Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Post Interview Conundrum

As you know (or may not know depending on how much of my blog you've read), I lost my job two weeks ago. It would be cool to say that I went out in a flaming ball of glory, ending in a high-speed car chase, but in reality it was far more mundane. I was part of a round of layoffs at my small company. These things happen, and to be perfectly honest, being unemployed can be okay as long as you stay busy.

Therein lies the rub, or so they say (what on earth does that mean, anyway?). Staying busy. You have no where to be, no responsibilities, and no reason to really get dressed (see previous post about the hidden dangers of sweat pants).

That being said, there is that rare opportunity when you get called in for an interview. You spend most of the day prepping for it, researching their website over and over again trying to find minute details that will give you unique insight into answering that endlessly frustrating question, "Do you have any questions for us?"

You want to be suave, cool, and original. "Why, thank you for asking. Indeed, I do. I would like to know if you feel special when you wear colorful underwear?"

So you spend hours pouring over the questions, and the answers, and coming up with original comments that will make you stand out amid the plethora of other candidates. Finally, it's time to shower. Of course, you give yourself an extra thirty minutes - who knows, you could have a horrible shaving accident that takes extra clean up time.

An hour later, you're clean, freshly shaven, looking sharp, and smell like a pot of fresh flowers. It's time. Only you have that extra thirty minutes that you didn't need. No matter, you can just hang out for a while. Except that you can't sit down or even move too quickly because your house is generously peppered in pet hair, and any sudden movements could leave you looking like you're wearing a fur coat that would incite PETA members everywhere.

So, standing perfectly still, you check the clock every two minutes, waiting, as the time slowly ticks by, until you only have two minutes left before you were planning on leaving. You give up on waiting, collect your things, and bolt out the door, ready to rock this interview. You drive to the end of the street, and promptly turn back around because you forgot your resume/phone/wallet/notepad/pen/whatever else you might need to make sure you look prepared and on the ball.

Now, after waiting around for thirty minutes and doing nothing, you're actually running late. You charge into the house like a tornado, seize your resume/phone/wallet/notepad/pen off the table, and give your confused roommate nothing more than a mumbled, "I forgot something," before you bolt out the door, awkwardly walk-running to your car.

Naturally, you hit that inevitable slow in traffic that makes you immediately wonder whether or not you should call the company and let them know that you're going to be late. Finally it lets up, and you're off like Mario Andretti. You push the speed limit, drive slightly dangerously, and pray that you don't see any cops. About a mile shy of your destination, you slow down dramatically. You don't want anyone who might be your future employer to see you driving like a crazy woman. Casually, you pull into the parking lot, putting on your, "I never get stressed out, and I always drive safely" face, and look at the time. You have fifteen minutes to spare.

You mill the time away in your car, and with ten minutes left, you start to wonder should you go in now or wait another five minutes? Finally, after much debate, you decide on eight minutes. You figure, it'll be at least 7 minutes by the time you reach the door, and that makes you look slightly more prepared, but not overly eager, or imposingly early.

With your most charming smile, you tell the receptionist who you are, and take a seat, where you sit straight backed and wait, trying to decide whether you should play on your phone, admire the decor in the waiting room, or make small talk with the receptionist making valiant attempts to sound smart and witty.

Without warning, the interviewer appears, and takes you back to a conference room. You answer all their questions, talking yourself up like you are god incarnate, stopping just shy of walking on water and healing the sick (unless you're applying to be a doctor). You even get through the awkward one where you spin your weaknesses as a strength, and everyone in the room knows you're doing just that, but has the politeness to pretend that they don't know that's what you're doing.

Thirty minutes later, they see you to the door, and you get in your car and drive home, rethinking every detail of your interview, and trying to read a person who you don't even know. You get home, and look around.

You look like a million bucks, spent at least an hour and a half getting ready, all your employed friends are at their jobs, and you're home alone before an hour has even passed.

And the same question crosses your mind every time. "What on earth do I do now?"

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Hidden Danger of Sweat Pants

As of Tuesday of this week, I was laid off from my job.

