Life at 30,000 Feet

For a decade, I lived in a world surrounded with pubescent children with intense behavioral disorders. What I didn’t realize is how consistent my days were. Sure, each day came with new meltdowns, new interventions, new moods, and new celebrations, but for the most part, it was consistent. I knew where my classroom was. I knew who was next door. I knew my kids and their parents. I knew their disorders, their favorite foods, their triggers, and I knew all of the people I would interact with on a daily basis. I lived in a world that I thought was wildly inconsistent, but then I started a job where I travel for a large portion of my time.

I know what you are thinking- you live the coolest life! You go to New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas and Chicago to name a few. You are right, to an extent. I live an amazing life. The reality of it is a bit different. I do go to these towns; however, it is typically a flight to said “cool” city, an Uber ride to the closest Marriott, a few hours of sleep in a white sheet laden bed shared by humans from all over the globe (gross),  only to wake up and Uber to a corporate office nearby and then scurry out to a flight that I nearly miss to get home and hug my munchkins one hour earlier.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE MY JOB. If you don’t know this, you don’t know me, but I want this blog to serve a few purposes:

  1. To make people laugh.
  2. To document the interesting people and things we experience as traveling business men and women.
  3. To keep me grounded when I am normally 30,000 feet about the ground.

When I think about my working days, the photos and stories I send my friends, the people I meet that leave me looking like the little emoji guy scratching his chin, I realized, it was time to start a blog. That being said, www.dirtytraytables.com was born.

This blog will serve as a place to share stories about the interesting world we live in via Uber, airplanes, subways, hotels, etc.  Be forewarned, my postings will be inconsistent (I’ll blame the sales cycle). It will be stories, one-liners, emotional rants and more.

Safe Travels My Friends and ALWAYS CLEAN YOUR TRAY TABLES!

The Adventure CATinues…

I just arrived in Pleasanton after posting my last blog about 4P. 4P is home safe and sound with my parents and the girls. However, there is a kink in this story’s whisker.

It was gently and kindly brought to my attention by someone that knows me VERY well that maybe, just maaaaaybe, 4P is not 4P after all. What?!  I hated this thought…hated it!  If you know me in real life, you can probably visualize how I may have reacted to this.

“Of course, it’s 4P. I know her ears are grey on the back, she retracts her claws when she plays with my hand, she frolics around like she owns the place… it is 4P,” I said very sternly!

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I’m kind of feisty by nature. I ended the phone conversation abruptly. After a few ignored text messages and a handful of missed calls, I got to thinking. “Maybe it’s not her? After all, she did get dropped off at the shelter with 7 siblings, a dad and a mom, and they all looked an awful lot alike except for Silver and Dad.”

Sheepishly, I referenced back to photos of 4P from our initial meeting. Hmmmmm…. I started to see his point. The Original Four Points’ (OG4P) legs and paws were white, stark white. Oh no, I might be wrong. Oh NO! Maybe she had grown into new colors? I mean I was a blondie as a kid and now it costs me a couple hundred dollars a year to stay that way. After I settled down from my “I refused to be wrong” mood, I realized I was wrong, shoot that has not happened in, like, years so I reluctantly conceded.

I texted, “I adopted the wrong dang cat.”

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I am certain you can imagine what I did next. Well, I cried, no brainer, but then I closed my lunch bill and raced over to the shelter. Where is OG4P?? I figured, “If I find her, she can get in the infamous “spaying” line on Wednesday, I can snag another handy-dandy cat carrier, pick her up Thursday after work and repeat the whole flight home, sans inappropriate joke telling 70 year old man as a seatmate.”

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I walked into the shelter on a mission. I was greeted by what seemed like a newer Cat Police. I began talking to Young Cat Police and tried to recount my story. He only cared about my cat ID which I only had for my currently adopted cat that was in my home in Georgia.

“I am certain that the cat IDs are sequential, as they all came in at once. Can you look it up that way?” I asked. I know a thing or two about cat IDs now.

“What’s the cat ID?” he asked again. I looked behind me thinking the Impractical Jokers were working a skit in the Alameda SPCA. He wasn’t kidding.

“Clearly I only have the ID of the cat I own now. Have you listened to a word I have been saying?” I said calmly, but baffled.

Luckily, the Kinda Good Looking Cat Police was listening in this whole time. Kinda Good Looking Cat Police could hear and feel my passion to find this cat. I knew the predicament he was in. He wanted to help. He knew Original Cat Police (she was working on a computer in the back office) could help, but he didn’t want to belittle Young Cat Police’s ego. His heart won, and he called Original Cat Police over from her desk for backup.

I felt like everything was going to be ok. I knew her. I loved her. She had no idea who I was, and she certainly didn’t love me. You know those kinds of relationships?

Within seconds of my unsolicited recap of the story she said, “ah the Hotel Cat Lady. I remember you.” Dammit I thought. I was annoyingly renowned.

Original Cat Police taught Young Cat Police how to do a deeper search in the computer record system to find OG4P. She was able to drill down to Maintenance Marvin and find all the Cat IDs for the 8 cats he dropped off at the shelter. One of which was assigned to me. The other 7 had been adopted immediately. Mama P (the mom of 4P and her siblings) turned out to be the only one left when I called in. Young Cat Police, Kinda Good Looking Cat Police and Original Cat Police were sympathetic as they saw the tears well in my eyes.  I had indeed adopted “the wrong darn cat.”

“So, I did in fact adopt the wrong cat and OG4P is not adoptable anymore?” I asked while my heart sunk straight to the fur covered tile floor. After confirming, they reassured me that OG4P was in a good place. They reminded me that Mama P (4P) was happy and in my home with my girls. They let me know that she wasn’t likely to get adopted if it hadn’t been for me. The stern Cat Police brigade’s compassion helped, and my tears subsided for a minute.  That’s a good thing, I am the proverbial “ugly crier” and it is a bit of a scene when the waterworks start.

Still slightly teary-eyed, I decided to head over and see my friend Maintenance Marvin, mascara running and all. When I arrived, I headed straight for the oddly enjoyable bar at the Four Points for a Prosecco tissue. There weren’t many people in the bar, as it was mid-afternoon, and I was immediately approached by the live musician who stopped in the middle of his cover of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and came over just to chit chat with me. That was weird, super weird, but I went with it as I needed a boost which he was certain he was going to give me.  After five awkward minutes of interesting content lacking conversation, he gave me his business card (“laminated so it wouldn’t get ruined in my purse”) he returned to his keyboard and electronic drum machine thingee and started belting out Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like a Woman.” I was one hundred and ten percent sure I was literally in the Twilight Zone.  What the Four Points lacks in terms of cleanliness and basic “hotel” amenities it makes up for in character in SPADES.  I mean this is the “hotel” where a cat jumped out from under my bed in the first place.

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I closed my tab, grabbed my, um, second Prosecco, dropped a five-dollar bill in Dude Man’s tip jar and went on my way. My friend was voluntarily staying at the Four Points, as he does because of the aforementioned “character” of the place, so he met me to settle me down.  We were going to find Maintenance Marvin and talk about what had gone down.  We made our way across the property down the winding path (lined with blooming citrus trees!) that follows the stream that runs through the property.  I started to calm down a bit.  The sound of broken fountain pumps gurgling, the sight of mature pool algae and broken concrete walkways has always had that effect on me.  We made our way to the maintenance shed where the cats used to live. I was anxious to get confirmation from Maintenance Marvin that Mama P was OG4P’s real mom. As soon as we saw him, he remembered us. I showed him the picture and he confirmed, “That’s Gloria. The mom of the cat that stayed in your room.”  Like it was completely normal for a cat to have stayed in my hotel room.  This guy was as stoic as they make ’em.

I went on to fill Maintenance Marvin in on the fiasco. He kinda understood. He passively let me know that OG4P’s last sister was just around the corner under the dumpster. He kept her because he loved her so much, but he was going to have to take her to the shelter the following week. Where in the world did these cats keep coming from?  Take 8 away and 8 more just appear!  He told me she was just like OG4P except that she was black and white.  It was obvious there were LOTS of branches on this particular cat family tree. She was friendly, played with toys and was social with the guests. Immediately when I saw her, I fell in love at a motel for the second time.

