Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It's never just a game

My heart was racing as my name was pulled from a glass bowl at the office: I had won two bleacher seat tickets to the Cubs playoff game. It was Oct. 14, 2003.
I began making elaborate arrangements. My father volunteered to make the hours-long trek to bring my then 14-year-old son to my office so we could make it to Wrigleyville on time.
We parked on the street in my old neighborhood, Andersonville, and walked to the L, stopping at Walgreens to buy an extra pair of socks: It was only 43 degrees out.

I may have gotten a little teary thinking about the first time I took my son to a Cubs game when he was 8 or so. It was a gorgeous summer day and on a whim I said, “hey, let’s go to a game.” We hopped on the L and headed to Addison Street. We bought tickets from a man with two to spare. Kerry Wood was pitching, and my son kept score with a little help from the dude who sold us the tickets. Wrigley was sporting its typical beer garden vibe.

I don’t remember if the Cubs won. I do remember feeling like an all-American, super cool, single mom taking her son to a ballgame. There were hot dogs and sodas, beers and a Kerry Wood T-shirt purchase.

It is parenthood perfection when you and your child enjoy the same thing; it’s solidified when you both fondly remember an event almost 20 years later. That day was it.

A few Red Line stops later we were among the flock of fans. We raced to our seats with the usual mix of excitement and dread about how good your sightlines would be. But this game was different. The crowd trickling in was tightly wound. The air was charged with negative ions. It was cold and there was too much at stake for the Cubs.

Moments after we sat down I witnessed men knocking over kids to get the practice balls the Cubs were tossing to the stands. Fans nearby chastised them, “hey asshole, that’s not cool.” When one of them tripped, someone yelled “ha ha, douchebag, serves you right.”
The bleachers appeared to be populated by well-connected, fair-weather fans who on a hot July day wouldn’t be caught dead in the bleachers. They chatted about how they scored tickets and how jealous all their friends and family were that they were at this game. On behalf of real baseball fans, I hated them just a bit.

I’m sure my son and I chatted about the lineup, the odds, the Cubs history and lore – like any typical game we’d attended over the years. But with playoff games an edge-of-your-seat seriousness takes over and baseball is no longer the national pastime; it’s a competitive sport. Between the fair-weather fans, and the do-or-die plays, the ballpark vibe was light years away from a convivial beer garden, even though the Cubs were winning.

Then the shit hit the fan.

Even from our perspective across the field you could see the man reach out to grab the ball out of Moises Alou’s glove. Almost immediately the crowd began chanting “ASS-HOLE ASS-HOLE.” Did we chant along? I can’t remember. I like to think we didn’t.

As the game imploded, and the Cubs steadily fell behind, I couldn’t help but feel it was because of the fans. Not the one “asshole” who snagged the ball, but the collective crowd spewing negative energy and hate across the field. How could a team recover?
Suddenly I didn’t feel like the hip, cool mom who scored playoff tickets to watch our beloved team. I felt embarrassed to be in the crowd, and I felt bad for bringing my son along to witness it. The sun permanently set on the brilliant memory of our first baseball game.

The return trip to the ‘burbs was especially long after that cold loss that will live in infamy as The Bartman Game. I wondered if we’d ditch baseball. And I worried that my son and I would never again share a day like that first, perfect baseball game. I wondered if we’d ever return to Wrigley.

Of course we returned. We’re Cubs fans.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The worst breakup ever