I'm not going to lie, it's pretty nice getting to sleep in, putting on sweatpants first thing in the morning, and sliding my feet into my cozy Lands End sheep fur slippers.

But it's a slippery slope, folks. Those sweat pants can dangerously snowball into a day of sloth and drudgery...

With that in mind, please allow me to explain how sweat pants are the real-life version of "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie."

Let's start in the morning.

1. Sweat pants. No one in her right mind would pop out of bed, shower, and dress in street clothes when she doesn't have to go anywhere. I mean, come on, blue jeans just can't compete with sweats when it comes to comfort. So where's the harm in putting on sweats? They are practical and comfortable.

The harm is that when you have no obligations, you can find yourself in sweats all day long, having made no effort to go out into the real world, with real people, doing real things. Sweat pants are a blessing and a godsend, absolutely, but they can also be a trap of comfort that encourages you to stay inside, rather than go outside and interact with the world.

2. Brushing Your Teeth. So, no where to be? Welp, I'm going to eat breakfast, apply for a few jobs, drink some chocolate milk, work a bit on my novel, watch a movie, and whoops! I get up to go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and realize that 1) I look gawd-awful, having made no effort to turn myself into a respectable human being, and 2) I didn't even get around to brushing my teeth, and it's already 4:00 in the afternoon!

You may be thinking, eh, minor thing, pop a piece of gum and move on with it. It's not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. Just as it becomes a habit to brush your teeth in the morning, it also becomes a habit not to. And you need your teeth! No one wants to hire a toothless wonder!

3. Movies ALL DAY. WOOOO! Who doesn't want to have a day where you get to sit and watch movies and luxuriously do nothing? No one. Everyone loves a movie day. But now that you're unemployed, every day gets to be movie day! After all, you're in your sweat pants, and you haven't even brushed your teeth. What's stopping you?

You should be stopping you. It's important to remember, that even though you don't have a job, you aren't a human slug. Besides...you can only watch Ever After and Lethal Weapon so many times before you should really start judging yourself harshly.

4. The Internet. What an amazing and wonderful resource, and what an incredible way to waste your time. And hey, depending on your last job, this may be what you would have been doing all day, anyway.

Still not an excuse. When you have the rare opportunity to talk with live humans, and you find yourself talking about what you saw on BuzzFeed and Reddit, or quoting Lethal Weapon, you should have red flags popping up all over the place. You're now talking to people about interacting with machines. Back in high school, we used to call people who did that "geeks."

5. I'll do it tomorrow. Well, you've already spent most of the day watching movies. I mean it's 4:00, right? Really, what's the point in trying to buckle down and get something done, most of the day is gone anyway. Besides, it's not like there isn't time tomorrow.

Really? Are you really going to do it tomorrow? Right, and your new diet starts tomorrow, too, doesn't it? If you don't have the self-discipline to do it today, then what on earth makes you think you'll actually do it tomorrow? You could be missing some huge opportunities today simply because you've decided to waste your day on the internet and watching movies.

The point is, sweat pants and unemployment are like the perfect storm of comfort and lack of responsibility. When you have nothing to do, why do anything? Because...you're a human not a rug.

So - with that in mind, I'm going to go change out of my sweats and brush my teeth so I can go to the gym and interact with live humans...or at the very least, people watch.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Best Test of Friendship

Every once in a blue moon, I get the opportunity to add an amazing person to my life.

I was born into a whole herd of them...if you can count three as a herd.

I had a fortuitous encounter with a mud puddle in my rec soccer years, earning the love and adoration of the Jacobsens for years to come.

I shook the hand of a fellow sixth grader, which was the rocky start to a life long friendship with my best friend, Erika (she thought I was crazy for offering to shake her hand...and I was thoroughly unimpressed with her handshake - seriously, limp fish, anyone?).

