Monday, February 17, 2014

Just Call Me Grace (re-post)

I'm still buried, so I'm putting up another old post this week. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Call Me Grace

The other day at work, I was in the middle of a discussion, holding a cup of coffee I thought I had finished. At one point I got excited and started talking more with my hands - only to end up covered in "Sumatra Blend" and Irish Creamer. Which reminded me of another time when I did something very similar in front of *Joe (name changed to protect the innocent).

Ah Joe.

Joe was a guy I worked with years ago that I had a little crush on. He was a grad student who was interning for the office I was detailed to at the time. This was about a year after 9/11 happened and I was still working at the White House but my boss was asked to go help support the office that was creating the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a few blocks away. She asked me to join her.

And I did, not only because that was a freaking cool thing to be a part of, but also because I loved that lady. After 9/11, the White House staff started getting more security training and at one point my boss and I were both in possession of our very own Gas Masks. And my desk faced out into the hallway where people passed every day. My boss and I joked about how funny (and cruel) it'd be if I just casually wore my gas mask while continuing to type away at my computer, just to freak the crap out of anyone who walked by. The fact that my boss agreed that was a good idea made her alright in my book.

Then she told me "there's a guy in our new office that I think you might like."

I was skeptical. But still kept an eye out for this guy. And things were crazy busy at the time, as you can imagine. This office we were going to was full of people like former CIA directors, heads of government departments, etc. And the office itself had to be put together while these people were, you know, only making the biggest change in the Federal Government since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947.

No pressure.

So I remember standing in my boss' new office at the other building, surrounded by boxes, in my suit with my shoes kicked off in the corner somewhere. And I'm wondering where to even start when a guy walks in looking for my boss.

Ah. You must be sexy Joe.

I can only imagine how much of a hot mess I appeared to him as I looked up confused and shoe-less.

Our conversation was brief (and I'm sure I was red-faced the whole time) but we actually became pretty good friends throughout our time there. And we also flirted a little, though he had a girlfriend (OF COURSE), so I always wanted to be cute around him.

And I always failed miserably.

And the ridiculous thing is - we only worked together there for a few months. But because of my internal homing device, and because this town is a regurgitating spin cycle of people in various government-related roles, I ended up running into him in two other jobs after that.

Leading to these incidents:

  • While still at that office, I occasionally had to get briefing materials quickly to the west wing -- a few blocks away -- which lead me to just start bringing running shoes to work. So one morning, as Joe was calmly walking down the street towards our office like a normal person, he encounters me running like a crazy person towards him, wearing my suit and sneakers, carrying a binder. Strike two for looking sane to this guy.
  • After DHS was up and running, I went back to my job at the White House and Joe - became a Secret Service Agent. (Because he wasn't already attractive enough....are you kidding me with this?) And one night I was walking down the sidewalk in Chinatown - and I randomly see JoeWith his agent suit and earpiece. Guarding the Bush Twins. Yeah. No big deal. They were apparently inside the restaurant nearby. He and I were both surprised to run into each other and as we give each other a quick hug - HIS EARPIECE GETS STUCK TO MY SHIRT. Yep. Me=Graceful.
  • After that, I was volunteering at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota and see one of the guys with Presidential nominee McCain.....and it's Joe. Seriously, where am Inot going to run into this guy...
  • After that, I was in my current company's headquarters out in Virginia taking training. And during training, I decide to go to a computer lab and check my email. And I KID YOU NOT, as I log out, I look up -

And there's Joe.

He has apparently joined my company. And just happens to also be at our headquarters, in the computer lab, the exact same time I am. (And I am never, ever there, typically.)

And here's where we circle back and have the coffee incident.

1. I look terrible. I resent having to take training that day so I'm wearing whatever I found first in my closet and little makeup.
2. What did I find first in my closet? Pink pants. Slightly too small. With coffee stains on them.
3. I'm so addled at running into him, that I start to gesture towards my training name tag to explain why I'm there -

And I forget I'm HOLDING A COFFEE CUP. And spill coffee on my own shirt.

The last time I saw Joe he had another cool job and had left my company. But I'm sure I'll run into him again in a year or so and I'll probably have toilet paper stuck to my shoe or my pants will spontaneously fall down to my ankles or something. Just another day.....

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Hi Internet friends.

DC Dana is currently overwhelmed reviewing Navy public affairs guidance, editing the printed program for her annual Big Giant Event, packing to be a bridesmaid (again), and watching important Olympic coverage, so she has not had time to write a new post.

So please enjoy one of her favorite past posts:

The Time Groupon Let Me Train With Weapons and Learn Defensive Driving Techniques.

