Monday, November 29, 2010

Good bye for now!

Well, dear loyal readers, I'm bringing the corporate gypsy tales to a close. My goal was to make it all the way through 2010, and I'm falling a little short of that. I'm going to blame the onset of the holidays, plus end of year close at my job, and all of the commitments that entails.

I want to say sincerely that I have had so much fun doing this! It was a great project and thank you to everyone who read!!

No worries, I'll still be continuing my corporate travels. So, if you see a girl falling down, throwing up, poking her eye out with a folder, dancing in an elevator, wearing inappopriate attire, crying in an airport-it's likely me!

Thank you!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

When Customers Attack

My husband and I got caught up in a fascinating show this past weekend. It was about people who decide to get wild animals and keep them as pets. I don't mean a lizard or something, I mean tigers, buffalo, boa constrictors, etc. It was pretty crazy. What was the most interesting to me, was that these people actually believed that they had a "special" relationship with the animal that would keep them safe.

In thinking more about this, I realize I do the same thing with my customers. I expect them to act a certain way. I think that because I do something for them, they will in turn do something for me. I let my guard down and expose myself to risk because we've enjoyed this friendly relationship for a time. Dangerous!

Around this time of year, when we are all under extreme pressure to meet this end of year goal or hit that specific number, we need our customers to act right. They don't. You see, they are under similar pressure to save their companies money, to submit an improved budget for next year, etc. My goals and their goals, simply aren't the same this time of year. I need them to keep giving us money, and they want to give us less money or stop giving us money altogether.

It is troublesome to say the least. I can hear myself, telling my boss something like, "Oh, they should be fine, we've got awesome relationships in there. Plus we helped them out earlier in the year with that issue they had". Suddenly my customers forget these things.

"Who are you?", I want to scream! "Don't you remember I came to the receptionist's baby shower, and gave a generous gift, and brought chips??? Seriously??? Are we acting like that did not happen???"

These same people who called you in tears, desperately needing help earlier in the year, will forget your kindness. They will forget that you helped them, how they thanked you, went on and on about how great you are.

It's a good reminder to me that business is just not emotional. You can certainly use that aspect when you need to, and you should absolutely try to remind your customers of those times. However, there are no guarantees that being nice will get you much of anything. Don't get me wrong, you should be nice, but to rely on that is about as crazy as keeping a lion in your back yard!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Calamity Jane

First of all, let me apologize to my faithful readers (all 4 of you). I know that I have been very behind on my goal of weekly blogging. My gypsy travels have kept me very busy of late, and I will try to get back on track for the rest of the year.

Now, let me entertain you with yet another tale of physical woe, which seem to be the most popular. This event happened earlier this summer, after one of my vacations, while I was not yet "back in the saddle", as they say. It was the Monday after being out an entire week and I was asked to do an "emergency" presentation for a potential client. Thankfully I've been doing this long enough to be able to pretty much get through most things with very little prep, so off I went.

After getting up early and driving 2 hours, I arrived and met my co-workers a little early. We met in the parking deck, as we often do, like people engaging in sketchy behavior. My co-worker, knowing that I had been out, had graciously done some of the prep work and prepared "literature" for the attendees, or propaganda as we call it.

We went over the presentation, points we wanted to make etc, and headed to the elevator. Carrying his huge stack of pointy folders with said propaganda, my co-worker and I entered the elevator. I asked a question, he swung around to answer, and I took a pointy folder right in the eye. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It ripped my contact (thank goodness I was wearing them or I might have sustained a serious injury) and lead to literal weeping of the eye. It was unstoppable. Not only could I not see, but water was oozing from my face.

This is not really how you want to address about 20 potential customers. So I headed off to the ladies room, removed the torn contact, but could not stop the watering. I discreetly put several squares of toilet paper in my pocket, and pressed on.

We set up the room so that I was sitting with my "bad eye" not facing the crowd. I could not see out of my afflicted eye at all, and it continued to water. I tried to blot it casually, but I'm sure they thought I was crazy.

Once the presentation was done, I was faced with the dilemma of how to drive home with one eye. Our manager at the time, who showed up late, and quickly assessed the situation with a "are you serious right now?" widening of the eyes, offered up a solution. He also wore contacts and had an extra one, which I put in to the injured eye and while I'm sure we had different prescriptions, short of an eye patch and limited depth perception, it was the best option.

After listening to our explanation, dubiously I might add, he took one look at me and said, "Wow Calamity Jane, this is some sort of record, even for you".

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall into Fall

In my great state, a wide variety of people exist. An especially interesting subset of native North Carolinians are "mountain folk". Now, having just come back from a beautiful week in Asheville, the mountains have a lot going for them. This time of year, that part of the state is undeniably gorgeous. However, people who are born & raised in this area, are just a little different. Not bad different, just different.

Let me give you an example. I went to a client's office for a meeting. In the waiting room, they had an extremely elaborate fall "display", for lack of better terminology. Pumpkins, scare crows, leaves, etc, all piled up on a table, and artfully so. It was lovely, but I did think, "Wow, who has the time to put that together?". One year I gave out ritz crackers in a complete lack of preparation for Halloween.

Well, I was not the only one taking it all in. There was a group of 3 gentlemen (and I'm using that term loosely) also in the waiting room. This is a transcript (as best I can remember it) of their (NOT KIDDING) 10 minute conversation:

Mountain man #1: "That's purdy right there".
Mountain man #2: "It is, it sure does make me think of the seasons".
Mountain man #3: "That's nothin'. You need to come here at Christmas."
Mountain man #1: (eyes wide with astonishment) "Why, what happens at Christmas?"
Mountain man #3: "Well, they do a giant nutcracker display. They got all kinds of nutcrackers. Tiny ones, giant ones, ones as big as me & you".
Mountain man #2: "Do they light it up?"
Mountain man #3: "Of course they light it up, don't be a moron."

And so on. These 3 grown men had an elaborate conversation about seasonal decorating that I could not believe. The level of detail and genuine interest in this discussion was crazy. I almost laughed out loud.

I tell you this, I will look forward to seeing that life size nutcracker, lit up, come Christmas!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Stuff

People love free stuff. There's really no denying it, but sometimes I am amazed at the power of free stuff. Now rest assured, I am not immune to this myself. I am that idiot at the make up counter who will buy $40 more worth of stuff I don't really need, to get tiny sample sizes of more things I don't need. The "free gift". Also have you ever noticed that most of the time the things in the free gift are horrible? Like a strange tote bag in an awkward size and lipstick colors not found in nature, that would not flatter anyone?

Anyway, I'm not one to knock free stuff, as my entire career is built on Starbucks gift cards. I am shocked by their power. Business owners who normally would not make eye contact with me will give me 30 minutes of their time for a $5 gift card. Now, five dollars will barely get you a latte at Starbucks these days, and that's if you don't get too fancy, yet somehow it works! Now, I'm sure if I offered people a five dollar bill, it would not have the same effect.

My company also has normal type stuff, "swag" as it's often called, to give out to our customers. Pens w/ our logos, stress balls, etc. It is crazy how people will fight over these things! People who I know make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, all jockeying over the same twenty-nine cent pen.

Heaven help you if you don't bring enough for everyone. You will find yourself in a sea of dirty looks, then making crazy promises like "I will mail you 10 more next week". And then you have to do it. So you spend more on postage than these items are even worth so that everybody gets a pen that will stop working or run out of ink in probably 4 days.

One of my co-workers recently had a dilemma with a pack of playing cards. She had promised the guy she was meeting with, "Yes, I will bring you some 'insert company name here' playing cards when I come". Now, first of all, who needs playing cards? Do people (outside of my family, who will caught up in a 4 hour spades tournament from time to time) even play cards anymore?

Well, she goes to her meeting and she has lost the cards. She can't find them anywhere after a thorough search of the rental car. Then the guy gets miffed about it! Incredible. I'm sure she had to go buy some playing cards and send them to him, and then it wasn't "the same" because they did not have the company logo.

The power of free! Remember that next time you need to get someones attention. People say their time is priceless, I say, nope, it's the cash equivalent of one grande pumpkin spice latte!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over Dressed

As is common knowledge, I struggle about what to wear fairly often. Most of the time, I probably am close enough to acceptable to only draw minimal comments, which is good. I have always erred on the side of being under dressed if there is doubt. I think a girl in jeans among trousers can fly under the radar much more easily than the girl in a sequin dress among girls in khakis.

