Friday, 31 May 2013

Dipping a toe in Wales

Urk!!!  I cannot believe I fly to Paris next week!!!  I haven't even started to think about what I am going to pack which is most unlike me. I've usually made a preliminary list at least 2 weeks in advance, but this time I haven't got a clue what's appropriate having lost the ability to dress for Summer in Northern Europe.  I only know how to dress for Summer in sticky, hot, humid, stinky New York - can you tell Summer is my least favorite season in NYC?  I'm sorry, but it smells of hot garbage and dog urine, it really isn't the most pleasant season in the city.  Melissa and I will only be in Paris for a couple of days, after that we take the Eurostar to London for 2 days, followed by a day in Wales - as is Melissa's want - and then onto Yorkshire to see my family.

"Wales??" Exclaimed my mother in a tone people usually employ when they find out about a rat infestation.  "Why does Melissa want to go to Wales?" 

It should be noted that my parents do not consider a vacation to be worth taking if it does not include a guaranteed daily temperature of at least 80F and a golden sandy beach.

"Mother, Wales is chock full of natural beauty.  Have you seen the Brecon Beacons?"


Actually the primary reason Melissa wants to go to Wales is to check it off her list of countries to get her closer to membership of the Traveler's Century Club.  She's well on her way with a country tally somewhere in the mid-60s.  Mine - and note that among the majority of my friends I am considered well traveled - is a piffling 25 or thereabouts.  

I had nothing against visiting Wales, afterall Tenby was the site of many a happy childhood vacation, however I wasn't exactly filled with joy at spending hours on a train to get there, but then research led me to Abergavenny, a market town in Monmouthshire that's a mere 6-miles from the English border*.  Not only is Abergavenny only 2 and a half hours from London it also boasts a boutique hotel and not one, but two Michelin starred restaurants.  Abergavenney sounds like my kind of market town.

*"Not Welsh enough" claimed Debs' Welsh born husband.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A New Crush

I went out for dinner a couple of Fridays ago with one of the junior account girls that I get along well with, Maria. We went to the meatball shop on Greenwich Avenue which was nice, although not as amazing as I was hoping it would be giving how mad everyone seems to be for their meatballs.  I thought the chicken ones were very good, but the beef ones were quite ordinary and too densely packed with meat for my liking.   We had a very nice evening though and since Maria also lives on the Upper East Side we walked over to Union Square to catch the train together and then walked around the UES for a bit chatting until she had to head off and meet her boyfriend at Pinkberry for frozen yogurt. 
En route to Pinkberry, we passed a guy who gave me a bit of a hard stare.  I nudged Maria and told her that I would have put money on the fact that it was the same guy I'd endured a less than pleasant date with about a year or so earlier.  As a result the conversation turned to general chit chat about dating and out of nowhere Maria blurted "You should date Mike McCormick."

Honestly it was so out of the blue it took my brain a few seconds to work out what she'd said.  Mike McCormick is an Executive Creative Director that was hired by the agency with great fanfare late last year.  "Where did that come from?" I asked

"I have SUCH a crush on him.  You should date him for me.  He's single."  It should be noted that she isn't single and has the cutest boyfriend ever, but boyfriend withstanding she went on to tell me that all the junior account girls have a massive thing for Mike and get really nervous when they have to talk to him about work.

"He barely remembers my name, but he's sooooo....." she mooned

It was with fresh eyes that I looked at Mike McCormick on the following Monday and!!  At least that day!!  He's one of those people I go back and forth on dependent on what he's wearing.  He's a silver fox no doubt, about the same age as me - cough almost 42 cough - but about a foot taller and broad shouldered enough to wear a checkered lumberjack style shirt with aplomb.  It makes him look useful, like he could put up shelves that would actually stay up.  I suspect that's probably false advertising given my experience of the average New York man's ability at home improvement type activities, but still he looks the part....sigh!!
I emailed my friend Deesha in Kansas City to tell her about my new potential work distraction to which she responded as follows:
From: Deesha
Sent: 21 May 2013 18:12:20
To: Fish
 I'm all aflutter over MM myself..mmmmm :)

You're right, He looks soo masculine but yet warm/homey. Like a sexy dad (someone else's obviously). 