Thank you for your understanding. GO TEAM USA!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Behind the Curtain: Second Edition

I was chatting with new friends who grew up in Ecuador and they said something funny that resonated with me. They explained that when they were growing up, they would see these people from America come there to teach English and they thought those teachers were so motivated and admirable...but now that they live in the U.S., they realize: those teachers were just restless college kids who couldn’t figure out what to do with their lives after graduation.

I’ve thought about stuff like that before. Like when my college friends started becoming teachers, I saw my beloved elementary school teachers in a whole new light. I knew my friends were staying out late on the weekends, having parties, dancing like idiots, and making out with strangers. Was Miss Plough also doing that when I was in kindergarten!?

Mind. Blown.

It reminded me of a post I wrote a few years ago about how it is when you see “behind the curtain” on things in life. So many things I thought would be a certain way, or were unattainable, really aren't when you get the inside scoop. So I thought I’d update that post a bit and re-post.
Behind the Curtain 

I’ve mentioned that I have an insatiable urge to experience everything. I’m not satisfied unless I feel like I’ve seen behind the curtain – like in the Wizard of Oz. Everything in life to me is like this amazing, intriguing thing on the outside and I just have  to go behind the scenes and see what’s really going on.

It might’ve started when I was little. I recall a school carnival that included a haunted house. I went through once and was freaked out. But I dropped something when I went through so the people running the haunted house stopped being scary and took me through the whole thing backwards so I could retrace my steps and find the thing I lost. All these goblins and witches were now being nice and concerned for me -which was trippy for a little kid!- and I got to have an inside look at how this haunted house thing really worked.

So yeah, that’s probably where this whole “I must see what’s really going on” obsession started. Because not only did that experience cure my fear of those haunted house things, but when you’re in elementary school and you get to “cut the line” and be personally escorted by a ghost, you start to feel powerful! 

And that thirst for power curiosity to see behind the scenes has followed me into adulthood. I’m always trying to get an insider’s view of things. Like what’s it really like to run a marathon? (long). Or wouldn’t it be cool to work in one of those secured government facilities where you need a special code to get in? (it wasn’t. I had to leave all my electronics at the door and I couldn’t IM my friends on gmail if I got bored…) Or wouldn’t it be awesome to be in a rock band and perform in front of crowds?

Ok that actually was really awesome.

But sometimes I’ve had moments where I’ve gone behind the curtain and didn’t stop to even realize it.. Like being a consultant.

I was a Business major in college, and I remember my 19-year old self fantasizing about one day sitting in a Power Suit around a boardroom table somewhere in Corporate America. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, I just knew what I wanted to look like:

Executive Barbie. 

I remember doing research (In books. Before Google. Life was hard.) on the different career options for business majors and I came across a description for: Consultants.

I thought it sounded awesome. “Consulting.” You don’t have to do math, or become an expert in something boring, you just …consult people on things. You advise. And you can bounce around and do it in a lot of different places.

Considering my main fear in life is boredom, I thought this sounded nice and squishy. Not pigeon-holing myself into something that might get old, but just flitting around in a suit advising people on ….things.

Well, shortly after that, I decided to go to D.C. on a whim and my life changed and I didn’t think about my former plans. I just enjoyed the ride of my surprising new-found life in politics and government. Then, when the Bush Administration was about to end, I knew all of us Politicals would need to find new jobs. Which is when I started looking at where my friend Sean worked: 

a consulting firm.

I’m not even kidding when I say it didn't register to me that that was the same job I fell in love with before I graduated.  Because now, whenever I heard the word "consultants” in Washington, it sounded totally different. These consultants were spoken of like:

- “oh those contractors” – as in: federal contractors are a lower form of life than those direct employees of the government, obviously.

– or they were spoken of like this:

Yep. Those consultants who make the big bucks but no one knows what they actually do. Harumph.

In reality, many people do go from politics to consulting, and it sounded really similar to direct government life, so I went for it. And it wasn’t until years later - when I was wearing a suit, sitting around a boardroom table, as a consultant- that I realized I accidentally got my college dream and didn’t even realize it happened. I had gone behind the curtain!
And just like those witches and goblins from elementary school, it turned out that this thing wasn’t what I pictured once I got on the inside. First of all: suits are constricting, you guys!

"Party clothes are so binding..."

And sitting around boardroom tables gets boring. Instead of being Serious and Important in meetings, I get texts from annoyed coworkers across the table that say things like “Throw your pen at my eye and try to kill me...”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. And sometimes being behind the scenes of things is just as awesome as I imagined. And honestly, I now try to step back and take it all in at various points in life so I don't accidentally skim over realized dreams because I'm too busy rolling my eyes at the reality of what those dreams end up entailing once I'm on the "inside." 

But that's the beauty of continuing to explore. Sometimes the "inside" is even better than you hoped for.

...or sometimes it's just a little nerd back there pulling strings.