Not everyone agrees with this, it is the worst fear of some to not be the best dressed in the room. One year at the pageant (the pageant is what I lovingly call the big annual meeting at my job), I saw someone way over dressed. Or actually, under dressed depending on how you look at it.

At the annual meeting, we have "formal" night, which is a big fancy dinner and awards, among other things. Now "formal" in business can mean lots of different things, and I always hate the men on this night. They get to put on a suit with a tie and they have instant appropriateness. For us ladies, it's a little different. Some go really fancy, others pretty casual, and in general it is prime people watching. I try to go very camouflage, like if someone actually looked at me they would think "well, that's fine", but hopefully what I'm wearing is not causing people to actually look at me.

It is pretty common on formal night to have before dinner cocktail parties, hosted by various managers. Since I dotted line report to multiple people, I generally try to make at least a brief appearance at multiple parties. One year I walked in, a little late, to one of my favorite manager's receptions. Now, unbeknown to him, he was being "honored" for a special award. Several people got up and spoke and it was very nice. Right in the middle of the honorees acceptance speech, in walks a woman. Now, she was not going camouflage. I will admit to you, I thought she was a "lady of the night".

Because I work with a bunch of inappropriate, practical joke playing people (myself included), I immediately assumed that they had hired a stripper for the poor man accepting the award. I was immediately furious. I walked over to them and hissed, "Are you crazy? This is actually nice, do you guys have to do this?? He is not going to be amused at all!".

Well, they were extremely confused because, dear reader, this was a fellow employee. She had apparently gone for the deadly mix of formal and inappropriate. A horrible combination. Thankfully she did not interrupt the touching ceremony. Or did she? I will say she stole the spotlight, but not in a good way.

I've reflected on it several times, and at the end of the day, who am I to judge? I've certainly caught my own reflection at times and been horrified. Maybe she has male room-mates, who assured her this was a great outfit. Maybe it just looked different in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom? I can't say, but I do fall back on this memory from time to time. Most of the time when I look in the mirror, my thought is "well, that's as good as it gets", but sometimes I think "well, you probably won't be mistaken for a hooker".

Friday, September 10, 2010

End of the Cope Rope

Have you ever just had it? Emotionally, physically? I had that experience on a plane once. I do seem to have problems with flying, but most of the time I can work my way out of it. Once on the way home from Chicago, I was not able to. It had been an extremely long work meeting and I think I'd had a glass of wine while waiting with co-workers in the airport.

I boarded my flight, feeling relatively okay. As soon as we took off, I knew I was in trouble. I suddenly starting feeling like maybe I might throw up or burst into tears. Now, when having this sort of mental/physical break down, your traveling companion is really important. I knew I was really in trouble when I glanced to my right (thankfully, I was at least on the aisle) and saw the worst traveling companion possible, the frequent flyer businessman.

Now, you know who I mean. That guy that will run you down like a dog to get in front of you. He has to be first on the plane, he has to get his over sized suitcase in the overhead first, he has to get his drink order taken first, etc. They are the worst, they really define rude.

So, he won't even make eye contact with me, he is for sure not chatting through this with me.

Okay, I tell myself, here comes the flight attendant with drinks. This is nothing a little gingerale won't cure. I get the gingerale, no better. Then the unthinkable happens, they park the drink cart right in front of me, blocking me in completely. Now, when you are on the verge of a panic attack, this is not good. I decided I must make them move it, but I must make up a good reason.

"Umm, I'm so sorry, but I have to go to the bathroom right now". I don't have to go at all. Plus I've got this gingerale. So, oddly, I go to the bathroom with my gingerale. I go sit in there for a minute, sadly realizing I have ruined my gingerale, because surely it has absorbed the germs that are the airplane bathroom. Being in that tiny room is not doing anything good, so back I go. Now all I have is un-drinkable gingerale.

I try to read. Not helping. I look at the businessman again, praying I've misjudged him and now he will become this super supportive guy. Nope.

Well, this is it. It's time for what I save for worst case scenario. The tiny air vent thing on the ceiling. Now, I try to save this for absolute last minute freak out. Like this whole time I'm thinking, "Okay, if the gingerale doesn't help, maybe I'll turn the air on", "If getting the drink cart out of the way doesn't work, then the air".

I decide it's time. I reach up, and twist the air vent. NOTHING! No air comes out. Here I am expecting this ambrosia-like whiff of air that will somehow revive me and nothing happens!!

I start crying. Not loud, just tears running down my face because I'm sure I won't make it. That's it, sorry uninvolved businessman, you're involved. I do not ask him, I do not look at him, I just hoist myself up on our shared arm rest (which OF COURSE he has hijacked with his jacket) and grab his air vent. I point it towards myself and turn it on.

It works. The air helps. This odd behavior does get at least a look, of course a look of annoyance, from mr. business. I narrow my eyes and give him my best "you don't want to start something with me right now", through tears, and it works. He does an indignant eye roll, but no comment.

"Go ahead", I say to him telepathically, "touch that air vent and see what happens".

Though I've been on a few transatlantic flights, that not more than an hour was the longest in my life.

The moral of this story, be compassionate with your flying companions. You just might save somebody from getting to the end of their cope rope!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


As my 7 year old nephew shared with me last week (in defending why he does NOT care for this particular artist), Justin Bieber is afraid of elevators. Now, feel how you want about Justin Bieber, but I agree with Chelsea Handler that Justin did single handedly take down the Jonas Brothers, and for this we should thank him.

Anyway, I digress, but unlike Justin, I love elevators. Especially when in one by myself. It is a tiny capsule of time just to yourself. If it's metallic, you can check your reflection. There's all kinds of things you can do in an elevator, but mostly I just slump against the wall, relieved to have a moment to myself. I do not have to smile, make small talk, feign interest in mundane topics, etc. If I'm really exhausted and am headed to a pretty high floor, sometimes I will even squat or sit down. Of course you then run the risk of the elevator stopping, someone getting on and looking at you like you are crazy. Worry not, just say something clever like, "I was just tying my shoe". Even though you have on high heels.

We have a saying about elevators on my team at work, "Don't celebrate until you get on the elevator". Which means if a customer meeting is going particularly well, do not look at your colleague and smile. Do not give them a look that says "hee hee, we are going to make all kinds of money on this!". Now this sounds like common sense but at the end of a long fight for business, it is tempting. So anyway, you want to keep your poker face on until a safe distance from the customer.

I have always observed this rule because I want other people to observe it with me. I do not want to be at Verizon buying a phone, and when I agree to sign up for a texting plan, the sales guy starts high fiving people. That just doesn't seem right.

So, I was with one of my colleagues when one particularly hard fought deal finally closed. It took forever and at this point I didn't even think it would happen, but there it was, actually happening.

We walked slowly to the elevator (and this is one of those offices where the elevator opens right up to the lobby, no hallway), excitement exuding from us, but we are observing the rule. We get in the elevator, he presses the button, and the door closes. Once it does, we both start dancing. Now, let me say this, I'm not much of a dancer. I might do a little jig if I find a $5 bill in my coat pocket or something, but it's rare.

I wouldn't have really pegged my coworker for one either, but he broke into something right out of the soul train line. It was really impressive. I don't know if I can really describe it, but every time I think about it, I hear the Sanford & Son theme song. It was really funky for a white guy.

I, on the other hand, did more a kung-fu robot sort of thing. I'm not proud of it.

Well, we are way into our celebratory dance, and the door prematurely re-opens. Someone at our customer's office has hit the "down" button before we get the chance to take off. What ensued was great improvisation on our part. I put my arms up over my head and landed in some sort of yoga stretch, saying "wow, are my shoulders tight" (of course I said it in my dishonest-3 octaves too high-voice). My coworker fell mid-groove quite nonchalantly up against the wall, like he was just hanging out, leaning sideways.

All we got was a really strange look, thankfully. So beware, elevator celebrators!

Friday, August 20, 2010


In my life as a corporate gypsy, I am often called upon to give presentations to large groups of people. Now, I don't mind it so much, but I would rather work with folks individually, as I feel my strength is getting to know them one on one. I don't so much hate public speaking to large groups, it's more that I can sense how ineffective it is. Especially while they are eating lunch or something like that. It's not fun to stand up at a podium while people are eating salads and avoiding eye contact with you.

I had to present to about 100 people (while they were eating lunch) a few months ago. A couple of my colleagues were there, not to help or anything, just to cause confusion mostly. We got there ridiculously early to set up my equipment and make sure everything was working. After using all of my jedi like concentration to get my laptop & projector hooked up and working, I was standing at the podium (I have total mixed emotions about the podium, on the one hand, it's weird, on the other it is at least a place to perch your stuff), getting myself in order. My co-worker steps back and says "you need to test the microphone".

