Free Failin’.

Free Failin’.

Wow. OK. Been awhile, no? Well, I have a good reason: between March 14 and April 5 of this year, I trussed myself up, combed my hair, spit-shined my eyebrows and tried like heck to be impressive as I interviewed with not one, not two, but FOUR different companies (with multiple interviews at a couple of places) for a position involving writing and/or editing (which are pretty much my only two skills besides eating and flipping my tongue over). Although I have no idea why that particular feast occurred, I am delighted to report that I was lucky enough not only to land one of those gigs, but to land my favorite one (all other things being equal—since all other things are rarely equal, however, I might have actually taken the job that’s less than two miles from my house had it been offered to me, because sometimes the ability to hock a loogie from your home to your place of employment trumps the work that’s the most interesting to you . . . but I digress). So that’s what’s been going on with me for the past month or so.

Actually, if you want to get technical, the whole situation really only ended this past Friday, which officially goes down in the (Face)books as the official start to The Weekend of Epic Failure—about which I was woefully unspecific on my Facebook page. And there’s nothing I hate worse than a vague Facebook post. (Well, OK, I probably hate black licorice and the smell of Estee Lauder Youth Dew body powder worse, but you catch my drift.) Yet I posted one, which is another way I failed over last weekend. But I’m here to make up for it now, with an itemized explanation of the weekend’s copious moments of “GAHHHHHHH!” Read on:

The Friday Fumble

OK. So remember how I said I was interviewing with four companies? Well, the fourth company was a little late to the game; shortly after I scheduled my first interview with Company #4 (but before I actually went), I got a job offer from Company #1. Still, I kept my interview with Company #4, because:

A.  I’d been a wallflower for so long, I got sucked into the heady rush of having so many suitors at once, and so became a walking After School Special: The Girl Who Couldn’t Say No.

B.  Although I was incredibly excited about the job I’d been offered, I couldn’t stop wondering what Company #4 would offer in the way of pay and benefits. What if this company paid double what I’d already been offered? What if they gave me use of the company jet, six months of vacation and my own real, live special unicorn named Raquelle? (Yes, for a Copywriter position—it could happen.) While I seriously doubted they’d be able to offer me enough to back out of my promise to join Company #1 (even if they offered slightly  more than Company #1), how would I know for sure unless I turned over that one last stone? And besides,

C.  Even if a 9-to-5 at Company #4 didn’t work out for me, it’d be a good networking opportunity, and maybe result in some freelance work—who knows? Also,

D.  I had already suffered greatly just to get the PTO (Paid Time Off) from my current job to take the interview1, so by golly, I was taking it.

After my initial interview with Company #4, I felt even more convinced that Company #1 was the place for me– but technically, I still didn’t know anything about what Company #4 had to offer in the way of salary. So when Company #4 called for a SECOND interview, with the hiring manager—by which time I had accepted the job at Company #1, given notice at my current job, and told everyone (including my Facebook universe) that I was going to Company #1—I said YES.

(I know. It’s a sickness.

And now it’s reached Lifetime Movie proportions: YESsing Herself to Death.)

So two days after I gave notice at my current company, I sent an e-mail to my boss and department, letting them know that I was going to take ½ a day of PTO this past Friday.

That’s when I found out that once you give notice at my company, you’re not allowed to use any more PTO. They pay you in your final paycheck for whatever PTO you have left—but they “want you there” in the interim. So then I went through days of emotional sturm und drang; should I just call off the interview, since I didn’t want the job anyway (unless there was a unicorn on the table)? Ask Company #4 if I could meet with the hiring manager after hours? Sneak out and hope nobody noticed?

Finally, I had an epiphany: Why on earth would I even consider letting a job I’m leaving dictate my ability to pursue future opportunities? So I decided I was gonna go on witma bad ass, take the interview at the scheduled time, be upfront about it, and let the chips tumble if need be.

For the record, when the HR person at Company #4 originally called me to request the second interview, I tried to pump her for salary information at that point, saying I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time on a second interview if salary was going to be a deal-breaker on either side. She fished up my application while I was on the phone, and confirmed my salary requirement, but she was unable to tell me anything—said I’d have to talk to the hiring manager. I agreed to come in for the interview, and she promised to send me an interview confirmation e-mail later that day. An hour or so later, I received an e-mail from her, and all was well.

