Friday, September 09, 2011

10 Years Later

"He doesn't work there anymore. He doesn't work there anymore."

My mother's words were the first indication that something had gone horribly wrong in Lower Manhattan. I was safely at my desk in my office in Princeton, NJ, doing some last-minute prep for a 9 a.m. news release about something that had already been rendered completely irrelevant by the time my phone rang.

"Mom, what are you talking about?"

"Your brother, his office moved, he doesn't work in the World Trade Center anymore."

I still had no idea what she was talking about, and neither did any of us, yet. The first plane had just hit; the facts were slim; my mind didn't leap immediately to terrorist attack, but assumed it was a small plane with an inexperienced pilot who'd gotten off-course and inadvertently flew into a building.

I sent my brother a short e-mail that today still makes me wince; how could I have been so callous and selfish as to write something like, "I'm glad you don't still work at the WTC. Love you." But at that point, I still had no idea. I didn't know that one of his best friends from college, and that friend's brother, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and would never come home. I had no idea what more there would be to come that day, and in the following weeks, months, and years. It was unfathomable. It's still unfathomable.

I feel exhausted, emotionally, from all the coverage in this week leading up to the 10-year anniversary. Every year, I'm surprised how raw my emotions still are, how quickly I'm transported back to that day, how guilty I feel that I get so upset even though I didn't lose anyone that day, so what right do I have to mourn when I was so personally unaffected, comparatively? I have my brother, still. Thousands of people don't have theirs.

This morning at the gym, I was reading the People magazine coverage of some of the 9-year-old kids whose fathers died on 9/11, before the children were born. And I wept and I wept (it is really hard to exercise when you're crying, but I realized that I just sounded like I was working out really hard, so no one paid me much mind), for those kids who never knew their dads, for their older siblings who HAD known their dads but lost them so young, for their widows and friends. And I wept because I can't help but think again of my brother and his family, of his son who will turn 10 next month, of their older daughter and the younger one who came along four years later. Of how different all our lives would be, and theirs especially, if my brother did still work there on that day.

We don't talk about it, much; my brother's a stoic and a private guy. I know he must feel guilt, along with profound sadness and anger. I know he hugs his family extra tightly on each anniversary. I know he's tried to be there for his friend's family, the ones who weren't so lucky. There are hundreds of those stories: the woman who was late to work because it was her kid's first day of kindergarten; the guy who decided to vote in the primary election before going in to work; the person who played hooky or slept in or stopped for breakfast or worked from home or took the dog to the vet.

Is that part of what's so devastating, still? The chance of it all, the randomness of who lived and who died? There's always that with death, with any accident or incident: "If I hadn't forgotten my keys..." or "If I'd gone on the highway rather than through back roads..." (it seems disrespectful to invoke "Sliding Doors" in such a somber post, but I guess I've gone ahead and done that now). I guess it's simply the overwhelming magnitude of loss.

I don't know that I can handle any more TV specials or articles about 9/11 this week (although someone just told me that the Village Voice took a very different approach, and wrote about some of the 9/11 charities that were pretty much scams; I do actually want to read that, because I think I can handle feeling enraged more than I can handle feeling so sad). But I do know that I'll remember those who were lost and those who they left behind, and that I'll hug my loved ones just a little bit more tightly.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Friday poll

I know I have, like, zero readers, but still, I put this out into the universe:

Our real estate agent seems insistent on being in contact with me, and only with me, about all things, often during my work day, often at times when I simply cannot deal with her. She refuses to call the Smelmooo in these situations, and she also almost never leaves any detailed information in her voicemails; it's more, "Hi, it's your agent, please call me back" and it will turn out that she's just calling to remind me that she's working for us. Which is fine, but, geez, just say that.

Anyway, I give that context as part of my full disclosure that I'm already predisposed to be irritated at the agent. However, I've been pleased that she's started to realize that I will almost never answer my phone if she calls me during work, and that I may be more likely to respond to an e-mail if there's actually something urgent that she describes.

But, of course, she refuses to copy the Smelmooo.

Earlier this week, I was at an all-day retreat, and one of the ground rules was that we were not allowed to use our Blackberries during the day, so I didn't get the voicemail or the e-mail from the realtor until the end of the day. She was actually calling about something real: a repair that needed to be dealt with right away, and I was grateful that she raised it, because we didn't realize our contractor hadn't fixed it.

ANYWAY. In my reply, I asked that she please be sure to copy the Smelmooo on future e-mails(she always begins her e-mails, "Hi, Tangent and Smelmooo!" so I wasn't sure if she thought we share an e-mail address or what, but I always copy him when I e-mail her, so I couldn't figure it out).