While my friend was in the corner playing with the cats, I told Maintenance Marvin “I would like to take her home tomorrow.” He was shocked, I think. Or maybe he was happy and relieved, I think. He is a bit hard to read. We hatched a plan together for the second great cat extraction! My friend and I would get the handy dandy carrier from Target as well as some toys and treats. Marvin would catch the cat and put her in my friend’s room while we were at dinner and the cat would stay in the room until my flight out the next day. I was concerned Maintenance Marvin could get fired for this, but he didn’t seem too worried. After all, he was the Employee of the Month for the last 7 consecutive months according to the plaque at the check-in desk.  Maintenance Marvin was definitely a do-it-all fixer.

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On the way back from procuring the cat supplies for the great escape my friend turned and looked at me and asked “where is this cat going to stay tonight and all day tomorrow while you work and wait for your flight out? Does Cat Saving Todd live nearby?”  I turned to look at him and said, “your room.”  My friend turned ghost white and then a little red and I thought that I should have gotten him a beer before laying that on him.  “Wait, what?! I’m going to have a feral cat in my hotel room when I get back from dinner and it is going to be there all night long?  What if I get caught with this cat in my room?  I lose my Marriott status!”  I mean this guy has broken more rules than I even knew existed. “Trust me” I said in a bit of a begging voice.  Thankfully, I still had dried mascara on my face from the earlier tears.

Sure enough, we stopped by the room after dinner and played with my new cat 😉

My friend is a saint. He kept the new cat, later named 4Q (L M N O 4P 4Q– get it?) aka “Cue”, overnight. He didn’t even complain about the constant meowing and pawing at the door all night long.  Oh wait, maybe he did.  Before making our way to the airport, my friend deep cleaned his room to delete any evidence of having kept a cat in the room for 18 hours.  He is like that guy they called in to clean up John Travolta’s mess in Pulp Fiction.  Remind me not to make him mad.

After 3 hours of LOUD meowing, “ow”ing as she does, in the car and in the airport I was ready to leave her in the airport bathroom. She finally settled down and didn’t make a peep on the plane for 5 hours.  I wonder if force feeding Benadryl to prepubescent girl children would have the same effect.

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We made it safely home where she was reunited with her mom. She wasn’t super excited to be there, and Mama P didn’t seem to be too excited either. It appeared they had forgotten each other. Cue hid for 3 days. Finally, the same cat whisperer who told me 4P wasn’t 4P attempted to get her out from under the bed.

At the time, I was grocery shopping. I texted to inform him that there was a great batch of Bloody Mary’s in the fridge, and he was welcome to one. He told me he would have one to celebrate getting the “damn cat” out from under the bed. After 45 minutes of trust building, the cat came out from under the bed. I got another text. Turns out Cue is a boy. I suppose Maintenance Marvin had the English words ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ mixed up. Heavens.

Seriously Mer!!

Just when you think stories are over, they only get better.

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Do I miss OG4P? Of course, I do. I think of how she would be, what she would look like, how she would snuggle me and even if she is really a she. I know she was immediately snatched up into a great family as were all her cute and teeny siblings. Mama P on the other hand is medium sized, not cute kitten small, and average looking at best. She isn’t even really all that nice. Ultimately though, she was the bearer of the little girl that made me fall in love and led me to two adoptions I would have otherwise never made. This little lady and her snuggly son make the Foster Family complete. OG4P – we love you and miss you. Cue and Mama P, Welcome home my dears. We are still gonna call you 4P.

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Until next time Always Clean your tray tables and your paws.

 

 

 

The Great Feline Rescue

The natural evolution of a story is one of my favorite things in the world. The evolution of the “Cat Story” has been quite remarkable. I will share this evolution with you now. You may want to take a moment to grab a snack and a beverage of choice. This story is rather long.

If you haven’t had the chance to read the previous post, “I Fell in Love in a Motel Room Once,” this story will be lackluster. Honestly, for this to make sense, the previous post is a required prerequisite. (I’ll pause here for my readers who have some homework to do).

As you remember, I left the story considering maybe, a strong maybe of going back to get Four Points, 4P, from Maintenance Marvin. I tend to leave stories with cliff hangers even if they aren’t really going to happen. I suspected this was one of those cliff hangers. Over the course of the following two weeks, I couldn’t help but think about 4P. I kept trying to shake it with extra Melatonin and an extra glass of Russian River Chardonnay before bed, but she had me tossing and turning at 3am wondering how she was and missing the playful spirit that she provided me in those three days.

I decided I would call and check on her. If nothing else, I could talk to Marvin and be reassured that she was okay. I called Four Points, the motel not the cat, and asked to speak with Marvin. Respectfully, the front desk clerk (same one I stumped with my questions upon my original arrival) transferred me to Marvin rather than providing me with his direct cell. I left Marvin a message, and I never heard back. That made me sad.

About 10 days passed, and I decided to ring up Captain Check-in again. I was a bit sterner this time asking that Marvin come to the front desk and speak to me on the Captain’s landline. He didn’t like that request and, to be honest, I didn’t like the rejection. In my predicable fashion, I called back. This time I offered them three options:

  1. Track down Marvin to talk about the cat.
  2. Transfer to me Manager Chris.
  3. I’ll call my Ambassador (fancy “stayed in way too many Marriotts last year” status perk) and have her contact Marvin or the manager Chris for me on behalf of corporate. Somehow those sneakies found a way to not do any of the three.

After this awkward, non-productive chat, Captain Check-in did drop a casual line that took me aback. “The cats all got taken to the shelter anyway” he said in what felt like an attempt to make me cut it all out. This was the first time I felt my heart truly drop to the floor. Why didn’t I take her when I was out there? Is she ok? How is Marvin? He must be devastated. What about 4P’s siblings and mom? Maternal Mer came out strong, something had to be done!

I woke up the next morning and frantically waited for 9am PST to hit. As the clock struck high noon EST, I tapped into the Google Machine and found the phone numbers for all of the shelters within 15 miles of the motel and started calling one by one. I quickly learned that tracking down an average looking grey tabby cat was not as easy as it may have seemed. I explained the way she played, the back of her ears and her intense admiration for frozen green peas all to no avail.

Finally, I reached an Animal Police lady that cared a little. We can call her “Cat Police.” She at least pretended to try to find 4P. She asked a few questions but also told me over the last few months more than 400 cats were checked into the shelter. Gosh, she was nice, but also informed me that the only way I could even attempt to track her down (should she even be there) was via her cat ID, whatever the heck that is.

As a final attempt, I found my way to the manager at the Four Points. Manager Chris was his name, and honestly, he seemed fairly interested in my mission. After 4 voicemails and 3 emails, Manager Chris and I connected. “Ah the cat lady… I’ve heard about you,” he said as if I was some wacko the Four Points employees laughed about in the break room. I knew I had to cool my jets and hold back my non-filtered response because I knew I needed him on my team. I pleaded with him that if he could at least ask Marvin if there is ANY way he may have the cat ID on 4P, it might help me track her down and would be greatly appreciated. To be honest, at this point, I had given up hope, but I knew I went down fighting. I also knew I was likely not welcome back in the motel for my future trips to my corporate office. I’ve had larger heartbreaks in my life though.

But then get this! A few days later, I received the following email from Manager Chris. You must be kidding me! Marvin kept the cat ID and the address and phone number. What a stud!email cat

Immediately, I called back and Cat Police answered. She said, “Are you the Hotel Cat Lady I spoke to last week?” After a moment of internal reflection and acceptance, I said “you know I guess I am. I am definitely the hotel, well motel, lady but I’ve never applied cat as an adjective to myself…until now.” All stereotypes aside, she couldn’t believe I tracked down 4P’s cat ID. I would imagine in her job, albeit incredibly rewarding, this provided her a touch of entertainment and some great water cooler chit chat. With a touch of research, she learned that 4P was still there and that day was the first day she was legally available for adoption. Boom! I’d found her, and I was going to be a cat mom or so I thought.

I asked the Cat Police if I could put down a deposit and scoop her up in 10 days. This is where it gets interesting. She said she couldn’t put her on hold no matter how much money I was willing to put down. She simply said, “it doesn’t work that way.” I was shocked. After weeks of tracking down this cat, I was so close, yet so far away. She also informed me that it was “kitten season” (whatever that is, I mean there is a season? Like there is for apple picking or football?), and kittens don’t normally stick around for more than a few days. Oh and to add fuel to the fire, I also had to get her in the “spaying line”, and that only happens once a week AFTER they are adopted.

Boy I was in a pickle. I recapped the scenario with a condescending “help me understand” tone. “So help me understand” I said. “In order to get this cat, I have to have someone come by and adopt her, keep her there until next Wednesday when she gets spayed, pick her up after spaying her and then keep her for another week until I get out there on December 18th?” “Yes ma’am, that’s exactly right.” Cat Police lady said.

