Rat ON the subway platform

Another whole week gone, and so much to talk about. My good friend Anthony came with Vincent from Kalamazoo to help me move into the new apartment. I signed the lease on Tuesday and then rushed to get things done. To back up, I had made the application the Thursday before and then waited all weekend to see if it was accepted. On Sunday I took another look at the apartment, and decided I really liked the building and neighborhood. The Building is huge. It has three wings to it, and I am in wing 114. The lobby is airy and spacious, with a light turquoise motif. Of course, it’s old. Probably 1930s.

One drawback is the kitchen is tiny. Not so much small, as nonexistent as a separate room. It’s just a refrigerator, stove, sink and a foot of counter space tucked into an alcove off the living room. As I made my way back to the sublet I began musing over how I could get more counter space. I ducked into one of the ubiquitous furniture shops to get ideas and there was this sectional that caught my eye. It was just the right size, but it pulls out into a queen size bed. The store owner, Luis, eagerly showed me how it worked, and I was in love. With the sectional. Although Luis was a very nice man. I get excited by clever things, and this thing works very well. Also, I needed a bed for Anthony to sleep on, and the whole point of the apartment was to have extra room for the kids to sleep, so Vincent and I could have privacy. I forgot all about my quest for counter space, and told Luis that if I got approved on the apartment, I’d call and order the sectional.

On Monday I went back to work. It was so great to be busy, and have something to do. At the same time I was working out all the logistics of the move. I needed to find a way to get a certified check for closing on the apartment. I needed to transfer money around. I needed to manage my credit. I needed to figure out how to hire movers. The plan was that Vincent and Anthony would arrive Thursday evening, with some stuff, and we would move it in then. And on Friday they would handle the movers and everything and it would all be miraculously done by the time I arrived home from work.

Plans change.

I got notice that I’d been approved on Monday, so after work I took the train all the way to the Bronx to tell Luis I wanted the sectional, and a dining room table set, and made that deal. On Sunday he’d told me delivery would be 3-5 days, so I was rushing to ensure it would arrive on Friday. But on Monday he said 5-7 days. I made a moue and asked if there was anyway to rush it, and he said he’d try. Sure enough, he called me the next day to tell me it was in already, so no problem. Sweet man.

On Tuesday, I arrived at work in the morning, I went to the kitchen (every floor had its own kitchen) to get a water and found that a ginger ale had exploded in the fridge. I cleaned up the mess, and then told the Executive Assistant (EA) about it. Then, a new temp started who was really nice. She was an actor, so we talked a little about theatre in NYC while we put away all the supplies I had ordered. Later that day my friend came by to tell me that the new temp would be taking her place when she went on vacation in August. This surprised me a bit because our initial conversation a few weeks back she’d implied she wanted someone she could trust, like me, to cover her. But she explained I wasn’t really on top of it enough to do her job, and I get that. The environment was all new to me, and there was a lot to learn. She explained she was going to change my status from a contract, to a temporary status, but that way I could stay through August, instead of with an end date of August 17th, which the contract had stated. She also told me I was doing fine, just not experienced enough to take her place. All was well.

That night I rushed up to the Bronx to meet the realtor in person for the first time, and sign the lease. In the morning I’d opened a bank account, and managed, with Vincent’s help on the other end, to transfer money so I could get the certified checks. This involved a lot of waiting, checking my balance, and anxiety on whether it would come in before the bank closed. Everything worked, VERY last minute, and there I was rushing to the Bronx again. John Suarez, the realtor, was a real gem. He was very nice, he explained things to me, and I am glad that I ultimately went with him. Next year, when we’re looking to buy, I am definitely contacting him.

So, one sigh of relief. Lease signed! Furniture to be delivered! Now I needed to find movers. Wednesday on the way to work I filled out online contact forms for various moving companies to get quotes. Earlier in the month I’d taken a tear-off from a lamppost sign advertising movers at $60 and hour per man, with a two hour/two man minimum. So, I was thinking it would cost me about $200 to move. Hah! I couldn’t find the tear off, and as places started calling me, they were all booked out to mid-August, or they cost a fortune. The first guy to call quoted me $800+. When I expressed surprise “It’s one room!”, he cited the short notice and he had me there. These were whispered phone calls in the break room, because I felt bad about doing personal things at work. But I didn’t see a choice, either.

