If someone asked me what I worried about (and I’m wondering now why no-one ever does), the list would be long. Bad things happening to people I love. Never ever EVER finding another job. Associated poverty and hunger and homelessness. Dry skin. Birds flying into my house and pecking out my eyes. Never ever EVER finding another cute pair of jeans to fit. Stuff like that. I worry about all of these things and more, but I also know that if any of them happened, even the eye pecking, I would somehow deal and survive.
But if someone asked me what I was afraid of, the list would be short. One word in fact: earthquakes! This may or may not be ironic, since I live in Los Angeles, which sits on top of many fault lines and is often referred to as “earthquake country.” And after several happy years of “earthquake drought” we seem to be in a current pattern of, well, would you call it “earthquake flood.” No, that seems a little dramatic even for me. We just seem to be having an unusually high volume of perceptible earthquakes, and it is freaking me out.
I was nine years old when the 6.6 Sylmar earthquake hit, and remember feeling completely terrified. Our house didn’t sustain any structural damage, but it did shatter and destroy my large collection of hand blown glass animals. Remember those, you used to be able to buy them at amusement parks? Maybe you still can. I don’t think I had really known about earthquakes prior to that, but now I had a fear with a name.
Flash forward to 1994, the Northridge quake. I lived alone, in the Valley, near the epicenter, in a little brick guest house. I remember, still, the feeling of being woken by the 6.7 temblor, grabbing my dog and running outside. There was a little courtyard outside that I shared with my neighbors. I remember huddling there with my Yahtzee in my arms, so scared. There was considerable damage to my house, and no power for days. I lived with friends, too scared to go home, for several nights, as aftershocks continued to roll. I wasn’t alone in my terror; I remember driving by parks filled with sleeping people, all of whom were too frightened to go back inside.
It took a long time, years, before I could sleep in the dark after that. To this day, when the power goes out, I am scared, with flashbacks to that time. I don’t know why earthquakes frighten me so much, but I would guess it has something to do with the complete lack of control they instill in me. Like many people, with each earthquake, I wait to see if this is going to be the next “Big One.” In my rational mind I know it’s unlikely I will be killed from an earthquake, although that would have a certain irony to it. And if I were to be killed, well, I would be dead and there wouldn’t be anything to worry about at that point, right?
But I can’t help it; it takes a while after each quake for the rational thinking to kick in. Last night we had a 5.1 around 9:00. My house was far from the epicenter, where there was some moderate damage, but I certainly felt it, and of course, was scared to bits for the next few hours, even taking Daisy Petals to bed with me, to protect me, serve as an early warning system, and to act as my bad dream catcher. She did her job and I was able to sleep without any earthquake nightmares.
Will there be another significant earthquake in my lifetime? Almost certainly. Will I survive it? Most likely. Will this stop me from being afraid? I’m going to say probably not, but I’m working on it. In the meantime, do my loved ones know to call me and check after each quake, knowing how I feel? Most definitely! And so, as long as nothing bad happens to any one of them, will I be okay? Yes, I will, thanks for asking!
Last week, I finally swallowed the Kool-Aid and joined the Cult of Apple by getting an iPhone. And not just any iPhone, but a sweet white iPhone 5c, with a scratch protector surface, cute polka dot shatter proof case, and car charger. I call her Pokey and I love her very much.
It wasn’t necessarily my intention to get a new phone, given my current financial circumstances, but I certainly coveted one. Not only did almost every person I know have one of these fancy phones that seemed to connect them seamlessly with phone, text, music, entertainment, gps, and the wonderful world of apps, but my old phone was slightly less functional than a tin can and long piece of string. I hated talking on it, the sound quality sucked, and hated even more using it in any public situation where anyone could see that I was clearly not one of the cool kids. Its only redeeming feature was that it had a keyboard for texting. Unfortunately, I realized after I had locked into a 2 year contract, that keyboard made me even less cool and did not outweigh the other serious deficits of the device.
So imagine my excitement when I received an email from my phone carrier, hmmm, let’s call them Horizon, that I was eligible for an iPhone 5 months before my contract was up. Even more exciting, the email said the phone was free! Free!!! Now that’s a price I can afford!
However, I am a skeptic, and have learned, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. So, I called Horizon and spent 45 minutes of my precious time, first on hold, and then grilling a representative about every aspect of this “free” deal. I was also concerned about any additional costs from having to agree to a data plan, so imagine how thrilled I was when he told me I was eligible for another special, a customer loyalty program of sorts that would only increase my monthly plan by $10 a month. I was all in, and asked him to sign me up and send me my new baby.
