Monday, July 7, 2008

This is a kaflange.

When Frank went on vacation, he asked me to post his vacation days to the office calendar one by one so people would think he was only out for one day. He called it "devious deception" and he meant it especially for his favorite person.

His out-of-office message was "Vacation: June 7-10," for example. "Short and sweet," he said, after dictating it to me. I said, "But Frank, if she emails you, she'll know you're out the whole week." He waved me away. "She's not that dangerous," he said. Once she kicked a magazine under Alla's door. As she walked away, he said to me, "She just reeks with class."

He had his own punctuation. He never used colons or semicolons. When he dictated, he said "Dash-dash-dash," but he meant ellipses. His best emails were the ones he composed aloud as I typed. He would lean back in his chair. There was a word he used that I never learned to spell - kaflange (ph). He would hand me a sheaf of papers and say, "This is a kaflange." I asked around and no one had ever heard it. I asked Frank; somehow he skirted the issue. I think he used it in an email once and spelled it, "coflange." It sounded like a sneeze.

Of all the texts he dictated to me, my favorite was in response to a departure survey for a woman who was brought in to reform the University's Vendor Maintenance. When she left after several months, Frank thought she'd gotten promoted - in fact, she returned to her previous department - and wrote her a sweet congratulatory message, taking the time to express some of his gripes:

"This department has many, many, many foreign individuals who may or may not have valid SSNs. It is difficult to obtain clarification from some of these academic stalwarts. My other problem is with students who do work or the staff who think students should be paid honoraria."

He went on to praise the woman's availability and communications performance, and ended with a line that still puzzles me: "In my job, if it is performed at 100%, I realize the best score I can achieve is a tie."