Monday, June 06, 2005

Not Necessarily Loving Every Minute

Start your prayers, ladies and gentlemen. We now have four days to finish the home show house. And really a lot needs to be done today and tomorrow because the crack-team of decorators I've rounded up converge on the house Wednesday afternoon.

This summer when Partner and I came to the decision that I wouldn't teach, the idea was that I would spend time writing and working at the build company. I am supposed to be learning how to do "the books" but that hasn't happened yet. Right now I have been assigned all things marketing. I've managed a super new logo, designed new signs (very upmarket), started work on a website, ordered shirts for everyone with our logo embroidered on them, and managed to get decorators to fill at least the first floor of the house with furniture. This week I need to coordinate this effort, and also be the go-to person for the party of 500 we are hosting at this house on Friday night. I feel like The Apprentice. And mostly I think I am doing a fairly professional job.

It is, however, a totally different kind of stress and work environment than I am used to: A quiet office, a cup of tea, a computer buzzing, and interjected by bursts of intense teaching, back to the quiet office, etc. I decided a few years ago that the graduate student scene was fairly cut throat, and removed myself. I don't mind competition, in fact, I pretty much relish in it like a pig in mud, but this was stupid, petty shit. And a lot of posing. Have you been in graduate school? You know what I mean then. Like middle school, but with more knowledge. So, while my teaching and academic life has been stressful at times, it's different now. Completely. Two things that have been particularly hard for me follow.

First of all, a job site is really loud. (An English department is not.) And a site nearing completion is like a hive. Plumbers and electicians and landscapers and flooring guys and granite guys and the closet guy... oh my! If you are on site, there is no little office to retreat to when you need a minute. And everyone has questions and needs. To be fair, they aren't asking me, they're asking Partner. But since I am often standing next to her, I can feel the energy of the hurled demands. She's cool. She's calm. When the customer is there, I pick up on his frenetic energy very easily. Partner deflects. She radiates know-how.

Yesterday when we were at the site, I had to get in the truck, drive around the corner and cry for fifteen minutes. Why was there a problem every three minutes? And this wasn't a problem like those addressed in graduate school, those one could research and ponder in an ever-so hypothetical manner. These issues are more like, the vent fan can not be put into the hood and operate because the opening is too small and where are the screws that were shipped with this and those lights are too big for that space and the paint is showing flashing through and the other paint is not coming and the stairs need to be resanded and stained and reassembled and the guy who was doing it just walked off the job and where will we find someone else to do it at this late date and that tile is uneven and the mounting brackets for the dining sconces were not delivered and that granite was cut incorrectly and the cleaners are coming tomorrow and will the house be ready and there's still no front steps and the client hasn't picked a front door stain color and, and, and-- AND it all needs decisions to be made on the second. AND I am only touching here the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Two: the building industry is overwhelmingly male.

This is something I knew, as it were, in an academic sense. Partner would talk about it, I saw it briefly when with her at various events, but I didn't get to experience it. For example, Friday I did have a brief respite in "the office". Trades don't visit us much here--pretty much only to pick up checks, and since I am not yet doing "the books", I don't deal with any of this. Yet on Friday, in comes Mr. Landscaper looking for a check. I don't know anything about it. He sits down in a chair. Well, can you tell me Mr BossMan's phone number? I don't know it. (And really I don't-- it's on my computer, but since I just shut the computer off and since I was clearly leaving the office at this point, I wasn't turning it back on. There is, as usual, more back story to the Mr. Landscaper interaction, but we won't go into it too much. Suffice to say, I would usually turn the computer back on to find the phone number.) He doesn't believe me,and proceeds to answer his phone, have a five minute conversation as I am standing there, clearly waiting to leave the office.

When he hangs up, he stares me down for about ten seconds, then calls Partner! He says, "I need the check that was supposed to be left for me here and this girl (!!!!) in your office says she doesn't know anything about it." (Pause) "This girl right here in your office. And I need Mr. Bossman's phone number and she won't give it to me. She says she doesn't know it. Does she know that phone number?" At this time, I am looking at him, mouth agape. Pause again and he says, "The girl in your office." Pause. "The girl. I am looking at her." Pause. "Well, it's some girl in your office." And then he hangs up. He says to me, "Ms. Partner said there was no girl in the office. What are you supposed to be then?" I narrow my eyes and say to him, "I am a woman." "Oh right," he laughs, "Of course. A woman. Fuck that shit," and then walks out of the office! I wanted to chase after him and push him down the stairs.

The summer certainly is shaping up to be interesting, and I couldn't have decided to get involved in this business at a crazier time. I'll be glad when the homeshow opens, and the big party is over. If I can just make it through this week... For the most part, I am liking this shift in my life. Yesterday I was gleeful about the fact that I didn't need to grade any papers. I think this is like starting any new job-- the period of adjustment is often really hard. In fact, I can only think of one job I had that I fell into right away without feeling that awkward stage, and that was teaching at University. Does that mean something? I don't know. All I know is I've got a crazy week ahead of me, and it will be worse for Partner. She worked until about 10 every night last week, except for Friday, when she worked until midnight. It just needs to get done, done, done.

Like I said, start your prayers. Please.


Blogger Firefly said...

Busy, busy, busy bee!

2:02 PM  
Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) said...

Sing it again. And again. And a completely frantic pace.

6:32 PM  

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