Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hey Gift Horse!...oh, nevermind.

It really was bound to happen at some point I guess. Our intention was never to make the Land of Snow and Cheese our permanent home but what I'm facing now is one of those hit-you-in-the-gut, riding-the-steep-drop-roller-coaster pits in my stomach.

For me it began back in October when a job came up back in Austin. Immediately it was a sinking feeling. For the last year and a half Gru (my husband) and his business partner, Adam, have been working diligently on a project. They started off meeting at the university's business center because they were in the know about the location of free coffee. Believe it or not, and probably much to the amazement of many of their former classmates, these two actually started making headway on a business idea that actually seemed like it was going to work. Gone were the days of Gru's ridiculous schemes and ideas of things that no one would use let alone buy. Gru and Adam had figured out a way to tap into the sports drink business in a way no one really had in the past. Even their biggest critic (me) realized they potentially had a gold mine.

They had people in the business and sports world who were listening to them and, shockingly enough, returning their phone calls. Progress was being made and then...the job in Austin appeared.

The best word I can begin to describe my emotions about all of this particular opportunity is 'numb'. I wanted to be excited about the potential of moving back home, I wanted to look at houses and study gyms for my girls. I wanted to stand on my roof and yell so loud my friends in Texas could hear me. But deep down I knew there was an Anchor that would hold us here. The business.

Gru actually did apply for the job which we discussed and that continued to get my hopes up but we didn't really talk much about it. One day I came home to a call on our answering machine that I had to listen to about four times and I still couldn't figure out what this woman was trying to say, although it seemed pretty clear that she wasn't asking for money or for me to change my cable service. Eventually my bestie, Frankie, who was in the kitchen with me listened to it, "Teachers Retirement Fund" she said as if the woman had spelled it out for her. Apparently I might be going deaf, or just stupid. When I heard her say that I almost responded, "How do you know what that is?" being that it was a Texas agency and then I realized she was simply repeating what she had just heard.

I immediately wrote down the information and clammed up. I knew exactly what that phone call was once it was translated for me. Duh.

Without my knowing Gru had had a phone interview that had gone well and this phone call was the invitation for him to come down to Texas for an interview at the agency. He was only one of three people in the entire country to be in the final running for this position. Part of me wanted to scream, "Don't do it" because I knew he wouldn't take a job there at this juncture with his personal business and I didn't want him to screw up future potential positions down there.  The other part of me was bursting with happiness at the possibility that we were one step closer to coming home. It was, by far, the most torn I have ever felt.

After the interview in Texas we waited. And waited. In what I can only describe as a sense of relief for myself we began to realize that no news meant there was not going to be an offer. After a courteous amount of waiting time had passed, Gru contacted the agency and learned that, as it frequently does in the world of government employment, the position had gone to someone with connections to Governor Can't Remember the Third Agency He Would Do Away With.

People asked me a lot after that what our status was in terms of moving. Honestly what had happened was the best case scenario and allowed me to answer their inquiries without dissolving into a messy puddle of tears and snot. Because he hadn't been offered the job we weren't put in the position of having to choose.

Waiting for seven years to go back home is a very long time. Had we gotten to the point where he applied, interviewed and was offered the position and then had to turn it down? It would have been devastating. The idea of looking my dream in the mouth and almost being able to reach out and grab its tongue but then saying, "Yeah, actually we're out, we can't move because of this business thing that might work out" would have killed me. Never in my life have I been so relieved for him to NOT receive an offer.

And things went well from November (when I got to go to my first U of Wisconsin football game and actually watch the start of the game on the sidelines on the field...all because of new business connections for The Anchor) through the new year (when a job in Sante Fe came up, no thank you) and then up until last week.

Out of the blue- another email, another position in Austin. This time it was from the woman who was leaving the position, whom Gru knew personally, who thought that Gru would be a perfect replacement for her job. Another sucker punch...right to my gut. I could almost feel the rising of the bile in my esophagus. That sick, nauseous feeling right before you release all the nastiness churning in your stomach.