I also have mixed feelings about the microphone. I have never learned how to project my voice, so when I talk loudly, I do strain my voice and that is hard to sustain for an entire hour's presentation. Also when you are competing with the clanging of forks and such, it's pretty much necessary. The only downside to the mic is that I feel like a total televangelist or Phil Donahue with it. It also only compounds my southern accent, making me probably need subtitles to those non-native North Carolinians.

So I turn it on and we start testing it. It appears to be working, but it is attached to the podium and far away from my mouth, so I have to lean in a little. We start fiddling with it and get it a little closer. My co-worker takes this opportunity to tell me (and at this point we are about to start, people are starting to file into the room), "I can hear you okay, but you look really awkward". Great, thanks. 100 people and you are going to tell me this right now? So supportive.

Anyway, by this time yet another co-worker has joined us and we all decide this microphone situation must be solved (with all of 3 minutes until our start time). We are fiddling around w/ cords and plugs, and we start making casual conversation. This is a transcript of our earth shattering conversation:

One of them says, "I went hunting last weekend, got some great deer meat".
"Wow", I say, "did you cook any yet?".
"Yes, my wife put some in the crock pot".
My other co-worker, "Did she make stew?
Me: "OH, I love a stew".
Other co-worker: "Me too, did it have those tiny carrots".
And so on.

Our yankee manager at the time walks in and says, "Hey rednecks, your mic is on".

So we talked about deer stew in front of our audience, making my awkward-ness the least of our worries. I still will say, that could have been much worse. I mean we could have been discussing something much more embarrassing than tiny carrots.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Could we all just start wearing uniforms? Please? In my world, where any given client any given day could wear jeans or suits, it is a challenge. I try to dress somewhere in between casual & formal to accommodate the multiple customers and dress codes that I encounter in a day.

I often feel under dressed or over dressed and most of the time there's not much to be done about it. In my "prissier" north carolina cities (like Charlotte), I always feel inadequate. I try to glance at my purse a lot. Subliminally saying "I know, I know these pants aren't right, but get a load of this pocket book!".

I think I'd like to work in the medical field, simply based on scrubs. I could do scrubs. I would even jazz it up with fanciful hats and accessories. Maybe I'd wear crocs w/ those doo-dad things in them for personality.

In my on-going quest for easy, comfortable clothes, I recently had a humorous mis-hap. I have a co-worker in Charlotte and I adore his wife. Now, keep in mind, she's probably around 60. I have lunch with the two of them often while I'm in Charlotte, and she is one of those people who always looks just right. Mind you, she's gorgeous, and could wear a paper sack and still be gorgeous.

Last time I met up with her, I noticed her outfit. It was kind of like a mono-chromatic "set", if you will. It reminded me of "garanimals", but for adults. And not in a bad way, it looked great on her, and come to think of it, she wears this sort of thing all the time. So I asked her where she got these outfits. She tells me she gets them from one of the home shopping channels, tells me the brand, the reasonable prices, etc. I file that away.

Well, guess what I flipped by at 2 am in the hotel (not sleeping of course)? One of the home shopping channels. Guess what was on? That brand of clothes. Well, you know what happened. I ordered an outfit. Now, just as a general rule of thumb, don't shop at 2 am. No good can come from it.

Much like "sleep eating" while taking my sleeping pills, I completely forget this entire incident. I go on about my trip, and honestly do not give it a second thought. Four days later, I'm back at home, my husband comes up to my office w/ a package. Hmmm...oh right, my new clothes.

Oh my, this sort of thing should not be worn by anyone under 50. It's so "matchy matchy", it's all wrong. It looks utterly ridiculous on me. It's very sad, because these could be the most comfortable clothes I have ever put on. I'm going to admit to you, I did keep it. My husband and I decided that if I wore them separately, and never to anything important, it would be okay.

He did say, "I bet once you hit about 45, you'll wear that all the time". He's so right.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Team Building Part 2

Writing the previous post made me think of the ultimate in ridiculous team-building events, Rattlesnake Canyon. What's that, you might ask? That is corporate team building at its craziest. The place was Louisville KY. Our travel department (who hates me) had sent me from North Carolina, through LaGuardia to get to Kentucky, but that's a whole different post.

Anyway, we arrive in Louisville for a "team meeting". There is all kinds of mystery around an entire afternoon on the agenda. We are even foolish enough to think we might be getting some sort of fun reward, because we'd had a really good year.

The mystery afternoon arrives, and we are ushered in to a huge conference room. But it's not just any conference room. It has been transformed to the wild wild west. Now when I tell you it was jarring, scary and disorienting; friend, believe me, it was! There were big barrels and other cheesy western decor, but my favorite was that there were actual tumbleweeds! Seriously, giant balls of jumbled up hay.

Our "cowboy guides" for the event were in full western wear. Shirts with fringe, holsters, chaps, cowboy hats, boots, etc. This might have been the most frightening part, because these poor people refused to break character. The minute we walked in the door they started shouting at us, things like, "Howdy partner, I hope you're inclined to help us build this here new railroad!", "Welcome to Rattlesnake Canyon" and other nonsensical things. Oh, and they had head microphones, a la Britney Spears, so they were amplified.

We were split off into teams and given books of stamps and bandannas. You had to wear your bandanna, seriously, your team was disqualified if you did not wear your bandanna. I wore mine on my head, gangsta style, which got a serious look from my manager. I'm going to be honest, to this day, I have no idea what the object of that game was. I know we were trying to build a railroad (?), I know we were supposed to trade stamps and collect a bunch of them, other than that it was pandemonium.

It was also timed, which of course adds to the frenzy. Just when you think you have enough "corn" stamps, along comes this John Wayne character screaming "10 MORE MINUTES" into his microphone and we all start sweating. Maybe it was supposed to teach us about negotiation or something? I don't know. What I do know is that at one point I looked across the room and saw one of the most mild mannered people in our department standing on a chair, bandanna tied around her wrist, shouting, "DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY PIGS????". I knew in that moment that we had broken down as a group. That if the world ended and currency became these mythical stamps, we would all die.

My group didn't help things either. As usual I tried to defer to others while also being organized, which makes no sense. I think we got one bale of hay stamp and maybe a few chickens. At one point I think we just lied to people, "I'll give you two chickens for a horse.", took the horse and then just ran. Some people just gave up completely, which we should have.

So, if you think that doing a scavenger hunt or obstacle course is a little over the top, may I enter Exhibit A: Rattlesnake Canyon!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Corporate Gypsies on the Loose

We had a meeting in Chicago a while back (a small meeting, not the "big meeting"/pageant). The meeting went fine and was really fun as I had never been to Chicago and loved it as a city. During the meeting, we did the infamous "team building" event. Corporations love to do these. Now, I've been working in the same job with mostly the same people for roughly 8 years. I am ridiculously close to most of my co-workers. They would probably tell you that I'm pretty smother-y and that they know way more about my life than they really want to. They should all be applauded for how well they tolerate me and my over-sharing.

So the point is, why do we need these activities? I share hotel rooms with these people, fly on planes and ride buses with them (and we all know the level of intimacy that traveling with me creates), seriously, they know me!

Whatever the reason, they are popular. They can vary in scale for sure. Sometimes it is more of an "ice breaker" (ugg, corporate term) thing, where you have to tell something you have in common, interview each other, etc.

Most of the time my company takes the approach of "go big or go home". These things can be epic. I am one of those dorks who usually will roll my eyes at the beginning, but then turn into that psycho person who "has to win". In Chicago, we did a really funny one, but I feel bad for the people of the city on that day. My co-worker who lives in Chicago put together a scavenger hunt of huge proportion. She put together elaborate clues about landmarks in Chicago and each team had to go and take pictures of themselves at these landmarks. We even had envelopes with some cash for taxis.

It was one of the most creative and fun team building events I've ever done. Lucky for us we had a Chicago native on our team. She figured out most of the clues, and then got us to all of these places. Of course we are running around like crazy people, trying to get to as many as possible. By this time I am foaming at the mouth and it is not enough for us to just take the picture at the landmark. Oh no. We must take insane pictures at the landmarks. We have to pose like Charlie's Angels, climb on statues, use props, and my favorite, we had to stand on our heads.

I'll admit, this was my idea, but I was not going to actually do it. I was a "spotter". Let's be honest, with my clumsiness, if I do something like this I'm just asking to break a hip. We got 2 of our younger team-mates to stand on their heads, while we helped them up. One of them had on a skirt, so that's dedication.

