June 18, 1999
Perils of Secra
 *FootNotes* is one year old this week [and they said it would never last] ... baby sister Deb is having HER baby on Tuesday June 22 ... Franz is out of town for two weeks: yahoooo ... hiya, Brucie ... old journal entry below: will update as soon as our beautiful little nephew is born!

E-mail from an exasperated *FootNotes* reader:

"... For pete's sake. Sometimes your web page is like the old "Perils of Pauline" Saturday matinee serials. Did you come up with something for the European trip? Send me an email response to my work address before I go nuts!!!"

(Sorry about that, Mom.)

I know I left you hanging this week, breathlessly waiting to read the outcome of "Let's Send Junior to Europe (And Get Rid of a Ham In The Process)."  And I promise that I will catch you up on everything, over the weekend. But it's been another nightmarish week, and the only thing(s) I'm in the mood for at this moment are a comfortably-ugly pair of stretch-pants and my House of Blues T-shirt ... a peanut butter and Tylenol sandwich ... throwing something noisy and fun and obnoxious onto the stereo (like DAVID, maybe) ...

... and celebrating the fact that I have survived another week at the top of The Totem Pole. Sigh. 

More stuff in the ayem.

June 19, 1999
Boot Camp

"I'm not nearly so large as I thought I was," said Piglet in sad surprise.

I came -------> THIS CLOSE <------ to quitting the new job this past week.

OK. Maybe it was more like ---> this close <--- ... but it was close, nonetheless. Feverish entry from the handwritten journal, scribbled during a major Boo Hoo Moment on Tuesday morning:

"...I have made a horrible mistake. I hate my job. I hate my boss. I hate this fucking isolation booth of an office. I hate feeling incompetent. I hate feeling overwhelmed. I hate going home at night and obsessing over every little unfinished detail. I hate wasting perfectly good weekends dreading Monday morning. I hate writing about nothing but the job on the website. And I hate coming in here every morning and knowing that there is some fresh new horror, waiting for me in my voicemail box."

The week had actually started out promisingly. I came into the office Monday morning with an armload of ideas for Junior's last-minute trip to Europe,  most of them thanks to you guys! hams and T-shirts for everybody!! -- and I knew a solution was right around the corner.  I'd logged an amazing five hours of sleep the night before. I was having a fabulous Eyebrow Day. I was wearing new shoes. I looked great and I felt great and I didn't smell like Vicks Sinex, for a change.

Best of all, Franz was due to leave the country again at the end of this week. This time he'll be gone for eighteen wonderful, blissful, sanity-restoring days. All I had to do was survive Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and half of Thursday ... and then I would be allowed to breathe again. Piece of cake, right? Nothing to it, right? Just make lots of eye contact and *dimple sweetly* and carry a notepad with me at all times and say "I'm right on top of that, Franz" a lot ... and everything is gonna go like clockwork, right?


Between Junior's college graduation, and preparing for his own upcoming trip overseas, and dealing with a handful of Extremely Critical Corporate Crises ("My new cell phone sounds funny"), Franz was an absolute maniac the entire week. And there I was -- the cute dumb uncertain easily-flustered new Exec Ass -- just standing there, with a big invisible "KICK ME" sign on my butt.

It wasn't the workload that got to me. I'd walk into his office to get his signature on a letter ... and walk out carrying sixteen years' worth of Engineering Weekly Magazine. ("Go through these and photocopy any articles on ENGINEERING, OK?")  Fine. I would rather have too much to do than not enough. It wasn't the frantic pace, either: I thrive on lots of activity and running around and general mayhem. It wasn't the long hours and the lunchless afternoons and the bad coffee and the bleeding feet and the frazzled nerves. It wasn't even the sheer relentlessness of his mania, or the way he scolds me like I'm an errant, not-quite-bright child, or the fact that he never ever says "Thank you" for anything -- when I handed him the gift certificate for Junior's Europe trip, he said "Put this in an envelope wouldya?"

Nope. It was that goddamn cell phone that finally wore me down. 

Even when he was finally, blessedly out of the office for a while ... it was like he was right there, thanks to the combined technological miracle of CellularOne and voicemail. If I so much as ducked down the hall to the ladies' room for thirty seconds, I could be sure that I would return to the little blinking light, and to another eleven Mega-Ultra-Critical Voicemail Messages, brusquely insisting that I drop everything and compose a memo to everyone with names beginning with "A" through "M" in the Alameda County Phone Book.

By mid-Tuesday morning, I was in tears. All circuits = overloaded.

My friend the HR Director, noticing that I was nearing meltdown, dragged me across the street for a Latte-and-Kleenex Moment. She assured me that I was doing a fine job. "You have every skill and emotional attribute you need to do this job," she said. (Yes. She really talks that way. On and off paper.) "You just need to relax a little."

I know she's right. David says the same thing. "Think of this as boot camp," he tells me. "All you have to do is survive a few months of doing push-ups in the mud, and then you can go work for someone else for even more money. In the meantime, quit being so hard on yourself."

But knowing that I need to relax, and actually relaxing, are two very different things.

"I'm just not used to being treated this way by a boss, I guess," I sniffled over my Cinnamon Latte. 

To my amazement -- and momentary mortification -- the HR Director burst into laughter. "Then you have been very, very lucky until now," she said. And she proceeded to regale me with horror stories from her own 20+ years' of Executive Assitude. (One former boss -- a woman -- actually expected the HRD to change the oil in her car for her. Another called her at home on Christmas morning to dictate a memo. "Compared to my last boss, Franz is like a walk in the park," she said.) She gave me a handful of tips for dealing with Franz' erratic moods. ("Tell him 'Gosh that sounds like a great idea, Franz.'  And then do things your own way.")  She offered to spend an hour with me at the end of each day so we could go over anything I was uncertain about. And she reminded me that she is always just across the hall if I need a shoulder ... or a latte.

By the end of our impromptu coffee break I was feeling marginally restored. The light was blinking furiously when I came back to my little Isolation Booth, of course ... and I still had another 48 hours to endure before Franz got on the plane for Europe ... but I didn't feel quite so overloaded. Or quite so isolated.

And I didn't compose that resignation letter.


That's it. I'm done updating for the day. I'm all whined-out ... and I must say I do feel better. So I'm gonna go slide back into bed and snuggle with David and watch cartoons for a while, and then later I'm gonna make him take me to the Hello Kitty store. Have a great Saturday, everybody.



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