May 31, 2007

A-Team

Posted in Lawyer Lifestyles, Lessons Learned at 6:37 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I have a very ugly, competitive side.  I don’t know if it is the middle child in me, or having heard my father say, “Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser” so many times, but I will admit, I am competitive.  I like to win.  Or, more to the point, I hate to lose.  

I didn’t realize just how ugly my need to win (er, not lose) was until my last year of college.  It was the fall racing season and my crew coach put me in a four for an unimportant regatta.  At the last minute one of the clubs joined the race and in their boat, a former teammate and three girls I absolutely could not stand. 

I won’t bore you with all the details of the race.  You really just need to know this; we lost.  We lost big and I blamed our freshman coxswain.  And then I made her cry.  A couple weeks later she quit.   

It is this mean and nasty side that keeps me from joining the Philadelphia Sport and Social Club, or RSVPing yes to invitations to girls’ game nights.  I know my limits and I know I don’t want anyone else seeing Sore-Loser-Sarah.

This is also the reason I love running so much.  I like entering races, but I know I am never actually going to win one.  I get to set goals and meet them, and sure, sometimes during the races I will pick out other runners and decide I have to beat him or her.  But more often than not the races are big enough that I don’t know for sure who I beat or, more importantly, if they beat me. 

Of course this running utopia came crashing in on me when the firm announced its teams for the Philadelphia Bar Association Run.  I was on the “A” Team. 

Our firm typically fields two teams.  A-team consists of those members of our firm that consistently rank well in their age group, thus giving that team the advantage in the overall rankings.  B-team consists of everyone else that signs up.  Due to the absence of a crucial member of A-team, yours truly was slipped in to fill her shoes. 

Now, at first, I was excited about this exaltation among the runners in the office.  But then the reality set in; while our firm never wins, at least two of the members of our team take this run pretty seriously.  Plus, Boss suddenly took interest in the results.  And damnit, I already had plans to be out late the night before.   

Sore-Loser-Sarah had Trying-to-Take-it-All-in-Stride-Sarah terrified.  What if I finished behind my time last year?  What if I finished behind a member of the B-team?  What if I didn’t finish? 

“It is just a silly race,” I tried to tell myself.  I wasn’t going to lose my job if I didn’t run it in under 20 minutes.  Even if that was firm policy, I was already on my way out.   

To placate all my selves, I set a secret goal (which would make those of you that run laugh out loud that I considered this a good time for a 5k — but whatever, shut up) while telling all those that would listen that I was sure to have the crappiest run of my life.  I even let everyone know just how late I was out the night before, without letting them in on the fact that I was working, not partying.  I was able to run a good race, I didn’t throw up (which was part of my secret goal), I beat last year’s time and didn’t finish behind any members of the B-team.  I was even so good as to cheer for my co-workers as they finished the race.     

Now, had I not run well, would I still have stuck around and cheered for the rest of my co-workers?  I really want to say yes, but I also really don’t want to lie to my readers.   
 

May 17, 2007

Dead Legal Assistant Walking

Posted in Lessons Learned, Office Hijinks at 4:37 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Boss is very fond of saying, “You are dead to me.” 

I think this phrase first reared its ugly head in Colorado when spoken to a pizzeria owner that didn’t have the dessert Boss was fond of.  Since then, it has taken over our office; a joke that if you disappoint the one in charge, he will no longer know you. 

I expected this very reaction from Boss when I told him I was leaving.

That’s right kids; I am saying good-bye to the world of the midsized law firm and heading towards greener pastures.  And the night before I told my boss, I had the craziest dream.  When my alarm finally went off, I went down stairs and joined Lauren for a cup of coffee.  I told her about my dream.

“That is a classic anxiety dream.”

“I know.”

“But you conquered your anxiety in the end,” she offered.

I nodded and bit my lip.

“Who is Mike in the dream?” 

“Just some kid I went to high school with.”

“I see, and did you like Mike?”

“Of course, all the girls did.”

“Do you think Mike represents Boss?”

“No.”

“Interesting, and what do you think the lion represents?”

Okay, so she didn’t ask those last few questions, but I know everyone out there thinks that is what living with a therapist is like.  And I hate to disappoint an audience.  However, I assure you she is not like this at home.

So I got dressed and managed to get to work early.  I sat at my desk, letter and copies in hand.  As if toying with me, Boss stayed on the phone for the next hour.  At one point I wanted to march in, take the receiver from his hand and hang up on whomever he was speaking to. 

I refrained.

When he was done and my announcement made, I was shocked by his coolness.  He took it all in stride and I think he was genuinely happy for me.  Best of all, he never uttered those five dreaded words. 

The news disbursed slowly at first.  Patient came by to tell me she wouldn’t be talking to me again until my happy hour, when she will have finally accepted my leaving and we would once again be friends.

Preserving just gave me a look that almost brought me to tears.  Then she walked away. 

Pioneering let me know that my resignation letter was denied and that I would have to stick around until she approved my leave. 

Most everyone else asked me about where I was going and what I would be doing and then congratulated me.  Adding that they knew it was coming. 

However, once the news was out, I felt awkward roaming the hallways.  Everyone’s sideways looks as if I were abandoning ship struck me as funny.  I didn’t get nearly so many hellos or offers to stop and chat awhile about nothing in particular.  It was as if there wasn’t any point of forging ahead with a friendship because I wasn’t going to be around after Memorial Day.  I started to worry that I would never again hear from these individuals that I have spent the last five years getting to know.  The idea that maybe we weren’t friends, but merely colleagues hit me hard. 