Of course it's Chicago in the fall, so it's freezing. At one point I had on a team-mates gloves and caught myself saying to her, "Hey, I just totally forgot these were your gloves and wiped my nose with them". Disgusting. Her reply, "It's fine, I don't care, do you want to stand on my shoulders for the next picture?". I mean how is that for closeness!

The best part is that we did all of this during rush hour. So here are these poor native Chicago people trying to get home from a long day of work, and they are navigating around us.

Our team won several awards the next day, like funniest, most creative, etc. So as much as I want to knock the "team building" events, how many people can say to each other, "Hey remember that time you stood on your head at the Bean?". I can!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Me, Myself & I

I sometimes feel like many different people, and probably most can relate to that. You have your work self, your real self, your family self, etc. I have never been so confused that I actually referred to myself in the third person, but I have a customer who does.

Now, for the sake of anonymity we will call him "Mr. Smith". The first time I went to his office, I got the usual "Mr. Smith will be with you shortly". This is a sign, that his staff refers to him as "Mr. Smith" and not by his first name. I'm all about manners, but Mr. Smith is relatively young, so this is a clue that I should call him Mr. Smith, which I normally would anyway, so just an observation.

Then a fellow emerges and says, "Mr. Smith is ready to meet with you". Great, okay, now he has an entourage of office people who announce his presence and lead guests back and forth, that's also interesting. I walk back to a conference room, get out my notebook and think that this tour guide will now go and get Mr. Smith for our meeting to begin. Not so. This guy sits down at the table. Interesting. Okay, so this is some staff person Mr. Smith has asked to sit in with us, I guess.

I'm about to try to clarify this by saying something vague like, "And what is your role here at the office?", but my mystery guest launches right in. "Mr. Smith has several concerns about his contract that he would like to discuss with you." Pause. "Great" I say "I'm ready to discuss those". "The concerns Mr. Smith has are...." and we are pretty much launching the meeting without Mr. Smith.

This is all very curious to me, and I start thinking that Mr. Smith has these "handlers" who I guess conduct his business for him and I'm starting to think he's as elusive as Willy Wonka or something and at any minute we are going to enter a secret world of pure imagination. I'm also starting to think that I know Mr. Smith himself signs our contracts, so perhaps this is a huge waste of my time.

We continue our discussion and I have several items of follow up written down. I am about to ask, "Do you think it would be possible for me to run this by Mr. Smith, is he here today?". Then my table mate stands up rather abruptly and says "Mr. Smith has really enjoyed meeting you, but Mr. Smith must attend to another matter at this time".

Yep, that was Mr. Smith, referring to himself in the THIRD PERSON for the entire meeting. For a minute it completely freaked me out, like watching the Sixth Sense or something. Okay, certainly not that dramatic but I have to take excitement & intrigue where I can get it. I have since worked with him several times, and it happens every time. I even took colleagues in to witness it.

As hilarious as we find it, maybe he's on to something. Maybe it would clear up confusion if we all acknowledged the different people we are in different situations.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"I'm so busy"

How many times have we heard that? How many times have we said that? If you live in the corporate world, you hear it a lot. Sometimes I feel guilty if I'm not busy, like we are all in a contest to see who can take on the most without having a nervous break down. I guess I can see where the whole "rat race" concept really came from.

There are many reasons that we all are busier these days. One of my least favorites is the dreaded blackberry. Of course cell phones, email and other technological "advances" act as electronic leashes as well, but the blackberry is my personal arch-nemesis. Now, before I start on this rant, I know, I know. Some people have to have one for their jobs, sadly they are often requirements now. And not everybody is obnoxious with them. Some of you show great restraint and self-discipline, so I'm not talking to you.

However, I am talking to the rest of you. You know who you are. You want us all to see that you have the blackberry. You need to look at it every so often, just to remind us all how important you are. If an email comes, you must look at it. Never mind if it were an actual emergency, someone would call you and not email you. I'm not sure at what point it became acceptable for someone to be mid-conversation, just stop talking or listening, and start blackberry-ing. And I also love how they act like you should keep on with the conversation and say something like "Uh-huh, sorry, no go ahead, I'm listening, sorry, I just have to deal with this 'real quick'". I also love how when you are at a meal with a blackberry addict, they dramatically sit it on the table (maybe soon they will request a place setting for it). It is a not at all subtle message to the other table mates. "If this thing goes off, I'm going to look at it, because it's important and I'm important".

So, the blackberry enables the "busy-ness". If you do not have a blackberry, clearly you are not as busy or important. Sometimes my friends and co-workers talk about being busy like it is a badge of honor, for example, "I worked 50 hours last week, my kid had an ear infection and had to go to the dr. twice, I did 8 loads of laundry, renovated my kitchen, plus I don't think I slept more than 4 hours". This is not good!

I often feel the reproachful eye at my lackadaisical life style. I never do as much as anyone else, and probably err on the side of lazy. I hate multi-tasking and I don't accomplish half as much as most other people in my life. I sleep until 10 or later sometimes on the weekends and have 0 guilt about it. Even when you smug "morning people" call and say, with exasperation, "Are you just now getting up?". Don't even get me started on the morning people. I'm going to start calling you guys at 11 pm and say, "Are you in bed already?".

About once a week, in my house, we do an un-plugged night. We don't watch tv, we don't get on our computers, we don't talk on the phone. We do let ourselves listen to the radio, which come to think of it is kind of cheating. I'll admit that sometimes I dread it. I think about how great it would be to just watch tv, and not have to think or talk (again, lazy). I'm never sad that we do it though. We've probably had some of our best conversations on "technology fast" night. We tend to have those conversations that you put off, because you don't really want to dig into it, because it will take too long and you're too busy.

Anyway, this post is pretty all over the place, but in summary:
1. Don't brag about being busy.
2. Join me in the fight to outlaw blackberries.
3. Try a night or two without technology, see what happens.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yankees in Tara

That's what Scarlet said in "Gone with the Wind", dramatically clutching her neck (where her pearls would be, were she properly dressed), gasping at the horror of it all. I'm not quite that dramatic (maybe some would argue that I am), but sometimes the Yankee invasion does get to me.

Instead of ranting about what Yankees do that bug me, I thought I'd give all the Yankees out there some insight into how us Southerners think and why we do what we do. I will give it to them, if you are not from here, it can be a challenge. These may seem harsh, but all true.

1. "That was interesting" is a nice way of saying we hated it and don't ever want to do it again.
2. You do not need to voice your every thought and opinion. It's called a filter, get one. We are an indirect people.
3. Just because "that's how we pronounce it in New Jersey" does not make it correct.
4. Quit telling us it's hot, we know, you're the one that moved here.
5. Yes, casseroles are for every life event (birth, death, injury, illness). If you don't want it just throw it away, but give us our baking dish back.
6. "Hey" is a universal greeting.
7. Quit talking over us, we talk slow, that's not going to change. Small talk is a big deal. If you can't think of anything else, talk about the last time it rained, any local sports team, or share a deep dark family secret. All of this is acceptable.
8. Just accept "ya'll".
9. "Bless her heart" put at the end of any sentence immediately absolves us from the bad thing we just said about someone. For example: "She is as dumb as a box of rocks, bless her heart".
10. For good measure, just refer to the civil war as "the war of northern aggression".

I know some of it makes no sense, but trust me. Do these things, and you will make friends quickly here in the South.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Europe Overview

Hello all! Just returned from the trip of a lifetime! I am going to attempt to give a brief overview here, but it is hard to be brief with this trip. It was truly amazing and I am so thankful for the experience! Unlike my corporate gypsy travels, everything went like clockwork. We had beautiful weather the entire trip, smooth sailing, good health, and got safely from city to city (while dragging luggage through subways, etc).

A few days in Barcelona: One of my favorites on this trip! I loved this area and we had a great time here. The architecture is amazing. Obviously the surreal Gaudi buildings/parks are an experience, but also loved the Gothic quarter and beautiful cathedral there. The food market (Boqueria) was visually stunning and Las Ramblas (main drag through the city filled with shops, restaurants and street performers) was so much fun. We also saw Montjuic Castle via cable car and the Olympic Stadium. I highly recommend Barcelona and would go back there given the chance!

Mediterranean Cruise: I was not sure how I would feel about seeing Europe via Cruise Ship, but loved it! It is a wonderful way to see many countries/cities. Of course there are many places where one day is not enough, but it's a great sampler. With your lodgings, meals and transportation from port to port included, is also very affordable. Also, all of the tours we took through the cruise were done by local guides who spoke English, which were excellent.

