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Recognizing a Pool of Talent : Duties: Secretaries of the '90s do much more than take shorthand. Bosses expect them to do the tedious, the unconventional, even the bizarre.


Though a secretary in the 1990s may need technological skills more than shorthand, that doesn't mean bosses have stopped expecting them to do the tedious, the unconventional, even the bizarre.

A contest sponsored this week by Trattoria Spiga in Costa Mesa invited secretaries in Orange County to tell about the most unusual tasks they have been assigned on the job. The three finalists won a free lunch at the restaurant.

The winner, Judy Gronquist of Irvine, works for a law firm. She was asked to schedule practices and games for a Little League team her boss managed.

In a previous job at a hotel, she wrote, she jumped out of a fourth-floor window to demonstrate fire safety equipment.

"Did anyone ever say being a secretary was boring?" Gronquist wrote. "It has not been for me."

Another entrant, Janet Flynn Diodoardo of Orange, wrote that she used to work for an actor. She was required to travel to hotels a day ahead of him to make sure that the accommodations were quiet enough that the actor would get a good night's sleep.

"Once I even rented him an RV," she wrote, "and we parked it out in a field."

Tara Simmons, who works in Newport Beach, said one of her bosses asks her to massage his toes. Another, she said, has asked her to go to the track and cash in his winning tickets.

Rhonda A. Hofmann, who works in Costa Mesa, said she used to work for a lawyer who asked her to portray a pig in a haunted house. "My arms were under the table," she wrote, "and I could not use them to defend myself" from youngsters who came through and took pokes at her. "When the following Halloween rolled around, I made sure I stayed home sick."

Pearl Whitehouse, a secretary for a dairy farm, wrote that she once helped collect cow urine used to bless a client's new house. And, she wrote, she has escorted visitors into the field to collect "very fresh" cow manure used in "some sort of religious practice."

"I love my job," Whitehouse wrote, "but I do believe that I probably do things that most other secretaries don't."

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