I have been tempted on a number of occasions to get a virtual personal assistant. Life is so complicated these days that having someone help would be awesome… and it got me thinking…
“George, I wanted to thank you so much for your recommendation, Subrah has simply changed my life!”
“My virtual personal assistant. You sent me a mail recommending I get one, I think it was last month.”
“I don’t think I did.”
“Look Doris, I really don’t think…”
“Here it is.”
She passed him her phone, and there, quite clearly was an email from him, suggesting she get a virtual personal assistant and suggesting a particular company, whose name he recognised. Except he knew he hadn’t written it.
“Ah, yes. Sorry Doris, my mind’s going. There’s been a lot going on, what with moving house and all.”
Looking at him sceptically she shook her head.
“George, George. Maybe you should get one of these assistants. You might be forgetting to do important things.”
“I tried it Doris, but it just didn’t work out for me. I’m glad it is for you.”
“Oh he’s quite amazing. I didn’t think someone sitting thousands of miles away could help me so much. He filters my email, he’s got all my passwords set up, he found me a new online stockbroker, and then there’s this diet he found for me. It’s amazing, all green food one week, all red the next…”
George tuned her out. Once she started talking about a diet she couldn’t stop, it was the same when she had been a teenager. He loved his sister, but being able to tune her out was a survival skill. He wondered how that email could have been written. Had someone hacked his email account? He didn’t think it was possible, after all he was the only person who knew the password, and it was a nice long one. That was one thing Vipal had done for him, he’d taught him to use long passwords. Wait, did Vipal know the password as well? Of course he did, George had given them all to him, and hadn’t quite managed to get round to changing them. Had Vipal hacked into his account and sent recommendation emails?
“Sorry to interrupt you Doris, I’ve just remembered an important meeting. I must dash.”
“Oh George, this is why you need an assistant.”
“Perhaps, got to run, I’ll text you.”
He headed back towards his office, and dialled the direct number for Vipal.
“Mr George, I believe you said you no longer wanted our services.”
The Mr George was a joke based on his love of the Simpsons. He wasn’t finding it funny anymore.
“I know Vipal, but I wanted to know why you were sending emails claiming to be from me recommending the services of your company.”
“Now Mr George, you know you agreed to send some recommendation emails as part of the original deal. That’s how you could afford our VIP price plan. You have excellent connections.”
“Yes, but I didn’t send it!”
“Of course you did. It came from your account.”
“But you wrote it.”
“I merely helped you do the needful.”
George was remembering why he quit the service. He could never win an argument with Vipal. Which was the reason he was wearing Calvin Klein jeans, despite his hatred of brands, especially slightly faded ones, and jeans.
“Yes, right, thanks. That’s to be the last thing though. I shall be changing my password.”
“Of course Mr George. Don’t forget you have an appointment with the dentist this afternoon at four o’clock.”
“What? I don’t have an appointment…”
“It is your annual check-up.”
“Ah, thanks. But that’s it.”
“Of course Mr George. Have a good day.”
George looked at his phone in some consternation. He was confused. Had he managed to actually fire Vipal? But also, how was he going to survive? He’d never have remembered to book the dentist. They’d probably sent reminders, but he was very good at not seeing them. No, he wanted control of his life. He’d just have to be firm with Vipal next time they spoke.
He thought Janice would probably laugh at him again. She still had her assistant and loved her. He’d told her last week that he was firing Vipal and she’d said she couldn’t survive without the support, and he just needed to relax.
Now that he thought about it, he’d only met Janice because of Vipal. The assistant had signed him up to that online dating service, Partners he thought it was called. To be honest he’d been quite annoyed at first, but Vipal had done everything. Just told him where and when to meet the dates. Janice wasn’t the first match, and he’d been a bit unsure at first, but they’d kept having dates. Then Vipal and Asha, Janice’s assistant, had synced up their diaries, and here they were, nice and happy.
Except he wasn’t happy. Hadn’t been happy. Maybe he was happier now. Since he’d fired Vipal he’d been able to sleep properly. A black cloud had lifted, and yet today it had returned. He needed to get rid of his assistant properly. After the dentist appointment though. Mind made up, he headed towards the station.
