“I don’t know what the plan is.” I told Friend as I sat on my loveseat, coughing. I stayed home for work today – sleeping, drinking lots of soda and water (I keep forgetting to buy juice) and trying to work but losing track of my overall goal.
“Dave said he was getting here around 8, but I’m not sure the trip is that fast. I’ve been…doing other stuff. Let me get my laptop.”
“Away from the computer while you’re at home?” She gasped.
“I know!” I said, sniffing then moaning. I’m so tired of this particular cold. “It’s only a five hour drive.” I said after consulting Google maps.
“Does he have a time change?”
“Yep. He might actually be here before I expected.” Then I frowned at my sort of clean house and tried to figure out if the laundry was ready to be switched around. I waited until today to wash the sheets in the office.
“Well…” She said and I could tell she wanted me to make some decision or timeline about the evening. There’s a basic idea of what I want to do, but nothing firm.
“I’m going to wait until he gets here, then see what he feels like doing. My assumption is that we’ll do dinner then head downtown, but I’m not sure. I’ll just ask him when he arrives. Then I’ll call you and we can work around what you have going on – if you’re still at work, we’ll wait.”
If I may offer a tip as I launch into yet another lengthy post, if you’re going to work yourself into a state of emotional distress in the morning for no apparent reason, then head off to work? Try not to do that on a day when you’ll meet important people, be required to do highly technical experiments that are a bit beyond your experience, and take care of all kinds of other menial tasks in spare moments. Just a piece of advice from me to you. Learn from my mistakes.
Upon my arrival yesterday – sometime in the late morning – I dropped off my bag at my office, watered my plant and went to get a soda. I was a bit sick and wanted a Diet Sprite.
Boss waved at me in the hallway, but was involved in a conversation. He came to find me - dropping off his comments on my paper revision and letting me know that the technical advisors were here today. It was on my calendar so I was already aware. I nodded and he went into a spiel about how he was going to meet A, talk to B, email C, then find D and E so they could show him x and y. I just continued to nod until he stopped speaking.
“OK.” I said mildly, barely interested. I didn’t think it’d be appropriate to offer a “Good luck with that.” so I just looked up at him from my seat at the desk. He stayed silent, looking at me expectantly. I sighed.
There are these people and they give me money. In return for this payment, they expect me to show up in the clothes I got for Christmas with my pretty new haircut and contribute. Which apparently does not involve me sitting at my desk, feeling sorry for myself and reading my sad blog entry.
"Would you like me to go with you? Or do something?" I asked.
"Yes." He responded. "If you have time, of course." was a quick qualifier. "I'd like you to be central to this whole process."
I agreed easily and trotted along beside him in my black flats that allowed for quick motion. I shook hands, offered opinions, helped with scheduling conflicts. Talked to people, sat next to a breathtakingly sexy man who operated multi-million dollar equipment with ease, took care of an experiment, finished up an analysis, took notes.
Throughout the day I displayed the very quality that allows me to do my job so well. I defer. I know what I know and can offer my opinion gently. Then I back off. Partially because I don’t really care – part of the therapy process is figuring out how to make myself engage in my professional life again. Offer something more than a “Really? Now? ...OK.” when someone asks me to do my job.
Standing next to Boss in a clinical area, I shook hands and smiled at Visitor 1. Then I stood next to Tech A and across from Tech B and listened to their arguments for this particular process.
“I absolutely agree.” I offered when Tech A faced me at one point. “That makes sense.”
“That really should happen.” I later said to Visitor 1. “What timeline is convenient for you guys?”
When I following after Boss toward our next little meeting, I tossed a farewell to Visitor 1.
“She works for Boss?” I heard him ask Tech A.
“Katie? Yes. She’s great.” I heard her respond and smiled.
In our second meeting – taking place in a darkened room that was far too warm – I met another important MD. We will call him VIMD 2. Boss went into a big spiel about the mess this day was becoming without introducing me. This lead to an awkward set of glances from VIMD 2. It’s unusual for Boss to make such an error in decorum. I was shocked, therefore, when he went to leave without introducing me to VIMD 2 and the friend who’d just joined him.