Totally crush worthy. Is he single for sure?
From:    Fish
Sent:    21 May 2013 18:29:52
To:     Deesha

Ha ha that's hilarious.  He does look like someone who would give you a good hug right?  He's a very solid looking man, strong without being too muscular.  I bet he could give you the kind of hug that would make you feel, for a moment at least, like everything is right with the world.  No pressure Mike, I'm not expecting too much from your hugs ;-)

Apparently he is single.  The reason I know this is because in February - I remember because it was her birthday - I coerced a colleague into letting me buy her a celebratory drink at the wine bar across the street from the office.  When we arrived I noticed a man and a woman sat across from us at the bar  They were sat at a respectable distance from each other initially, but as copious amounts of wine was consumed they became closer and closer and closer.  It was very clear from their body language that they were interested in each other.  I pointed them out to my colleague and told her I recognized the man from the agency and suspected it was Mike McCormick - I'd never worked with him, but I knew OF him given the fanfare around his hiring.  I also knew where this guy sat, so the next morning I checked the name on the office door and yup...Mike McCormick.  A few days later his name came up in conversation at a meeting with account and I relayed the goss that I'd seen him getting very close with a woman I also thought might be from the agency.

Kate: Ooooh tell us more, what did she look like
Me: Quite short, about my height, sort of blonde, mid length hair
Kate: That sounds like Kathryn K, was it her?
Me: I know the name, but I don't know what she looks like. I also don't know what the status of either one of them is, so I don't want to get anyone in trouble
Kate: She's the director of creative talent.  It's okay if it's her, they are both single

Shows me a photo of Kathryn K on Facebook

Me: I think we have a winner

Who knows he could be dating Kathryn now, but let's pretend he's available. I need some positivity after my experiences with Arnold
F x

I'd still take the Creative Cutie over him given the choice, but he's not a bad back up crush and makes coming into work all the more pleasant.  I put on mascara today and flipped out my hair only to discover that Mike McCormick is in the Caribbean this week.  I'm sure he's vacationing with his Nanna ;-)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Arnold has left the building!!

My employee drama of the last 2 months suddenly resolved itself in early May with the abrupt departure of Arnold, the employee who was causing me strife.  On Monday he emailed me to say that he was out sick; on Tuesday morning he sent an email to my manager and HR which said "I’m writing in order to indicate that I’d like to officially resign as soon as possible and to also apologize for the abruptness and any inconvenience it may cause."  My manager forwarded the email to me around 10am and then stopped by to talk to me about the news.  About an hour after I saw the email Arnold was gone.  And good riddance.

Arnold joined the team in mid-February, his hiring championed by our head of department who, for some unusual reason, had interviewed him before anyone else on the team had seen him.  The department head loved him.  "He has a spark that I like," he said.  "He doesn't have much experience, but he's eager to learn.  Why don't you meet him and see what you think."  Three of us - the other team lead and I plus our manager - met him and all agreed that he seemed like a good fit.  Admittedly he was entry level and we were ideally looking for someone with at least a year of experience, but he was older than most entry level candidates, having been studying for a PhD, and had a couple of 3month freelance stints in Advertising Agencies under his belt; he wasn't completely naive to the agency world and with a dearth of other good candidates we decided to take a chance and make him an offer.  

All seemed to go well initially, however after a couple of months it became clear that he either wasn't capable of doing the job or just didn't care enough to make an effort, I'm not 100% sure which.  Obviously as an entry level employee I knew he'd require more training than someone with some experience, but I wasn't prepared for was how much I'd have to correct him on the basics of spelling, grammar and addition.  His work was rife with spelling mistakes - trafic, awarness, Febrary - are examples that were repeated throughout his commentary of the first report he sent to me to review. It was so bad I did actually wonder if he had some condition, like dyslexia or something, but apparently not.  Overall his work was incredibly sloppy, but when I tried to give him feedback he wouldn't take it into account and the same old shit would come back to me 2 or 3 times.  I'm not even talking about feedback on how to do his job of actually analyzing client data, but on basic presentation.  I was spending so much time giving him feedback that it was a waste of time employing him, because it would have been quicker for me to do the work myself.  In hindsight I honestly think he believed that my only job was to oversee the team's work.  He didn't seem to realize that I had my own work to do and that he'd been hired to remove some of the burden on me, not add to it.

He'd been employed with the agency for just shy of two months when I became frustrated with him after a report - a report I'd gone over with him in painstaking detail twice before - came back to me to review for a 4th time and still included basic mistakes that had not been corrected from the first 3 rounds of feedback.  Admittedly I was a little sharp with him when I told him he should print out all the feedback he'd been given and go through it line by line and ensure all the corrections had been made before sending the report to me for review, but given the circumstances he got off lightly.  Do you know what he did...he went to HR and complained about me.  That's right, HE complained about ME!!  

I spoke with my manager about the situation.  He was aware of my frustration about the continued poor quality of Arnold's work, but advised me to be gentle.    "I don't know why he felt his first call should be to go to HR instead of talking to me, but he's clearly very sensitive to criticism.  We just need to ensure we are sympathetic to that." 