I inadvertently hit on my dear friend, Jamie, after moving to a new state and looking for new friends. I have to say, as a woman, it's truly awkward to ask a girl for her phone number. "Hey, you should give me your number...um, I mean, we should hang out...I mean, not like that...not that I have a problem with that or anything. It's totally cool if you're...but...I mean...(awkward cough)...what I'm trying to say is that you're cool, and I think we could have a good time hanging out in a non-sexual way." (That's right people, Suave is my middle name)

And those are just a few of the fortuitous moments when some of the coolest people I know have walked boldly into my life....or I have stampeded awkwardly through theirs, as it may be.

But THIS post, is not about adoring your friends. It's about ramming them off their bicycles, and that brings me to my good friend Jake.

To give you a little back story, Jake and I recently became coworkers. After discovering that we both enjoy running, we got in the habit of going on lunch time runs to break up the work day. If you're not already picturing two people running joyously through amber waves of grain, then I'm not telling this story right.

Now, in my defense, Jake had early warnings that being my friend was precarious, and even sometimes dangerous. On our very first run, a drunk, homeless man was on a bicycle wobbling all over the sidewalk, and managed to b-line straight at me, well, as much as one can b-line while wobbling.

My first course of action? I took one step backward and one step to the right, effectively putting Jake between me and the cyclist. Mind you, the real trick to my success and to assuring my personal safety, was that after stepping behind Jake, I put my right hand on the right side of his ribs.

Had Jake made the decision to bail out of the way, he would have had to fight me for the first right to do so. Naturally, Jake has taken full advantage of every opportunity to remind me about this minor effort to throw him in front of the cyclist to save myself.

That being said, despite my best efforts to do him harm, Jake has continued to show incredible resiliency and fortitude that I can only ascribe to good genetics - that is if you don't count this thyroid thing (don't mention it, he might cry). More importantly, however, he has also continued to show himself to be a true friend, even in the face of danger.

And that's why we still hang out, and it's also why he suggested we go on a bike ride one weekend.

He showed up at my house one morning promptly at 10:00, only to find me sitting on the floor in sweats and an old t-shirt hand-painting a dresser. He waited patiently for me to get ready, and as he had nothing to do, I put him to good use filling up the air in my tires. (If you don't give engineers things to do they start to try to fix things - next thing you know, you walk into the kitchen and half the refrigerator has been taken apart).

In no time at all, we were out the door, and on our way. I let him take the lead as we ducked down into the bike paths that Boulder is popularly known for, and we eagerly zipped through the tunnels and around the curves like happy kids on a Ferris wheel. That is, until we hit the headwind.

It was the first headwind I'd ever encountered on a bicycle, and I can safely say, short of a zombie apocalypse or a surprise tornado, it will very likely be the last. Jake noticed that I was struggling, and he gallantly let me draft behind him for the majority of the ride (thanks, Jake).

Finally, after what felt like miles and miles of excruciating headwinds and mild upward grades, we made it back to the bike paths, and with the exception of one wrong turn, Jake seemed to know exactly where we were going. So I cruised up right along side him so we could have a pleasant conversation for the remainder of our pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning.

And, truly, everything was pleasant until Jake missed the turn.

I assumed that since he lead the way out, he knew the way back. In retrospect, this was a poor decision, and one that I probably should have discussed with him before acting upon my assumption. Which, by the way, was incorrect.

Unassuming Jake was enjoying his pleasant ride on the pleasant Sunday morning, and likely marveling at his good fortune of having survived yet another outing with me. Even more surprising that I hadn't even made an effort to throw him in harm's way.

Jake and I both learned a lesson that day. Assumptions are very very dangerous things.

I was anticipating the turn, and expected that Jake was as well. It was coming up on us quickly, and he didn't seem to be making any indications that he was going to turn, but I was confident he would. He's pretty directionally sound. Our opportunity to turn was rapidly passing us by, but in an effort to be polite, I didn't want to say anything that would suggest I didn't have faith in him or his directional capabilities. Fortunately, just when the last opportunity to turn was about to pass us by, Jake's bike twitched, ever so slightly to the right.

AH-HAH! I knew he was going to turn!