“Oh!” Boss said, turning around. “Do you know Katie?”
“I don’t.” They chorused and introductions were made as the southern charm was dutifully trotted out.
“And Katie is…” The elder newcomer asked.
“I’m one of Boss’s postdocs.” I offered.
“So you like mail?” He asked. “Post in Britian refers to mail. Letters, bills, items of that sort.”
“Sure.” I smiled. “You’re more than welcome to send me letters. Email. Postcards. Whatever you think is best.”
Deferential even in casual conversation, I thought, but walked away feeling fine about my impression. It’s just what I do. How I am.
“So what’s the plan?” I tried to confirm as we met with Visitors 2 and 3, deciding what to do about the experiment and subsequent meeting with VIMD 3. Boss decided quickly and after our brisk walk back to our offices, I set about contacting the necessary people to make the appropriate changes. I received this task because I’m good at manipulations.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” I’ll begin. “But Boss had a slight change in plans and was very much hoping to impose on you a bit…”
“Oh, thank you so much.” I’ll continue after obtaining the agreement I sought. “Would 1:30 work for you? Or would later be better? Are you terribly busy this afternoon? Again, our apologies for the late notice. We appreciate your help so much!”
Running around – issuing compliments, apologies and graciousness like there was no tomorrow – I had everything set up with 20 minutes. Then I went to take notes, smoothing any feathers that had accidentally been ruffled, offering to stay behind when the experiment ran over so we could get the data and no one would be late for the next meeting.
VIMD 3 came in the room just as I was finishing up, Visitors 2 and 3 in tow.
“Katie!” He said, reaching to shake my hand as I greeted him with equal enthusiasm. “I was going to ask about you – I knew you’d be around and didn’t know why you weren’t in the meeting!”
“I was wrapping something up – I just wanted to make sure we had the data we needed so we can get started for you.”
He went into a brief description of what he wanted and I nodded along, expressing excitement, appreciation and basically making the right noises at the appropriate times.
“That sounds great.” I chirped. “I’ll look forward to it. Whatever you need. Anytime is fine. Thanks so much for coming over to meet with us.”
Then I went over to meet with the original VIMD of Project A (I think. I lost track of what I called the suckers). I did my deferential routine with her too. At first, anyway.
Eventually, her blatant lack of respect for me and my time got to me. She asked me to attend a meeting when I’d told her I was heading out of town the next day. I accepted at first, then sent an email with my apologies later that night.
“I want to come home.” I told Mom. “There’s no reason I need to be there. I think she’s just screwing with me because she can. But I’m not a med student. This is just a side project for me and I’ll do it when I can.”
Then I got back to an email from another person asking for help with something of which I wasn’t familiar and didn’t control. I sent back a note that referred to her to VIMD and offered assistance if someone could offer further directions. I didn’t hear back so I assumed all was well. But I felt badly.
I arrived in her office, picked up the files I needed, asked for keys to the room that was locked.
“Oh, I took care of that email.” She explained the situation and I nodded along. “I can’t remember what we decided…” She trailed off as she scanned through her email folder.
“I can send a note to Wendy.” I said after a moment. “Don’t worry about it – I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to get these entered in now.” I said.
“OK,” she turned to face me with a smile. “Thanks for doing that. It’s good to see you.”
“My pleasure.” I smiled back, finished the work, filed my papers and walked back to the office.
I was left sitting at my desk, looking at a new line in Gmail. One that made my stomach clench. At work, you see, I divorce myself from the craziness. The obsessions and mopey moods and garbage. I work. I act normal and effective, sweet and smart. I’m good at what I do. I want to feel more like that and less like I did yesterday morning.
So I clicked on the little checkmark beside the message and archived it. I don’t know that I’ll read it, though I kept it in case I want to. Honestly, I can't think of anything his little friend can offer that I want. Her words tend to linger painfully for me and I’ve done nothing more than skim some of her emails. I baited her (I know that), but regardless of her intent, ignorance has to be bliss here. I’m afraid of what’s there, so I'll defer (as in the other meaning - how's that for nifty?!)
Just in case you think that breaks my overall theme, I did ask Friend about it. She said I was fine.