Then again, maybe they just thought it was too soon and my legs entirely too pale to be wearing a skirt sans stockings.

I got home that day, relieved that what I thought would be the worst was finally over.  Lauren and I sat on our front stoop with a glass of wine and I told her how it went. 

“It sounds as if they are relieved that you’re leaving.”  Lauren joked.

I rolled my eyes.  “No, I think they will miss me.  I just think they know that this is for the best.”

“And he didn’t cry or throw a tantrum or offer you more money?”

I shook my head.

“And how does that make you feel?”

May 10, 2007

If This Cube’s Walls Could Talk

Posted in Office Hijinks at 6:20 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Everyone in the firm recently had to endure a harassment refresher course.  Not because harassment has been rampant in the office and HR felt that a 22-minute video on the subject would curb the problem.  No, the company that makes the very informative film simply released a new edition.  So we all had to watch it.

There were the obvious examples:  A younger man calling an older man “pops,” a co-worker asking another to get his copy job and the other responding “What, are you handicap?” within earshot of the employee who is wheelchair bound, and my favorite, a woman suggesting to her boss, in front of her pregnant colleague, that if he is going to send her to the conference he had better order two airline seats.

There were also the less obvious, like aggressively hitting on a co-worker at a bar after work.  Or, suggesting that the numbers on a particular spreadsheet “don’t look kosher.”  A side note here, is that really offensive?  I looked up the definition of “kosher” and Dictionary.com says the above is a proper (slang) usage for the word.

But back to my point. There was one scene that I just couldn’t spot the offensive behavior.  It showed two cubicles, one inhabited by a woman talking on the phone about what a great time she had last night.  The other had two women, one sitting at her desk, another sitting on it.  They could hear every word the first woman was saying.  The woman on the desk rolled her eyes.  The woman at her desk proclaimed, “It’s like this everyday.”

Wait.  Was the woman at her desk being harassed because her neighbor was constantly reminding her that she was not out having a good time every night?  Or, did the woman at the desk harass her neighbor by suggesting to the woman on her desk that said neighbor was a dirty, little trollop? 

Now, as my mind is prone  to do, it thought about this particular scenario until it determined that if it could not discern the harassment, none was involved.  Thus, the makers of the training film are stupid. 

Settling that, my mind wandered around a bit before wondering, “What sort of things has the person in the cube next to me heard about my wild nights?” 

It’s misleading; the privacy you think you have in your office area.  I could feel vomit start to creep up my throat until I remembered I do most of my reminiscing with friends over email.  The only personal calls I get are from my mother and father.  So, while Lilly (my nickname for the Paralegal nearest me) probably knows that my mother is disappointed that she doesn’t have grandkids and my father is worried about me in general and both are excited about our family vacation to Nags Head, I doubt she knows much else about my life outside these beige walls.  

I shudder at the thought of all that our IT department could tell you about me.  I just hope they have better things to do than sit there and read what I have to say.  Maybe I will make a habit of sending around an email virus after a particularly tawdry evening. 

Assured that my personal life was still mine (after all those great, terrific and wonderful guys and girl in our IT department wound never spill my secrets) I started thinking of all that I knew of those that sat around me.  At first I came up zeroes; but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had overheard a lot over the years.  When you start to piece it together, it could paint quite a fantastical picture of my co-workers. 

But then, as if reading this column as I wrote it, our HR department sent around an email requesting that everybody be more mindful of their surroundings and lower their voices when in the office. 

Darn IT people.

May 3, 2007

“Single White Female” But Without the Creepiness

Posted in Lawyer Lifestyles at 5:14 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

I remember when I was younger and still in high school, my sister would let me drive to her apartment and stay there when she was away.  I didn’t do anything wild or crazy; I didn’t throw parties or even invite boys over.  Mostly I just did school work and pretended that her apartment was mine.  It was nice being grown up, even if it was just for an afternoon.

Well, I got to play grown up lawyer for a week while L was in Italy.  I will admit I liked the lawyer lifestyle while it lasted; a big house, a designer dog and all the accessories and pocketbooks my little heart desired.  Lawyers have a pretty swanky life.  Well, that is once you pay off all your student loans.  Of course, I was looking at your world through rose-colored glasses; I got all the perks with none of the billable requirements.   

It was nice to slip into someone else’s life for a while.  I spent time in the country, for the record, compared to anywhere else in Center City, Fairmount is the country, without committing to a year’s lease.  I got to take a break from my house and roommates and bed and limited choice in overcoats and have a whole house and king-size bed to myself.  I got to sit on her couch with her dog, watch my favorite TV shows and pretend that it was all mine.  

So, ladies and gentlemen in addition to legal assistant, writer, sister, daughter and friend I am officially also a house and pet sitter extraordinaire.

House sitting is like taking a vacation without the prohibitive cost of travel and accommodations.  Plus, my friends love it as they don’t have to hire a stranger to come collect their mail and water their plants nor do they have to kennel their pets. They also save money because I provide these services free of charge.   

Of course my favorite part was when L came home from Italy with a brand new purse for me as a way of saying “Thank you” from her and her dog.  The bag is tall and green and leather and gorgeous.

Now, if I could somehow fill my schedule, I would no longer require a place of my own.  Thus I too would save money.  But, for now my house-sitting schedule is clear until the end of May.  That is when I will be taking over my sister’s apartment in Center City West.  Sure, she doesn’t have the coats or pocketbooks that L’s closet carries, but Sister’s place is in a great location; it’s near the Schuylkill River Park, Rittenhouse Square and the bar where Jake has been working.

Because no matter how grown up I am pretending to be, I will always “heart” flirting with Jake.