For most of the week my tasks had included researching the passport process for a minor, how to get visas to India and learning to do expense reports. Also, come up with names for 10 conference rooms. Whenever I didn’t have something immediate, I would research names, and ideas. Those of you who know me, know that I’m pretty good at that sort of creative work. Because the company had to do with pharmaceuticals, I came up with naming the rooms after plants that had medicinal qualities, gods and goddesses that represented health and healing, and action verbs used on the company website (Innovate! Grow! Produce! Etc.) I threw it into a tidy PowerPoint, which took me all of three minutes, and when asked I had it ready. The first time I took it to my friend, she immediately told me to hide it. “Don’t let anyone see that you’re wasting time on a PowerPoint!” I tried to explain that it hadn’t taken any time at all, but she then expressed that the work was interesting. So, I guessed I was absolved.

One morning I had to return an unopened cell phone. I had called ATT the night before to ask how to do this, whether it had to be mailed in or taken to a store, and they said either was fine. So, that morning I was off to the nearest ATT store. When I arrived, they said they couldn’t take it, and I had to go to FedEx, who were the sending company. I found the nearest FedEx place and they said they couldn’t take it, because the return label was UPS. The woman told me to open the box, take out the return label, and go to UPS. Which I did, and that finally worked. I treated myself to a Starbucks Teavana Peach Citrus black tea lemonade on my way back to the office.

Later that day the other EA asked me to check for flights specifically flying from LGA to San Francisco, arriving before 3:30 and leaving the next day after 2:00pm, only on Delta. They had a really awesome software and the fastest internet ever, so this was a good project. I came up with all the alternatives I could find and presented them to her. But wait. There are no direct flights for Delta to San Fran from LGA. So, she told me to check JFK. I did everything over again and came up with several options. Then the VP asked us to check Newark. So, I did it again. I was learning the expense account system, so she also gave me some receipts to upload, and told me to enter them in the system. I did this, not understanding that the when she said enter, she didn’t mean “new” entries, she meant add them existing entries. It was easy to fix, but apparently a bigger problem than I’d thought.

Before I left, my friend told me she wanted me to gather all the information I’d found on the minor passport process and we would settle it in the morning.

That night I had to go to the Bronx to get the keys. On the way I contacted another mover who returned my call, and gave me a quote of $700+. At this point I was desperate, so I took it. At this point I am going into credit card debt. I was also getting exhausted. For the first time since moving to NYC I was awakened by my alarm clock, rather than the sun. Getting up at 7:30am each day, working 8-9 hours, then running to the Bronx, and getting home after 8pm. But all to good ends.

Thursday morning and I am looking forward to seeing my love at the end of the day. We’d been apart 26 days. I was still receiving calls from movers I’d contacted online, but no one had a better offer than the one I’d booked, and it turned out the deposit I’d made was not refundable. Entering the building I greeted the security guard with a big smile. Waiting for the elevator I told him that I liked to smile at him, because he had such a great smile. He introduced himself as Chuly.

When I arrived at work, the EA sent me to get a card, wrapping paper, and a bow for an analyst who was leaving to go to Medical School. I ran off to find the Papyrus store and bought a Thank You card and in a stroke of inspiration, wrapping paper and a bow that matched the card. When I returned to the office, smiling at Chuly again, the EA told me she didn’t want a thank you card, but a congratulations card. She said she’d go get the right things herself on her lunch break, not offering to return what I bought on the way. Later in the day I went to ask for work and stood patiently behind my friend and the EA as they talked, waiting for them to give me their attention. I had just noticed their boss walking into his office for a meeting (glass doors everywhere), and the EA asked my friend if the meeting had just started. I said “yes” and she turned to me, “I was asking her!” sharply. Henceforth I either Skyped or e-mailed requests to them.