Italy: Via the cruise, we went to Naples (Pompeii & Sorrento area), Rome, and Florence. Favorite here was Sorrento (Amalfi coast area). Glittering clear blue sea, gorgeous weather, city hanging off of a cliff on the coast, GORGEOUS! Go to this part of Italy if you can! Of course Rome was amazing, we got to see the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Colosseum. As an art school drop out, this was awe inspiring for me. Definitely works of art you study and dream about, but don't think you will ever get to actually see. Amazing!

France: Via the cruise, we went to Villefranche (Cannes/Nice/Montecarlo area) and Toulon (Provence area). Villefranche was my favorite stop in France. It is a beautiful coastal fishing village, with wonderful old buildings. Much calmer and less touristy than Nice, but all of it was beautiful.

London: After returning from the cruise, we flew from Barcelona to London for a few days of sightseeing there. We experienced many of the great sights: Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, the London Eye, River Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral.

All in all, it was the most fabulous trip. On our last day in London, we were sitting under the magnificent dome in St. Paul's Cathedral and the "moment of prayer and silence" was announced. I thought about how fortunate I am. I am so thankful for my own faith, my job (which I complain about way too frequently but did provide the means to go to these wonderful places), my family & friends, my health, my husband and the experiences we'd had together on this trip. All of these things just washed over me and filled me with gratitude. It is hard to express, I do not deserve these things any more than anyone else, and I don't want to ever take them for granted.

Also Happy Birthday to my long-suffering travel companion and husband. Without his 40th birthday, we'd have had no excuse for this trip. I was reminded of his patience, humor and kindness on this trip.

So it is with a bitter sweet tone, I will conclude my international gypsy travels, return to work and corporate gypsy life!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shrug your shoulders...

In America, indecision is not good. People hate it and generally take it as a sign of weakness. Unfortunately for me, I'm pretty indecisive. "Amy, do you want cream & sugar in your coffee?". A simple question, right? Well, not really. I mean, what kind of coffee is it, is it good coffee or watery coffee? When you say cream, do you mean actual cream or milk? Sugar or Splenda? Are you going to have any in yours? And on and on.

However, a delightful thing about the Swiss and the French, they do not mind this indecision! I discovered this naturally due to my delayed responses and lack of their language. I had many cups of coffee while there, and when they would ask me (in French of course-but now that I think about it, who knows what they were asking me) what I wanted in my coffee, I would give a shrug. Not only because I didn't know what I wanted, but because even if I had I did not know how to say it.

Try that in a Starbucks over here. Seriously, do. Where they expect you to order drink sizes in Italian (grande, venti, etc) and give them every last detail (soy, foam, kind of milk...). If I shrugged my shoulders in there, I think they would curse at me, because what kind of idiot doesn't even know what she wants in her own coffee! And no disrespect to Starbucks, because I love them.

Across the pond, there was not even the slightest hint of irritation. Usually I even got a smile! A knowing look and subtle nod, saying "yes, dumb american, you are right to trust me. I know exactly how this should taste". And guess what, they were right every time!

It was blissful, an entire country of people who did not mind making decisions for me. "Do you want to buy the scarf too?", shrug, "buy the scarf, you're in Geneva". "Do you want the clams in the risotto", shrug, "have the clams, they're fresh".

In my first visit to France, as a unappreciative 24 year old, I did not get it. I thought the French were bossy. I totally get it, and love it now!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

International Incident...

Bonjour! We just got back from Geneva & Montreux, both located in delightful Switzerland. AMAZING places to visit! They do however require a transatlantic flight, which is a lot of opportunity for gypsy adventures. My husband of course can sleep on planes. I, of course can't. I also have a geriatric "day of the week" pill holder at the age of 33. I take a lot of meds, what can I say?

I thought I had done a very good job of packing the right pills for the plane. While my husband slept, and I resentfully watched him, I decided to go ahead and take my pills. I pry them open and of course they go flying into the air like a rainbow of pharmaceuticals. I am, by some miracle, able to retrieve them all, except for one.

That one folks, was my birth control pill, and I was determined to get it. Heading off to a romantic vacation, I had no intentions of conceiving a swiss baby. Against all odds, I am able to pretzel around in my coach seat and get a visual on the missing pill. It is on the floor, just in front of the man located behind us. He is also awake. Easy! I pop my head over the seat, "Sir, it seems I've...". He stops me. No English. Huh. I popped back down.

At this point, I must involve my sleeping husband. I wake him up, then catch him up on the whole thing, to which I get eye rolling, but as usual he willingly involves himself in my shenanigans. He pops his head over the seat to assess the situation. His response, "Are you sure it's a man?". Well, what? He tells me to look back, because this person has one "man hand" and one "lady/manicured" hand. It's true and I have no explanation for it. There was no in flight performance of "Victor/Victoria". We get to laughing so hard over this we can't even stand it.

Once we recover from discovering the person behind us, harboring my pill, is a transvestite, my husband attempts some form of communication. Same result. The drink cart is coming and I decide to pull the flight attendant into all of this. Thankfully she is game. She tells me this is by far not the weirdest thing she's ever been asked about and gets out a flashlight. She finds the pill, and I'm happy to say we visited and enjoyed the swiss cities & people, still child free!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest Blog # 1

Hello all!
Since Amy and Brian are on their Evita-esque “Rainbow Tour” of the European nations until 2013, I have been asked to blog in my sister’s place.

Now I know this blog is called Corporate Gyspy, but for this first blog, I would to like to recall a very non corporate job that I experienced.

We have all had these kinds of jobs. It could have been in your high school or college days, or it could be your present reality. From waiting tables to retail, there is a whole non corporate way of earning money that I find both refreshing and frustrating.

It was my very first official job! I was 17 and fresh out of high school. Feeling confused, I decided to work for a year. College was a vague plan in the back of my mind but I had not really settled on anything. Vague confusion does not tend to lend itself to wonderful life choices.

So anyway I got a job at a dry cleaners. I applied for this job soley because it was near my house. That was pretty much it and I figured I had to start somewhere. Now it was the summer of 1998 and it was HOT.

My job was pressing and cleaning the multitude of men’s dress shirts that we received. There was no AC. There were a few fans in the back of a store front where steam cleaners belched their steam and made everyone sweat and suffer,

In short, it was HOT. HOT. I mean HOT

But, to compensate for all that, I worked with some very interesting people.
Take my manager Jody. She was about 6 months pregnant and smoked all the time. Everyone smoked all the time. Then there was the elderly, ok she was ancient, Miss Emma. She did not smoke but you always had to call her “Miss Emma.” And then you have me, and Tracey.

Tracey and I worked the pressing machines for the men’s dress shirts. There were four of these machines and we each had our individual job tasks. Tracey and I worked together all day. We were together ALL the time. She was a 38 year NYC transplant and I was a 17 year old idiot so, on the surface, we didn’t have a whole lot in common but we got along very well.

During our work time together we covered every topic from the reign of Cleopatra to rap music of the early 1990’s, and I still cherish all the “Tracey Sayings” that I received.

Tracey on Native American Culture: “Peace pipe/Crack pipe SAME difference.”

Tracey on smoking: “I am pretty sure tobacco is a vegetable.”

Tracey on her boyfriend: “He says he has ‘needs.’ I tell him that he NEEDS to work that on out.”

Tracey on our boss: “He has the nose of a drunk.”

For some reason Thursday afternoons was our slow time. That was when we had “Fashion Show!”

This entailed all the employees wearing the dry cleaned clothes and walking through the length of the store in their favorite outfits. It was our catwalk. I know this was wrong but seeing Miss Emma strut her stuff in some expensive dress, that we would then put on a hanger and hand off to a paying customer, seemed fun and daring.

My favorite part of the day though, was the late afternoon. Most of the work was done, there were little odds and ends to deal with but no pressure. All the ladies, and myself, would sit on the boxes of hangers in the back of the store, making a weird perch. They would light up their cigarettes and blow thin blue smoke in the direction of the freshly laundered clothes.

I still remember the smell and color of their cigarette smoke, diffused through the light of the front store windows, making odd colors and shapes, leading and drifting to some place, some where else.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Guest Blogger...

Hello everybody! I have had some fabulous travel opportunities and will be out of the country next week and again later in May. In my absence, my brother will be guest blogging. He is a wonderful writer, so I hope he doesn't do too great of a job and raise your expectations. I will write when I get back, and hopefully have some great international corporate gypsy stories!