Arnold and I called a truce and went back to our business. I was as nice as pie.  No seriously I was.  It didn't make a blind bit of difference.  Two weeks later he was back at HR for a second time claiming both Chris - my other direct report who is the most mellow person you could meet - and I were being abusive to him.  This time he claimed that I'd told him to come in on the weekend and arranged to meet him at 10am on Sunday, but then did not turn up.  

I did no such thing. 

We'd been working late on the Friday on a report that was already significantly delayed, due to Arnold's inability to care about deadlines and manage multiple client deliverables, when we came across yet another issue around 6pm.  I told him that we might have to come in over the weekend, but over the next couple of hours we made more progress than I anticipated.  I asked him to email me some data so that I could review it at home over the weekend and on my way out of the office just after 8pm I said I would email him to let him know if I needed him to come in.  Pondering work the next day I realized that I could easily resolve the issues myself by working for a few hours at home on Sunday.  As a result I didn't sign on to my work email email until Sunday lunchtime, which is when I saw an email he'd sent at 8.30pm on Friday saying he would be coming in at 10am on Sunday and that he'd see me at the office.

Crap!!  I immediately called him to let him know he'd misunderstood and that I'd just seen his email.  I left a message to that effect when he did not pick up his mobile.

By Monday he'd emailed HR with his claims of abuse and at 10am I got a call from my head of department.  "Hi darling, I'm sat here with Arnold who is upset because he claims you arranged to meet him in the office this weekend and then didn't show up."

I explained what had actually happened.

"Okay.  Could you just come over to my office and the three of us can sort this out."

In the department head's office Arnold continued with his claims of my abusive behavior, our department head asked him to give him an example.

"She just is," he sputtered, "I have evidence to back it up."

"So, tell me how she's abusive, give me an example."

"I wrote down a few things from the anti-harassment training." He rifled through his notebook and started spouting legalese he'd copied down.

"Arnold, that's not evidence of her being abusive, you're just reading excerpts from the training. Can you give me an example of something she actually did.  These are serious claims."

"The data will speak for itself."

"I agree, but can you give me an example."

And so it went in circles for a few minutes. He then burst out with "You don't know what it's like for me, this is my last chance, I'm almost bankrupt."

It was at this point that I saw from department head's expression that he went from hearing Arnold out to thinking "oh shit, this guy is crazy."

We wrapped up the meeting shortly after that and I went to speak to my manager.  A few moments later the department head joined us in my manager's office and sat down heavily in a chair. "Guys, I f&@ked up.  I was the one that pushed to hire him, this one's on me.  I spoke to HR, they want to meet with you," he said to me "but don't worry, I explained the situation to them."

The head of HR wanted to know exactly what he said about being bankrupt and asked me to give feedback on him as an employee. I explained the issues with his work and she wondered aloud if the company was being set up to be sued.  "I'll be honest," she said "he seems to be out to get you, but we can't fire him now that he's complained, it looks like retaliation.  The best we can do is try and move him to another team."

That was about 3 weeks ago and in the weeks since then I did my best to be pleasant, but kept all contact to business only and put everything in writing as much as I could.  My manager promised that if we were successful in an upcoming new business pitch he'd transfer me to manage the new account and Arnold would be out of my hair.  As for Arnold, well he acted like nothing had happened and he'd walk around whistling as happy as Larry.  I do think he sensed that I was a bit more distant from him, because he started catching up to me if we were en route to the same meeting - something he never did before - and we'd exchange a 'hey' and then walk in silence to the conference room.  I think it bothered him a bit that I didn't make any smalltalk, but there was no way I was going to say anything that could be twisted against me in any way or put me at risk of a lawsuit.  On Friday before he resigned I ran into him at the lift as I was leaving for the day along with another woman Lindsay that I know.  The lift was packed with workers from other offices in the building and Lindsay and I chatted about our weekend plans.  I told her I was running late to meet a friend in midtown when Arnold piped up out of the blue "I'm rushing to get to a friend's memorial service."

"Oh," said Lindsay who I don't believe he'd ever met.  "I'm sorry."  She stared at him for a second and then resumed chatting to me. 


He bolted in the opposite direction as soon as we got to the ground floor and the following Monday he called in sick and on Tuesday he resigned.  By 11am on Tuesday he was gone, without bothering to give the customary 2 weeks' notice.  It was as if the last 2 months had all been a horrible dream. I couldn't quite believe my luck.

In the days since his departure I was in a bunch of meetings and had to let people know that Arnold no longer worked at the company. In one of my client team meetings it came out that he'd gone to HR about me twice and alleged that Chris and I were abusive to him. "Oh I wouldn't worry about that, as long as you have it all written down you have nothing to worry about." said the Account Director. "Someone once went to HR and claimed I threw a chair at them."

"And did you?" asked the media planner, because with this particular Account Director, you just never know.  Anything can happen. At the office holiday party he stripped to the waist and hit the dance floor exuberantly and alone to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You"  

"No I did not."

