Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Work Anecdote of the Day

Today a woman came into the office and handed me an envelope, which she said needed to go to 20C. I figured she was too lazy to walk over there herself or she just couldn't find it, and since our office is also the rental office for the whole plaza, I smiled and took the envelope, planning to deliver it to Suite 20C later.

As the morning went on, I came to a stopping point in my work and decided to pop over to that office. I found Suite 20 and then began reading the doors for room C. I found the correct door, but it didn't occur to me right away that the name looked oddly familiar. A receptionist was sitting in the lobby, but unsure which business she worked for, I awkwardly announced that I had come to bring this envelope to Joseph Brown. When she didn't offer any help other than a pointed "Ok", I asked if I should slip it under the door. She then informed me that she worked for him, at which point I smiled, said "Ok, great!" and walked toward her with my parcel. But as I handed her the envelope, it suddenly dawned on me: she was the same women I had seen in my office at 8:30 that morning.

Inside the envelope was their rent check. We are the rental office, after all. Thoroughly embarrassed, I made some awkward exclamation like "Oh that was FROM you TO us!" (with that emphasis). And since I had now proven to be a complete idiot, she wrote "Rent" on the outside of the envelope before handing it back to me.

Oh and that name on the door that looked so familiar? It was printed on the outside of the envelope. Good one, Kimber.

On an unrelated note, here is the fortune cookie my friend Joe got tonight at our local Yummy Buffet. And yes, that is the actual name of the Chinese restaurant.

In bed

Friday, November 12, 2010

GRE Tomorrow

The GRE Subject Test is tomorrow, and I know some of my readers are in the same boat of worried anticipation as I. As I hope to one day achieve a Doctorate in English, I will be taking the Literature test tomorrow. I've been "studying" for it for the past month, though, sadly for me, I just fell into my groove this past weekend. Be that as it may, I'm feeling strangely confident. I think I've studied as much as I'm going to, and now I just have to trust my capacity for recall to bring me safely through this trial by fire.

As taxing as it's been, trying to compress centuries of literary history into a week of study, I've found this process to be oddly energizing. I've actually learned a lot I didn't know about English literature, and I'm excited by my discoveries; among them, Thomas Gray's "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes," from whence is derived the famous line "Nor all that glisters, gold" and In Memorium A.H.H., in which Tennyson famously remarked "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I've also read parts of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets From the Portuguese, which, though now somewhat hackneyed, are really beautiful meditations on the growth of love and reread Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," which is a short but very moving villanelle on the "art of losing."

I could go on, but I wish not to bore my non-English major readers. I suppose my point is that this experience has reminded me, once again, of my calling and my sincere enjoyment of literature. I hope that you, too, experience these moments sometimes, when you realize that the work you're doing is exactly what you wish to do and that really, it's not work at all.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Your daily dose of awkward

There is a good reason not to film yourself doing karaoke.

"I make it rain on the horse."

Monday, November 8, 2010

The job I did take

Ok, twice now I've mentioned working for my parents without explaining what I do. I go in at 8 and work until noon, so I can use my afternoons for GRE study and grad school applications. Mostly I'm a receptionist. I answer phones, direct calls, and when applicable, take messages. It's a very glamorous life. My phone voice has gotten great. I also do things like file, send invoices, put stickers on things, and input quotes into our ordering system. None of it is terribly challenging, but I enjoy it. It's kind of peaceful, and I am learning important clerical things. Plus, every now and then amusing things happen that make good anecdotes.

Today's anecdote is about my computer.

My computer is the one in the office that doesn't specifically belong to anyone, the one that salespeople might use when they need to print things, or the one that you might give to the part-timer when she comes in for four hours in the morning. It's effectively mine now, but occasionally I still have to step aside and let someone else use it "real quick." And occasionally, my computer becomes possessed! One minute I'll be listening to Pandora, preparing to start a Word document, and the next, my cursor is moving on its own. My Pandora is paused! My Word doc is minimized! Yes! It is the g-g-ghooost of... Jason the CPA. About once a week he reconciles our books, and he hijacks my computer to do it, using Remote Control. I think he called one time to ask permission, but every time since he's just snatched control away from me. No warning, not even a "by your leave." He is a notorious hijacker who must be stopped! He could at least leave the Pandora running. He can turn off his speakers if it bothers him. It's just a bit creepy for me to sit in silence, watching programs open. I feel like a voyeur, peering into Jason's mind as he clicks the "Reconcile" button, then pauses to read the message box, then hovers over "Yes" before deciding to click "No." I feel like I could learn a lot about Jason by observing how he reconciles our books, and that just feels creepy. Oh, and then today, about five minutes after he logs out of my computer, he calls for Lisa our office manager, and of course, I answer. I wanted so much to say "Oh hi, Jason. Quit stealing my computer, you artless cut-purse!" Who cares if he gives it back? As far as I am concerned he is no better than a petty purse-snatcher, and he should be ashamed of himself. If he wants to borrow my computer, he could just ask.

