The Jennifer Chronicles - Volume VII
April 25, 2010Auld Lang Syne, Part IV
I woke up earlier than usual, an unusual occurrence for me. Every morning I cling to my mattress like a life raft, squeezing out the precious seconds before I'm forced to get up. It was the acquisition that had me twisted. This was the final stage: the negotiation to close the deal. I had assisted when the division on Long Island was being sold, but this was buying and I didn't want to screw up. I worked hard, and felt I was moving in the right direction with my life, sort of. The problem? I felt like a kid who had snuck in to play with the grownups, hoping they wouldn't find out I was an imposter. I expected someone to walk up to me and say: "Aren't you the one who helped your friend spy on her boyfriend for suspected cheating? Weren't you wearing an x-rated nurse's costume and no underwear?" I let out a moan. That was last year and it still made me wince. This is what I'm talking about. Was I really an adult? And as an adult, shouldn't I have a more balanced life? Four months and not one date, not one. Until yesterday.
I had gotten a call from a guy who's an independent contractor working with one of our vendors. His name is Jackson. He's almost six feet, pleasant features, sandy hair, soft spoken. I liked that. He called me sounding like he just wanted to chat. I clocked him at warming up for twenty minutes before he asked me to a party on New Year's Eve. I forced myself to take a breath before saying yes. Careful Joanie, I thought, you don't want to wear the party hat that says "Happy New Year, I'm desperate." Mentally I ran through my wardrobe and that led me to wonder if when I came home last night I had taken off my pants and underwear as a unit. Note to self: better check that. Can't give the dry cleaner ammunition. Good thing I'm a multi-tasker. With a final groan I heaved myself out of bed. At least I had a date for New Year's.
I discovered the fine art of acquisition is not really a fine art. It starts off pleasant, everyone appears bright eyed and alert. Pads and pencils, water glasses and napkins are placed just so before every chair. Everyone smiles, after all, we're all adults here, aren't we? We can do this in a civilized manner. That's how it starts. As the process slogs on it takes on the aura of the gunfight at the OK Corral, only with coffee and doughnuts. Participants are exhausted and bleary eyed from sleep deprivation, babbling on caffeine highs, and liberally throwing around obscenities. Executives are running and ducking for cover, making or saving their reputations or sucking up to the future new management. It's delightful.
So what did my job turn out to be? Everything no one else wants to do. I take notes, make copies, correct errors, provide facts and figures, revise and create spreadsheets, and examine documents no else has time for. I also make sure I have all the right answers and never hesitate when giving information. On the first day of negotiations I had no trouble translating the predatory look on Duncan's face: Don't screw up. I have to listen to what everyone is saying and retain or write it down; Duncan might need it in the future. This is what Duncan had been preparing me for all these months. In turn, he didn't talk down to me, looked me in the eye instead of the chest, paid me very well above what an Executive Assistant made, and never let anyone get the idea that I would be fetching coffee. Not a bad exchange.
This is what happens, in a nutshell:
1. Duncan makes an opening statement of the company's worth.
2. The seller protests the undervaluation, casting vitriolic aspersions on Duncan's flagrant untruths.
3. I hand Duncan the paperwork, which proves the seller is full of it.
4. Argue, argue, argue.
5. Duncan sends the shell-of-his-former-self-seller to the conference room.
6. The two parties spend quality alone time prepping for the next round.
7. Lather, rinse, repeat.
This process goes on for anywhere between eight to twelve hours per day. In my case, it was about ten hours per day. We started on the 27th. Each day went by and no sale. I controlled myself, trying not to think about my New Year's Eve date with Jackson going into the tank. Duncan would frown on my blowing critical details because I was daydreaming about a perfect kiss at midnight. Okay, so I had thought about it a little. Negotiations stopped at eight p.m. on the 30th. I looked in the mirror in the ladies room and thought I would make a great modern art installation: Dishrag, 21st Century.
Back in the conference room, Duncan grunted goodnight on his way out the door. I tried to appear calm, nonchalant, unconcerned. Inside, I was lying on the floor kicking and screaming. Tomorrow was the 31st. New Year's Eve. I have a date people!! Joanie doesn't approve of the schedule! Joanie also doesn't approve of the balloon size bags under her eyes! See? Are these the thoughts of a mature, serious, career oriented woman? I think not. I didn't care. I had a hot date with a cute guy on New Year's Eve. And I wanted to go. But I also didn't want to screw up and get fired. I gathered up the files to get prepped for tomorrow. This was going right down to the wire.
Next Week: Auld Lang Syne, Part V
Catch my new blog "I'm Just Saying..." at Wordpress! http://www.jillamyrosenblatt.wordpress.com