"Here we go again," I thought. But this time, even more devastatingly- I know. I avoided talking to Gru about it for a few days, denial- more than a river in Africa, or so they say. I asked last night but I knew- I just had to hear it so I could quash any potential glimmer of hope I had. Now they are three months closer to launching their products, two months shy of the reveal at a major coaching convention- there's no way he could leave Adam and the Anchor now.

I think he'll respond and let them know his experience and how qualified he is for the position and follow it up with salary requirements which he's sure they won't be able to meet. It's cordial, professional, leaves the door open for future jobs but, for the most part, lets this one slip away.

Just floating away like the puffy snowflakes that I see out my window...

Suburbian Siren, who might, just MIGHT, someday make it back home...but not today...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Love Story

This morning started off as usual for me with the exception that I now, as of last night, also have Pinterest to add to my morning plethora of random and very important things to do. Also added to the list this morning was cleaning out my underwear drawer. I'm not sure why it HAD to be today, could be because I just got a new pair of undies at the Underwear Exchange...wait, no it can't, I'm wearing those today. Anyway that was on my unwritten agenda for today. Eventually I finished my very important work for the day and clocked out I finally managed to get myself showed, made up (make-up, as it turns out...not really optional at my age), hair dried and dressed.

Agnes had been busy having playdates with her friends Oswald, Max and Ruby, all of whom I adore because they never leave a mess behind when the playdate is over. They kind of rock like that. She then moved onto her work on Margo's iPod Touch. Said work this morning included playing Angry Birds, deleting a Dora Christmas app, eating virtual cookies and listening to 'Shake it Up!' With all the strenuousness of this work it eventually became necessary for the Touch to find its way to the computer so that it could recharge and I could sneakily replace the deleted apps from the morning's work session.

I went through three Apple power cords before it dawned on me that there *could* be a problem. None of them would plug in properly to the Touch which was a major issue as previously mentioned with the whole deleted apps thing not to mention it was beyond red on the battery bar- it wasn't even turning on. Because I'm super-de-duper smart I took a look-see at the bottom of the device where the power cords *should* be plugging in easily. Looked normal, I thought.

But then I realized that without some neon arrow pointing me to the direction of what the problem could be I didn't really know what ‘normal’ looked like. I picked up my Touch and checked out the plug. Hmmmm. Then I looked back at Margo's. Hmmmm.

I'm writing 'hmmmm' but what I was thinking was, "FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!!"

Where the cord should be plugging in was a little bar for it to connect onto- a portion of the bar was poof. Likely this occurred when Margo was busily unplugging her Touch to get to a serious round of Pet Hotel.

Awe. Some. We purchased our Touches from so I was like pretty sure Apple wasn't going to really be interested in my plight but I had nowhere to go. I called our local mall's Apple store (in and of itself an unpleasant experience that ended once with an automatic voice demanding my serial number (which I didn't not have as we were now en route to Library Time...which, as it turns out, doesn't start until NEXT week) and one hang-up right as I was the 'next call') and eventually spoke to a girl who actually kind of gave a shit about my story and penciled me in for a Technical Appointment.

After a somewhat frustrating experience at Potbelly's (because I'm old and can't read signs and follow directions) we showed up at the Apple store in our mall. I stood in front of the store kind of mesmerized by the big glowing white apple above the door. We never really buy things at retail so it was a new thing for me to even be walking into the Apple store. The Executive, as you know, is all about bargains and usually a retail store isn't the place to find them. Our iPods and Touches have all come from other retailers- for a good price, Target with a $40 gift card and Costco with a cash-back program at the end of the year.

I was in awe of how many people were in the store on a Wednesday morning just before noon. Do people not have jobs or is their shit broke too? It was hard to tell.

Anyway, I went to the back and found a dude in a blue shirt whom wasn't assisting anyone else and checked in for my appointment. He had this black box that seemed to be pretty important and have more information than an entire library's-worth of appointment books, encyclopedias, address books and other very important information. I went to sit at a totally cool bar-height table and pushed Agnes next to the table. At this point I was coming to grips with the worst case scenario  ($200 for a new one...which the 'old one' was only two months old) and the best case scenario (they could fix it in the store and I would only have to pay for parts and labor). I was trying to determine at what cost should I just scrap the old one and opt to buy a new one. You know, if it was going to be $125 to fix it, should I just buy a new one? If it was $75 then yeah, I'd fix it but $125? That seemed to be the tipping point for me I decided.

