"Industry," I said softly, feeling proud and pleased, "your offer came first after all."
I contemplated taking out my camera to document the occasion, but shook my head and pulled the tab to open the cardboard container. I withdrew pages, flipped through them rapidly and sat down heavily while more carefully paging through them again.
"But..." I murmured, placing the small stack of pages on my lap and moving each one to face down on the ottoman beside me so I was absolutely sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't. It was an I-9 form with detailed instructions of how to prove my eligibility to work in the US and a document to give the people who would perform my pre-employment drug screening.
"Oh," I said, confused and a little sad and powerfully disappointed. These were not details about the relocation program! There was no confirmation of the salary we discussed or mention of stocks or pensions or moving expenses! Official news is about a month later than I expected, and it arrives in the form of a Homeland Security form and instructions on where to give a urine sample? No, no, no!
I called the number on the blasted envelope of pain and disappointment and left a message for yet another HR representative. I told him I'd received the forms and while I supposed that was nice, I was kind of hoping to see an offer. "So let me know what's up, please," I said, trying for peppy and unable to sparkle past merely polite.
He returned my call a couple hours later. I had just spoken to Cousin and was invited to join them for dinner - leftovers - and to bring Chienne to see if she wanted to be their houseguest for the weekend or if she'd stay home alone for a couple days.
"I'm sorry," NewHR guy apologized. "Those forms weren't supposed to beat the actual offer. But there was a mistake on the letter and I corrected it, but that had to be approved. So I'm still waiting on that final approval before I send an email copy. It should be within a couple of hours."
"Today?" I asked, letting skepticism define the word.
"Today," he replied. And true to his word, the email did arrive with links to a very nice offer. The salary was not a surprise - I'd negotiated to a number I felt was fair and it was neatly printed in the first paragraph. I was pleased with the relocation package - they will buy the house after a defined period if it doesn't sell. Which is reassuring and wonderful and something that isn't included in the Drug Company deal. The lump sum payments were high - moving expenses and cash in lieu of house-hunting trips - so there was no need to negotiate there.
I read the letter on the screen of my laptop a couple of times. I paged through the pdf explaining the relocation program. I nodded slowly as most of my questions were answered and I realized this really would be, as Adam stated, very straightforward and easy.
"I'll have to think of something to request," I told my parents when I called them to let them know I finally had an official document offering me employment. I decided on stocks (none were offered. I think I'd like stocks - I should have some.) and a longer time in complimentary housing. I wrote the email this morning - I'll let you know how my meager negotiating skills play out. So far it's been as follows:
Me: Hi. How flexible is the salary number?
Industry: You could have $5K more.
Me: OK! Thanks!
"There should be cake," I told Friend this morning as I curled my hair and finished my make-up. I'd spent the evening with Cousin last night, finding Little Cousin friendly and delightful. I relaxed when Cousin said she had no opinions on the job situation - I should do what made me happy. Friend, when I picked her up on my way home so I could help with menial labor for her paper, nodded when I told her how nice that was. Then she offered disparaging comments about Industry and I snapped at her. But all was well this morning. "Boss wanted to make sure I was coming to the meeting today - he asked me to present some slides - but it must be to have a 'Congratulations, Katie!' party. So I'm all pretty if someone wants to take a group picture and I'll have cake after pizza. I've even prepared remarks about how wonderful everyone is and how happy I am to have this job offer."
I practiced said remarks on the way to work, leaving her to listen absently until I finished. At which point she started reciting her to-do list out loud, so I don't think she was overly moved by my heartfelt speech. No matter, I decided happily, and arrived at my desk to print out various forms from Industry to start reading and signing and preparing them to fax after I get a reply re: stock.
I walked down a hallway and sat with our receptionist as she notarized my I-9 form. I signed papers and filled out medical history documents and admitted I take anti-depressants. I called the number as directed and set up my appointment for my drug test and blinked with surprise when she said I could come today, tomorrow or Friday.
"I guess I could come today," I said, thinking my afternoon looked fairly free after my party. She told me where to go, instructed me to drink enough water (I wrinkled my nose - I'd rather not discuss urine at all, thanks.) and told me to call if I had any problems.
I did have a problem, though a call wouldn't have helped since it wasn't urine-related. I walked into the conference room, having been detained in the hallway by one of my favorite faculty members as we discussed the fight for my employment between Industry and Drug Company. I showed him the forms that bore Industry's logo and my signatures and he nodded approvingly.
"I thought you'd go closer to home," he said. "Congratulations." That, I decided, was what it should say on my cake. He'd obviously stalled me so they could set up my "surprise." But I glanced around the table and saw only pizza boxes and sodas. There weren't even very many people there, I thought. But maybe the cake would come later?
"We're a bit sparsely attended today," Boss said after we settled around the table, "but I asked Katie to present some more slides from the conference last month." Then he looked at me expectantly while I blinked at him for a moment.
"But," I wanted to say and didn't. "I'm leaving soon. I'm taking this offer and I start in two weeks and there was supposed to be cake. People were supposed to talk about how great I was and wish me well. And there's nothing? Just slides and pizza with freaking bacon on it? Really?"
"Oh," I said instead. "Right. So here are some abstracts I picked out." And I talked and we discussed some points and I wrapped up far earlier than our normal ending time. "I didn't prepare very much," I said to Boss and he said it was fine. I didn't mention I'd allowed time for cake, choosing instead to walk back to my office and pack my things so I could go pee in a cup.
No cake for Katie, I thought sadly after I'd dealt with feeling a bit like a criminal at the testing facility. A beautiful offer from Drug Company arrived today and I slowly moved my gaze across the pages, smoothed my fingertips over heavy paper and beautifully typed words. I smiled at the stickers that instructed me to sign here and sighed heavily because I'm not going to do that. It's best to keep expectations realistic, I think. I feel the Industry offer is right - safe and comfortable, challenging and wonderful. I know that might cause twinges of disappointment in some of you on my behalf. I'm sorry. But join the club - no cake for you either, apparently.