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That’s not really her. I was too scared to snap a photo of real Cat Police. That’s the results of a Google Image search for “Cat Police”.

I was at the point of giving up, but I was feeling okay that I tried my hardest. I have a large group of friends in the area, but none that like me that much. As a last-ditch effort, I had a far-fetched idea.

Pleasanton, 4P’s hometown, was a pretty animal friendly and semi-hippieish part of the country. At Workday, we have a intra-company communication tool in order to non-verbally communicate with our peers. I thought to myself, “what if I keyword search ‘cat’ to see if there are any local cat groups that may be willing to help me?” Believe it or not, there is a Slack group at Workday called #cats.

“What the heck?” I thought to myself. I joined the #cats channel and posted my need to get 4P and the backstory blog post which you just read as your prerequisite to reading this one. Within 3 minutes, I had 10+ people willing to help. I was shocked!  I reiterated that I needed her to be adopted, that day nonetheless, spayed the following week and then housed for another week just in time for you to fall in love and let her go.

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Readers, meet Cat Saving Todd, 4P’s local hero.

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Cat Saving Todd was willing to help even considering the strict criteria of the above-mentioned scenario. He sacrificed his lunch break, drove to the shelter immediately and adopted 4P on my behalf. I am dead serious. She was spayed the following Wednesday and moved in with Cat Saving Todd and his husband that evening. Can you believe there are people out there like this who truly just have kind, good and giving hearts? Cat Saving Todd kept me posted on her well being and kept her safe until I was able to come and get her myself. The transition from Cat Saving Todd to me was perfectish. We did have to lure her out of a few hiding spaces before we could get her close enough to me to hop into my handy dandy cat carrier. Cat Saving Todd represents a few things: good people, the power of company communication and the culture of Workday. The world needs more Cat Saving Todd’s, that’s for sure.

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Now the adventure truly begins, relocating 4P all the way across the country. Mind you, I wasn’t a cat person. I was the muckity gal in the Sky Club, sipping a Prosecco or four while still being productive and non-social. Honestly, I am guilty of a few eye rolls to people traveling with their cats, ferrets or Saint Bernards. I am now officially the subject of my own eye-rolling judgement. There I sat, at the Sky Club bar with my cat meowing her face off. Mer had officially turned into Cat Mer. Goodness Gracious.

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I was overly worried about my seatmates being irritated with 4P, so I brought them Starbucks gift cards to proactively keep them from getting catty with me.  However; I boarded behind a couple with a full-grown Golden Retriever, no lie (see photo evidence). I was starting to feel better about 4lb 4P.

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I had a middle seat. The dude on the window, slept the entire time. Literally he was asleep when I sat down and he was asleep when I deplaned. The aisle guy said he would let me keep the gift card if he could tell me jokes. I took the trade but after the first 45 minutes, I would have gladly given 500 gift cards to have had a second chance at the trade. He was a 70+ year old man who literally told me wildly inappropriate jokes for the entire flight from San Francisco to Atlanta. He did so in a volume that made me say “huh?” a couple hundred times. 4P was silent, never made a peep. Boy did I get gypped!

Needless to say, 4P made it home safe and sound and quickly became a part of the Foster Girls. Four Points Foster is now officially a Georgian, and we love her, name and all!

Remember to always clean your tray tables, and your paws. 

I Fell in Love in a Motel Room Once

Checking into a hotel is something I like to do in private. I do this because while I am kind, I know I am insanely high maintenance. One of the many things I love about my company is that we treat our employees well. We also know the value of team collaboration, so our org decided to get together on a budget. What this meant for me was amazing team building but a less than average hotel. My hotel brat reputation clearly precedes me because when I landed and turned on my phone, I had no less than 10 text messages letting me know that I was not going to like the hotel.

 

I stopped at a fancy restaurant for a salad and some fish and put my big girl pants on and headed to said hotel. I was strategic upon check in, however; the vast number of peers checking in were impossible to avoid. I waited until I was only surrounded by two co-workers, both of whom know I am a bit of a brat, making my inevitable check-in scene a little less of a scene.

The texts were right. This was a non-negotiable “no way Jose” hotel for me. Exterior entries just like a motel. Stairs on the outside of the building, sliding doors with the lock bar that does in fact stop people from opening the sliding door but does not stop people from smashing through it or just following me right in.

My questions to the check in guy were fair, but not really in his wheelhouse. I questioned the security, the likelihood of someone following me home from dinner and accessing my room, the integrity of the adjoining door locks and my access points relative to the parking lot.  After 15 minutes of unclear answers, I took my bottled water and decided to just deal with it. The walk through the property wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was a lovely little 1990’s-ish courtyard with a small pond, lush California greenery and a fountain. It was quite enjoyable until the fountain stopped running and started making a “nails on the chalkboard” type sound for the remainder of my 300-yard walk. Heavens.

After entering one of many non-secure entry points of my building on the bottom floor, I found my room. It was directly next to the elevator. Oh no it wasn’t! They don’t have elevators, just outdoor concrete stairs- not the most ADA friendly place on Earth. Sheesh. Anyway, I pulled my non-mobile, physical key out of the paper sleeve, which was taped, not stapled, to the map of the hotel footprint. With three different swipes of my key, I finally got in. You know, it wasn’t too bad. The bedspread was the thin waffle type on the top of a white comforter, but it wasn’t as bad as the ones with no liner on the inside just the scratchy fiberglass ish material that catches on even the most pedicured toenails. There was not a decoration in sight and the “power station” didn’t have a usb option. There was one little floating shelf which was interesting. It conveniently held a single bottle of water. That must have been an Ambassador level loyalty perk.

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As I always do, I started to unpack my suitcase. In this situation though the clothes were staying right where they were, clean and safe in my suitcase, but I needed to at least setup my cosmetics on my long, perfectly positioned for a double-vanity, single vanity bathroom counter top. After dropping the shampoo and conditioner in the shower and opening the box of soap that inconveniently is always on the sink not in the shower (that’s for a whole different blog).  You know this wasn’t too bad. I could get past the dated decor and serious lack of guest security.

I walked from the bathroom back to the bedroom to grab my curling iron and remaining cosmetic bags. As I turned the corner, a small animal darted out from under my bed! This is not a joke. I was certain it was a raccoon or a squirrel. Terrified, I leapt onto my single vanity counter top which all of a sudden was situationally an upgrade. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and as I did, I looked down to see the most adorable little kitten I have ever seen slowly peeking around the corner staring at me as surprised to see me as I was to see it. Terrified, yet relieved I sat down on the counter and caught my breath. As one may imagine, there was a myriad of emotions running through my mind. Was I mad? Was I scared? Was I confused? Was I disgusted? I think I was the perfect combination of all these things.

 

Once I looked at her and it was clear that she wasn’t rabid, I slowly got off the counter top and started making all the “here kitty kitty” noises. I am not a cat person so I kinda stunk at making those noises and stunk at encouraging that cat to do what ever high-pitched command I was asking her to do. It didn’t take much for her to warm up to me and before you knew it, we were sitting outside on my little patio snuggling away. Instantly, I fell in love. I named her Four Points later known as “4P”.

Four Points was pretty cool. She loved frozen peas which is all I had to offer her. You may be wondering why I had frozen peas in my hotel room. I am pretty sure I mentioned that I am a strange bird in some of my earlier blogs. We will leave it at that.

After the shock and fear wore off, I spent about an hour getting to know and playing with 4P, and then I had to meet a coworker for dinner. All of sudden I didn’t want to leave my hotel and motel, it was so hard to leave her. I left the sliding door cracked open just enough for her to get in and out and just hoped she would have been there after my dinner. I texted a friend who went out and got her food beyond the frozen peas. When I returned to my room, I found my sliding door shut and locked. This means someone with an opposable thumb utilized the small crack in my door to enter while I was out. Hmmm. I dropped the lock bar and peeked my head out. I started making those cat noises again, trying to get 4P to come back. A few seconds later, from who knows where, pops out a man in a black one piece jumpsuit. Startled, I screamed a bit and took a few steps back toward my wildly unsecured motel hotel room.

“Ma’am, are you looking for a kitten?” – said the man in the jumpsuit.

“You know I am. Her name is 4P. She is little and looks like a grey tiger.” – I cautiously explained.

“My name is Marvin. I am the maintenance man here, and I’ve been working here for 5 years. I saw your door was open as you were out and decided to lock it up for you. (+10 for manual security) I will be right back. I think I know where your kitten is.”