Today I e-mailed her again (and again copied Smelmooo) to tell her that the repair had been made and that she could open the house up for showings again this weekend. In her reply, just to me, she noted, "I'm sorry, I don't have the Smelmooo's e-mail address." Which is simply not true, not only because, seriously, EVERY. TIME. I've e-mailed her, I've copied him, not to mention that we gave her all of our phone numbers and e-mail addresses when we first started working with her.

So I replied, "Great, thanks. It's smelmooo@smelmooo.com; I copy him on every e-mail I send to you; you can just hit 'reply-all.'"

The Smelmooo thinks this was bitchy of me; I contend that, if she actually did know the "reply-all" trick, she would, in fact, employ it, so I did her a solid and educated her.

So, finally, the question: Bitchy or practical? ("Neither"/"Other" is also an acceptable answer if you explain yourself.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Minor rant

I took the redeye home on Friday from a conference in Los Angeles (where it was cold and drizzly, until I was en route to the airport home, but where I had delicious wine and some good conversations and ate extraordinarily delicious comfort food at Wolfgang Puck's), which always puts me out of sorts I slept a ton this weekend, but today I've been feeling nauseated and chilly and off, and I'm not sure what's happening, but it's all making me a bit cranky. Mostly, I'm cranky with people who make it harder to do my job, including:

- the consultants who continually suggest improvements to the language we use on our website, to "punch it up." This would normally be a good thing - a firm that takes initiative! - but they keep suggesting we say things that aren't true. And then I have to explain, yes, that sounds great, but above all else I actually care about our credibility more than our web stats, and are we really having this conversation AGAIN?!

- the same firm routinely changes the language on the live site, then asks for feedback (but never actually cops to doing so). Again, really? Again, we're having this conversation?

- I cannot take your line edits seriously when you keep using the word "sentance."

That is all for now, although I will add that I hate the article in today's New York Times telling me about how all the BART trains in San Francisco are crawling with MRSA and other grody bugs, because I can't stop thinking about it, and what might be infecting the public places I frequent.


Monday, January 03, 2011

More job-hunting tips!

I finally hired my staff person, who starts in two weeks (hooray, seriously!), so I haven't had too many cranky resume reactions recently, but I did get a doozy of an inquiry today, to which I will respond with an open letter here (and with more of a "thanks-but-no-thanks" e-mail to the actual inquiry):

Dear Parent,

Seriously, you are NOT doing your college-aged kid a favor by inquiring about summer internships on their behalf, particularly when the person on the receiving end of this inquiry is a total stranger to you. Trust me. I'm all for working your connections; I wouldn't have gotten a single one of my summer jobs if it weren't for people my parents knew. Asking a friend, or a colleague, or an acquaintance, or a friend-of-a-friend? Totally cool.

Asking an absolute stranger? Your kid is spending the summer in the couch on the basement.

Seriously, there is no way that I would ever, ever, ever hire your kid, even for a non-paying internship.

I had to performance-manage the hell out of a former employee, and I once had a nightmare that his mother showed up at our office to defend him and to take me to task for not appreciating her perfect little angel. But with you, I think it actually might happen in real life.

So, trust me: you are doing your kid a disservice. I bet he's still home from school on winter break. Let him pound the pavement himself. No more "helping" from you, unless it's with someone you know.


Total Stranger Tangent Woman

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good karma

I'm convinced that the universe rewarded me for helping that lady with directions to Lord & Taylor earlier this week!

Yesterday, the Smelmooo drove me to the train station in the morning, because it was cold and I was running late and he's chivalrous that way. I got out of the car and realized I didn't have my warm winter hat, and figured I'd left it at home in my rush to get out the door.

I realized very quickly that there was no way I was going hatless in yesterday's weather, with a 10-minute walk to and from the office and a 12-minute walk home, so I bought a cheapo hat at the Duane Reade at Penn Station. It was a ridiculous-looking hat: blue-and-white striped, blue pom-pom on top, ear flaps with braided strings dangling down. My sister described it as "artsy pothead" (although it was fleece-lined, which I think makes that description slightly less apt). It was super-warm, but totally ridiculous, and seemed to put me completely over the edge as a fashion DON'T commuter (already in the mix: white-and-yellow sneakers with black tights and a red skirt, plus a plum-colored scarf. As I said, running late yesterday, but in generally I'm dressed for function rather than style for my commute), and I kept feeling grateful that I'm not a celebrity, because surely the Fug Girls would have had a field day with me.

Anyway, I got home last night and realized that my hat was not at home, and not in the car, and was therefore lost. I must have dropped it getting out of the car at the train station. Why, why, why, I walked back to see if the Smelmooo was still in the parking lot but did not think to look down to see whether I'd dropped my hat there is a mystery, but I was kicking myself about it all night. Because that hat was a good hat.