Of course nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. The representative said it would be much easier for me to go to a Horizon store, where I could get my new phone, change my plan, and have all of my contacts transferred and ready to roll. He advised that this was a limited time offer, and that I should go as soon as possible. Nice guy that he was, he even called my closest store for me, and learned that they only had two phones left that would qualify for this deal. So I quickly printed out my email and sped to the store.
Well, what do you think? When I got to the store, they claimed they had no knowledge of this deal, and intimated that the phone customer service agents didn’t know what they were talking about. Fortunately, I had that email, which included my account number, and I quickly asked for a manager. I gave him a very polite little piece of my mind, including the phrases “bait and switch” and false advertising, and lo and behold, he was able to identify the deal. Then we wrangled about the customer loyalty program, and while I stayed extremely pleasant I’m pretty sure he may have gone in the back to weep just a little bit as I walked out with my new free phone and loyalty plan.
Now I have my new phone, and I love it. But, I have no idea how to use it! I have mastered making calls, of course, and basic texting, but for a girl who loves learning about new things as much as I do, I am oddly adverse to reading instructions. I can’t tell you how freaked out I was when I pushed a button and a voice asked me if they could help me with anything! Siri! My new best friend!
It’s going to be an adventure, me and my new phone getting to know each other, and it has already started. Yesterday I was speeding down the 405, returning home from one of those important appointments. I wanted to update my brother on what happened, so I asked Siri to “call Phil.” The next thing I knew Siri was dialing my old manager “Bill”. Fortunately he’s also a good friend but it was still a little awkward, and last night I carefully deleted all obsolete numbers, because given my odd accent, I could just envision Siri connecting me with my old nemesis Sherry when I really wanted to talk to Kerry.
The end, for now
I’ve always prided myself on having a reasonably good sense of direction. Complete inability to navigate a corn maze notwithstanding, of course, and totally ignoring the fact that the BFF and I have never gone on an adventure without becoming hopelessly lost. That element usually just adds to our fun, so I am going to discount that from my overall navigation skills.
Many years ago, when I was a starving editor working in the vastly underpaid publishing industry, I supplemented my income by working for a catering company on the weekends. This was pre-GPS, so with my trusty, battered Thomas guide, I would drive to a different, unfamiliar locale each week, consistently arriving on time and looking quite natty in my tuxedo top, cummerbund and bow tie. I rarely, if ever, got lost on these occasions, perhaps motivated by my desperate need for extra funds, potential tips, and leftover rumaki.
This week, I had one of those super important “appointments” in a city I had never been to, located about 40 miles from my home. My appointment was at 10:30, and I had already planned on leaving my house by 9:00 to make sure I was there with time to spare. But the night before a good friend messaged me and cautioned that I should expect heavy traffic. Her husband had made a trip to LAX that day, which was about halfway to my destination, and it had taken him 80 minutes. Armed with that knowledge, and not willing to take any chance of being late, I decided to leave at 8:30.
As these things go, traffic was flowing smoothly, and I arrived at my destination before 9:30. I didn’t want to just linger in the parking lot, so I decided to leave and find a Starbucks or McDonalds, to get a cup of tea and work on assuming a calm, confident persona. In my neighborhood, I can find a coffee shop, donut store or fast food joint by driving around any corner, so I innocently assumed this wouldn’t be a problem. And just as innocently, and foolishly, I assumed I would have no problem retracing my path back to the appointment.
Well, that didn’t happen. Again, I was totally unfamiliar with the area, and didn’t really get that it was mostly industrial. As I drove down streets, thinking I was making a square around my original location, I didn’t see any place that looked like it would serve as a quiet respite. And, as I drove on, I began to get concerned that I had left my square, because after several turns, I saw a sign indicating I was in a different city!
I pulled into a small strip lot and ran into the only business that was open, which appeared to be a Vietnamese restaurant. Not so surprisingly, the lady behind the counter didn’t understand my plea for directions, and while she seemed sympathetic, she just shook her head and smiled at me. I thanked her anyway, and ran back to my car. It was now 10:00.
I drove on, and it seemed to me, on. Again I pulled into another small strip mall. Still no Starbucks in this unknown city! No open businesses at all. In fact, if anyone is looking for a business opportunity, message me, because I see a real community need there. Finally, I screeched into a car rental lot. I ran, panting, up to a representative and basically threw myself on his mercy, explaining that I was desperately lost and in serious trouble of missing a crucial “appointment.”