Sure enough, Marvin came back with 4P in his hands and hands her right over to me. With the sliding door ajar again, she came and went as she pleased, however; Fancy Feast wet food was a luxury she had never experienced so she came more than she went.

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Over the course of the three days, 4P spent every moment with me when I was in the room. On my last night, pulling my heart strings even tighter than I knew possible by a feline, she slept behind my head and softly played with my hair until we both fell asleep.

 

4P and I bonded, and I wanted badly to take her home. As I was packing to head home, she circled softly around my ankles making the sweetest kitty sounds I had ever heard. She jumped into my suitcase as if she was telling me not to go or to take her with me. I was so tempted to take her, and to be purrfectly honest, I still wish I did. Marvin, the maintenance man, wasn’t working on my departure day. There was no way I could take 4P home with me without letting him know.  Who knows? I just may go back in a few weeks and see if we can work out a plan for that sweet little girl.

Until next time my friends, Always Clean your Tray Table.

 

 

 

“Good Luck at Life”

I have been getting hounded lately about not having any recent blog posts, and I hope you realize that represents the authenticity of my stories.  As I have said in many of my blogs, “you can’t make this stuff up.” It’s true, you can’t and I don’t.  While I have been traveling frequently, I simply haven’t had any bloggable moments.  That or my tolerance for goofballs and knuckleheads has increased dramatically.

All had been going well recently until my flight to Denver on Monday evening. I know that when I travel after 6:00 pm, there is always an increased risk for alcohol-induced blog moments. Thank you Sky Club!

This Monday did not disappoint. I am notorious for being the last one to board the plane.  So much so that there is no one left in the boarding area when the gate agent announces “Foster, Meredith Foster” on the microphone.  I was hustling in heels down the concourse when I heard it this time and thought to myself “yep, my timing is perfect!”  I just don’t see a reason to sit longer than I must on a plane, especially when there is chardonnay that needs to be consumed.  Not every airport bar lets me leave with a roadie!

That evening, right before I heard my name called over the microphone, I saw a gal racing to our gate. She wasn’t the over exaggerating frantic, dramatic, late passenger type. You know the one who is taking unnecessarily loud breaths, talking loudly on the phone, telling the poor soul on the other end that they are going to miss their flight but make it by 1 minute (let’s be honest, they made it by 17 minutes), while wiping the sweat off their forehead?  This gal wasn’t that girl.  She wasn’t a drama queen.  Her sense of urgency to get on the plane was pure.  I heard her tell the gate agent she was racing to get to our flight because she had the chance to get home in time to kiss her daughters goodnight.  That’s a journey I know all too well.  +10 points to the running, in high heels and dresses, working moms out there.  For what it’s worth, I think it matters to our kiddos.

I let her scoot ahead of me to make sure she could get on, and then I waited for my second personal microphone invite to board the plane.  It was just my luck that I was sitting next to her on the flight.  I quickly realized that we had a lot in common.  She was coming off a 20 hour cross country turn-around meeting, wearing (and running in) awesome heels and a dynamic dress.  We both ordered a chardonnay and the exact same in-flight meal.  We spoke a little but not too much.  We both had had a long day.  She was the perfect seatmate.  Y’all know how much a good seatmate can make or break your evening.  This was going to be a good flight.

As I looked around for my next bloggable moment, I noticed another woman on the other side of the aisle that was yet another Cool Running Working Mom like my seatmate and me.  All three of us were all Airpods in and laptops up!  It was refreshing to see three women in First Class. To the left of (we’ll call her) “Unfortunate Seatmate Businesswoman” was the main character in this story who we will call “Dude Man.”

As we settled in, I overheard the flight attendant talking to the last two passengers (later than me in-fact) to board. They were young siblings maybe middle school aged who looked a little scared and uncomfortable as they boarded the plane.  It was obvious this was their first time flying.  They were seated in the row behind Dude Man and Unfortunate Seatmate Businesswoman.  They were lovely.  They had excellent manners, said “please” and “thank you” to the flight attendant, and otherwise sat quietly and watched movies.  As a mother, I was proud of them.  I wish I knew their mother so I could tell her how pleasant they were.  Us mothers ALWAYS worry about how our kids behave when we’re not around.

As the flight attendant came through the aisle to offer another pre-flight drink, a few people partook, and a few didn’t.  Dude Man tried to order another cocktail.  The flight attendant politely encouraged him to wait a while as it was apparent the drink he just slugged down wasn’t his first or even his 5th cocktail of the evening.  Surprisingly, Dude Man handled this pretty well but he was certainly anxious to get to 10,000 feet for another pour because he needed that like I need another dress in my closet.

The flight itself was surprisingly anticlimactic. The kids were well mannered and quiet and the businesswomen, me included, pounded on our keyboards, occasionally looking up at the documentaries we weren’t really watching, while Dude Man did nothing but guzzle down Jack and Cokes.

The fun began when we landed, and I mean the very second we landed, on the ground, 9:05 MST to be exact. I am sure I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I absolutely hate it when people talk loudly on the phone in airplanes or in Sky Clubs. Don’t people realize that 95% of the people traveling are likely in the same exact boat as you?  We all have flown enough to get us the seat we didn’t pay for, we are all likely on a conference call and we are all pushing some kind of business.  Civility says we just shouldn’t make our business other people’s business.  You are not that cool or special or important that you have to speak so loudly on the phone that the people 15 rows back can hear your conversation.  In fact, the most “important” people have other people that talk on the phone for them.  No one cares and no one is impressed by your conversation.

As soon as the wheels were on the ground Dude Man is on the phone speaking obnoxiously loud.  First off, we are still bouncing on the runway so I think the “important” work call can wait 5 minutes.  The flight attendant hasn’t even picked up the handset to say “You may now use your cell phones!”  C’mon people, follow the rules.  I’m a pretty big rule follower.  I like rules, they create order.  As the plane makes more noise making its way to the gate he just talks louder.  Then he starts dropping f-bombs over and over and over again!  I handled the first three as well as I could but as they continued, I politely asked him to take it down a notch.  He was so deep into his swearing festival that he ignored me. Unfortunate Seatmate Businesswoman couldn’t possibly lean any further away from him.  As the bell rang to unbuckle, she committed the deplaning cardinal sin of jumping in front of the people in the rows in front of her. We all knew she had every right to do so, and we opened the area to encourage her.  This left Dude Man and me side to side. He stood up in the aisle first, of course, as he was the type who is trying to singlehandedly make sure chivalry is dead, and I noticed he was wearing swim trunks and neon yellow flip flops.  Man, this guy was obviously “important.”

He disconnected from the loud business call that couldn’t wait to take place even though it was after 7pm in all of the time zones in the US, and he started a new call. This one sounded to be one of his “bros” (yep, he literally called the guy “bro”) and he became louder and an even more frequent cusser.  He was yapping about the plane taking forever to open the door…blah blah blah.  Mind you, the On-Time Machine was 10 minutes early.  My patience with him wore thin.  He dropped several GDs (big time no-no in my book), and the number of f-bombs were beyond ridiculous, starting to rival the number of Jack and Cokes he had.  It was all I could handle, so this is where I became my own blog post character. Let’s call me Ms. Have Some Dang Respect for Others.

Since Dude Man didn’t listen earlier, I decided I need to make sure he did this time. I softly tapped his arm and he looked down at me and took off one of his headphones.

“Yo, wuz up?” he slurred.

I condescendingly said “I know you feel your call is extra important, but would you mind laying off the cuss words? There are kids behind you.”

He snickered at me and said, “Who the f@$k cares?  They are like 13.  When I was 13, I had heard all of the cuss words.  Sh#t, I had even seen crack at their age!”  This was extra loud because he still had one of his headphones in.

For those who know my facial expressions when exposed to idiocy, I made that exact face.  I looked him right in the eyes and said, “With all due respect, I don’t think that one of their parents’ goals of raising them is to raise them like you.” He really didn’t like me now and I was perfectly fine with it.  He put his headphone back in and said loudly “Bro, you won’t believe this bro’… this girl just told me to stop cussing in front of these kids behind me, and they ain’t even her f@$king kids.”

I’d had it!

Before committing to not engage with him anymore I gave him one more tap, more of a strong mom poke in the sensitive part of the side of the shoulder, and I said “Hey bro they are someone’s kids.  In fact, my hope is that you would consider not reproducing.”  Let’s blame the second glass of chardonnay for the second half of that comment but it did get a good laugh and an audible “truth” from someone in our vicinity.