Monday, April 19, 2010

IT People...

We all have them, the IT people at our jobs. We all employ different strategies with them. Some of us bribe them with cookies and kindness, in hopes that when it's our laptop that dies, they might show some compassion. Others ignore them, until they are needed. Whatever path you take, I am willing to bet that you've had some sort of experience with yours.

I have had several run ins lately, and I have always taken the cookies/kindness route. I hate to be the one to tell you, it does not work. They do not have compassion. Or any other human emotions as far as I can tell.

A few months ago I was having a lot of problems with my laptop, which was pretty old. My boss told me to call "them" and tell them, to see if I could be bumped up on the "list" for an upgrade. Sounds simple enough, but the fact that I put two words in quotation marks says otherwise.

I call them, explain my issues, and ask about the upgrade list. "Ma'am, there is no list". Huh. "Okay, maybe it's not a formal list, but however you guys decide who is upgraded next". Long pause. "Miss, we really don't know". Okay, I'm losing it. You don't know. You have no idea in a company of thousands of people what order you upgrade laptops in. "Okay, you personally don't know, or are you saying as an IT department that no one knows?". I could not let it go.

Then he says to me, "No one knows". I'm done. "Okay, so in other words it's like ancient Greece and is there a goblet of fire that you put names written on pieces of paper in and the one that makes green smoke gets upgraded. Is that what you are saying?". Very long pause. "No, that's not what I'm saying". Click, I hang up.

Months later, I get the mystical email (and at this point, remember, we do not know how this happens) that I am indeed scheduled for an upgrade. I ship my laptop to them, and also back up everything (even though they tell me I don't have to) because I'm paranoid. If these people do not even know how things happen, certainly they can't be trusted with 7 years worth of documents and customer info.

I get the new laptop back. I fire it up. I have this false sense of confidence because they managed to keep the picture on my desktop, all my icons in the same place, amazing. Or so I think. I start clicking around. Email folders, gone. All documents, gone. The 300 software applications I have loaded, gone.

Near tears, I call. Now, I know that (thankfully) I have the data, but the thought of spending a few days and time I do not have getting it back in here is not appealing. I call "them". "They" could not be less concerned. They can't even fake it. Do not even say sorry.

No more cookies...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mr. Blue Bird on my Shoulder...

Have you ever just had the best day? I did once. It seemed like a normal day, I left the house and was on my way to visit clients. I had a slight headache, and took what I believed to be an ibuprofen.

As the day progressed, I enjoyed it more and more. I could not believe how awesome my life was. My clients were incredible, I talked to them maybe a little more than usual. I drove around, looking at the beautiful city, seeing new colors and beauty all around me.

I suddenly understood musicals. If I could sing, I would have burst into song at the wonder of it all. Wow, I thought, what a fantastic day!!

Later that afternoon, I was talking to my husband, telling him all about my fabulous day. He said, "Your pupils seem dilated". What?

Oh no. It was not a fantastic day. It was a regular day, pushed into the realm of greatness by a narcotic pain pill in my purse, leftover from a recent minor surgery.

And here I thought Uncle Remus was on to something...

I'm honestly not sure what element of this is more disturbing. My clients did not notice that big of a difference in me, or that I went through the entire day in an altered state and didn't notice myself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Piercing the Corporate Ear

"Piercing the corporate veil" is a legal term of art. The formal definition is disregarding the corporate entity. That sounds very complex and probably something that most of us wouldn't really want to involve ourselves in.

How about getting your ears pierced? Seems simple, right? A lot of people do it when they are 8 or 12, and really have no bad memories about it. Oddly enough, I'd never had my ears pierced. So, I decided, a the ripe age of 33, that I would do it. My friend went with me to the mall, got it done, everything went great.

Until. Until it was time to take them out and start wearing real earrings. Now let me assure you, I was vigilant in my application of the alcohol solution and turning the earrings. I did all the right things.

I take out the earrings. Left ear okay, right one not. Swollen, red, not good. I go back to the ear piercing place. Well, it's infected. Let it heal (for 3 months!) and start over. I'm very upset. I was having a particularly bad day and just added "unable to get ears pierced like most other humans" to my list of failures.

My husband has the ingenious idea that while the right one is healing, I can sleep with something in my left one at night. That way, when re-piercing time comes, I'll only have to do the right one. This seems very smart. Why re-do them both? So, I sleep with one earring in every night. Sometimes I forgot to take it out and leave the house like this. Like a pirate.

3 months pass. I go to the mall, all elated to try again on round 2. I get there and the lady patiently explains to me that not letting the other one heal was a huge mistake. Because of the infection and scar tissue left in the right ear, they will have to pierce it a little further back. So if I go ahead and do it, my holes will not be symmetrical. Her advice, "now let the left one heal for 6 months" and start from scratch with both ears.

I'm devastated. The first set back was enough, now this! I have actual cute earrings just waiting in my jewelry box to be worn! So, I leave the mall defeated. I take out all earrings and decided to just do nothing with them for a while. Maybe I'll try again in a year or so and hopefully they have both healed enough. It's very depressing.

Believe me, it is not lost on me that parents with (in my opinion) questionable judgment pierce the ears of their infants and they are able to do it. Infants one, me zero.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I like men to look and act like men. The straight ones, that is. There, I said it. I don't want them getting pedicures, or highlights or anything like that. In fact, I think the fanciest sort of hair place a man should go to should be great clips or super cuts, and actually they should really go to a barber. This is my personal opinion, and I think it would cut down a lot of confusion.

I had a co-worker who, unknown to me, was a total metrosexual. I ASSumed he was gay. I'm telling you, you would have too. He had perfectly highlighted hair (I was actually jealous of his hair color!), really stylish square toe Kenneth Cole shoes (do most straight men even know these kinds of shoes exist, let alone where to procure them??), manicured hands, stylish glasses, etc. It did not cross my mind that he could possibly be straight.

We also both loved to cook and would share recipes. I don't mean recipes like "here's my mom's chili". I mean fancy things, crudites, for goodness sakes, crudites!!

So I was working in this guy's building for some time, and would occasionally drop by his desk, chat, probably lean over on him while pointing to the computer screen pretty inappropriately come to think of it (again, thought he was gay).

One day I noticed a picture of him & a woman as his desktop wallpaper. "Who is that, your sister?", I innocently asked. "No, that's my girlfriend". Your WHAT now? Your GIRLFRIEND. It could not be possible. I stammered on, "Like your close friend that is a girl, like 'hey, girlfriend'?". "No" he looks at me, puzzled, "my actual girlfriend".

I wondered off in amazement. So, ladies, be careful. Do not assume that good hair, stylish accessories, and a love for Martha Stewart means that you've found a fun new friend. It could be a straight guy, in designer clothing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mr. Sandman....

Bring me a dream, a nightmare, anything! If insomnia were a club, I would be a lifer. I can remember at the tender age of 11, getting my dad's flashlight and dragging my book into my closet to read at all hours of the night because I could not sleep. My husband, and anyone who has ever shared a room with me, can attest to my woes.

I have tried all manner of sleep aids. Meditation, medication (both natural and the hard stuff), cutting out caffeine, altering my sleep schedule. You name it, I've tried it. All of it works sometimes, but none of it works all the time. As a result, I just don't sleep much. I do have a prescription that works really well, but I have also "sleep eaten" while on it. Ate a whole container of pasta salad one night, do not remember it at all. My friends and family act so concerned over this, "wow, you should really not take that anymore, that is totally scary". Scary?? I think it's awesome, because I slept for a whole 7 hours, 8 if you count the pasta salad eating. That is how desperate I am.

When you can't sleep, it does become this elusive thing you are chasing. You really do believe if only you could sleep, you would be this whole other person, who is way better.

I am not sure what the cause of my insomnia is, but I will say I worry a lot while not sleeping. During the day, most would call me very calm. I am a really simple person. When I am doing the dishes, I really am thinking about the dishes. I hate multi-tasking and am not good at it (shout out to all of the working moms out there, I don't know how you do it!!). However, when night falls, I worry a lot. Then I wake up and think about it and seems like insane stuff to worry over.

The other night I worried for a good 20 minutes about coral colored pants. Cute and refreshing or just weird? Then it's ACC season. I worry over this a lot, it's kind of like the prom to me. What if uva beats boston college, and then state beats clemson??? What will happen to my brackets?? Have I made the right assortment of dips for the final four party? It's much like worrying over which boy will call you and what dress you will wear to the "big dance".

