Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Step outside the four corners.

Here I am in sunny California, on a somewhat surprise business trip. I’m out here to negotiate a really high-flying deal with a SUPER exciting company. You know, the kind that normally involves two days of sitting in an airless conference room, sizing each other up in a somewhat hostile manner. However, I have an almost pathological need to get some kind of favorable response from the “other side”; some indication that not only do they see me as a person, but that they would pay money to see me perform at a comedy club should I chance to revisit their fair city, or at the very least invite me to a dinner party. As far as I know, this particular technique is not taught in any negotiations class, nor should it be. When I’m lucky, it results in a friendlier atmosphere for negotiations, but more often the other side is a humorless bunch of stiffs who sit around oversized tables all day for good reason.

If my attempts at lightening the mood are met with resistance, I will usually just shut up other than to make my points and wait out the day until cocktail hour. Ah, cocktail hour. That is the one nice thing about the kind of work I do now; most people who work for companies want to hang it up at 5 to get home to watch reality TV or go bowling, or, sometimes, to drink cocktails. When I was with a law firm, being locked in a room for two days meant just that, and maybe someone would bring in some beer from the law firm kitchen around 7:30, and maybe not. Then there was going to the printer, which was a different story altogether: endless hours of excruciatingly boring work, but more snacks than any young associate could ever eat. How nice that I measure the success of my career by the amount of food and drink made available to me.

Somehow on this trip I have ended up driving a Prius. I care about the earth, I really do, but I think Priuses are a little silly-looking and it’s not a car I would normally choose to drive. However, after the clerk at the Avis counter somehow tricked me into (1) renting it (I’ll spare you the details), and (2) pre-purchasing a full tank of gas, I found myself out on the highway in my overpriced, surprisingly peppy little tin can. The first thing I realized after driving the car for a half hour or so is that it’s unlikely I will use two gallons of gas zig-zagging back and forth around the Bay Area, let alone the eleven I paid for. It must kind of suck to work for a rental car agency and have to try to upsell to people as if they worked at the Starbucks drive-thru: “Good morning; would you like to try our venti peppermint mocha caramel macchiato with eggs and turkey bacon?”

Being here without my whippersnappers, I’m sure I’ll have time to post again soon…

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