The Art of Saying No (and Not Freaking Out About It)

So I promised in my About Me section, dear reader, that this year I would work on going outside my comfort zone and then reporting on it. Today I declined a job, and I thought it was going to make me throw up. Allow me to explain...

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned a holiday job opportunity at the clothing store where he has worked for the past four years or so. To be perfectly honest, the job itself didn't excite me, not least of all because this friend has been complaining to me about his job for almost the entire length of his employ there. What's more, the job involved selling, and I am too much of an introvert to be comfortable with that. Okay, I know what you might be thinking. You're either thinking, "You?! An introvert?", to which I would respond, yes, I just hide it well. Or you're thinking, "But you just said that you would try to go outside your comfort zone. What gives?" To this later query of yours, dear reader, I must admit you have a point. But I will say that turning down this job might have caused me more discomfort in two days than two months' worth of selling would have.

I have never been one to enjoy turning people down. I want people to be happy (unlike all you sadists reading my blog), so when my friend mentioned the job and told me how he sold me to his boss and talked about how much fun it would be to work there together I thought, well, at least he might not hate it so much if I'm there. You see the logical fallacy there? Two people hating a job together is unlikely to make either of them hate it very much less. Yet he was so enthusiastic, and he was practically guaranteeing me that I'd get the job, so I met with the manager and filled out an application. Then I waited a couple weeks.

This past Monday, the manager called me back, and I told him I'd like to sit down to talk about hours, duties, pay, etc. Very professional. We did, and I left the meeting with very mixed feelings. I haven't mentioned this except in passing, but I'm working mornings at my parents' promotional products company. My accepting this second job would mean that I'd be working a full 40 hours a week, which is all well and good, but let me explain how these hours would break down:

20 hours/week = Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, parents' office
Other 20 hours/week = a few days Monday through Friday + Sunday, 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. AND/OR Saturday starting at 9 a.m. AND Black Friday, Dec. 7, 14, and 26

Basically, I could set myself up to work 14 hours in one day, or give up my weekends, and definitely give up lots of free time during the holidays when my friends and family come visiting. Plus, I realized, I am currently trying to apply to grad school and study for a GRE Subject Test, but that's a topic for another post. You can probably see how this is not an ideal situation for me.

Ok, so I met with the guy on Monday, pretty much told him I was ready to start working, and made plans to come in Thursday or Friday to fill out the paperwork. On Wednesday, I realized I really really REALLY did not want the job, nor did I have to take it. This initial realization was quite a relief. Then came the nausea.

Telling Jerry the store manager was scary enough, but even scarier, I also had to tell the friend that had told me about the job, made a pretty big deal about us working together, and really influenced Jerry to hire me. I hated to let him down, and all through lunch that day my hands shook and my stomach ached, while I tried to play it cool and find a way to bring up the subject. You can probably imagine how this lunch went: nervous laughing, furtive looking away, and an acute distaste for the spinach and bacon salad staring up at me from an over-sized diner plate. The churning in the pit of my stomach wouldn't stop. I was sure that if I didn't throw up, I would just pass out. This may sound a bit hyperbolic, but it's true; such is my fear of letting people down.

After an hour of this madness, we finally got up to go. It was the moment of truth. As we were leaving the restaurant, my friend said, in an off-hand way, "I don't want to work." There was my chance. In one of the best transitions ever, I said, "Oh yeah, speaking of not wanting to work, I REALLY don't want to work at [insert name of men's store here]." Then I waited for the deluge, certain he'd be crushed or demand an explanation.

His response: "Haha, yeah, I don't blame you." And that was that. The relief was unbelievable.