I had a strategy of keeping a "panic notebook" by my bed, so as these worries came up, I could simply jot them down. This is what was on my list:

-Call mom (but about what?? I called her the next day and she had no idea why I was calling her, nor did I)

-Check to see if other women at the gym have cellulite on their upper arms. If they don't, check into lotions.

Clearly, this didn't help. I will say the only upside to insomnia is you do get this whole little world with a whole little pocket of time that feels sneaky. While everyone else is sleeping, you are catching up on bad reality tv, or reading, or eating things straight from the container.

It is my fate, so play on, you crazy housewives of all varieties on bravo; lose weight, you biggest losers; and by all means, keep throwing ridiculous birthday parties, you sweet-sixteeners!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dinner for 2

As I've said before, calories consumed while on a road trip do not count. No one sees them, no one knows. This applies whether eating fast food in your car, or very often with room service.

Probably my most embarrassing display was on a trip to Greenville, SC. One of my favorite hotels is there, and a very fabulous restaurant delivers to the hotel. I rolled into town very late and upon check in asked "does that great restaurant still deliver here?". Yes, the desk clerk informed me, but only for 10 more minutes. I grabbed a menu and ran frantically up to my room, knowing that I could not allow myself to miss out.

In my haste to order, I did not look at the menu closely. I ordered what I believed to be a side salad, which as it turned out was an entree salad with steak on it. I also ordered a main course. Not realizing that the entree came with a baked potato, I ordered a side of mashed potato. Then there was desert. Cheesecake of the day. Let's be honest, I was going to order it no matter what it was, but I did ask. Fried pumpkin cheesecake with bananas fosters on top. What?? You had me at fried pumpkin.

So, I basically just ran visually down the menu: salads, entrees, sides, desert and got one of everything. Not quite realizing exactly what I had actually ordered until I hung up the phone. Hmmm...I realized pretty quickly that I had ordered a lot of food for one person.

Worry not, I had a plan! When the room service knock came, I had the shower turned on (as if someone were in it). "Don't worry!", I yelled to my imaginary room mate, "I'll sign for the food". I said it really loudly, so that the person delivering the food could hear it.

Sure enough, I was not being paranoid. The room service arrived with two sets of silverware and two glasses of water. It was clear to them that one reasonable person could not consume that amount of food. But you know what, I ate most of it. I did not share it with my imaginary friend in the shower.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh Baby-Part 2

A lot of people have an "over share" effect on others. Maybe people just tell you things and you don't really know why. Sometimes people come up to you in Target and ask you where something is, as if you work there. And sometimes, like me, people over share with you, because you yourself also have a tendency to over share. You find yourself constantly giving out information that is not necessary, and you have no ability to stop it. This is something that happens to me all the time (both the giving and receiving of unnecessary information).

Probably one of my favorite experiences was being at one of my customer's offices when one of the staff members had just found out (just found out as in 5 minutes before our meeting) that she was pregnant. She shared it with me, obviously overcome in the moment and having just found out. As it turned out, she was not "trying" and it was somewhat unexpected, but she was very excited.

So of course, being the chatty cathy that I am, we talk about it the first 1/2 of the meeting. Things like "do you hope it's a boy or girl", "have you told your husband yet", "do you have ideas for names", etc.

Then the interesting topic of "if you weren't trying, why did you think you were pregnant" came up. She had gone out and purchased a pregnancy test over lunch, so something must have prompted that, right?

So, she begins going through the details. "I felt tired and just run down, I don't feel like myself,", etc etc. About this time, the hypochondriac in me kicks in. I feel tired and run down this very moment. I haven't felt like "myself" (whatever that means) in years. Oh no, I think, I'm probably pregnant.

I can hold my suspicion in no longer and share it with the group (again, over share on my part). At first we all laugh, ha ha, wouldn't that be crazy, and then real curiosity and concern sets it.

"Wow, what if you are?". I feel pure panic as I consider this possibility. Then the newly pregnant customer offers me one of her pregnancy tests. "I couldn't", I say, but she insists, telling me that she certainly doesn't need it anytime soon.

I go into the bathroom of one of my customers and take a pregnancy test. Thankfully, it was negative, but a very bizarre experience. I came out of the bathroom and said "It's negative", which we celebrate, and then finally start our meeting about an hour late.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh Baby-Part 1

Generally, when I leave the house in the morning, my outfit/hair/make up seem like a good idea. I left the house that way, so it must have looked okay at 7 am. Isn't it funny how these same seemingly good choices can be startling when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a random mirror around noon. Pure horror and then "what was I thinking this morning?".

Maybe it's the swingy, choppy bob hair cut you got that you thought you blew out just like the stylist this morning. You catch a look around 2 pm, and it suddenly looks like a George Washington wig.

Or your new pants that said "mid-rise" on the tag, not so much. You find yourself doing some sort of awkward mix of lunge/crab walk to get something out of your bag during a meeting because if you bend at the waist you will give everyone a peep show.

Back to hair. The new volumizing shampoo that made your hair full just that same morning now looks like a frizzy bird's nest.

The make up that looked perfectly professional in your bathroom mirror looks very vegas show girl in the natural light.

The business like button down shirt that is all business becomes un-done at the second button, making everyone at the important meeting wonder if you are showing the top of your bra on purpose.

We've all had these wardrobe malfunctions. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to a women, the worst calling out of a fashion error, is that horrible question: "Are you pregnant?". Gasp.

This happened to me one day when I was wearing what I thought was a trendy A-line cut top. Swingy, stylish, with all the structure and shape of a slanket/snuggie. To the poor stranger's credit, we were in the vitamin aisle and I was in the women's vitamin section, suspiciously near the pre-natals while looking for women's plus calcium.

Yep, he asked the question. I looked him right in the face and said "Nope, but I will go home and burn this sweater and eat an entire carton of ice cream, so thanks".

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'll get by with a little help from my friends

When traveling, one does come to depend on the kindness of strangers. God forbid you know me, because rely is not the word for what I will do to you. Last week I attended the big meeting. I made it to the very end without incident. It was shocking. Until. Until it was time to get on the big bus to go to the airport. I get carsick and generally do not do well on these big buses. I took a Dramamine, thought I would be fine.

My friend and I (we will call her "D") get on the bus. There are no seats up front, which is where I usually try to sit, but I assume that's okay because I've medicated myself. Wrong. By the time we get to the airport I am breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth, we have a plastic bag at the ready, and I really am about to throw up. "D" is petting my arm and holding my hand, saying encouraging things like "I can see a plane, we are definitely getting close".

We finally reach the airport, where I think, "okay, okay, I'm fine, this is fine". Not fine. The car sickness lingered, then I ramped myself into a full on panic attack. Poor "D". We had to sit down before and after security, I had to sit down on the floor with the plastic bag on the tram/train thing that takes you from terminal to terminal.

We get to the gate and encounter another friend/co-worker who also helps me immensely. She gets me a sprite, hugs me while I burst into tears, shields me from other work people, and even muscles us a medical pre-board pass. I can only imagine how hard this was to convince them that I was sick enough to need to pre-board, but not too sick to fly.

She also asked the flight attendant to touch the outside of the plane as we were boarding (my superstition-I must touch the plane and certainly anyone flying with me must touch the plan, really the more people who touch the plane the better), and distracted me with a People magazine- "Well, look here, Cari Underwood is getting married, let's get to the bottom of this".

About half way through the flight it all subsided (with help from the pharmacy in my purse). A huge thank you to my friends and co-workers. Without them I'm convinced I would still be at the airport, huddled in a corner crying and dry heaving into the plastic bag. When you work with me, you wear many hats. Counselor, friend, and last week, nurse.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Annual Meeting

A lot of corporations have annual meetings. It is not uncommon to hear lots of crazy stories from these meetings as alcohol typically flows freely and vice presidents are there to witness all kinds of egregious behavior.

I could write lots of tales of embarrassing stories along those lines involving myself and others. What is more interesting though, is what happens to me personally. Though I have been 7 times, I experience anxiety over it. I'm not sure why. I think maybe it is because typically I only see most of my co-workers once a year, and I want them to think well of me. I want to be my best self, which in reality maybe doesn't even exist.

Anyone who knows me well and sees me regularly, knows that I give "low maintenance" a whole new definition. My attempts at fashion are usually a few years behind and questionable. I own a lot of make up, but rarely wear it. It is not uncommon for me to wear sweatpants lots of places they should not be worn. I think that adding a brightly colored fleece from old navy or putting on a 6 year old pair of pumas instead of my huge nikes that I work out in really snazzes up an outfit and makes it "fashion forward". I believe that if you wear a dressy watch with diamonds on it, then all else is forgiven. If you own sunglasses big enough to cover half of your face, then who needs make up?