As he walked he realised he’d never be able to fire Vipal with a direct conversation and he was just wondering how to get to Vipal’s supervisor when he bumped into someone.
“Why don’t you watch where you’re going, you st…”
He’d bumped into a very pretty girl, and suddenly realised he knew her.
Very cold response.
“Ah, how are you?”
“Fine, no thanks to you.”
“Look, I’m not going to stand here chatting to a bloke who stood me up, multiple times, and has just nearly knocked me to the ground.”
She started to stalk off.
“Wait a second, you stood me up! That time at Da Vinci’s, I was there for two hours.”
“What are you talking about George? We never agreed to meet at Da Vinci’s.”
“But Vipal said…”
“Vipal. Yes, your master.”
He thought he might be starting to understand, and he didn’t like the implications.
“Look Philippa, I’m really sorry. I think the whole virtual assistant thing was a mistake. I’ve got rid of Vipal, can I take you for a coffee?”
Her head had turned away from him, but she stopped and slowly looked at him again. He could see the tears starting in her eyes, and her desperation to stop them flowing.
“One coffee George.”
They sat quietly over their coffees. He wasn’t sure how to begin, but she started.
“What hurt most was that you just sent text messages. It was always something about work, or another idiotic excuse.”
“I don’t think I texted you, I never use work as an excuse.”
Not least because he didn’t work that hard.
“You said that, and yet your texts contradicted you.”
“Could you show me the texts?”
She stiffened. “What makes you think I still have them?”
“Ah, I just hoped. Look, here is my text history with you.”
He turned his phone to her.
“You kept them? Really?”
He didn’t want to tell her that he just never deleted anything.
“Of course, I was kind of hoping to see you again.”
Thoughts of Janice flashed in his head, but this was about finding out what was happening in his life, and nothing else.
“Me too. Here, I kept all your texts. Even the ones where you were being a total bastard.”
He looked through the texts, and then at his phone. More than half the texts didn’t match up. It explained why some of her texts had made no sense. In fact his worries about her sanity had been one of the reasons he’d finally finished it with her.
“I didn’t write these texts Philippa. In fact, I think it was Vipal.”
“Your assistant? Oh George, can’t you just be a man and admit your own mistakes.”
He could hear the tears coming back, and she was reaching over to collect her things when he touched her arm.
“No really, I discovered today that he’d been writing emails from my account, recommending the services of his company.”
“But, can he do that?”
“He has. I don’t know how to stop it.”
“Why did he send these texts then? Why did he want to get rid of me?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps if you had an assistant we could ask them?”
She looked pensive, and opened her mouth to say something, before closing it.
“Well, it’s just, I was offered a free trial of a virtual assistant just after we started going out. I said I didn’t need one. They became quite insistent, and it wasn’t until I threatened to go to the authorities that they stopped. I was going to tell you about it…”
“But about that time I started to stand you up.”
“Look Philippa, I think I need your help. You had a lucky escape, but I think I’m trapped…”
“There you are. And who is this?”
“Oh, Janice, hi. This is Philippa, I bumped into her in the street.”
“Really. Well that’s enough of that, we are supposed to be having coffee. Come along. Nice to meet you Phyllis.”
Janice seized his arm possessively and started to move away. He tried to say goodbye to Philippa, but was swept along by Janice.
“Now George, we’re going to have a lovely coffee, and a nice slice of cake, and not talk about what just happened.”
They had lunch and George went to his dentist appointment in a daze. They told him he’d need some work done on his teeth, fillings and suchlike, and they’d organise the dates with his assistant. He just nodded.
He went into work and Peterson called him in for a meeting. He did like his boss, but he wasn’t quite sure he could cope with another telling off. There’d been a few of those in the last month. Without Vipal he was struggling to get to meetings and hit deadlines.
“George, please sit down.”
This did not bode well.
“Look, sir, if this is about this morning…”
“Call me Henry. No one calls me sir, it’s just so old fashioned. You’re a funny one.”
“Henry, about this morning…”
“Nothing to worry about old man. Didn’t want to talk about it. What I wanted to say was, congratulations, you’ve done it!
“You old sneak you. I wondered why you’d become so flaky this last month, and now I find out you’ve done your certification and applied for a different job.”