Now all I had to do was drive over to that men's store and tell Jerry the manager. One problem: he wasn't there and wouldn't be in until the next morning, which, you can probably guess, meant another 24 hours of stress for me. I just had to keep telling myself over and over that I didn't care if Jerry's feelings were hurt. I didn't even know Jerry. If I let him down, so be it.

I spent the rest of that day rehearsing what I would say. It involved thanking him for offering me the job and being so kind as to sit down and talk with me about it, but after sleeping on it, I realized that it wouldn't be a good fit. I practiced this little speech constantly, making sure to add good excuses as to why I didn't want the extra stress. Then I rehearsed all the possible ways he could react and how I would respond to his reactions. Here is a partial list of what I expected could happen:
Trying to sell me on the job (he is a top salesman of men's suits, after all)
Striking me <~ in the event of this one, I planned my escape from the store and chose which of the adjacent stores I would run to for help

These all seem like viable options, right? Well, to make a long story short (too late), I went to that store. He was there, thank goodness, but with a customer, so I waited for twenty minutes, anxiety mounting. I passed the time by doodling pictures of fruit and trying not to shake too much. I started to feel dizzy and feverish before he was finished but I took a few deep breaths and steadied myself. When he finally came over to me, I asked if we could go sit down, not wanting to make a scene in the middle of the store. It's like I was breaking up with him: "Jerry, it's not you, it's me." "I think we should see other regional sales managers." "You're suffocating me."

Anyway, I sat down and did the speech I had practiced. I performed it flawlessly, and Jerry reacted immediately.

He hit me.

No, no, I'm kidding. That would have made such a good story, though. No, actually, not only was he completely fine with it, but he also offered me a job for anytime in the future that I might decide I want it. The relief I've felt since that afternoon I can't quite describe without resorting to cliche.

But now, as I reach the end of my tale, I have to wonder why I spent so much time agonizing over this. Who did it benefit? Certainly not me. Jerry and Jesse definitely did spend so much time worrying about it. In the end, what did I achieve through anxiety? The truth is, stress gains you nothing, but as easy as it is to say that, in practice, you forget. It's like your body revolts and you have no choice but to be nauseated and shaky and sweaty until you confront the thing that's caused you all this pain.

I think it boils down to a theory I've been developing for myself in the past few months. As this story has illustrated, I tend to put other people's feelings (or what I perceive their feelings to be) before my own mental health. So my new personal philosophy is kind of a take on the Eleanor Roosevelt quote "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent": "You are not responsible for other people's emotions." Everyone has a right to their feelings. They have a right to react to things however they want. But that doesn't mean you should drive yourself crazy worrying about how they are going to feel. Sure, be understanding of those feelings, don't intentionally hurt people's feelings, help them feel better if you want, but don't take their emotions on yourself. You're not Jesus. You don't have to be the sacrificial lamb because you want everyone to be happy. Happiness comes from within, and nothing you do can make another person happy if they don't want to be. Similarly, and more pertinently, don't assume people are going to be mad at you for being honest, and if in the end they are, who cares? You did the best you could. You weren't trying to hurt their feelings, and when they're ready, they can build a bridge and get over it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

I wish I could say that Halloween was a crazy, crazy night this year. I went a great party at my friends' apartment. We had spooky foods and great decorations and witch's brew, but I fell asleep on their living room floor at 1 a.m. The truth is, getting up early to work in the morning has started to take it's toll on me, and I failed to bring the wild to the party. What I did bring were cupcakes decorated to look like aliens!

Here is my collection of Halloween party pics. See if you can guess what we all are. Check the comments to see if you were right. (Note: the demon doesn't count; that is an inevitable part of playing around in Target during the Halloween season.)

The end of the long hiatus

Greetings, Internet! I'm back. I'm sure you're excited. Sorry it's been so long. A lot has happened in the past month. In this post I will give you a quick overview of what I've been doing with the intention of writing longer posts later. Then I will post something funny at the end to make this post worth it. Ok, enjoy.

List of Kimber's adventures in the month of October:
  • Cruise in the Black Sea
  • Job at the family business
  • Future job at a men's clothing store
  • Co-founding of game design company
  • Halloween

Don't those sound like tasty morsels? I hope so. Give you something to come back for. Now the funny thing I promised: