1 May 2011

three pairs of shoes?

The other day I was describing what I do at work to somebody skeptical that I might genuinely enjoy my job.

I'm not going to write about that for now. Instead, I'm going to share a little vignette about one little part of how I found myself in this situation.

I interviewed for a job, and, out of character for me, I got it. That's more than a little paraphrased, though.

In preparing for interviews, one question I'd been coached to answer was (the always dreaded) "What is your biggest flaw?"

Though I can never recall actually being asked it and answering it, I had not one but several potential answers lined up, ostensibly to show what would at first sound to be a flaw, but with a little explanation I could turn into some great advantage that would make a me a top candidate. Such as:

"When I'm working on something I need to be careful to focus on the big picture, since I easily get caught up in the smallest details..."*

This is something I've recognized in myself over the years - not only do I tend to sweat the small stuff at times, but I often take great pains (and find great satisfaction) perfecting things that don't matter in the end.

Let me illustrate: When my employers contacted me to schedule an interview, all of the possible times were, of course, during the working day. I was at the time working as a temp IT guy in the basement of a large company, but working nonetheless. It wasn't glamorous, but it was a paycheck, and I didn't want to tip my hand that I had my sights on better prospects. The dress code wasn't overly formal, and I knew that my khakis and polo shirt were not appropriate attire for an interview. Since I'd be leaving work and taking a long lunch to meet with the prospective managers, I'd need to find somewhere in between to switch outfits to one more suitable.

So, I'd need to wear one of my suits. I picked the blackest one (both of my suits appear black, one not having looked even the slightest bit blue since I bought it) and hid it under some stuff in the back seat of my car. Also back there I threw a couple pairs of shoes, and the leather folio I use both as a cheat sheet for remembering my research on the employer as well as to give the appearance of taking good notes during the interview.

None of that its really out of the ordinary except for the extra shoes. You see, despite working in the fashion industry for half a decade, I've never really quite gotten the hang of accessories (by which I mean belts, socks, shoes, etc). I've long had a personal sensibility that black shoes do not go well with tan pants, so I began the day wearing brown shoes. My plan to re-attire myself along the way to the interview involved me changing into my suit in a Panera bathroom midway between work and downtown.

I didn't particularly want to to change completely into my suit in the bathroom, however. Though I'd get a certain degree of enjoyment out of possibly befuddling the observant spectator seeing me go into the bathroom casually attired and emerging looking prepared for a black tie affair, I decided to only change my pants and shirt in the restaurant rest room. So I strolled into Panera, headed straight for the bathroom, changed my shirt and pants, put the casual ones into my backpack (carefully rolled, as I'd be putting them back on soon thereafter), and swapped my shoes before heading to the counter to grab a snack for the rest of the trip.

That's where the additional pair of shoes enters into the picture. Self-conscious and focusing on things that nobody would notice, I didn't want to wear my black dress shoes with what I thought would be a less than formal outfit, since I was planning to add my tie and suit coat at the last possible moment. Naturally I'd need to wear a less than formal pair of black shoes out of the bathroom, brown shoes not matching black pants. As crazy as this line of thinking may sound, I can only wonder what the other people in the bathroom while I was doing this would think of what I was doing in there. So, for about five or ten minutes I wore a pair of black sneakers, and nobody was the wiser, nearest I could tell.

And that's it, really. I planned my subterfuge down to the smallest detail, and in the end it was one other bit of preparation that actually mattered, one I'd done nearly as an afterthought. I'd grabbed a roll of quarters, thinking I might possibly encounter metered parking, and that turned out to be the case. I rolled up to a meter somewhere near the building, finished changing my clothes (swapping my windbreaker for a suit coat, tie, and overcoat), fed the meter the maximum coins it would take, and made it up to the interview with a few minutes to spare.

My notes served me well; I was dressed for the part, and established a quick rapport with the interviewers. Having eaten a bagel, I didn't even need to worry about a rumbling stomach. The interview took almost the entire time I'd banked at the meter, but felt like it went quickly and easily. I returned to work and finished out the day, giving no indication anything had been out of the ordinary.

I was happy the interview seemed to have gone well, and I had that certain satisfaction of switching my clothes completely (and my shoes twice) without anybody really noticing. Having let this draft languish for over three years, though, I can't help but wonder, at the time, which part pleased me more.

*There follows quite a tale when I would answer with this one, though my father tells it better than I do. Back when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I was assigned to turn a 3"x5" photograph into a 2'x3' pencil drawing. The photo I was enlarging was of a brick building behind a concrete fountain (here it is from above) and I went about it with the wrong approach entirely. Before even sketching out the barest outlines of the large building that wasn't just filling the background, but more or less looming over this impressive fountain, I was drawing the individual rocks in the fountain (the water had been turned off when the photo was taken). Now, I wasn't drawing the actual rocks, just something that would approximate them. I couldn't make out that sort of detail even if I had wanted to do so.