So come last Friday, I made myself presentable, headed to work for the first half of the day, and then left my office around noon for Interview #2 with Company #4.

Turns out I left a little too soon, because I ended up with a little over half an hour to spare once I arrived in Company #4’s parking lot. Therefore, I did what anyone would do in such a situation: pulled out my phone to putz around on it until such time as I felt I could make a respectable entrance (being 30 minutes early would seem a little too “leg-humping Jack Russell,” whereas I wanted to come across more like “eager-but-independent Border Collie”). In the putzing process, I pulled up the confirmation e-mail from the HR person.

The confirmation e-mail I never bothered to open previous to that moment.

The confirmation e-mail that was not, in fact, a confirmation e-mail at all, but was instead a message from the HR person, saying that Company #4 would be unable to meet my salary requirement, and to let her know if I still wanted to meet with the hiring manager (the implication being that the appointment would be considered cancelled unless I told her otherwise).

FML.

I immediately called Pretty Bad Dad and led with this: “I am a complete idiot.” He was kind enough to hold his tongue. And kinder still to invite me to lunch with him, his boss and his department. On the way to meet him, I called the HR person and offered abundant apologies to her voicemail for not having responded to her e-mail about the salary. Then I went and had some Chinese food with some nice fellas, went home and took a nap, and hit the reset button for the weekend (which the boy and I were spending at my mom’s house) . . . or so I thought.

The Saturday Super-Suckage

About once a month, my son and I make a weekend trip to visit his Grandma, who lives about an hour and a half away. Since I generally plan these visits in advance, based on the kid’s crazy birthday-party schedule, and my mom’s more predictable church and bridge-playing schedule, I usually know way ahead of time when I’ll be there next.

A couple of weeks before this past weekend’s visit, I somehow discovered that there was going to be a 5K race happening in my mom’s city on the Saturday I planned to be there, and decided on a whim to sign up. I wasn’t ready by any stretch for any sort of PR—heck, I hadn’t even run on pavement since early October of last year (first there was a car accident, which jacked up my knee for awhile (actually, it’s still a little jacked up, but that’s beside the point), and then there was winter, which has kept me confined to the treadmill at the Y)—but I figured what the heck? It would let me get my feet wet, so to speak, and since it was the inaugural occurrence of this particular event, there was a chance there wouldn’t be many participants, and therefore a (slightly more remote) chance I might actually win something.

When the boy and I arrived at my mom’s house on Friday evening, though, I just felt incredibly exhausted (despite the afternoon nap). So over dinner, I started to whine about not wanting to do the race the next day.

My mother, who has never been a big proponent of exercise (and in fact has been known to actively discourage it2), reminded me that I didn’t HAVE to do it. In fact, she said, it might be better if I didn’t, especially if I hadn’t run on pavement for several months, because I could hurt myself, etc., etc.

I went to bed, still feeling puny about the whole thing, but thinking that in the morning, I’d have renewed ambition…

That didn’t happen. When I woke up, I checked the outside temperature online, and was immediately chagrined to see how flippin’ cold it was. Once again, I whined. I knew I’d be fine once I started running, but the long wait for the start, in just my little track jacket and tights, would be annoying.

My mother agreed. “I think you’d better just sit this one out,” she said.

Didn’t have to throw a brick at ME.

So we made a lovely breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast, because what the heck—once you fall off the wagon, may as well roll yourself right on into the deepest part of the ditch), and planned a morning of errands instead.

As my mom was showering for our errand outing, my cell phone rang. It was Pretty Bad Dad.

“Where are YOU?” he asked in a chipper voice tinged with concern.

“At my mom’s house,” I answered.

“Why didn’t you do your race?” asked he.

“How do you know I didn’t?” I wondered aloud.

Ahem. Here’s how: Because he was waiting for me at the finish line.

With flowers.

FML.

When he saw the people with strollers (who’d been put at the back of the pack at the starting line) cross the finish line, he knew something was up. Despite the fact that I’ve lost a bit of speed because of the car accident—and wasn’t by any means fast to begin with— he thought surely I couldn’t be THAT slow.  Had I fallen? he wondered. Was I hurt?

Nope. I was in my mom’s bed, licking bacon grease off my fingers.

I felt so awful I burst into tears. Mostly I felt horrible because he’d woken up early, on his “bachelor weekend” and driven an hour and a half to cheer me on—and I’d completely ditched the race, (unwittingly) standing him up in the process. However, I was also sad for myself (they don’t call me InstaPrincess for nothin’), because HOW AWESOME of a surprise would it have been to cross the finish line right in the middle of the Guess Who’s “Share the Land” (I’d worked out my playlist a week in advance, and saved “Share the Land” for the end, because I’m telling you—it is more inspirational than you’d think) and see him standing there with his face and everything?

He ended up coming by my mom’s house (that’s how I found out there were flowers, too) for a little while, and then drove all the way back home—and although he thought the whole thing was funny, I was still heartbroken by my own petard (I know that doesn’t make any sense, but roll with me, here– I’m emotionally delicate).

It sucks having nobody to blame but yourself.

Oh, and P.S. Only about 100 people participated, so Dude. I totally might have won something.

The Sunday Say WHAAAAAAT?

So I returned home Sunday, tail still firmly tucked, and set about getting ready for houseguests we have arriving tonight for a five-day stay. Over the weekend (since I didn’t do shit else), I’d planned out a few dinners to make while they’re here—including a pot roast—and so headed for the grocery store soon after I arrived home to buy the goods for the first couple of dinners.

When I got to the checkout, I put the meat (I’d bought the pot roast and a buncha chicken parts) on the conveyor last. When the cashier had rung up all BUT the meat, I noticed the total and thought, “Wow—I’m getting off really cheap!” because at that point I was only out about 30 bucks.

So imagine my surprise mere seconds later when the cashier, having rung up the meat, gave me a total of EIGHTY-SOME BUCKS.

OK—not horrible, considering it was going to feed six people two days’ worth of dinner, but still—WTH?!!?!? How did the last two items end up more than doubling the bill?

Turns out that I’d spent THIRTY-FIVE BUCKS on the pot roast alone. When I picked it up, I paid attention only to the weight on the sticker. I was looking for a three-pounder, so once I spotted a tasty-looking 3.25-lb. chunk of beef, I grabbed it and ran, completely ignoring the $10-per-pound price.

Sheesh.

Part of me feels like such an expensive roast deserves better treatment than my ages-old, tried-and-true, so-much-easier-than-pie pot roast recipe (beef broth + cream of mushroom soup + onion soup mix + slow cooker). Like maybe a fancy red wine marinade with gourmet mushrooms or something. But another part of me doesn’t really want to try anything new, because I will poke my own eyeballs out if I screw up a $35 piece of meat. And I’m not confident that I’m entirely past this period of failures. Let’s hope I get past it soon, though—I’m starting a new job next week!

 

FOOTNOTES

1. OK, so the Wednesday afternoon before my first interview with Company #4—and the day before job offer came from Company #1—I .sent an e-mail to my boss and others in my department around lunchtime, saying I would be taking a couple of hours of PTO that coming Friday morning. Usually, I make up an excuse, because I’m such a SHARER that I knew everyone would instantly be suspicious if I didn’t say WHY I was taking the PTO. However, on that particular day, I just got tired of making things up and trying to keep stories straight (contrary to what my husband believes, I’m a bad liar), so I just simply said I was taking PTO, and would be in around 10:00. . .
 . . . which is when my boss’s red flag went up. First, I got the casual drive-by: he stopped at my desk, and said, “Wow, you’re really burning through the PTO lately.”

Although my heart rate instantly doubled, I pretended I didn’t catch any subtext there and replied, “I know—I think I still have enough, though . . . “

“Oh, you do,” he said, “but I always get a little concerned when people burn through a lot of PTO in a short time.”

Again, I ignored the implications. “Oh, well,” I sighed, “we’ve already decided we’re not taking a vacation this year.” Then I started rambling about how our car blew a head gasket (true), which was an unexpected expense (true), and that sucks (true), but what are ya gonna do (true)—even though none of that would actually prevent us from taking a vacation. Deflect, deflect, deflect.

Then, 5 minutes before quittin’ time that afternoon, I got an e-mail from my boss, asking me to stop by his office on my way out, to “touch base” about my PTO status. Shit, shit, shit.

Long story short, I went in, and he began by looking up—and remarking on the enormity of—the number of PTO hours I’ve taken so far this year. And then there I stood for half an hour (which meant then I had to call Pretty Bad Dad to pick up our kid from preschool) while my boss asked if I was OK? Was I SUUUUUUURE? Was everything hunky-dory? (Yes; he actually said “hunky-dory.”) Was I happy? I didn’t seem like my usual happy-go-lucky self lately. Was I SURE everything was OK? He just wanted to make sure everything was OK with me, because I am SUCH a valued employee—he tells the company owners all the time what a great asset I am to the team! Why, one of them called just the other day to ask who wrote that article about our Convention keynote speaker, because she loved it so much, and he told her it was me, and that I am such an incredible writer!

Not sure I’ve ever been so uncomfortable in my life. And when I’m really nervous, my right eye waters, so I was basically half-crying through the whole thing.

At any rate, it became clear to me that he wasn’t buying my assurances that everything was OK, and I felt like I had to give something up. So I ended up throwing my entire department in front of the bus, by telling him that we’re all getting a little frustrated because our projects are all stalled in the approval process (true)—mainly because since November, our COO has been in the office maybe a total of 10-12 days (true), and there’s no delegation of authority to keep processes moving (true). And because so many of our projects are on hold, basically, none of us has anything to do (true).

He agreed that it was a problem, and seemed satisfied with that little confession . . . but needless to say, the job offer I got the next day could not have come soon enough, because when he FINALLY let me out of his clutches that day, I went home thinking, “Dang, if I don’t get a job out of all of this, I’m going to have to lay low for awhile, because he is totally on to me.”

It was actually a relief, five days later, to confess everything as I gave my two weeks’ notice.

“I knew it!” he said, when he learned I’d been taking PTO for job interviews. “I was going to just come right out and ask you, but I thought that might be crossing a line.”

Hmmmm… given my confessional nature, I wonder if I would have answered honestly if he had.

2. Though she is staunchly and quite vocally opposed to my pursuit of hot yoga (“It can’t possibly be good for you,” says she) and tries to stop me from going every chance she gets, my mother has lately been a little more focused on putting the kibosh on my running. Not ALL of it—for example, she’s OK with my doing short, slow runs on a treadmill—but if it involves (a) the outdoors, (b) the dark, (c) more than three miles or so, and/or (d) the potential for injury, she’s gonna have somethin’ to say about it.

And the recent unbelievable news about the Boston Marathon has not helped.

I was at my desk yesterday, training one of my soon-to-be-former coworkers to take over one of my current duties after my departure. My desk phone rang, and I saw it was my mother, but rather than interrupt my tutorial, I let it ring, figuring I’d call back later.

20 minutes later, she called again.

Since we were just wrapping up the lesson, I let it ring again.

As soon as the coworker/trainee left my desk, the coworker in the next cubicle turned to me and said, “I didn’t want to interrupt you guys, but come look at this—there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon!”

As I read and absorbed the news over her shoulder, it hit me: This was why my mother called.

When I stepped back over to my desk, my phone rang yet again—and yet again, it was my mom.

I picked up, and said, “Before you say anything, I know why you’re calling.”

“WELL?” she scolded, clearly shaken, “Has this TAUGHT you to leave that mess ALONE?”

As if it mattered AT ALL, I pointed out that I have never had any desire to run a marathon.

“WHAT,” she demanded, “do you call what you were supposed to be doing last Saturday?”

“A 5K,” I replied. “A 5K is three miles. A marathon is twenty-six. My stuff is small potatoes compared to a marathon—and even SMALLER potatoes compared to the Boston Marathon!”

“Still,” she insisted, “you KNOW there are crazy people everywhere, and there are going to be copycats. You NEED to leave all of it ALONE, or at least stay on the treadmill!”

More conversation ensued, where she all but called me stupid for taking the wholly unnecessary risk of running in the first place.

So.

Looks like I won’t be signing up for any more races in HER city, for fear of imprisonment in her basement. But at least I won’t have to worry about completely jacking up another sweet surprise from my husband . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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