This sweet man tried to analyze the MapQuest directions I had clutched in my sweaty hands as the clock ticked away. He couldn’t figure out how I had become so turned around, so he got on his computer and reset the directions from where we were. He set it to print, and the printer jammed. I honestly thought I was going to lose it, but he finally was able to hand me my new instructions. Distance, 5 miles. Estimated time, 11 minutes. It was 10:15. I thanked him profusely and ran like hell to my car as he shouted “good luck.”
I would not be exaggerating to say I broke several speed and traffic laws that morning. I pulled back into the company parking lot at 10:29. I wanted to cry, or throw up, but there was no time for such activities. So, I took a very deep breath, and calmly, and confidently, walked into the HR office. And there I waited for 15 minutes.
The end, for now
It’s been frighteningly and eerily quiet on the job hunt front since the first of the year. I had expected there to be a lull during the holidays, but I actually had several interviews going on in December, although none of them resulted in a job offer. Then January came and went without a single nibble, while I continued to look for work every day, and complete every applicable application.
To say that I was stressed and worried would be an understatement. I never expected that it would take me this long to find my next job, and had been, perhaps falsely, encouraged by the fairly steady stream of interviews. I was depressed, discouraged, and feeling pretty hopeless. And admittedly, I have made the grave mistake of equating some of my self-worth with what I did for a living. And if I’m not doing anything, I had to fight hard against the feeling of total worthlessness.
Just as things were getting seriously dire, I was lucky enough to get an offer for some part-time, short-term remote contract work. I can’t express how grateful I am for this opportunity, not just for the ability to earn some money, but also to get my feet wet again into the working world, even if it’s just as an anonymous contributor from my home computer. The rigor, routine and discipline of work are like manna to me.
I have this theory, have I ever shared it with you? Well, it goes like this—I believe that if one tiny thing changes in your life, it’s like picking up a kaleidoscope and giving it a little shake. All the other jewels shift around and everything can change. So I wasn’t completely surprised, although I was very happy, when after 52 days of silence, I finally got a call for my first interview in 2014.
The interview routine has become pretty familiar to me. First interviews are generally a phone screen, with a recruiter. Now some recruiters are great. Usually internal, they understand the company, the position, and the players. The best recruiters can give you some really valuable insight into what the job involves, the company culture, what the hiring manager is looking for, and if you are going to be a good fit. They keep you informed through the interview process, and ideally, form a limited partnership with you as a prospective employee. Even when you don’t end up with the position, you actually believe they will keep their eyes open for future opportunities.
Unfortunately, not all recruiters are ideal. I’ve had real challenges with some external recruiters, who appear to be eager to fill their screening or interview quota without knowing too much about the position or company they are representing. This week’s recruiter seemed to be the very worst of the bunch.
Here’s what happened. They contacted me last week and asked to schedule a phone interview. While the position was for a local company, the recruiter was located in Chicago. We agreed to speak Monday morning, and they asked me to call them at the appointed time, as they would be traveling. That in itself seemed a little odd to me, but I agreed to it.
By the way, I am referring to this person in non-gender specific terms, because I still have no idea if they were a man or a woman! Their name was Tonay. Real name, I seriously doubt they are reading this. So I call Tonay as scheduled, and they don’t answer. I’m sort of flummoxed, but I leave a message and say perhaps they got delayed in their “travels” and I will call again in 15 minutes, or we can reschedule. I wait 15 anxious minutes; remember this is my first interview in almost 2 months, there’s a lot of anxiety involved.
After several rings, Tonay answers. He/she sounds like they have just crawled out of the crypt, or woken from a season’s hibernation. I still can’t identify the sex of this person, but it really doesn’t matter. They tell me they are sorry they missed my first call, but they are sick. Which I can sort of tell, but why miss the first call? Were they vomiting? Or unconscious? And why not simply reschedule?
So I make sympathetic murmurs (really, I did!) and ask Tonay if she/he would like to do the call at a different time. And they answer, no, let’s just make this quick. Awesome, right? Like it’s only my future on the line here. They then proceed to tell me a little bit about the position. It’s clear to me that the job, which was posted as a management level position, is on a much lower, administrative level. I delicately indicate that it may be a little “junior” for me, and Tonay says he/she will look up the salary grade level. I’m then put on hold, which sounds like the phone has been dropped to the ground, while I hear crashing for about a minute. I’m seriously curious at this point, where the hell is Tonay taking this call?