He continued to go on and on and on, and I stood quietly biting my tongue.  “Bite your tongue ‘lil one” I could hear my sweet Southern mother whispering in my ear.  I still have a small scar on my tongue.  Between the 73 Jack and Cokes and his overall attitude, there was zero point zero chance of any behavior adjustment by this clown.  As we deplaned, he took off his headphones, flicked me off and said “Good luck at life Bi*@h.”  I laughed and said “Thank you.”

I apologized, on Dude Man’s behalf, to the lovely children and commended their behavior.  Others in the cabin thanked me for setting a good example and defending the children and being classy while doing so.

Well, except for this one guy behind me who said “Hey, nice job handling the bullsh!t from that guy!” Mouth agape, I replied “Dude!  The kids are still here!”  Insert a shaking head emoji here.

Until next time, I’ll be busy trying to embrace my good luck at life and keep on keeping on!

Remember Always clean your tray tables!

 

“Alright, Alright, Alright”

I always travel relatively “pretty.” That is not me saying I am pretty. That is me saying that I don’t travel in yoga pants and a t-shirt on business trips. On all my personal trips, yoga pants and a t-shirt would be formal. I do this with purpose. I like to think that if I am on a business trip and my bag doesn’t make it, I can survive feeling presentable and clean for 36 hours.  I woke up on a Tuesday morning in Austin around 5:00 am for my early flight. I hadn’t slept well, so I decided to snooze for 30 minutes and for the first time on a business trip, I just threw my hair into a messy bun, slapped on a pair of running shoes and covered up in a frumpy sweater. In the end, I was comfortable and a tad more rested than I would have been should I have gotten “pretty.”

I walked down to the plane, trying to wipe off the remnants of last night’s makeup from under my eyes. Ladies, you know what I mean; the little black dots of mascara that smear just enough to look like bags under your eyes from a distance. Yep- those are the ones.

I turned onto the plane and plopped down in 1C with my backpack. I started to wipe my entire space down with my wipes. C’mon don’t laugh, we’ve been through this, I kinda got a thing. While wiping down my area, my seat mate, we will call him 1D for now, but reveal his name shortly, asked me in an oddly familiar southern drawwwwwl, “do you always wipe EVERYTHING down?” I looked at 1D and said “Always.  I have extra wipes, or I can just do yours for you.” So, of course, I just started wiping his tray table down.  When I looked at 1D, I realized that under the plaid hat, perfectly mis-matched scarf and just enough different plaid to be famous blazer was Matthew McConaughey! He seemed as shocked to see me (well it was probably just an involuntary facial reaction to me wiping his space down for him) as I was to see him.  Oh, remember the first paragraph?  What are the chances that the one time, that one time I don’t travel pretty, I sit next to Matthew McConaughey?

I panicked and stupidly spit out “Do you live in NYC?” Part of me did this strategically and part of me did it because I was a bit, well a lot, shaky!  By asking this, I knew I was in control with my awesome “I am a plain ole human, selling software to make a living, raising a family on the outskirts of Atlanta, and you are a mega star that certainly doesn’t suck to look at” icebreaker. Also, at this point, I was only 99.99% it was the real him. Fortunately for me, 1D’s, we can now call him Moondog (more to come on that), brother called, and the last name ran across the screen. Bingo! I had confirmation.

As Moondog (yep, we are tight like that now, he calls me “The Prosecco Guzzlin’ Wipe Master”) was chatting with his brother, the rest of the passengers were boarding the plane taking secret shots of him and don’t you know I photobombed all of them with peace signs, tongue sticking out, funny faces!  I started texting everyone I knew trying to decide what I should do to follow-up my not so epic initial icebreaker, I needed something more Mer-like.  I brilliantly narrowed down my next moves, one of which was to pretend I didn’t know who he was and turn on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and subtly asking him if he has seen it, and came up with a plan.

When he hung up the phone, I gave him a few minutes then I tapped his shoulder and said “So about 40 people took secret pictures of you. I promise not to do that. Instead I am going to have 2 Proseccos (mind you, it is 7 am) and then just straight up ask you the questions my friends asked me to ask and grab a selfie. That work?” He giggled and said “I like your style. Let’s do that.” We both put on our headphones and did our own thing until breakfast arrived. After breakfast, we started chatting. I prefaced him with the fact that I needed 5 minutes of “annoying fan” time to ask him questions my friends were dying to know. I did this and learned about his favorite movies he made and why, where he keeps his awards, his role in the Lincoln commercials and how he would have responded to his role in InterStellar in real life. That last one was a doozie.  For the sake of his confidentiality, I won’t share all of his responses, but I will share one of them.  As we were talking, he asked me what I did for work. I told him and he literally straight up yawned!  Must admit, I did find that quite cute. Sometimes I love my job so much that I forget to realize that someone outside of my industry would truly fall asleep hearing about it. 😊

We chatted some more, some was driven by me and some by him and before we knew it, we had chatted all the way to NYC!  I was a bit star-struck at first but, in the end, I realized he was just a nice dude. He loves Texas, loves his job and taught me to have a new perspective on Miami, a city I have yet to find a love for.

Now for the Moondog part. One of his three favorite movies he ever made was The Beach Bum which comes out in March. In the movie, his character is “Moondog” and he is perfect! It’s more of a low budget film which he enjoys making as well. It’s about a stoner beach bum in Miami and stars Snoop Dog, Martin Lawrence and Jimmy Buffet. It’s truly the perfect cast. We decided to watch the trailer; however, I had misplaced my MerPods (AirPods). I was looking around everywhere and he said, “here, let’s just use mine.” Ok, maybe my job by description is a snoozer, but in this moment, it allowed me (the biggest germ freak in the world) to use Matthew McConaughey’s headphones, to watch his trailer of one of his favorite movies with him. I was winning this Tuesday morning!

We started to descend. We snapped a selfie. We got off the plane together and he got on his airport driver cart beeping thing, offered a ride to an older gentleman who was heavily invested in the athletic program at UT (not my UT, but the Texas one), and he waved goodbye. I simply said “bye Moondog” and we parted ways.

I got lucky that morning, and I felt refreshed knowing that even the most mega of stars are just amazing people. For those Matthew McConaughey fans out there, rest easy knowing that he is just as lovely in real life as he is on that big screen.  And boy is he PRETTY.  If you’re so inclined check out his foundation https://www.jklivinfoundation.org/ which does some extraordinarily cool things for kids.

matthewmcconaughey

 

For the Love of a Bloody Mary

This story is about a road trip. For those of you who know me, you may think that someone else wrote that first sentence.  However, I did actually drive somewhere over 90 minutes. It was two hours from Atlanta to Greenville, SC to meet my two best friends for our semi-annual girl’s weekend. Kelly had flown in from NYC, and we were dilly dallying while waiting on Jenny to get off work. We had booked a great hotel, right smack dab in the middle of Greenville. Our plan was one day in the city and one in Jenny’s little country town of Easley, SC. The story takes place in the 27-minute drive in between the two.

Jenny, Kelly and I only see each other a few times a year. We have been friends for more than 30 years and haven’t much wavered (even when we lived on opposite coasts) from seeing one another at least once a year. When we do catch up, we tend to drink all of the wine. I mean all of it. Friday night started with rooftop wines and casual chit chat and led to a very late night/early morning of craziness and dancing. Somehow, I ended the evening in a deep conversation with a few Greenville City Policemen about prohibition and segregation. I will leave the details of this evening for another blog. I will, however, give you the right to infer how our heads were feeling when we woke up at 11:30 am the next morning.

After attempting to function through breakfast, we packed up and headed toward Easley. Jenny was driving, and Kelly and I were taking deep breaths through our noses and staring face to face with the air condition vents. This 27 minutes seemed like an eternity. Then it hit me! I knew exactly what we needed upon arrival at Jenny’s house. We needed, and I mean needed, Bloody Marys! The stretch right outside of the Greenville proper and Easley is a little “country.” Well, let’s be honest: it’s extra “country.” In preparation for the Bloodys, and the need to use the bathroom, we stopped at the first store with the little red circle on the sign indicating that they sold liquor. I walked in and the others stayed in the car.

mmart mmart dots 1

“Good morning” I said to the gal behind the steel bar and Plexiglas protected cash register.

The lady looked at me for about 15 seconds before exhaling her Marlboro Red through the little circles that patrons were to speak into as a point of communication between the protective barrier. I continued to wait and she finally said, “can I help you girl?” That was a different reciprocation of salutations, but I took it.

On a normal day, I would have tried harder to engage and lead by social example, but I was social enough with the cops the night before. “I noticed you sell liquor here. I am looking for vodka and Bloody Mary mix, but I don’t see either.”

