Thursday, December 13, 2012
The working life: Homecoming
If there is a governing ethos to my life, other than an overwhelming fear that I will become a bag lady, destitute and starving, it is that practicality and efficiency reign. I look to improve processes and to make things easier. I don't care for fluff and ritual. I want to get things done. Get on with it. Move along.
Which is why it can be so aggravating for me to go out to dinner with SH. He loves the ritual of looking at the menu, talking about the wine, waiting for the food, and then taking forever to eat. Like long enough to write a constitution or something. I am always sitting across the table from him, looking impatiently at my watch - OK, I don't wear a watch, so I am speaking figuratively, waiting and waiting for him to finish the heck up so we can leave. He'll finish his food and I'll think we're almost done and then I'll see that he still has 1/3 glass of beer or wine, which is the food equivalent of two minutes left in a football game, which you know means omigod forever.
I did not marry an efficient man.
I was on a business trip to El Salvador once. The country manager was picking me up at the hotel to go to dinner with him and his wife. I waited for him outside the hotel, right there where the cars drive up. He was surprised to see me when he walked in, going toward the door.
"I thought you would be waiting in the lobby," he said.
"I thought you would just drive by and pick me up," I said.
"But - I thought you would wait inside. Most women would wait inside."
I sighed. This was not a date. This was business.
"Why would I do that? It requires extra work on your part. You could have just driven up to the portico and picked me up. In the future, think about the most efficient way to get something done and then count on me to do it that way."
When I stand in line at the airport, I think about how they could improve their queuing structure to improve customer service. When I go into a store, I think about how they could improve the customer experience. I am about getting to the point.
Which is why I sent a facebook message to SH before I got on the plane to come home last week. "I'll call you when I have my luggage. You can pick me up outside."
That's how we do things. When I pick him up from a trip, I wait in the cellphone waiting area - no parking charges - and get him as he is walking out of the airport. No fuss. Maximum efficiency.
When the plane touched down in Milwaukee, I called him. "I'm AT THE AIRPORT" (the most used sentence on cell calls), I announced. "I'll call you once I get my bag. It might be a few minutes."
"OK," he said. "See you in a bit."
I settled back and waited for the plane to clear. No rush, as I had to pick up a bag at baggage claim.
I walked off the plane. My two co-workers were waiting for me. Which was nice. Unnecessary, but nice. We walked down the concourse. I berated one of them again for not buying the Christmas stocking embroidered with the sheikh's face when we were in the unspecified Middle Eastern country airport. "I would have bought that in a second," I said. "I can't believe you passed it up."
We walked out of the gate area. A woman approached us, and then a man. My co-workers' spouses.
I hadn't even thought of that part.
You guys know I am super competitive.
I am competitive without being good at things, which is pretty bad. Hard to be competitive if you never win, but the desire to measure one's self against others does not diminish, even in the face of cruel reality. I am a lousy athlete and pretty much a career failure, but I continue to look at others and think, "How do I measure up?" Dumb, I know. If only there were contests to read fast or goof off. I am good at those things. Not much of a market for them, though.
Here was an opportunity to compete and I was failing! In my desire to save SH time and effort, I had forgotten about the desire to look good to my co-workers! Who has the most loving spouse? Not I! I had blown it. It looked like my husband didn't care, when it was really that I had given him the wrong instructions. They were going to think my husband didn't love me enough to come inside the airport to get me. Even though SH and I are old airport hands and have a routine. How would they know that part? How could I work it into the conversation so I wouldn't look like a lazy-spouse loser?
I couldn't. I had to reset my thinking. When all else fails, decide that you weren't racing anyhow.
I sighed, threw my shoulders back, and reminded myself that I was not in a contest. That the judgment of my co-workers did not matter to me. That I knew the truth - that SH is a wonderful man whom I am lucky to have in my life.
But they had their spouses meeting them inside the airport. Wait! They were doing it wrong! Didn't they know they were being inefficient? I smiled to myself and shook my head at their wasteful ways. So sad. My life was all about optimization. I was doing it right, even if they didn't know it.
See how well that resetting your thinking works? All of a sudden, I was the only one doing things right.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall, blue-eyed, gray-haired hottie walking toward me.
It was SH.
He had ignored my instructions. He wasn't going to wait for me outside of baggage claim. He wasn't going to make me walk out by myself.
He had come inside to get me.
"Because I missed you!" he said when I asked why he hadn't just picked me up outside. "I wanted to see you!"
Well OK. I win.