Anyway, “It” (sorry, I’m getting tired of guessing pronouns) finally comes back to the phone and tells me the salary for the position. I am prepared that I may need to take a salary cut in my next endeavor, but this number is so low it’s a deal breaker. So I tell Tonay “no way.” Sorry again, but I couldn’t resist that! And get off the phone just shaking my head and wondering what just happened?
It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. And perhaps, a teeny tear slipped out of the corner of my eye. But fortunately, I had my contract work to go back to, and the kaleidoscope had felt its tiny turn. The next day, I got a call for a wonderful opportunity, and have an interview scheduled in a couple of weeks. And this time, we’re skipping right past the recruiter, and I’m actually speaking with the hiring director. So, keep your fingers crossed, and let’s see where the jewels shift next.
The end, for now
I’ve always wanted to have an allure of mystery about me. This may be because I have always loved reading mysteries, or it may be because I grew up in a large family where there really were few secrets. When I was younger, there was a period of time where I wanted to be, alternately, a spy, a paid assassin, or “the woman who lives at the edge of the village.” You know, no-one knows her name or where she came from, they only know she’s dangerous. And beautiful. And licensed to kill.
But the truth is, I am pretty much an open book. First of all, as evidenced by this blog, I share pretty readily. I’m not too proud to admit my many flaws and gaffes, and since I am always pretty much laughing at myself, I figure I may as well share the silly or crazy things that seem to happen more to me than the average bear.
But I do have some secrets. And since, truthfully, this is one of those weeks where I’m not sure what I want to write about, I give to you a list:
5 Things You May Not Know About Kathi
1. For the first 40 years of my life, I would not eat a tomato, even if threatened with torture. They disgusted me, the smell, the texture, the gushiness. Gross. I was not alone in this, most of my siblings also disliked them, to varying degrees of hatred. They probably wouldn’t have withstood torture, but then again, they hadn’t gone through (imaginary) secret agent training. Then, when I turned 40, I suddenly started eating them. I don’t love tomatoes, but I won’t freak out and have a meltdown if one touches my lettuce. I’ve even been known to willingly order a BLT. I’ve also started eating sushi (LOVE) and blue cheese, two foods that completely horrified me when I was younger. Curious, no?
2. If I could change anything about my life, I would want to be richer, thinner and employed. And possibly in a healthy, loving relationship. But the biggest thing I would change, and hope to change, would be to start traveling more. There are so many places on this earth that I yearn to see, and I feel very consciously, the years ticking away on this goal. I want to see the Alaskan glaciers, I want to go to Vancouver, the Greek Isles, Italy, back to Paris, back to Hawaii, oh the places I will go. I think the travel bug is in my blood, my mom was in the travel business and traveled extensively. It really is number one on the list of things I will do when my life gets back on track employment-finance-wise.
3. Although I can be extremely cynical, I believe in magic and mystical things far more than you might expect. For one thing, I am pretty sure my mom comes to me in the form of a monarch butterfly. I know it sounds crazy, but right after she died, I starting seeing butterflies all the time. This was in February, which isn’t the season for monarchs. So, I started talking to them as if they were my mom, and soon, I really started believing they were. Or maybe I didn’t, but I still found it comforting. To this day, if I see a monarch butterfly, I say “Hi Mom.”
4. I also use a penny to make major decisions. I call it the “Magic Penny.” It drives a certain BFF crazy, but there’s actually science behind this. See, I read in some academic journal (okay, it was probably People Magazine) that if you are having troubles making a decision, you should toss a coin. Remember to pick sides first, “heads I buy a new car, tails I take the bus.” If it lands on tails, and your first instinct is to think, “gosh darnit, I REALLY wanted to buy a new car” you now have clarity as to your true desire. You’re welcome!
5. The idea of people watching me sleep totally freaks me out. I realize this can create problems if and when I form that healthy, loving relationship I so blithely mentioned a few points ago. And, just to be clear, it’s not like no-one’s EVER seen me sleep, let’s not start that rumor. But, I’m not comfortable with the concept. I don’t know if it’s a control thing, or lack of control thing, or I believe someone will steal my soul. It just creeps me out. It may be payback from when I was a young girl and shared a room with my sister. I convinced her that cats would suck the breath out of her as she slept. Then I would wait until she was sleeping, and start making breath sucking noises, interspersed with meows. Just harmless good times, right?
There you have it, 5 Things. Looking back at them, maybe I should have called it 5 Weird Things About Kathi. Because they are pretty odd little facts. Maybe I will regret sharing them at some point. Maybe they make me seem a little more complicated than you ever expected. Like, “I thought she was an open book, but now she seems so…mysterious.” And so, my work here is done.
The end, for now