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La Retour de la Llamadog (The Return of the Llamadog)

June 23, 2011

llamadog and its musical frogsquirrel friend (quite possibly the star of someone else's nightmare)

When I was 22, I worked as the receptionist at a very large architecture firm in Texas.

I decided to do this instead of getting a “real job.” I quickly realized that whatever your job it, is get unfortunately “real” pretty fast, since it is yours, and you have to do it.

For the most part, I loved being a receptionist. I often tell people that I was better at being a receptionist than I will ever be at anything again, professionally. I was just good at it. I am genuinely happy to meet people, I light up naturally when someone walks into the room, I like to talk on the phone (well, I used to), and I got a kick out of transferring calls around from the company’s 27 phone lines.

And though they only paid me $15,000 a year, that was absolutely enough to live on.

Things were good, for the most part, but not everything was good.

There was no dress code for the office, but I was supposed to wear dresses and makeup. This drove the 22-year-old me, who wanted nothing more than to be barefoot and barefaced, absolutely crazy.

And sitting like a figurehead behind a huge desk in a Texas office, I had to fetch coffee for some real backwards-minded male clients. Don’t get me wrong: I happily got coffee and ordered lunch for lots of people — engineers, the principals, and many lovely clients. And lots of the architects went out of their way to make me comfortable: one brought me an iced tea every single morning and never let me pay him a cent, and others always asked if they could grab me lunch when they were out. These guys may have realized before I did that I was, for the most part, trapped.

There was a rule that I couldn’t leave to use the bathroom without finding another woman to sit at the desk. Let me be clear about the details of this. This woman could be an architect. She could be the personal assistant to the president. She could be the marketing manager. She could be one of the two office runners, who brought plans back and forth around town. But she just had to be female runner.

If I had to use the bathroom and I was talking with the male office runner—which I confess to spending most of the time I wasn’t greeting clients or engineers or on the phone doing—I’d have to wait. He was not allowed to fill in for me. He was not female, or nor was he wearing makeup, or nor was he wearing a dress.

And regardless of the job I did there, regardless of my education and general proclivities and writing samples, I was not allowed to transfer to a position in the marketing department, where I would have had a chance to write, uh, marketing proposals, which I seemed to want to do at that point. Eventually, the office manager offered to pay me what I would have been paid to be a marketing copy writer — so long as I would stay on the phones. I was good at the phones, and good at being happy when people came in. It was a weird, stymying kind of compliment, but I was urged to think of it as a compliment.

But eventually, all of the details together made me mad enough to spit, and spitting is just the deft transition I need here to start talking about, uh, llamadogs.

As I acclimated to my first set of challenges in an office, I had a dream. I dreamt of a llamadog. A huge, spitting combo of a llama and a dog on a chain.

In the dream, a client came into the office—he was one of the bad ones who made my job less fun than it could have been. And to the meeting, he brought a large and frightening animal combo: the llamadog. The client told me that he couldn’t bring it in with him, that he needed to leave it chained to my desk. I was not able to say no to such requests from clients. So He left me trapped behind my huge marble desk, intimidated by this strange, looming llamadog.

I told my friends about it at the time, and over the years we’ve talked about the llamadog, on and off. There even is a little song about the llamadog.

I have not sung it in a long time.

But last week I opened the New Yorker. Immediately I saw an extensive marketing campaign for the city of Montreal. It included a lot of hybrid animals. The most striking was the llamadog.

Someone has finally found the llamadog, and drawn a picture.

It is apparently in Canada.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. secret admirer permalink
    June 23, 2011 8:37 pm

    such an eye for detail!

  2. Barry permalink
    June 24, 2011 10:36 am

    Record the llamadog song please.

  3. June 28, 2011 11:34 am

    Have I ever heard the llamadog song? (aka the “llamadong”?)
    Also, one time? in Canada? my mother saw an animal the likes of which no one in my family had ever seen before, and which we could not find in any of our Canadian Wildlife books or anywhere. Over time, we convinced ourselves that it must have been either 1) a wolverine or 2) a badger, but none of us really believed it………..

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