Checking in on me, my dad noticed what I was doing, and told me, in wiser words than I can remember well, that I needed to work on the big stuff first before worrying about the pebbles. Subsequently he would refer to this lesson by admonishing me, "You're drawing the rocks again," (or something sager; my memory's not that great). So I figured it would be a great answer for that ridiculously cliched question.

And speaking of focusing on the little details, I wouldn't even have remembered about the titular footwear for this post had I not mentioned their number specifically in the draft I created back in January of 2008. At the time (probably the day of, or just thereafter, the interview in question) I'd also noted "Overall I think it went well." which, as it turns out, it basically had.

31 December 2007

remembering 2007

I didn't post as much this year. Notable things about which I wrote nothing:

  • Both of my grandfathers died in December. I still haven't figured out what I want to say about that.
  • I failed once again to complete a 50,000 word novel in November. But I came up with a much better idea for next year's.
  • Natalya turned 1 year old in October, meaning we could finally officially stop worrying about SIDS. Not that I ever did anyway.
  • I left the fashion industry in September. I also read the complete Harry Potter series (for the first time) in under four weeks. These two events are not at all related.
  • In August (I think) the guy housesitting for my neighbor across the street passed away in her house, and was not found for a week. I was one of the few people on the street who had ever even met the guy, and I didn't even know his name until he was already gone. In cleaning up her house, my neighbor gave me a nice desk ending the four years I'd used my computer with it and me both on the floor.
  • I can't really remember much of anything from July. So ends the monthly portion of this wrap-up.*
  • The two hundred or so photos I've posted on flickr aren't even a fraction of the over seven gigabytes of JPGs I've created this year.
  • I survived watching 61 movies from India, most of which could be considered "Bollywood". Two I watched without any subtitles at all.
  • The entire year passed without me attempting to access the internet with my mobile phone, despite it being capable of doing so.

More ideas may occur to me - I just didn't want to let December pass without any posts at all. Happy new year.

* The only other month-based item of note is in January, wherein I visited Chicago the weekend of B-Fest but was unable to attend it because I was in Illinois for less than a total of 24 hours. Eating dinner in the Signature Room of the John Hancock Tower was superb. Being back at my desk eighteen hours later was not.

9 April 2007

patent time

Sometimes I give the impression that I am very busy at work, and don't have time to do anything other than my official responsibilities*. While I would not want to dispel that impression, I do know that I occasionally get distracted and find myself doing things other than work at my desk.

There's something to be said about all work and no play, they say...

One major facet of my job, albeit one often overlooked, is hanging garments on hangers. I know it sounds very, very exciting, but the real tedium sets in from the sheer number of garments that need to be hung, and accordingly, the never ending boxes filled with hangers on which to hang them.

Let me tell you about hangers. All of the hangers we use are not created equally, and many of them aren't even made by the same companies. I imagine our specifications for the hangers are relatively loose (they need to have a hook on top, two shoulder-like protrusions, and whenever possible, some capability to be cascaded) and as such we end up with something of a mix.

I don't really spend much time thinking about the hangers, but one day recently I did notice that one of them was stamped with a patent number. Knowing that among the wealth of knowledge accessible by Google is a patent database (or two), I looked up that patent (5096101 for the curious) and learned a few things, among them, these:

* There are a number of patents for hangers, which would ostensibly be very simple things.
* The patent in question was for a feature not on this hanger - the little tab between the hanger and the hook that shows the size, or other information (as seen at Target).

So this is ultimately what I have found: A&E Products has somehow stamped some of their hangers with an almost completely irrelevant patent number.

As opposed, say, to writing a completely irrelevant post.

* Time that could be spent otherwise on things like, oh, posting to a website, for example. I've back-dated this entry to around the second week or so I didn't post it, but meant to do so.

8 November 2006

does this make me a bad employee?

I returned to work today, earlier than I had originally planned to do so because I can't count and Jessica didn't want me home if I weren't getting paid. My plan was to return next Wednesday, but these things happen. Some people were surprised to see me and all of them seemed happy to see a couple new baby pictures (I had, of course, sent a good number of them from the hospital lobby). I got through much of the day just talking about the delivery and what the first week of a new baby is like.

Which is not to say that I was neglecting my work. As they weren't planning for me to return for another week, my team didn't have all that much that I could really do. Moreover we're in something of a holding pattern at the moment, as some of our people are overseas doing last-minute (and after-the-last-minute) approvals and changes, and there isn't much we can do here in the home office until they return anyway.

So I ended up cleaning and organizing and telling people baby stories. All in all, the only measurable* thing I did today was answer emails, and even then, I only sent two.

And after I sent it (to people not in our Exchange system, so I couldn't recall it), I realized that one of them was from last week, and had already been answered at least once.

But at least I got paid, or rather, will be, at the end of this week or the next.

* I.e. trackable by my manager, or more specifically, a deliverable.