After a few minutes a pretty hip looking 20-something in a blue shirt came and swooped in next to me with his black box. He had random piercings on his face but he was professional and respectful. I explained to him my situation, focusing on the fact that we hadn't bought it there and I wasn't even sure if he would be able to help me and showed him the broken part.

"This part here is broken off as you can see, now I don't even know if this can be fixed or whatever but I thought I'd start here since you guys are the experts. My husband always looks for good deals, he's an accountant so you know how they are, so we actually bought this on Amazon so again, I'm not really sure you can do anything," I rambled on and on.

"Ah-ha. How did this happen?"

"Well, it's my eight year-old daughter's Touch and I'm guessing that as she was unplugging it from the charging cord it must have popped or snapped or..."

"Wow, and you even have it in an Otter Box too!" he marveled.

"Exactly and the one part that broke is the only part of the whole thing that's exposed, even though it's totally protected by this major thing," I sighed.

I had thought The Executive was being ridiculously over-cautious as usual when he insisted on the hard-core, heavy-duty Otter Boxes for our Touches. They are bulky and a total pain in the ass to plug into docking stations, however they do keep the things from breaking in the occasional fall that happens around our house.

"Alright, I have good news and bad news for you. This cannot be fixed, because Apple doesn't see it as something that would be normal wear and tear. The good news is that I can offer you a new one at half price, so it's normally $200, I can offer it to you for $100," he explained in a sympathetic but again, professional tone.

"Well, this one is broken and cannot be repaired, correct?" I confirmed.


"Alright then, $100 sounds like a deal to me." I answered thankful that I was going to save $100 on the replacement cost.

"But I'll tell you what, I'm going to replace it for free..."

"What? You can't do that. I didn't buy it here," I reminded him.

He looked at me and said, "I can tell you take care of this and it wasn't from rough usage. This is a one-time deal because obviously we couldn't do it again..."

I looked at him and started tearing up.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I wanted to reach over and hug him but I was afraid he would revoke his offer or other blue shirts would think I was attacking him and then again- the offer would be gone when mall security would have been called to take me away.

I know that most people, self-included, have a love/hate relationship with Apple. We LOVE the products and technology when it's working but we hate when the iTunes don't transfer to a new computer or whatever the deal is that's driving us nuts. Today I was totally shocked by the company and the young man (you know I'm old when I start referring to a dude in his 20s as "young man") a good way- thankfully.

It took me a few minutes to pull my shit together and stop tearing up and snotting all over the place. He did exactly as he promised and got a new Touch from the back and didn't try to sell me one. single. thing. Now, I don't know if this is how Steve Jobs demanded his company be run or if this one guy was being ridiculously kind to an old lady but I was impressed. Like SERIOUSLY impressed.

First I was impressed with how much credibility I got from having this silly $20 Otter Box protecting my device. All I kept thinking was, "That was a good insurance policy."  Second I was impressed by Apple's integrity in standing by their product even when it wasn't purchased directly from their store.

It's a silly one, but this is my Love Story for the day...which was immediately slapped in the face by reality as some dude approached me in the parking lot asking for gas money and giving me a sob-story about him and his boyfriend and their car breaking down. I thought if he just wanted money he probably would have left the part out about a boyfriend because most people don't 'fake' being gay. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and $5. Apple started it today paying me forward, I gave the would-be con-artist (or maybe legit dude with bad luck)...

The end of the story it this; in one hour I'm going to pick up a pissed off 8 year old because I'm not loading her Touch until tomorrow. She needs to understand that when things break they aren't free to fix (except today it kind of was) and in her case it's going to cost her time to fix her broken toy.

And that, my friends is the end of my Love Story.

Suburbian Siren, who still might be snotting up while writing this...