I have a big, oddly-shaped head. Every winter hat I've ever had, I've managed to stretch out in weird ways, eventually resulting in a giant elongated pouf at the top of my head. So two years ago, on a shopping excursion with MinnaRice, I found a perfect-looking hat: charcoal grey, cashmere, a correct fit for my weird head. It was from Neiman Marcus, so a little pricey, but at the outlet it was half-off the extra-ridiculous original price, so I figured it was worth the investment. And it held up! And it kept me warm! And it kept its shape! It reminded me that, sometimes, you can't get something at Target and expect it to last forever; some things are worth more of an investment in quality (see also: name-brand Oreo cookies vs. the store brand).

So I was really mourning the loss of the perfect hat, and all night and all morning I was thinking about whether I could wait until after Christmas to get another perfect hat on sale somewhere, because the artsy-pothead hat is not a viable option on work days, and although the knitted Rutgers hat I wore instead today is relatively warm, it's also quite itchy and falls at a weird spot in the middle of my ears. On my way out the door, I asked the Smelmooo, "What do you think the chances are that my hat's still at the train station?" He said zero; I said one percent.

And, as you may have guessed already: A Christmas Miracle! (or, a day-before-the-night-before-Christmas miracle, anyway) I walked into the station and saw a big pile of stuff (a makeshift lost & found that I'd never noticed before), and there was my perfect hat! It had a couple of leafy bits stuck to the outside, but it didn't seem to have been run over repeatedly in the parking lot or anything. I was babbling about how I couldn't believe someone had returned it, and a guy standing there (who works for the town? who works at the train station? I couldn't tell; I was just sort of talking out loud, not to anyone directly) said, "Well, yeah, we found it, and we put it there." Like, "Duh."

Which was fine. I didn't care. I know I'm disproportionately invested in the hat, and that I could've found another one, and that I'd have been plenty warm today in my itchy Rutgers hat. But it really all did seem bigger than a hat: a sign from the universe that things really do sometimes work out for the best, that there are people who are good and kind, that what's been lost can be recovered.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This and that

Oh, so much is kicking about in this little brain of mine:

-- First, that sentence just triggered a flashback to my days in high school youth group, during which we'd carry candles and sing, "This Little Light of Mine," which is a catchy ditty and will therefore be stuck in my brain all afternoon. You're welcome.)

-- I just ducked out to do some errands during lunch, and an older woman, clearly doing her Christmas shopping, looked a little bit dazed as I passed her while walking in the same direction down the street. I slowed a bit, and she asked me, sort of sheepishly, "Excuse me, do you know how to get to Lord & Taylor?" Which I did not, but I asked if she had the address, and she dug for a bit in her purse (after I guided her to the edge of the sidewalk so people like me didn't bowl her over because she, like seemingly every other tourist, just STOPPED. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK.), and said, "38th Street and Fifth Avenue." Hooray! After nearly a full year of working in midtown, I felt confident that I could direct her (from our spot on 37th and Broadway) to her destination. But even better than me (me!) being able to give correct directions was that when I said, "Have a good day, and happy holidays!" she replied, "Oh, thank you so, so much! You just made mine a lot happier!" It's really the little things sometimes, I guess.

-- Speaking of which, while I was at the drugstore looking for last-minute giftcards for a couple of co-workers, a guy came busting through the Duane Reade just cursing his head off. "Motherf-er" this and "f-er" that, at the top of his lungs, seemingly to no one, not even a bluetooth that I could spot, although I was trying hard not to make eye contact. I always struggle with that, wanting to tell people to quit being rude and awful but usually just staying out of the way so I don't get beat up. My mother would probably excuse my not standing up for the little guy in this instance.

-- I know this is old news at this point, but that coach who last week tripped the football player as he was running down the field? I totally get that. I really understand just having a bizarre impulse and acting on it, absolutely without thinking, even knowing that it's the wrong thing to do. I could completely see myself doing the same thing, so I sympathize with the guy. I agree that he should have been reprimanded, as he was, but I really feel for the guy.

-- I am feeling oddly torn about the latest celebrity break-ups, although I think I'm secretly glad about Vanessa and Zac breaking up. Something about her just bugs me. I can't believe I know or care about any of this. But I was sad about Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter breaking up, especially given that they stuck together through his illness, but I guess sometimes that takes a toll on a relationship in complicated ways. And who knows about Scarlett and Ryan; I have never been a Ryan fan, because I can't get out of my head the awful, awful acting he did as Billy on that Nickelodeon show "Fifteen" back in the late '80s. I realize that all of the actors were kind of horrible, and he was maybe not even the worst (that award might go to "alcholic" Matt, who, you know, had a sip of beer at a party), but he was the most memorable to me.

