Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Impressions

I made a list on my flight back to California. I had to make a conscious decision to make certain changes in my life. Why did I continuously return to the past? First, I wanted to hook up with my ex-boyfriend and then, I actually did make out with Moose. What was wrong with me?

But these were mistakes, I told myself. I was making some concrete efforts to move forward. After all, I had been on two, successful dates with Chris. I was really getting along with him and he was great on paper, so that was a start.

So, I began by writing some obvious self-help tips: start actually exercising regularly, listen to that podcast about being assertive and confident, make avocado toast for breakfast at least once, maybe you'll like it! I was super focused on the list when I felt someone bump into my right arm.

"Ouch," I yelped as I instinctually gripped my elbow.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," said a middle-aged man in a suit.

I looked up at him with a tight lipped smile. "It's okay," I replied.

That should've been the end of the encounter, until the man decided to add one piece of advice. "Maybe you should keep those dainty little elbows out of the isle."

My face scrunched up. Maybe I was still worked up from the weekend. Maybe I was primed to stand up for myself because I wanted to listen to that podcast. Maybe it was the glass of wine I had at the beginning of the flight. I can't tell you exactly what gave me more courage that day, because normally I would've kept my mouth shut, but I did not.

"Maybe you should watch where you're going," I scoffed as I turned my attention back to my notebook. There was now a big, misplaced line right across all my ambitions. I actually thought the irony was comical.

I heard the man mumbling as he continued on his way. The only words I could clearly make out were "entitled," and "millennials." I didn't care, though. I wouldn't normally think twice about an interaction with a rude stranger like this.

But I did think about it again. I thought about it the next day when I went into work. Pete was leaned up against my cubicle with a large cup of coffee. "Morning, New York," he greeted me.

I threw my bag under my desk and turned to look at him. "You're here early," I replied as I rubbed my eye. The jet lag was real.

"Yeah, well, we have a big shot in today." Pete took a sip of coffee as he turned and pointed to the conference room. There, through the glass walls, I saw my friend from the plane. He was standing in the front of the room with a bunch of department heads seated at the table.

"Fuck," I said as my anxiety levels spiked. How could I be such an idiot? Work was the one thing going right in my life.

"It's not that big of a deal, Caroline," Pete assured me. "You have top numbers. He'll love you."

I looked down and began playing with my cuticles. I decided not to share my story with Pete at that exact moment. No need to have two worriers. Pete began explaining the situation to me. I was half listening as he told me that the company had a lot of adaptations and innovations in the works. I knew he had been to New York a few times over the past few months, but he was always very hush hush about it. He went on and on for a while and I got the impression that he had been wanting to share this secretive transition with me for a  while.

"So, I hate to do this to you on your first day back, but he wants you in our meeting at 3."

I felt nauseous, but I nodded before abruptly telling Pete I was going to go grab a cup of coffee.

It was easy to take my mind off the upcoming meeting. I had so many emails, so I kept my head buried. I didn't even realize it was lunch time until Pete came over and knocked on the wall of the cubicle. I looked up and he was shaking a small pizza box.

I followed him into his office and realized how hungry I was once I smelled the thin crusted pizza. I began scarfing it down as Pete went over some numbers he wanted me to know. We continued until it was almost 3. I would've been nervous even if I hadn't already interacted with this guy. Once Pete went over everything with me, I started to really realize how important this meeting was not only for my job, but for the company.

I had made a decision, though. I was going to pretend like I didn't even recognize him from the plane. After all, maybe he didn't see my face. Maybe if I talked in a bit of a lower tone of voice, he wouldn't even make the connection. With his attitude and sense of importance, he probably had hostile encounters all the time.

I took a deep breathe as I followed Pete out of his office. I happened to look down and catch a glance at his cute butt as we walked out. It actually made me feel a little better.

"Hello, Mr. Larson," Pete greeted him with a strong handshake. "I'd like to introduce you to one of our top members in charge of VIP memberships, Caroline."

Mr. Larson's eyes met my eyes and I channeled all my energy into a strong poker face. His face was blank for a couple of seconds, but it felt like a full minute, before he finally said, "Hello, Caroline. It's nice to meet you. I've heard a lot of good about your department."

I was finally able to breath easy. At least, for now.