However, there is this whole other "work me". And at the annual meeting (which I lovingly call "the pageant"), I am "work me" on steroids. As I type this, I have white strips on my teeth, and a fresh layer of sunless tanner. I will pack, un-pack, and re-pack at least 3 times. I might purchase whole new outfits. One of my favorite things is that I believe that "meeting me" would wear things that I would never wear at home. I will get to the meeting, look in my suitcase and wonder what on earth I was thinking.

I wish I could blame this on others, but it's all me. My co-workers are extremely nice people, not judgmental at all. I don't have any great aspirations to move up in our company, so I'm not trying to impress any higher-ups. What's worse is that I will tell people once I get there. I will go up to someone and say "I bought this shirt, it's crazy, look how crazy it is, why did I buy it?". I wear my neurosis on my sleeve.

So next week I will go. I will wear odd clothes, my teeth will be white(r)(my teeth are kind of a lost cause, they are a weird shade of yellow and gray, the white strips don't really do anything except make me feel better about it). My skin will not be tan, but the white glow will have been knocked off by the sunless tanner.

I will have a good time in spite of all of this dread. My co-workers will still like me, even though they will secretly wonder how someone so crazy still has a job. Maybe some day I will get a handle on this annual freak out and figure out what it's all about. Until then, let's be thankful for the drug store, where hope is sold in the form of lotions, creams, teeth bleach, and false advertising!

Friday, January 29, 2010

I want to hear your stories!!

Send me your crazy work stories!! I will post the "winner" in a few weeks. Send them to: ...I look forward to reading them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hot Water

A while back, our hot water heater died. We'd had it for about 9 years, so it seemed well within reason to get a new one. My husband is very handy, and asked if I minded if he tried to replace it himself. I, being chronically cheap, of course said yes. Worst case scenario we had to call someone if it didn't work, so it seemed like a great idea.

He somehow did replace it himself (wrestling it up and down the steps alone). Everything seemed great. Except. Except for every few days the pilot light went out. We could not explain this and it seemed to have no rhyme or reason. He kept relighting it, and we figured maybe it was just something that would mysteriously "fix itself".

I often get up very early and drive for 3 or 4 hours to get to my destination. One day I had to get up at 4:30 in order to be in the mountains by 9:00. Now, I am not a morning person. The shower is pivotal to feeling human when I do have to get up at this time.

So, I roll out of bed, turn on the shower, and of course, no hot water. I get my poor husband out of bed, but even once he relights the pilot light, there is no way it will heat up in time.

I really don't know what to do. I am not awake, and somehow have to get ready without the shower. I know what you are thinking, just take a cold shower. I agree this sounds good in theory. Reality, no way. I attempted it, it just wasn't possible.

Now, to add to the problem, I have weird hair. Really, I do. It is thin and fine in a way that doesn't seem possible in humans. It defies science by being both oily and frizzy at the same time. Without a shower and a mix of expensive products, I look like kramer from seinfeld. It's basically the consistency and texture of chicken feathers.

In my limited time to get ready, I decided to straighten it with a flat iron. It seemed like the only option. It was pitiful. Not only did I look weird, but I kind of smelled like burnt hair, b.o. (I put a layer of new deodorant on top of smelling weird from going to the gym the night before), and then I topped it all with too many spritzes of perfume. It was a mess.

However, you can't call in "smell bad" and "look weird". So I went. It was really awful. Of course I made it worse by telling every customer I met with that day the whole story (I am a chronic over-sharer).

My husband did a little research and found a pivotal piece of the hot water had been left off. He fixed it, the whole thing was cheaper than hiring someone, but I paid a price.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tic Tac Toe

When traveling, missing meals is usually not a problem for me. In fact, I probably eat three times more than normal. It's common knowledge that calories consumed in a car or hotel do not count, much like when you spend money in an airport. Anyway, for those days when I am so swamped on the road and do not get an opportunity to swing through a fast food window, I usually keep a protein bar, some almonds, nabs, some type of snack in my purse or car.

One very hot day in Charleston caught me completely off guard. I like to book my days fully when I'm on the road. I want to see every possible client, because I do not want to go back anytime soon. Most of my co-workers know this about me and when we work together it's often very busy. This particular day was extremely busy, with multiple appointments, criss-crossing charleston and mount pleasant many times. It was also hot in a way that only south carolina can be.

We found ourselves crossing the cooper river bridge for about the 3rd time, parched and starving. We had no time to eat lunch or even consider stopping anywhere to pick something up. I was without my typical snacks, and my co-worker started scrounging through his car for any type of food.

We dined that day on some old Tic Tac mints he found in the floorboard (they had melted and turned into like one big glob of tic tacs which we split in half) and some hot bottled water his kids had left in the car. I'm pretty sure they had opened and drank out of them too, but we drank it all the same. It was hot and disgusting, but at least wet, we reasoned.

The grand finale of the day was careening in to the cobblestone streets of downtown Charleston for our very last appointment (which we were late for), only to get behind a person on a motorized wheel chair/hooveround type of device. In the street! It was almost unbelievable, of course they were going extremely slow. All we could do was laugh at the end to a ridiculous day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Blood Sweat & Tears

I believe in life it is important to be prepared. I have often been called "mcgiver" by my co-workers, due to the variety of things I pull out of my purse and have ready & available.

This came in very handy one day in Charleston. My co-worker and I had brought in one of our upper managers to help close a deal. While walking into the building, some how he managed to severely cut his hand (on the glass door, we later figured out). He concealed it by jamming it into his pocket while the customer ushered us to the conference room. We all started setting up, and heard him say, "um...guys".

I look up to see his hand covered in blood! More importantly, blood was dripping all over his gorgeous armani suit. I went to work. In a matter of seconds I produced kleenex to wrap his hand in to absorb the blood, antiseptic wipe to clean it with, bandaids, and a "Tide To Go" stick for the suit.

He was very impressed, and I will say it is a strange mental image I will always have of blowing on the hand of one of the hire up's in our company. This occured after I had applied the antiseptic wipe which, I could only take his squeal to mean, burned a lot, thus the blowing.

We got it all cleaned up before the customers came back, although the Tide To Go was no match for whatever expensive fabric that suit was made of. We did close the deal, which was great. Sometimes, you have to shed a little blood.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A little dip will do ya'

When people travel for their jobs, or for any reason really, sleep deficits and the need to stay awake will inevitably occur. Most travelers use caffeine, or abuse it in my case. Sometimes, extreme measures are necessary. Fortunately I have not turned to illegal drugs, but I am ashamed to admit that I have used a pretty disgusting legal one.

Years ago, I was talking with one of my friends who also travels for his job. We were comparing stories and both of us had endured particularly grueling road trips that week (hours on the road, etc). We talked about Starbucks and the joys of coffee in general. Then he shared a tip that had never occurred to me.

"Well", he said, "if you are really looking to stay awake and coffee is not doing it for you, then just get some skoal".

I told him how disgusting that was, how I would never do "dip" or any form of chewing tobacco.

The very next week, I found myself almost falling asleep behind the wheel. I had already consumed copious amounts of caffeine, blared the air conditioner and radio, nothing was working. At the end of my rope, I pulled in to the parking lot of a service station. I went in and like a total hypocrite purchased the skoal. I asked the man behind the counter how exactly you "pack" it, and he was more than happy to oblige.

A few minutes and flick of the wrist later, I found myself in a parking lot, doing skoal. To make myself feel better, I will point out that I did not actually pack it in my mouth, only rubbed a tiny amount on my gums. Now, I know, it doesn't really make it any better. I guess that early in the morning, my logic was that if I did not have to use a "spit cup" or bottle of some sort, that made it okay.

It did indeed wake me up. Once I reached my destination, I threw it quickly in my glove box, and as usual when traveling, my day actually "started". The blur of getting there slid off of me like shrugging off a jacket.

A week later I opened my glove box. It was shocking to see the container sitting there. For a moment, I had no idea what it was. But there it was. Evidence. I quickly threw it away before my husband discovered it. He has enough evidence that I am truly a redneck, I couldn't fuel the flames.

I was also deeply embarrassed that I had done this, and without much thought at all. Good reminder of what happens when you put yourself in bad situations.

Thankfully, I have never turned to it again and DO NOT recommend it for anything. Ever.