He didn’t like me, which was obvious from the moment he signed into the conference, and had trouble locating his name on my list of attendees. The names weren’t alphabetized. I didn’t have time to alphabetize. The entirety of my Friday was a last minute scramble to print and copy a dozen different forms and handouts, while answering emails with questions on the hotel, and loading up my car in time to get to the conference when it started.
I have been one step behind preparing for this conference since I began this new job a month ago. There is always too much work to do in the five hours a day that I’m in the office. It’s not hard work, but there is a lot of it. I didn’t want a full time job for a reason. I wanted to be around for my kids. I didn’t want to have to pay exorbitant childcare bills. However, at the same time, I have had to wrestle with my ego more than once, on accepting my role as an “assistant.” Not long ago, I was a leader. I had autonomy. I could send out an email without it being reviewed by my boss. Now, I make coffee. I make copies. And over the conference weekend, I was treated as “the office girl” by many of the attendees and speakers.
Besides, I was not at the top of my game. I had a cold. My eyes hurt from allergies. I had gotten way too little sleep that prior Thursday due to a deep jab in my finger from cleaning a blender blade that most likely required a stitch, a proposition at the time that seemed too inconvenient.
So, when M. had difficulty locating his name to sign in on my non-alphabetized attendee list, I just smiled and shrugged, while inside, wished I was home practicing yoga, or drinking coffee in my own kitchen, since the hotel’s was less than memorable.
Later, when I asked M. to sign a release form acknowledging that we were videotaping the event, he was prickly. Once again, I smiled and shrugged, and stood in front of him until he finally relented his signature.
It was a huge strike two between us.
Day two of the conference was overshadowed by the looming threat of hurricane Sandy. People were nervous about their flights being canceled, since most of them were flying out of Newark. On Saturday, the airlines were allowing passengers to change their flights without penalty fees, but Sunday was a different story. I sat on a laptop checking random flights to some of the home states of our attendees, Oregon, California, Florida. It seemed as if most flights departing after five o’clock had been canceled.
M. had come from the west coast, which I knew from my non alphabetized attendee list. While many attendees were on their phones at break time, checking in with their flight carriers, M. seemed oblivious to the impending threat of the storm.
I tapped him on the shoulder.
“Have you checked in with your airline about your flight?”
“The airport is shutting down tonight, due to the hurricane. When are you flying out?”
“Tomorrow morning. “
“Listen, if you don’t get out today, you’re not going anywhere until Wednesday.”
“Should I call the airlines? “
“Don’t bother calling. Go to the airport and get on a line. Get a flight to anywhere you still can, just get off the east coast.”
“Thank you,” he said, his eyes softening.
He disappeared, along with the many others that I tapped on the shoulder yesterday, telling them to get to the airport, essentially emptying the room we worked so hard to fill.
It was my proudest moment of the weekend.
How do you measure success at work?