! should I know where Lucy is? Probably rescuing a kitten from a tree out front!” Slam!
Then one week I actually got a call at work that was for me and not Lucy.
“Hi, Mom,” I said. “Are you ready for the family reunion next weekend? I think I will bring my special fruit salad with the…What? No, Lucy stepped out for a moment. About the reunion, I thought…what?…What do you mean I am not invited? Yes, I know the hall only seats so many people, but…Lucy is taking my place? But Mom…Her fruit salad is better and her jokes are funnier? Maybe I could get her recipe.”
“Well, I DO mind, Mom! When I said that I did not mind being number two around here, I lied! Because you know what number two is? It is a childhood euphemism for a big ol’ pile of steaming…Mom? Hello?”
But I don’t hold a grudge. Not me! As a matter of fact, I invited Lucy to my house for dinner. She offered to help prepare it as I knew she would.
“Sure, Lucy,”I said. “Would you mind going down to the basement and getting that bag of potatoes? I will hold the door for you. Yes, I know it is very dark down there. The bulb must be burnt out. Watch your step.”
Slam! Click. Heh-heh.
“If you want to be the top banana,” I hummed cheerfully as I peeled the carrots, “You gotta start at the bottom of the bunch.”
But the joke was on me. Three days later she ran off with the meter reader when he opened the basement door. He was good-looking, but would never even give me the time of day, but hey, ehhhhverybody loves Lucy.
P.S.No, you may not have Lucy’s fruit salad recipe OR her e-mail address, so don’t even ask!