I cranked my handle bars hard with enthusiasm and vigor that could impress a gladiator, and promptly rammed my front tire directly into Jake's spokes - effectively t-boning him from point blank. We both tried to correct, but that's an impossible endeavor when one person's tire (mine) has lodged itself between the other person's spokes (Jake's). Both our bikes stopped on impact, and we went tumbling over the handle bars in an assortment of flying Ws and face plants.

The concrete met us with it's usual inflexibility, and in a clamor of clattering chains and vibrating carbon fiber, we rolled to a stop.

"Uugghh," Jake said, "Are you okay?" (Do note, his first concern was for the person who just rammed him off his bicycle)

And I was...I was more than okay. I was laughing so hard I was on the verge of tears. Jake, however, couldn't figure out quite why I thought it was so funny, as, from his perspective, I, arbitrarily decided to ram him off his bicycle. Which he probably did not find all that unbelievable - given that our ride had been so successfully mundane and uneventful, it wasn't all that surprising that I would choose to spice it up by t-boning him with my bike.

"What happened?" He asked, getting to his feet and looking at the road and my bike to figure out why I had so abruptly run into him.

And I could only reply with, "I thought you were going to turn." The look on his face was priceless, and with his typical good humor, Jake burst into laughter. We rode the rest of the way home with blood streaming down our bodies, giggling like kids who stole the cookie jar.

It was a great ride. But more importantly, it was a great lesson. Truly, how many people can you ram off a bicycle and still expect them to be your friend?

Not many...not many at all.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

RIP to Paul Walker...a poignant note of caution

By now, it's old news that Paul Walker died in a horrific car crash on Saturday. My sincerest apologies go out to his friends and family, and the loved ones of the driver. It is always shocking to see someone's life cut dramatically short, and even more painful to see the hurt in those he leaves behind.

That being said, his death and the death of the driver were caused by a horribly bad choice in judgement. Cars are not toys, streets are not race tracks, and boys will be boys is never a reasonable excuse. Accepting this sort of behavior puts everyone at risk.

I have raced cars in organized settings, and been a wiling passenger during racing events. I know what good driving looks like, and I know what it means to push the limits. I also know, that even in a controlled environment, pushing those limits can have catastrophic results.

That being said, before I had the maturity to wise up (around the age of 19), I was okay with getting in cars with young guys who thought that city streets were the optimal location to strut their driving expertise. I even recall riding with a guy who thought he was an amazing driver, and that he would be an exceptional racer. Mind you, this was a guy who tried (and failed) to make his S2000 fish tail out of an empty parking lot....that's like trying and failing to flip a light switch. He lacked the understanding to realize that it was not his engine's torque causing the vehicle it to pull drastically to the right, but rather its poor alignment. Every shift was awkward and lurching, and he had the temerity to eagerly ask me, "I mean, yeah, I should totally race, right?"

No...no, I really don't think you should.

The point is, when I was 19, and okay with getting in cars with boys (~chuckle~) pretending to be Mario Andretti, I trusted the guy behind the wheel to get me from point A to point B safely, even if he was driving like an idiot. But that's just the point - if he was driving like an idiot, there was no way he could guarantee my safety. Showing off and having "fun" may give the driver a bit of a high and an ego boost, but to everyone else it's just a hazard.

I have recently had a coworker eagerly suggest that we go for a ride in his Lotus (a car he tracks regularly, and is very proud of). He's been asking and suggesting that we go for months, but the simple fact is that I will never ride with him. He has proudly admitted to trying to scare his passengers when he takes them out for a drive. To me, that's like proudly admitting to trying to scare his friends by holding a gun to their heads and playing Russian roulette.

I'm sorry to see Paul Walker go, and I'm sincerely sorry for his friends and family. The crash was horrific, and I would never wish it upon anyone. But please let it be a reminder that city streets are not race tracks, and no one can account for every variable. If you're dead set on driving like a bat-outta-hell, go for it....in controlled conditions where the only life you risk is yours.

Good drivers are not people who regularly put their life and the lives of those around them at risk by treating the street like a race track.