After that there was a telling lack of tasks assigned to me. I finished everything I had been asked to do and began to look around for things I could work on. There was a storage cube I’d bought from Staples that needed to be assembled. I sent an e-mail to the EA asking her if she’d like me to work on it. I was learning that just going forward and cleaning up a mess was frowned upon. I made a couple of job applications. Checked my e-mail, found out I didn’t make the cut for the UN job, but was assured I would be considered if anyone turned it down. Which is a possibility.

I was gathering the expedited passport information and trying to get everything organized for when my friend would have time to sit down and chat with me. We finally found a moment and I laid out all the information I had. It turned out a bunch of it was unnecessary and I finally got the original information for the request. Essentially, the boss had thought he would have to submit his passport along with his son’s in the mail to renew the child’s passport and he needed it for international travel in the coming weeks. The actual travel date for his son was in December. This nulled a lot of the information I’d gathered, but I had no way of knowing that. My friend then also informed me that I was not to clean things, or assemble things because there were people to do that sort of thing. Okay. My next assignment was to fill out all of the online information for the son’s passport, but once I started doing that there was too much information I didn’t know: home phone numbers, family names, birthdates, heights, etc. I composed a list of questions and proceeded to find out as much as I could about what was needed for the process.

In the meantime, I texted Vincent and Anthony and asked them to meet me at the new apartment. I had planned to leave work at 5pm and meeting them at 6pm. Just after five my friend came by to give me more information on the project. I mentioned that I planned to leave soon, and she looked surprised, told me she needed to talk to me, and could I stay. Of course, I said. She had a meeting with her boss at 6pm that she needed to get ready for, so could I wait past that? Yes. I used the time to return the items to Papyrus. On the way I texted Vincent, “I’m about to get fired.”

At 6pm her boss was still in a meeting, so once she was sure her tasks were done, she took me aside and told me that it was my last day. That they didn’t have time to train anybody, and I just wasn’t up on everything I needed to know. She also told me it was her last day, too, that she was going on that long-awaited vacation the next day. I had thought that was to start in August, and that I’d have at least that long to up my game.

I realized in hindsight that the last two days I had been working for the EA who would have been supervising me in my friend’s absence, and she was not happy with me. In my defense, she was terrible at explaining what she wanted, my friend was much better. But, the truth is, I don’t think it was a great fit. And in the end, my friend did me a tremendous favor. Without her hiring me, even for a week, I would not have gotten the apartment, and one huge worry off my mind. I made a pretty good amount of money in the week I was there, so that will help quite a bit.

I packed up my stuff and went to the elevator. Standing there, a young man reached out “we haven’t met yet,” introducing himself and shaking my hand. I didn’t disabuse him of the need.

Well, now I had time to move with Vincent and Anthony on Friday. I made my way to the A train. I wasn’t really upset about the job. A little miffed, no one likes to fail, and so much of it came down to not being able to mind read, I thought, but I couldn’t disagree that I wasn’t the best. The platform was crowded and hot. It had not been a great day. I had already walked at least two miles to Papyrus and back twice. The train did not come, and after about 30 minutes they announced that a passenger had been hit by an A train, and they were delayed. I waited another 15 minutes or so, then decided to get off and take the 1. Thank God for unlimited metro card.

I got off and walked a long block, and realized I’d gone the wrong way to ninth avenue instead of 7th. Damn, I turned around and walked back. Then waited for the 1. When I finally got on it, it was running slowly and there were no seats. My feet were beginning to hurt. Finally, a seat opened next to a slightly older woman reading a book in the coveted end place. I took it gratefully. When we reached 96th street, I saw her craning to see where we were. “96th”, I said. She thanked me and returned to her book. A moment later I heard the cry of a very young baby. I couldn’t see it, but it came from near the sliding doors. No one offered a seat. At last the person blocking my vision moved and I saw a young mother with infant strapped to her chest. I caught the father’s eye and indicated she could take my seat, which she did eagerly. The book-reading woman admired the baby. When that family got off I reclaimed the seat and the woman said, “welcome back”. I like those moments.

By this time Anthony and Vincent were enjoying a beer at a little Dominican Republic place around the corner from the apartment. We unloaded what they’d brought, and I told them my story. Then we drove back to the sublet to get ready for the movers coming at 7:00am. As I posted, it was not a good day.

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