Thursday, April 20, 2006

Go Go Gadget Multi-tasking Powers

There are so many things that happened last week, and many of them got lost in all of my Lost Bloging. The following is what I like to call an example of "Classic Claire." But before the anecdote, I told the German last night that we will no longer be making a decision about the house without first consulting the internet. You guys are great with the comments!

I think that we are going to go with the bigger lot. Also, the bank said they would give us some money to buy a house. Yeah! Now, be sure to give good, sound advice . . . because if anything goes wrong, I will be blaming you.

Now, back to the moment when Claire wished she had super powers.

Flashback: Wednesday, last week, a rainy day in Cloppenburg (what else!)

I went to the post office to pick up the mail for the office. Inside was a big envelop full of placement tests for the new company where the New Yorker (my business partner) and I will be teaching. When I got to the office, I opened the envelope and realized that it had been sitting there since Saturday (hidden lesson: check your mail everyday). Furthermore, my contact person had left two messages on the machine. Without hesitating I picked up the phone to give the company a call. (Please remember that the following conversation took place in German.)

Claire: I am sorry that I missed your call. I just received the placement tests.

Nice German Customer: Great. Did you get the fax I sent this morning?

(Claire eyes the fax machine, which by the way, she has no idea how to operate because IT IS IN GERMAN.)

Claire: No, I am afraid not.

Nice German Customer: Hmm. That is strange I thought it went through. Since I have you on the phone, let me try to send it now . . . And how about the trial lesson? Should we schedule that for next week?

Claire: Sure. Let me just go to my desk and look at my calendar.

(The fax machine begins to ring. Claire trys to look at her calendar and the fax machine at the same time. Claire notices that the mode of the fax machine is set to "manual." Hmm, she thinks, I bet I have to press a switch to receive the fax. Claire randomly begins to press buttons.)

Nice German Customer: Thursday is good. How about the morning?

Claire: Mmmm. . . yes (fax machine beeps and stops working). I think Thursday is good . . . Um, do you think you could try the fax one more time?

Nice German Customer: Sure . . . And how many groups will there be? How did they do on the placement tests?

(The fax machine begins to ring again. Claire drops the calendar and reaches in the desk for the fax instructions. She is still listening to the customer and has one eye on the fax machine. She is still speaking German, but in her mind, in English, she is thinking: HOW THE F*** DOES THIS THING WORK?!)

Nice German Customer: Yes, I think they are looking forward to the lessons. Did they do okay on the tests? How many did I send? I think it was about 30.

(Claire, who had been standing and pacing, stops in the middle of the room. All at once she realizes that she needs to listen to the customer, count the number of tests, make the appointment, figure out the f****** fax machine, all at the same time and IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! I was a little overwhelmed you see.)

Claire takes a deep breath.

Claire: I am sorry, customer, but I am a little overwhelmed at the moment. Could you try that fax again in an hour? I am having difficulty with my fax machine. Thursday sounds great. Let's say 9:00 a.m.? I think you sent about 30 tests. I will grade them tonight and send you the results and the number of groups per email.

Nice German Customer: Great! I look forward to hearing from you. Bye!

After hanging up the phone, I just . . . well . . . sat there. In that one moment I completely understood how some of the office clerks I teach feel when they are confronted with such situations. I don't normally talk about myself in the third person. But it was almost like an out-of-body experience.

Do ever have the feeling that you are pretending? When I first got married, I felt like a kid playing house. I still do a lot of the time. Planning meals, cleaning house, fighting with the laundry; I used to do these all the time, but now I am in my house with my husband and it is all weird.

Running my own business is something I never expected to do. I have no training and I often find myself making it up as I go along. I often tell people that I am not a business woman. I am a teacher. I feel like I am a "pretend" business woman. On the outside I may look pretty well put together, but on the inside I feel like the same insecure 16 year old just trying to figure out what is going on.

After my moment with the fax machine (which by the way I figured out in 2 minutes and works fine now), I met with our tax consultant. Time for more pretend playtime. We chatted. I told him about our new customers and we went over the receipts. I had prepared some coffee and I made the "I am not a business woman comment." He took a cookie from the bowl that I had placed in the middle of the table. He munched thoughtfully.

Nice Tax Consultant: I would not say that. I think you are doing just fine. You may have hidden business talents that you never new about.

It was the nicest compliment I have gotten in a while, and it could not have come at a better time. I really don't think Inspector Gadget could have done any better.


jen said...

I felt like I was pretending the entire time I was with the bank. Everyday I felt that they-are-going-to-find-me-out feeling.

And the tax guy was right. Look at you. You have the business, you have clients. You are doing this in a 2nd language. It doesn't take an MBA to make a business woman. It takes brains and the go-go gadget stuff. you got in spades, lady.

You rock, dude.

The German said...

Trust me, she thinks, that she doesn`t know what to do, but.........who`s .............. . I think she is doing very very professional, and that`s why she is working so hard. Go Go Gadgetto Claire

Lisa said...

So we were using both sides of our brain that day, hmm? Ya did good, girl. I knew you had it in you all the time. That "Dr" in front of your name kinda gives it away. ;)

As for pretending to be married and on my own, no, can't say that I have. I can remember even when I was little longing for the day when these unwanted people (my family) would move out and let me get down to my real life. I've always been an independent kinda mouse, so having my own place and my own man seemed right. As far as pretending to work, yah. I do that everyday. :D I think G's catching on, tho'. I've got to perfect my technique.

Haddock said...

The German is right (and he should know!) - you are a smart lady! :)

Karl said...

Wow, I'm impressed. All that in a second language! I can't even speak in pig Latin, let alone receive faxes and talk on the phone at the same time.

Claire said...

Jen: (Claire blushing) Thanks, Jen. That means a lot.

German: So sweetie, what are we going to do with two smart asses in the family? Thank you for your support. Big kisses.

Haddock: Thanks. He is pretty smart, too!

Lisa: I have had a small headache for a few days. Maybe that is why?

Karl: I am pretty good at multi-tasking, but I cannot speak pig latin either. But I am sure that after a few beers, that is what my German sounds like!

christina said...

Claire, honey, you're not alone. I've been pretending for almost 43 years now. :-)

And it's obvious that you're an *excellent* business woman - it's not about the machines, it's about handling people AND faking it if you have to. And you handled the situation beautifully.

EuroTrippen said...

Now can you come over and help me figure out how to leave a personalized message on my new cell phone with the all-german prompts??

Mike B said...

Simple things first ... doesn't your fax machine let you change languagues ???

As for the Business-person thing, I have met "serious business types" who left the corporate world to start up the next IBM and failed miserably because working in a big company is not the same as running a business.

I have also met entrepreneurial types who couldn't do their own books, but still managed to build very successful mult-million dollar businesses because they realized that building a business is about building relationships that provide the opportunity to separate customers from their money in a free and fair exchange of goods or services that help the customers meet their needs.

Sounds like you are in the latter category. Congratulations and good luck.