"It was a stool," said the Account Manager laughing

"No it was not, I have never thrown furniture at anyone, but I did have a melt down and throw toilet rolls at the cleaning lady."

"You did what?"

"I threw toilet rolls at the cleaning lady.  I did!!" he exclaimed to our raised eyebrows. 

"Seriously, I was having a melt down and she was trying to come in to clean the bathroom so to stop her I started taking the toilet rolls off her cart and throwing them at her."

"Did SHE report you?"

"No, we were fine, we hugged it out, but she wouldn't be able to report me anyway, she works for the building not the Agency, so it wouldn't have been an issue."

Well okay then.  I'll say one thing, it's never dull!!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


So yesterday I ran to the gym to a 45minute total body conditioning class.  It was over by 7.15pm and as I left I decided I was too tired to walk the 5miles home as I'd considered and would instead take the subway home.  I ran down to the L train platform and was fortunate enough to get straight onto a train that departed a few seconds after I boarded.  Nice!!  At Union Square where I transfer to go uptown I spied a 6 train from the concourse and rushed down the stairs thinking I would never make it, and triumphantly boarded and even got a seat next to a nice quiet man who was reading his book and keeping his elbows to himself.    Swwweeeeeeeeeeeeettttt!!!!
When I got off the train at 77th St and walked uptown towards my apartment it was a lovely evening and there was an abundance of attractive and well muscled blokes out jogging and wearing somewhat revealing outfits - you know those wife beater tanks with the really big armholes that show off their arms and lat muscles?  Hey I may have formed an unfavorable opinion of men of late what with some of their recent antics - more on this in a later post - but I'm not dead.  
Truth be told though, my day felt a little *too* good to be true and I was on alert for the other shoe to drop, however it was all fine.  I made it to my apartment without getting mashed by an errant cab or delivery guy cycling in the wrong direction nor did I fall through any precariously secured basement doors and when I got home I was even greeted by not one, but two checks for monies owed, one for $75 repaying me for the antibiotics I'd paid for out of my own pocket; the other was repayment of surf locker dues from one of my board locker buddies.  "Wow, I thought, between Arnold resigning (more on this in an upcoming post too) and having unheard of luck with the subway, getting to ogle some cute men and getting back money I'm owed sooner than I expected I am having a really good day."
Little did I know that payback was just a few hours away.  I got an absolute soaking on the way to meet Amanda for breakfast this morning to talk about the possibility of her coming to work at the agency as replacement for Arnold.  Admittedly NY1 had forecast heavy showers, but it wasn't so bad when I left at 7.30am this morning.  Sure it was raining, but it wasn't bouncing off the road or anything.  Nothing that an umbrella couldn't cope with.  Ha, I was so naive.  I was meeting Amanda at the Pain Quotidien on 7th Avenue between 17th & 18th Streets and decided that instead of taking 4, 5 to Union Square and then taking the L train one stop to 6th Avenue, I would get off the train at Union Square and walk to exit the north side of the subway station which would bring me out on E 17th St.  From there I would just walk the few avenue blocks over to 7th Avenue.  
Sounds like a reasonable plan right?  
That is except when I got to the north side exit the rain started coming down in Biblical proportions prompting the guy handing out the free Metro paper by the steps to the street to blurt out "Oh holy God" as thunder clapped overhead and water crashed down the stairs.
"Oh it's fine," I thought, "it's probably one of those heavy New York showers that's over in a minute, I'll be okay."  Ha!!  When I finally arrived at Pain Quotidien I looked not unlike this... hair was soaking, my jeans were sodden, my supposedly waterproof coat had soaked through so the back of my cardigan was drenched and my coat literally dripped water.  After we'd been sat for an hour I got up to leave and there was literally a puddle beneath me and when I got to the office I had to remove and wring out my socks. Thank God I commute to work in my sneakers and keep my heels in the office and was able to put on a dry pair.  I dried out after a couple of hours, but when I first arrived my plan was to pick up my laptop and cab it home and work in pajamas for the day huddled against a radiator.  I was very conscious about my hair being a straggly mess and after letting it drip dry for 15 minutes I finger combed it and anxiously asked Amanda how it looked.  The response I got was most unexpected.
"It's quite sexy," she said as I stared at her stunned.  Drowned rat I expected, but sexy???  Never.  "It looks like you've just got out of the shower" she said.
"I'll take it...and you're hired!!" ha ha!!
Of course now after it had dried it didn't look so good, but the comment did cheer me up in the moment.  

When I left to go home my supposedly waterproof outdoor sneakers were still wet.  I sucked it up, but it was like wearing a couple of soggy sponges on my feet.  Ugh!!