Observations on the Working World

For the past year and a half, I have been impersonating a business woman at a large health insurance agency. Up before the sun, I would slog through the morning commute to put in my eight (or ten or twelve) hour workday. As of this week, I have joined the ranks of the unemployed again but have left my previous place of employment with both fond memories of friendly coworkers and mini-heart attacks of things that I have left undone. What follows are a few observations on Corporate America:

  • Life before computers was probably a lot easier. As a millennial, I’m not quite sure what it was like before, but it seems as if computers make life more complicated by providing an excuse to pile on even more work. Then, on the inevitable day (or days) when the computers are running slowly, smoke begins to pour from employees’ ears and a team sets out toward the IT department with pitchforks. Instead of a two-hour meeting where everyone gets together to crank projects out, the email train creeps into the hundreds until it feels like an episode of Lost where no one quite knows what is going on anymore.
  • Read receipts are a blessing and a curse. Having the setting on your computer that lets you know exactly when every email you send is read is a great way to keep tabs on whether your requests are being addressed. However, knowing someone has read your email and not responded can be incredibly frustrating. Then you have the awkward phone conversations where you say as sweetly as can be, “I sent you an email a couple of days ago. Did you receive it?” knowing fully well that they did and really wanting to say, “WHERE IS MY INFORMATION?!”
  • Elevator Etiquette. Not sure if this is a Texas thing or common knowledge from the male perspective, but there is a strange custom of holding elevator doors open for women and letting the women off the elevators first. This creates an interesting dance as the men who get on the elevator last jostle and rearrange themselves so that the women can get off first. I had to swallow smiles as I watched this show of chivalry being played out on a daily basis.
  • No one likes to talk on the phone. I thought that as an adult, one magically develops the ability to carry on extended conversations via the phone lines; however, it seems unanimous that emails or IMs are the way that most people communicate. The only time the phone is used is as a last measure. When you are calling someone or they are calling you, you know that something is late.

    Blog Pictures 010
    Being able to occasionally work from home was a nice feature.
  • The idea of an 8 am-5 pm job is totally antiquated. Emails come in on weekends, before 6 am, and after 9 pm. Sending out emails at 7:30 pm on a Friday night or 10 am on a Saturday morning and getting replies within twenty minutes is a terrifying thing. (Does anyone have lives outside of work anymore??) Of course, those instant replies are rather addictive and sadly don’t correspond to other types of emails one receives from non-work-related sources.
  • An “out of the office” reply means different things to different people. Some people are actually unavailable, but usually it just means that it might take someone an hour to reply rather than five minutes.
  • Letting employees leave early on the occasional Friday does more to foster loyalty and boost morale than just about anything else.
  • Spending over a year working with vendor partners and never actually knowing what they look like seems strange. Are they seventy-five or seventeen? Do they were Star Wars t-shirts or business suits? Of course, working with people spread out all over the United States allows the weather to be a continual topic of conversation.
  • Being surrounded by coworkers who are enduring the same stress, ranting about the same difficult situations and people, and who celebrate the successes of a job well done is the only way to make it through each new season.

I’m not sure what the next stage of my work life will entail, but I am thankful for the experiences that I had and the people I was able to meet during my time as a business woman in Corporate America.

Artemis vs. the Fire Hydrant

One month ago last Wednesday, I found a new companion. His exterior glistened in the sunshine, and his interior was vacuumed and perfumed. After a summer of researching, test-driving, and withstanding numerous sales pitches, I had finally found him: my 2007 Toyota Camry. After trying on a collection of names, the name I had picked out two years ago in college stuck: Artemis Gordon, the faithful sidekick of Mr. James West from the 1960s television show The Wild Wild West. 

While I had planned this post to be an ownership announcement, recent events have changed my focus. Here is my beautiful new vehicle last weekend:

The illustrious Artemis Gordon!
The illustrious Artemis Gordon!

And this is what he looks like today:

What happened? Well, it's a funny story....
What happened? Well, it’s a funny story….

Oh, Tuesdays! I had recently decided that Tuesdays were my least favorite day of the week. Mondays begin a new week, and after a weekend of recovery, usually the first day has a bit of enthusiasm tied to it. Seeing coworkers again after a brief respite gives one something to discuss, and four more work days provide plenty of time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Wednesdays through Fridays are comforting because the pinnacle of the week has arrived and the rest is a downward slope. Tuesdays, on the other hand, are rough. Any freshness about the beginning of a new week has worn off, and there are still too many days left to look forward to the weekend. Bad things happen on Tuesdays.

This last Tuesday was no different. The work day was fine, and by 4:30 p.m., I was glad to take my leave. I tromped through the new cold front to the parking garage that housed my new vehicle. A bitter wind blew through the six-story structure, and I had to dodge oncoming traffic and crazed workers who were in just as much hurry to begin their evening as I was.

Bracing myself against the cold and wondering why I had chosen to wear a pencil skirt and nylons that day, I made it to the farthest row from the building where I had chosen to park. I may have had to walk farther to get to and from my car, but at least I was closer to the exits. Cars sped past in a rush to get home, and I was glad to finally slide out of the wind and catch my breath. Rubbing my hands together and switching from heels to tennis shoes, I prepared for my commute and an evening of p.j.s and warm blankets.

Putting my car in reverse, I began inching my way out of my spot. Two cars were parked close on both sides of me, and I remembered again how much I dislike parking garages. There is a reason I always park in the outskirts of parking lots and choose parking spaces that I can pull through. With as much care as I could manage, I made sure that I was backing straight out.

My eyes zipped back and forth to scan the pickup truck and sedan that had made friends with Artie. As I inched out more, I checked my back windows to keep watch for rogue drivers who zipped past my bumper on their way to freedom. I checked my side mirrors to watch for other parked cars–though I purposely parked on the main thoroughfare so that I had more room to back out.

My breathing was quick and my body tense as I finally cleared the car on my right just enough to complete my turn. Glancing in my side mirrors and over my shoulders, I saw that I had a clear passageway to freedom. My foot darted from the brake that I had been cradling to the accelerator. Just a little gas to complete my backing up process, and I could switch gears and zoom away. I touched the gas and accelerated backwards.

BAM!

A jolt shook the car. I knew that I had made a mistake. My car had taken on the fire extinguisher box that was attached to one of the cement pillars of the parking garage. It had lost.

The assaulting pillar!
The assaulting pillar!

What followed is a sorted tale of putting back on my heels and trudging all the way back to the main building to confess my faux pas to the security guards. From there, I had to go show the damage and stand by awkwardly as pictures were taken of the pole and my car. Why the fire hydrant box looks like someone bumped it going 5 mph and my car looks like someone plowed into it going 50 mph, I’ll never know.

Doesn't look too worse for the wear, does it?
Doesn’t look too worse for the wear, does it?

This week has been a fun combination of getting damage estimates ($1600-$2000 for a new trunk lid) and filing my first insurance claim. My one month anniversary with my new vehicle didn’t go as wonderfully as I had hoped. For 5 years of driving on icy roads in blizzard conditions in Michigan, I never crashed into anything, but three and a half weeks of parking in a parking garage was all it took for my first infraction. At least, now I’ll have some sympathy when my 16-year-old smashes into her first tree.

So, meet Artemis Gordon! My much sought after and waited for companion. Perhaps he would have been better off with someone other than me! 🙂