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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting Back in Gear

While waiting in line for coffee with my recruiter friend yesterday, a voice behind me called out: “Look who’s here.” I turned to find an associate from my former employer, who worked under the same leadership “umbrella.” Upon registering her face, my immediate reaction was to give her a big hug. Seeing her was a surprise, and even better, a pleasure. We exchanged a few comments, and off she went to a work meeting after which I sat down with my friend, silently cataloging that in our brief chat, I had accomplished something huge. It was the first time that I have bumped into someone from work wherein there was no sadness, little regret, and most of all, no big lump in my throat. The dominant emotion was simply pleasure at seeing someone I know and like.

The story, however, gets better. Yesterday morning, we were all still cleaning out from the snow storm the day before. Our Jeep, thirteen years old by choice, is a manual four wheel drive vehicle, and had been left in that gear while in the garage. As I had backed out of our ice crusted driveway and down the street earlier that day, a metal on metal grinding emanated from the car. I pulled over, looked at the 4WD crank and realized that the car was in “off road driving mode” and not “snowy conditions on the road mode.” Everyone knows that you are not supposed to drive your car in 4WD-L on paved roads, don’t they? The problem was that since we’ve never been off-roading in our car; I hadn’t a clue how to get it into the correct gear, and for crying out loud, it was 6:20 a.m. and we were on our way to my daughter’s physical therapy appointment. If we were late to that she’d be late to school. On testing the forward motion, the groaning stopped, so we made our way the half mile to the appointment, at a sustained speed of about 25 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.

After her exercises, we limped to school and then I continued home. There, I searched for my recruiter friend’s cell phone to reschedule our appointment but of course, didn’t have it. Aside from the fact that I respect and admire her and sought her advice, I also didn’t fancy leaving her hanging in a coffee shop with no word from me. So, a half hour before our meeting, I got back in the car, convinced that while driving it I’d figure out how to get it into the proper gear. No luck. Apologizing out loud to the cars stacked up behind me for the entire trip, I crawled the five miles to where we were meeting, certain that after coffee, a visit from AAA would be on the schedule. When I walked into the restaurant, my heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and caffeine wasn’t necessary for my morning adrenalin rush. That’s when my erstwhile peer saw me.

Fast forward to later that afternoon. Car issue resolved to some degree (read the manual dummy and give thanks to coaching from experienced friend) I received an email from the coordinator in my old department. Word had traveled about my chance meeting in the coffee shop that morning and the feedback was that I apparently looked “wonderful and relaxed.”

It’s all a matter of perspective I suppose. But my chuckle upon reading that email may be well worth the repair costs anticipated on the Jeep.

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