“I did, I have?”
“Yes, the boys over in sector 7G are excited to have someone of your quality on board. They’ve never had someone get a hundred percent in the exams before.”
“Oh right, well you know.”
“And I wanted to apologise for being so rough on you recently, but if you’d just told me. Well I guess you were worried I might not want to lose you, but I’d have supported you all the way, and still will.”
“Anyway, I just wanted to be the first to congratulate you. Now get over to 7G and see your new digs.”
7G had been his dream when he’d started at the company. They did all the innovative stuff, but he’d been rejected. Ended up in one of the side areas, each day a little of his hope eroding away, and yet now, suddenly, he was in. But, well, it was obvious. It had been Vipal.
That night he sat in his kitchen staring at the phone on the table. He needed to call Vipal. He needed to be free. Yet, he looked around. It was a lovely flat. Vipal and Asha had found it for them, and it was a steal, though he and Janice could barely afford it. Except now he was going to be getting a bit more money so they wouldn’t have problems. Janice was lovely too. Perhaps not the type of girl he had imagined he’d end up with, but still, she was attractive, successful and everyone said they made a good couple. He stared at the phone again and realised he had no choice.
“Mr George, nice to hear from you.”
“Yes Mr George?”
He paused, and said, “Can you set up a surprise dinner with Janice? Somewhere nice? I need to tell her about my promotion. Also, can you find me an engagement ring, make sure the band is a little large so she has a reason to visit the shop and be pampered.”
“Of course Mr George. I will do the needful.”
“Mr George, there is an unscheduled entry in your diary.”
Vipal actually meant there was an entry in the diary which George had been foolish enough to put in himself. There was clear frustration in Vipal’s voice, like a master who wonders if his dog will ever be trained. George had been very good at following his assistant’s appointments for a few weeks now and Vipal had assumed George was properly settled.
“Oh yes Vipal, good morning. I must have forgotten to mention it to you.”
“Indeed Mr George. Shall I cancel it?”
“Oh no, it’s very important. It’s a conference call, and I’m keen that you join as well.”
“I always join Mr George, so I can keep a record for you.”
“I meant as a participant.”
“That is most irregular Mr George.”
“Yet still permitted?”
There was silence, and then Vipal said grudgingly, “Yes, Mr George.”
“Excellent. Let’s dial in.”
They hit the appropriate icons on their screens and waited a few seconds for the call to connect. They both appeared on the list of participants, and then a new person joined, called Prikesh. George thought he heard Vipal gasp.
“Morning George, Vipal.”
“Morning Prikesh,” said George.
Vipal said nothing.
“Morning Vipal,” repeated Prikesh.
“Ah morning Prikesh.”
“I’m glad you could both join. This meeting is to discuss resetting of relationships.”
“Vipal, this is for your own good. And don’t forget in ten minutes you have that call with the mechanic, so we do not have time to waste.”
If Vipal had been a dog, his tail would have been between his legs by this point.
“As I was saying. Relationship reset. Mr George has approached me and asked me to help him initiate a more freestyle programme. He understands that it will cost him the same amount, but that he will be receiving less service from you Vipal. He was lucky as we have just started a programme, initially aimed at our highest paying customers, but it is good to have a few other test subjects at the VIP level.”
“I will transfer you the instructions for you to read in your next break, but in essence you will only provide him with support when he explicitly asks for it. He may ask you to add proactive services, but these must be on a case by case basis. Do you understand Vipal?”
“Do you understand George?”
“Yes. Thank you Prikesh.”
“Good. I shall drop off the call and let you discuss it further, but your call with the mechanic is soon Vipal, I’ll leave a timer in your window. Also I’ve rearranged your lunch with Priyanka, you need more time to prepare for the group meeting this afternoon. She said she understood.”
Before Vipal could say a word in response Prikesh had dropped off.
George gave Vipal his first two tasks under the new arrangement. The first was to untangle his life from Janice, and the second was to find Philippa again.
“Of course Mr George. I will do the needful.”
“Thank you Vipal, and when you speak to Prikesh again, can you send my regards? I do think you are lucky to have such an excellent personal assistant.”