-- Speaking of random knowledge from long-lost TV shows, at a party this weekend, a bunch of people were swapping stories of working in fast-food joints, a fate I was spared, so my contribution was, "Do you remember when Brenda on 227 worked at the fast food place and was so excited, but then quit after like a week because she always smelled like french fries?" Shockingly, no one did. Fortunately, I was able to pivot nicely to the fact that the Smelmooo's friend was on Jeopardy last week, speaking of random useless knowledge, so phew.

-- In my old job, I traveled to D.C. usually a few times a month, but I hadn't been back in a year until last week. It was actually sort of emotional, pulling into the train station and realizing how much of an outsider I'd become, and how much I missed the people I used to work with there. But I was happy to be back, and I had dinner plans with my oldest friend (or, I guess, with the friend I've known the longest, since we were 10. And it did strike me at dinner how we've both grown grey-haired and wrinkled, but how his face is otherwise exactly the same as it was 23 years ago), so I was excited for the day. Which turned out to be a bit snowy, although that was less of a problem than I've experienced in D.C. in the past. But the bigger problem was that once I was finally on my way home (scheduled to arrive around 11:45 p.m.), there were wires down on the train tracks past Baltimore, so we just sat, and sat, and sat. I got home at 6:15 a.m. Perhaps the universe is giving me a sign that I don't belong back in D.C.?

-- I'm reading "Big Girls Don't Cry," about women in the 2008 election, and I'm just struggling to get through it. I'm not even to the Sarah Palin part yet! I can't figure out why it's such a slog; anyone else read it? Next on my list: "When They Come for Us, We'll be Gone" (I have a longstanding obsession with Jewish literature and culture, despite not having knowningly known anyone who's Jewish until I was, like, 12 years old), probably returning to that theme with "Sarah's Key," but with a break first for "Freedom" (although I'm gazillionth on the waiting list) and the next book in Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" series, although MinnaRice keeps telling me that it'll be increasingly troubling for me to make it through those.

-- MinnaRice is coming to visit next week! I can hardly wait. I don't even care what we do. I still can't quite believe she's a West Coaster now.

-- But first, Christmas! I'm excited about our Christmas Eve menu, and having our first Christmas in our new house, and seeing all of our nieces and nephews all excited about presents and hopped up on sugar and adrenaline. It really is the best time of the year.

-- I totally forgot Tucker's birthday, which was Saturday. I know that he's a dog and that he has no idea; it'd be much worse if I forgot to feed him or something, but I couldn't help but feel totally inadequate. I will be making it up to him with excessive treats and tummy rubs at least through New Year's.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Aaaaaand a few more tips

I'm still getting resumes for my open position, so I'll share a few more tips for job-seekers. Lucky you!!

-- The last five minutes of an hour-long (first-round!!) interview is NOT the time to say, "So, yeah, one more thing: what's the timing of your decision about a candidate? Because I've actually accepted another position, and I'm supposed to start in 10 days. But, I really think this job would be great, and I'd take it if you could make me an offer next week." Thanks, lady, for wasting our time. (Note: this strategy is actually quite effective in the short-short-short term. My colleague and I who were doing the interview immediately started considering whether we could accelerate our interview process and make a decision, because of course we wanted her!! No one else should be able to get her! But then, of course, five minutes later we came to our senses, and realized that we'd felt sort of lukewarm about her anyway, and that we didn't really want to hire someone who'd be so quick to renege on an agreement to take a position.)

-- Unless you are seeking employment as a cartoonist, or maybe a circus clown or something, under no circumstances should your cover e-mail be written in Comic Sans MS font. Seriously?! You are an adult. Snazz up your signature to look like it's written in cursive, if you must, but please, please do not write your entire cover note in anything but a standard font. What's next, wingdings? Yeesh.

-- Don't ignore the process, and don't lie about it when I've caught you doing so. "Hi, I found your direct e-mail address online, and I'm wondering if I should just send you my materials here, because when I sent them to the mailbox you said to, I didn't get a reply, so let me know!" "Uh, yep, no need; did you not get a reply saying we'll be in touch if you're a fit?" "No, I totally didn't get that!" Yes, you did.

-- Don't misspell my name. "Dear Ms. Targent, Did you get my resume that says I pay impeccable attention to detail?! Sincerely, Not So Much."

That is all. I seem to have a few good candidates in the mix now, so I'm hoping that there'll be a real winner in there. Fingers crossed!