“Downstairs” she said while looking down at her magazine and puffing her smoke. I looked all around and realized I didn’t see any stairs. She never looked up, so I guess she could just feel my confusion. I did one more lap around looking for the stairs, and she muttered again “stairs outside.” Information that would have been nice, three laps around the smoke-filled convenience store. Sheesh!

mmart dots

I walked out of the door and saw the stairs. I looked at Jenny and Kelly and said “Liquor Store is down here. If I am not back in 5 minutes, run!” This place was truly the sketchiest place I’ve ever been, but I was committed at this point. Upon turning the corner, I see a small window much like one where you would buy overpriced tickets to an average carnival. There were steel bars like upstairs and a piece of plywood with a note on it that said “Open. Nock” I attempted to add a “k” onto “nock” for their future visitors, but I just let it go. A bit of confusion set in about the knocking. I literally had to tilt my fist to get through the steel bars to be able to make physical contact with the plywood. I did exactly that. With as much pressure and force as I was able to do given the scenario, I knocked 3 times. Within seconds, the plywood started to jiggle. It jiggled and jiggled. It seemed as if he was trying to open or slide the wood to be able to communicate with me. With frustration, I heard “come to the door.” This is when I probably should have just scrammed. Instead, I went to the door which was under the stairs. I knocked, and the man opened the door. “What do you need?” he asked.

“Hi. I was looking for some vodka and Bloody Mary mix.” He looked at me like I had tentacles for arms and said “Margarita?” “No sir, Bloody Mary. You know the tomato mix?” He stared again. He turned back and shut the door nicely. He came back with a jug of cranberry juice and a handle of Popov Vodka. I looked at him and smiled because I realized two things. He wasn’t going to kill me, and he owned a liquor store but didn’t know what a Bloody Mary was. I told him that wasn’t it. He invited me in to look around. I agreed (dumb). As I walked into to dungeon of expired liquor and mixers, I realized this was simply the storage room of the M Mart where this experience started. All the products were scattered around on the floor. There was stuff everywhere. Not one single shelf. “Where the heck am I?” I thought to myself.  After a few laps around the dungeon, I came up empty handed.

I thanked my new friend, and walked out of the door. As soon as I shut the door, I looked at the area behind me, and no lie, there was a man and woman coming out of the kudzo field that bordered the store. They had literally crawled out from the underside of the kudzo. I looked, I blinked, I put a little pep in my step and I watched them come up to the man and ask to get in for some booze. There was a small verbal altercation, and as I watched from above, The Kudzo People walked away with a bottle ½ empty brown liquor. I wanted to help my new friend, but I decided that leaving was in my best interest.

I got back in Jenny’s fancy schmancy Lexus SUV and immediately felt like I was in a 5-star resort. Kelly removed her face from the AC vent and said, “that took forever and you have no Bloody mix.” I looked at her with flat affect and said “Go. Just go.” Jenny followed directions, and 10 minutes later we stopped at a very upscale liquor store near the Piggly Wiggly. I finally mustered up the words to recount this story. The owner said “you saw the Kudzo People? They have been there forever and go in and out of jail for robbery and assault. In fact, there was a full gun down in that store just six months ago. The Kudzo People weren’t involved, but the store closed down for a few months.”

I looked at my friends, hugged them and thought about how lucky I was. Kelly stepped up to the counter, and said “Mer, this round is on me.” We got to Easley, mixed some Bloody’s and sat on the kitchen floor reminiscing on our childhood and the crazy events of the previous 36 hours.

mmart kicthen

Until next time my friends, “Always clean your tray tables”.

 

Say What? ROI?

Career changes are exhilarating. They are also very hard. Something that I knew coming into software sales from special education was that there were going to be major differences. One thing that I didn’t know was that there are so many “business words” that mean something totally different to the rest of the non-business world population, ie..Me 4 years ago. Before I outline these I will start with an admission story. I didn’t know any of these words when I moved to this world and often times I find myself Googling business acronyms, so I don’t look like a big dummy.

I’ll never forget the first time I realized I didn’t know what the hell I was doing in the business world. I was in Chicago, a city that is now incredibly near and dear to my heart, for a Workday Way training where we learned the way to win in selling. Boy was I over my ski tips! Just months before I was making Behave-O-Mometers (which I still believe in) for my sweet, well not always sweet, boys with Emotional Behavioral Disorders in a concrete, 16×16 classroom with nothing but a whiteboard, a desktop and a security guard in the hallway. I looked around the conference room and realized I was surrounded by mostly men learning about the software sales process. What the heck had I gotten myself into and what language were these people speaking?  The trainers were internal and are some of my all-time favorites. They had this amazing play on words with fish terms which made zero sense to me, but it made me stay intimately engaged. Kudos for the random engagement pun, team!

As I engaged in this training, wildly prematurely for my tenure and role, I quickly became known as the girl who had no idea what the heck was going on. They were talking about “ROI,” “ACV,” “retiring quota,” and how to “manage a patch.”  ROI was not making sense to me in this context – at all! In fact, very little made sense. I asked so many questions. At one point on day 2, George asked “Does that make sense to everyone?” Everyone sat quietly. George turned directly to me and said, “Meredith, do you understand?” I said, “You know George, I actually do.” He said “Ok, if Mer gets it, everyone gets it.” In good ole’ Workday family fun, I stood up and said “Did you just use me as a baseline?” “Indeed” he said.  Exhibit A of why I liked him so much. He was honest, funny and sarcastic. I sat back down and continued taking handwritten notes with a mechanical pencil in my spiral notebook.  ROI kept coming up. I’ll never forget raising my hand (old school style) and asking, “what is ROI?” In my experience it’s “rate of improvement” in reading fluency. George looked at Pete, Pete looked at Rob, Rob shrugged and said “Mer, its return on investment.” Within a second, the room was giggling and everyone was staring at me. I was quickly brought back to the Williamsport bus route in grade school where the mean boys used to sing songs about me being a flat-chested tomboy and bigger than your average bear. I felt like a big ole’ idiot. It was at this point where I realized that words and terms are 100% contextual based on your industry. Head held high, I committed to learning this business and these terms.

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For now, I will highlight the Top 10 most overused business terms from my world of work that have completely different meanings to the outside world.

  1. Take this Offline– For the average ear this is confusing. Are we really online or just on a call or in a meeting room? Outside of the corporate world this makes no sense. Honestly, even in the corporate world, if you really think about it, it doesn’t make much sense.  Why can’t we just say “we’ll talk about that later?”
  2. Perspective– Wow my perspective is way different when I look at something from low to high than when I look from the high to low. Perspective in my old world was always used to reference an angle. In this new world, it’s always attached to a person or a process. Now I’m talking about things from a “sales perspective” or from “a culture perspective.” I use this one a lot but, gosh, it took me a while to say it with confidence.
  3. Ping Me– As a lifelong golfer this one is always hard for me to say or hear. I get the sentiment but for the majority of my life this was a leading brand of golf club! Why can’t we just say “call me” or “text me?”  Runner up on this on is “let’s connect later.”  What are we appliances and electrical outlets?
  4. Slide Deck– Boy this one is a whammy for me! Growing up going to Lake Hartwell this was a fun way to get from the top of the dock to the lake if you didn’t want to jump off the second story. Even in business context it is awkward. What ever happened to calling it a PowerPoint presentation or just “slides?” Silly little bone-chilling trendy term.
  5. Talk Track- I mean, I get it. I have to use this one often and it makes more sense in context than some of the others. However, when I first came into this world, I had no idea what the heck a talk track was, was it something we were going to record like how cool music people or railroad engineers talk about “laying down a track?” The non-business people in the world should just ignore this phrase and never even attempt to deconstruct it.
  6. Work Around– Work around what? The house? The yard? This one is also silly. Why is “alternative” now persona non grata? There are so many more reasonable terms to use that, in my opinion, have a more positive connotation anyway that don’t make the “alternative” sound like it’s going to be hard.  How about “we have a solution for that” or “we can solve the problem by …. ?”
  7. Do you have the Bandwidth? Huh? What? Is this my ring size, a radio term, science vernacular or a measure of transmission capacity? What IS the frequency Kenneth?  I finally figured this out. All in all, it simply means, do you have time to do XYZ ? I am so confused about why people don’t just say that!
  8. Value Add- For most of my life, value was a word I looked for on packages at the grocery store that meant I was finding the, less expensive but still good, off brand. “Value add” seems like a made up link of words simply to make us sound smarter. “What’s the value add?” Let’s be honest that is jargon. The real question is, “How is your company or the software or the team making the deal or process better?”
  9. Thought Leadership- I. Just. Can’t. Leadership is leadership and leaders have thoughts.  People leaders, c-suite leaders, line leaders – all of these folks have “thoughts” for Pitty’s Sake. This one will fade 😊 (only to be replaced by “action leadership.”
  10. To Piggy Back On- I saved the best for last. Outside of work jargon this literally means for someone to carry another person on their back. In the business world, in my opinion, this is said as a precursor to a comment that is frankly, unnecessary, but folks want to say something or “pile on.” If a work conversation is progressing forward there is no need to justify that this is a reiteration or additional detail to the previously mentioned comment.