There were signs our relationship was floundering – ignored phone calls and emails, a general lack of passion for any of my ideas or efforts, a sudden interest in a glossy new girl. The relationship just wasn't working. We had financial troubles I couldn't help conquer, and our communication had become strained. We weren't alone; other long-term relationships like ours were falling apart all around us.
But I held out hope we might make it work; that one day he'd look at me and say, 'I still need you and want to find a place for you in my life.' Then came the fatal Wednesday when he summoned me to a meeting. Alone in his office he broke the news, our long-term relationship was over: my job had been eliminated.
I got to keep the laptop (the new girl would want her own). He set me up with some extra money to help me stay on my feet. There were other things offered to soften the blow, but I was too devastated to listen carefully.  He didn't bother to thank me for the 15 years I devoted to the partnership. That hurt the most.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and went to pack some things. My few hurried goodbyes were met with tears and shocked faces.
Grabbing a box of tissue, I fled the historic institution that had been my beloved work home for more than a decade.
Like any jilted lover, I called my best friends to commiserate. They took me out for drinks. Over vodka tonics, I cried, "why me?" and "who's going to love me now?"  Friends told me I'd get over it, that I'd be better off, bounce back in no time, find someone new. He was a bad boyfriend after all. He sapped me of my youth and vitality. He gave me little in return. Plus, he was geographically undesirable – expecting me to travel four hours a day to get to him.  I felt better. The possibilities of being single again filled my imagination. I wouldn't be jobless for long. My new coworkers are going to love me even more.
Once word got out that I was dumped, advice was plentiful. I knew the best advice was don't rebound. Tempting as it was to get my online social profile updated and start looking for matches, I didn't. I need time to get over it. I didn't want to rush into something new only to have my heart broken again.
So, days stretched into weeks and then months. I did all the woman scorned things. I listened to sad music, ate candy and ice cream, watched endless hours of Netflix and HBO, met friends for lunch and drinks. I told everyone I was doing fine.
I tricked myself into thinking I was better off alone. I even tried dating a bit – accepting a few freelance assignments. And I picked up a sweet volunteer gig hoping to make new connections while sharing my skills. I traveled a bit and spent hours deep cleaning parts of my house neglected when I was in an all-consuming relationship with my work.
Well-meaning friends tried to set me up with opportunities. I half-heartedly pursued them. An inertia had set in. I feared rejection so much that I didn't put myself out there. My self-esteem plummeted and real sadness set in. I started crying daily and ruminating about what happened. What did she have that I didn't? Why couldn't I have seen it coming and made self-improvements to save the relationship? Was it my age?
As is the case in any breakup after a long-term relationship, there were people I wouldn't be seeing anymore and I missed them. I longed for the the camaraderie, the "you rock" emails for projects done, fires put out, advice given.
I even missed the short naps the moving train lulled me into during my commute. One particularly sad day I cried when I opened my closet and looked at all my work clothes and shoes.
Why was I taking this so hard? It was a business decision after all. It just wasn't meant to be. We were never going to grow old together.
Now my Severance Summer is starting to wind down. It's time to put myself out there. I've taken some baby steps. I started writing again. I'm pursuing networking in earnest. I'm making lists. I'm getting back into shape. I'm updating my LinkedIn profile.
I'm going to be ready to welcome Mr. Right Work into my life.
Wish me luck and spread the word that I'm back on the market, will you?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cover letter template

I'm writing cover letters for the first time in almost two decades. I still hate it as much as I did then, and 35 years ago when I was first starting my career. When I was a hiring manager, I almost never read cover letters. Why, oh, why, must this practice continue?
I'm muddling through it. But all the while, here's the cover letter I want to send every single time:

Dear hiring manager:

You should hire me.
I will show up on time, well dressed, smelling good, and quietly set about doing whatever you tell me to do. 
If you don't have anything to tell me to do, I will look around, ask around, make calls, send out emails looking for something that needs to be done. Then, I will do it.
I will gladly organize your office potlucks, be your office safety guard for fire drills, call maintenance when there's a weird smell, make coffee, and show up cheerfully at meetings and participate (without using the words and phrases like "shitshow" "clusterfuck" "I call bullshit").
I will proofread anything anyone throws at me. I will rewrite your reports. I will write performance reviews. I will craft your values and mission statements. I will write the email tactfully telling the smelly guy to practice better hygiene.
Need someone with a three-decade track record of NOT being the office loud talker, low talker, stinky food eater, microwave pig, or restroom cell phone user? Looking for an employee who doesn't use the time while you are speaking to rehearse what she going to say next, but actually listens to you? Seeking someone who has a sense of humor AND a work ethic?  I'm your woman.

Call me, email me, IM me on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn. I will respond 24-7.
Thanks for your time.

The Future Your Company Staffer, Lori Botterman