“I just want you to know,” said the elderly gentleman on a phone somewhere in very cold and very snowy Pennsylvania, “I am booking this family reunion party with you because you were the only one who took the time to listen to all our requests, and you obviously went out of your way to make it happen price-wise.”
“Thank you,” I answered, a little surprised at his effusive compliment. I hadn’t done all that much out of the ordinary–that he knew of, anyway. Hold the dates, settle on one, suggest timing and menu options, refer him to various activities vendors, and ta da–a weekend planned to his satisfaction with the focal point being the theme dinner. What I had done to make this happen without seeking any assistance from my various managers, however, was extraordinary. I had tackled it solo (mainly because no one had time to deal with me), quashing the urge to run every last detail by every last person to whom I was passively encouraged to report every last detail even when told I should be past needing to run details by anyone.
It was a first in this 6-week-old job for me, and I was pretty damn happy with the outcome.
For all that I had been told I did incorrectly, for all that had been pointed out that I didn’t quite get–just when I thought I did, for all that I continually berated myself for seeming to misunderstand because my managers changed the rules on an hourly whim, I was sure I had gotten this one right. Positive of it. And I wanted to share the moment.
“Hey guess what?” I asked the tougher of the two managers who was pounding away at a computer keyboard in the back office. “I just booked the Crowley reunion party. The customer said he booked it because of me.” At this point I shrugged and laughed while the tough-guy manager continued to stare expressionless at me.
“Well, as nice as that was to hear,” I continued, “What he also said was that I had taken the time to hear him out and given him a good price. Anyway, it’s a great booking in off season.”
The tough-guy manager’s expression softened a bit, and he almost smiled.
“I hate to burst your bubble, RG,” he said after a long pause, “But all of us have talked to that guy at one time or another, and he’s said the same thing to each and every one of us.”
“I’m sure you did fine, though,” he finished, dismissing me with a quarter turn in his office chair and a slight straightening of his shoulders.
Really. Really you m-f**ker?
“Well, I don’t know what he said to any of you,” I said, literally through clenched teeth, “Or how many times anyone else talked to him,” I continued. “But at least I managed to get the nonrefundable credit card deposit for the event.”
I was talking to the tough-guy’s right shoulder at this point. I didn’t wait for a reply. I knew none would be forthcoming.
I also knew that the next 30 minutes would be the last 30 minutes I would spend in that job.
I regaled friends with this story over dinner that evening, laughing it off as if I couldn’t care less. The effort cost me, however, as I later melted down two-fold to my great guy, sobbing that I was unemployable in this horrible town, that I was utterly broke thanks to weeks of less-than-promised pay, and that I had no idea what to do next in any aspect of my life.
That my great guy sticks by me through these moments, listens to my ranting, says he just wants me to be happy and that he’ll go anywhere I want to go, is, in my world, a continual source of amazement. I don’t even want to be around me in these moments that have happened too frequently in the past 6 weeks. However, my great guy’s response also had a calming effect. This time, it allowed my self pity to be replaced by very serious, no-kidding-around resolve.
I would eagerly work retail for minimum wage. I would happily train as a clerk at any type of grocery or hardware or electronics store. Maybe I would go back to school and learn an entirely new vocation. I had the next day off. I would find something else–anything else.
I woke up yesterday–the day of my resounding resolve, the day before Christmas Eve that surely held the promise of a bright future– with a 101-degree fever, an aching throat, and an unrelenting cough. So much for the grand job hunt-and-capture. I chased my orange juice with a shot of Dayquil.
Which was when I got the call from a manager from a place I’d submitted an application more than a month ago, despite the “NOT CURRENTLY HIRING” sign that was clearly posted.
“Could you meet for an interview today?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “As long as you don’t mind my chewing cough drops while we talk. I’m getting over a cold,” I laughed, mentally crossing my fingers over the white lie and wondering how to politely avoid handshakes with anyone.
“You seem to have fallen to us from heaven,” said the manager as he looked over my resume.
Heaven? Ha! But thank you.
“I want to get you in the door here as a maitre d’, but you’ll be able to pick up as much more as you want to, once you’re trained,” he said.
Actually, maitre d’ sounds perfect. The rest can wait until I regain some semblance of my professional self again.
“Any chance you could train tonight?” he asked, less than a half hour into the interview.
Of course. That’s why God invented Dayquil.
I trained with a pro who reminded me of the best of the best in D.C. “You’ll do great here,” he said as we called it a night. “They were lucky to find you.”
“Works both ways,” I laughed. “I am lucky to be here.”
I have no idea about how great I’ll do. I have no idea about anything at this point. But for the first time this season, I wished several strangers a Merry Christmas.