Now that I have fussed about these sayings I will admit that I USE THEM ALL THE TIME! They do make sense in context, but having transitioned from a world where we didn’t speak using this lingo,it has been a confusing, albeit fun, ride learning this new language.  If you have the “bandwidth” my “ask” of you is “to piggy back on” this blog post with some of your own “perspective” and “thought leadership” on the topic.  Go ahead and “ping me” in the comments by “unpacking” some of your own favorite corporate jargon as that would be a great “value add” and most certainly increase the “ROI” on my “output!”

Stay sanitary my friends and remember to always clean your tray tables!

 

Beach “Bars” or Lack Thereof

Where do I begin? A family emergency (don’t worry, we are ok) forced me and my daughters to vacate our house in Atlanta with 30 minutes notice. I hopped in the car to head to the only place I knew to go, my parents. I headed up to a small town called Carolina Beach, NC where my mom and dad were. This isn’t your ordinary beach town. This is an old-school, nostalgic 1940’s beach town.  This is the kind of beach town where the traveling mall parking lot amusement rides set up shop from Memorial day to Labor day.  The kind where grammatical errors are common on professionally print signs (see below). The kind where the cigarette buds out number the grains of sand. My parents stay in the upstairs portion of the old beach cottage. When I say old, I mean old. I am talking 1919, asbestos-coated, 1 window AC unit, old. I am talking wouldn’t even come remotely close to passing a home inspection old. I am talking plug my hairdryer into the ceiling fan kind of old. As I arrived I set up my office in a nook in the cottage. I assumed my hotspot would carry me through the next 48 hours. Boy, was I wrong. I relocated to a corner closer to the motel, yes motel not hotel, next door to see if I could tap into their WiFi. I got one bar on my cell… one measly bar. This wasn’t going to cut it.

sign

In a panic, I called my boss, and he reduced my stress by telling me to grab a hotel room to hold my two meetings- brilliant! During one of these meetings, I was going to present to the field…a 400+ person audience alongside the CTO to boot. This was something I couldn’t mess up. I checked into the local Microtel which was covered in 1990’s primary colored printed bedspreads, Formica counter-tops and an envelope holding a VIP card for 10% off of my total food bill at the local meat and three next door. I fired up my laptop to check the settings and Wifi. As soon as I refreshed my WiFi, it hit me. This local hotel also did not have WiFi. Sheesh! What does one do? Immediately I called my problem-solving friend in tears. “What do I do? You always solve my problems. Help?”

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Often, I work on my hotspot with no problem. Clearly, this was going to be my solution. Then I realized, I couldn’t use my hotspot, and mirror my phone and talk on the call through the same phone all at the same time. Also, I still only had one bar because I was on a barrier island. Quickly, I Googled Verizon cell towers nearby to find an area that had a better signal. I found the spot, grabbed my dad’s iPhone 3 and headed to the spot that had service. As soon as I parked and started to setup to do this meeting from the driver’s seat of my car, I realized that this old-school phone needed the old-school style headphones. Off to CVS I go. Corded headphones in hand, I headed back to the spot with the good cell service.

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Let me explain this place that I found to settle into for my meeting.  We will call it “my office.”  My office was a run-down strip mall parking lot littered with pot holes, multiple shades of decrepit concrete buildings and, well, actual litter. The parking lot lines had been eaten by the patched asphalt long ago.  I stopped my car right smack in the middle of the parking lot, abandoned movie theater on one side of me and hulking concrete shell of the vacated grocery store on the other, but I had found five bars of cell signal!

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I did a few test calls using dad’s iPhone 3, ran the Zoom meeting on my hotspot and mirrored my phone. As far as I could see, this was going to work!  I tested once more and it was working. I took a deep breath of relief before my nerves of the demo set in. Everything was working out and the sun was shining….for a minute.

The session started. We were up and rolling and the meeting was on! My nerves set in a little, and I started to take deep breaths and chug water while continuously checking to ensure I was still muted on my iPhone, dad’s iPhone 3 and my PC. I started to settle in and then the clouds rolled in. I am talking pitch black, dark thunderstorm clouds, and they were rolling in fast! Joe passed the ball to Mike so I knew my part was getting closer. It began to pour, I mean pour down rain. You know those heavy raindrops that sounds like water balloons busting on your windshield. The lighting was striking non-stop accompanied by continuous booming thunder. What are the chances? There was truly one pocket of thunderstorms on the entire eastern seaboard and it was hovering directly over my “office.”  This is not an exaggeration. Crying, I called my problem-solving friend to see if he could hear the rain or the thunder. He said the sound was fine until it thundered. BOOM! He definitely heard that.

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In the meantime, two 1950’s prison school buses roll up into my sketchy “office.”  They park 20 yards from me. Knowing that with inmates typically come police officers, who might be curious as to why I was loitering in this parking lot, I crafted a note to show an officer through the window should they approach my car during my presentation. I knew they would still rap on the window but it was worth a try and gave me a little peace of mind that maybe my demo to 400+ wouldn’t be interrupted by “Ma’am, please step out of the vehicle.”

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With two minutes to spare, the torrential downpour and bone rattling thunder let up, a little sunshine came out and I was on the air. After 10 nerve-wracking minutes of demonstration, I passed the ball back to Mike, took a long deep breath, finished the call and shut down my PC. I am not sure how I pulled it off, but it all worked out in the end. As an SC, you learn to do what you gotta do to make the demo fly and always expect the unexpected.

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Miami- 1, Meredith- 0.5, Uber Driver- 0

Miami is a world of its own. I grew up in the South and I have lived all over the country. Typically, cities have a few things in common to bring the American City feel out, but Miami simply doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong Miami Lovers, this is not a bad thing. It’s simply an observation: Miami is different y’all.

I have been there several times with no bloggable moments; however, when it rains it pours. I was headed down from Atlanta for a quick in and out meeting. I had planned to arrive around dinner time on Tuesday and leave around dinner time on Wednesday. Easy peasy I thought.

Let’s start at the beginning of the 24-hour debacle. Flight went as normal. Easy on, easy off, limited turbulence, one wine. I was starting off on what I thought looked like a non-eventful trip but when I landed this started to go sideways – fast!  I made my way from the gate to the baggage claim on the world’s bounciest moving sidewalk.  Anyone else know what I am talking about?  For some reason the walking sidewalk feels like a padded trampoline.  If it wouldn’t have taken me 90 minutes to get from one side of the airport to the other, I would have tried to avoid it; however, I am impatient and always in an unnecessary hurry, so I opted in so bouncing along I went.

As the end of the World’s Softest transportation facilitator, I ordered an Uber. I consider myself a pretty competent traveler. Last year, I spent the better part of 140 nights in hotels. Since moving from the medium enterprise space (shorter sales cycles and more frequency) to the large enterprise space (longer cycles and less frequency), I have gotten rusty. As I looked down to my phone to find the hotel I booked, I noticed that I hadn’t booked a hotel. Ugh! I am notorious for booking hotels in the wrong city or for the wrong night, but simply not booking one at all is new to me.  I jumped on my SPG app and booked what looked like a swanky and trendy Courtyard called Element. I locked it in just in time. Confirmation received and Uber arrived all at once. It was like clockwork and I was back in my groove. I loaded my bag into the trunk of the Uber and slipped into the back seat. As I always do, I turned on my map to my hotel and I realized was 13 minutes from my destination. I took a deep breath to relieve myself of the last 11 minutes of anxiety (sure do wish there was wine in Ubers) and I popped in my Airpods to call my bud who is always willing to chit chat while I commute. As I was chit chatting I was also watching the map. It was rush hour and I was 3 straight ahead minutes from my hotel when my driver looked in the rear-view to see if I was paying attention and cut across 3 lanes of manic Miami traffic to get on the wrong highway and rack up his bill. Immediately my map went from 3 minutes of green roads to 17 minutes of red road gridlock.

“Hold on one second.” I said to my bud on the phone.

“Excuse me sir, what the hell are you doing? Wait. Don’t answer that, I know exactly what you are doing. You think I am not listening or aware of the situation and you are trying to take advantage of me and my company’s dollars. You know damn well we were one mile from the hotel and you whipped across three lanes to increase your bottom line.”

“Um, uh, um, I don’t understand. You say you go to airport, right?” he mumbled in his fearful tone.

“Dude you just picked me up FROM the airport, why would I go there? I know what you are doing. I am smarter than I am tall.  How long to get me back to the airport?  Take me back there so I can get a new Uber.” I demanded.

“12 minutes” he trembled.

“Drop me off now. Here. Right here. Pull over.” I screamed.

“We are on the middle of a busy highway” he said. All the sudden he spoke perfectly fine, coherent and correct English.

“I don’t care. Stop.”

He dropped me and my little baby suitcase and backpack off right on the highway. I was wearing business attire and it was 88 degrees which in Miami’s humidity is equivalent to 137 degrees.  With instant monsoon sweat flood gates opened and no regard for what area of Miami I was demanding to be deposited, I didn’t think twice about this course of action.  Proving my point was more important than anything else.

As I got out of the Uber and grabbed my suitcase, I opened the passenger door and said, “Sir, you messed with the wrong blonde girl. You poorly stereotyped me and this will come back to bite you. This is not the end of this.” I slammed the door and found myself on the side of a busy highway. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Within 15 minutes, I was able to wrangle in another Uber. That was just the beginning of my adventure.

After a collective 90 minutes from airport to swankyish, Courtyard-esque SPG property, I got out and looked forward to a nice wine at a quiet bar with my laptop and headphones. Then I walked in the hotel door…

I am a Marriott-First girl, so said hotel was new for me. Upon entry, at 4:30 pm, I walk into a sea of men.  I am talking 50-60 of them, in suits with Stellas or trendy whiskies in hand.  What are they drinking these days Buffalo Trace? Monkey Shoulder? Some kind of ‘Rye’? It’s like “Gamification” of drinks. Whatever happened to the days of just ordering the most obscure and bitter IPA beers?  Anyway, I looked and tried to eye a seat where I could fire up my laptop, slap some headphones in and chit chat and have a high maintenance dinner order. It was at that moment that I realized, this dream was fiction if I stayed here. What did I do? I bailed. Literally!  New Uber, new hotel, new dinner. I waited 10 minutes for an Uber to cart me to my comfortable, yet also extra average but familiar airport Marriott.  Yep, I ended up back at the airport!

By the time I checked in I was hungry, wiped out and a tad bit grumpy. I ordered a salmon meal – clean- no butter or oil, just clean salmon and veggies. The food came smothered in butter and oil – oh and with some creamy sauce on the fish. Gross!  I’m a purist and, at that moment especially needed such some purity, as so far my trip was laden with greasiness.  Knowing I am a pain in the ass, I just broke it up and pushed it around in order to not make a scene. Well, the bartender was smarter than that. He knew I didn’t like it. Much to my dismay, he removed the food from my countertop and my bill, causing a bit of a spectacle. The gentleman next to me, we will call him Manny Soto, was interested in what was wrong with my meal. I explained to him that it was me, not the salmon.  It’s always “it’s me not you” with me.  After hearing about my salmon plight and this day, which kept getting not so good, 75 year old Manny and I decided to hit up a high class, well-known nearby restaurant that was recommended by a friend.  Place is an institution – predictable and quality.  How could this go wrong?  For those who know me and dine with me they know that I have to scope the scene before committing.

At this point, I am done with Uber, so I asked the valet if there is a shuttle. They tell me no, not for where I am going, but a cool $40 in cash convinced him otherwise. Bad, bad, bad financial decision. The driver pulled into the parking lot and Manny  instinctively knew to take charge on the restaurant recon mission so as soon as the car stopped he hoped out to scope the joint out.  I feel like Manny and I have known each other forever!  When he returned to the car he said “Smells good, nice and dark, good bar to use a laptop, 3 people in the bar, no one sitting AT the bar.” Nope. We are out! We buckle right back into the insanely overpriced shuttle ride and head back to the hotel.  When we returned, I ordered the same meal, from the same bartender, with the same specifications and this time, at 11pm, something was finally right with this trip.  Manny and I had a good laugh and a few wines while I scarfed down my food and then I looked at Manny, thanked him for the company and went to bed in my comfortable little Miami Airport Marriott.  As Will Smith said; “Welcome to Miami

 

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Christmas in Daytona Beach

I spent the last 2.5 years getting to know the guys and gals I worked with on my accounts. As of February 1, we had an org change. With this change, came a new team, a new boss, a new Regional Sale Director, and five new reps to support. This is exciting but also intimidating. The folks I have worked with for the last 45 months know me. They know I am controlling, willing to listen but not afraid to talk. They know I don’t rent cars and only use pencils for my notes. They know I tell fictional stories to my Uber drivers out of boredom. They know I’m always on time but that means an hour early for our meeting so I can create the room. They know I am obsessive with prep. They know I expect them to go first in the revolving door and I won’t stay in Courtyards. They know that my dinner order will for sure be a Russian River Chardonnay and a super modified steak off the menu (hold this, add that, no oil, clean, no starch, extra veggie…).

That being said, my new team doesn’t know me at all. I have no credibility with them, expectations or, more importantly, warning indicators of how much of a royal pain in the ass I really am. Sure, I warned my new boss. I told him he should talk to my old boss about how difficult I am. He said “you can’t be that bad.”  After this statement, I told him that every time we passed, I would share something really weird about me so he could understand.

First Three Passings:

“Fred, I make my bed up in hotels every morning before I check out.“

“Fred, I love hard cheese but I refuse to eat and hate melted cheese.”

“Fred, I refuse to wear jeans on a plane because I am convinced that denim attracts more germs.”

After these three passings, he gets it. I am weird.

I still have a Regional Sales Director and five reps that don’t understand or know me. This is where the story gets fun.

I am working with a new rep (not just new to me but new to our company) on a long-time account. We meet in the lobby to plan our meeting around 7:00pm when I arrived in Daytona Beach, FL. I am staying in a Residence Inn. For those who know me, this is a normally off limit hotel due to the lack of bar and rooms that are uncomfortably big for 24 hours. However; this one had a bar and was on the beach. From time to time, I’ll compromise. This was a “time to time.”  Beach and bar are some of my favorite things.

The new rep (who is lovely by the way) and I decide to go to dinner. Dinner includes a few apps and two Russian River Chards for me. This puts me right into my unnecessarily social money zone. We chit chat a bit and get off to a great start on getting to know each other. When we finish, I climb my 5 foot 2 self up into his giant truck and we head back to the Residence Inn. As we walk in, we decide to have one more wine. We turn to the bar and see that the bar is closed. Let me remind you this was criteria #1 in booking and it was only 9:15!

As we walk back to the elevator, I notice a great group of folks, sitting on coolers of beer in the lobby. As much as I wanted to judge, I was super impressed at the planning that went into this. I invited us to the party (you read that right) and we were immediately welcomed. Here we sat, two software sales friends interacting and getting to know 20 fleet drivers for a large food distribution company. At this point, we were just friends, enjoying Natty Lites and each other’s stories.

A few stories later and we decided to play Party Phrase, which is a mobile version of Catch Phrase. It is the perfect game for a group of 6-8 adults. We had 20, four of which were so toasted they couldn’t say their names, much less describe words and remember whose team they were on.

I am hyper competitive.  Whether it is about the account I want to win, the tennis match I am playing or the game of Party Phrase in the lobby of a Residence Inn with a bunch of fleet drivers in Daytona Beach, I WANT TO WIN.

At this point, everyone was committed to play because the loud blonde chick who won’t let us not play said so. Let’s stop here for a second and think about what my new workmate was thinking. Long story long, we all agreed to play. The first round, no one could remember who was on their team. I am a problem-solver. I had my handy- dandy backpack on me. I reached right in and found two stacks of sticky notes. This allowed me to identify each team with a color. They loved it. We went on to enjoy a great night with our new friends in Daytona Beach sporting colored post-notes on our shirts. Jason, Santa Todd, Hippy Mark, Little Jeff and Boss Man Bill, who I of course called Billy.

It moments like this where you realize traveling for work is exhausting but it creates memories with kind-hearted strangers that can never be forgotten. Cheers to making friends in the lobby.

Remember Always Clean Your Tray Table!

The Crewdaytonadaytona a