Thursday, April 15, 2010

In which I lose my wallet but not my mind

I really try to be independent and self-sufficient. I hate having to rely on other people. I also try to know what comes next in my life. I can do anything-no matter how unpleasant it is-provided it is not a surprise. Losing my wallet on Tuesday put me out of my comfort zone in both of these preferences.

Tuesday was a full day. I was trying to register for summer classes, print out my notes for the presentation I had to give that night on the rollout of RU-486 and dealing with about five work related issues at the same time. I left work at 4:30 to be in time to meet with my team at UMB at 5:15 so that we could rehearse the presentation that we were due to give in class, which started at 6:00. When I got to UMB, I reached into my bag for my wallet to buy coffee and water and discovered that my wallet was not there. I freaked out. I was going through my bag for the third or fourth time when my teammates showed up. "How are you?" one of them asked. "I just lost my wallet." I responded. "And I'm going to have to borrow money from one of you to get home."

We went to the classroom where we normally meet and rehearse. I dumped my bag on the ground (grabbing and hiding the tampon that was part of the mix because I was with two guys.) They discovered that none of us had a USB drive to put the presentation on, so one of them (who works at UMB) went to his office to get one. The other one tried to calm me down by joking about the mess I'd made and asking for the name of my bank (so that I could call them.)

One of the things about me that these guys have not yet figured out (well how could they-they just met me in February) is that while I can freak out at high pitch, it doesn't last. Just because I'm panicking doesn't mean that I will be unable to perform in 20 minutes. This has come up twice this term. Perhaps this is something I should mention to the next team I have to work with "I panic. It's okay. I Get Over It pretty quickly." We put the presentation on the USB drive. They both asked "are you going to be okay?" Not, I realize just to be solicitous but because we get one grade on everything we do and if I was a spaz-ball during the presentation both of their grades would suffer. Well we couldn’t have that. I am a very loyal animal. It doesn’t matter that I was a bit annoyed that these guys didn’t get that I would be fine by game time, they had my loyalty and I was going to do everything I could to show them that I wouldn’t fuck up the presentation just because I had lost my wallet. This last little reminder of what we were here doing at the moment was enough to shove the Panic Monster back into the closet-not permanently but at least until after we’d given our presentation. So I told them I was fine and then to prove it I engaged in listening to them practice their parts of the presentation and helped them with their French pronunciation and biology pronunciation (“Et-tee-enn.” “Prost-a GLAN-dins” “Abortion inducing-not abortion provoking. One provokes an argument. One induces an abortion”) and smiling and nodding when what they had to say was on point.

Then it was time to leave for class. One of the guys said he’d lend me money to get home. “How much do you need? Here is 15 bucks.” The problem was I didn’t know how much I needed to get home and back to town again the next day I was however pretty sure that it was going to cost me more than 15 bucks. So I boldly told him I needed 50 bucks. I am still not sure if that was okay. But having someone say that they would lend me 50 bucks allowed me to know that I would have enough cash to get home, get into town and buy myself a bagel the next morning as well as whatever other expenses I might encounter before getting to the bank and somehow convincing them to allow me to cash a check even though I had no ID. It helped me keep the panic monster away. If one of these guys had asked me for a loan of $50 because they had lost their wallet, I would have coughed it up-no problem. (Although if it happened this week I’d have had to write them a check.) So maybe its not that socially unacceptable. I don’t know.

We got to class. We discovered that we had to present first. Watching our presentation, you never would have known that I’d lost my wallet an hour ago.

The history of RU-486 is, for better or for worse, all about politics. We had to present an analysis of the case from a Strategic Design perspective. Normally, Strategic Design is my favorite perspective because it’s the one that actually makes logical sense. Strategic Design is all about how a company (or in this case, the company’s suppliers, regulators, customers and competitors) is organized. Who reports to who and why? SD allows one to ask how things would function if humans were logical. It’s the equivalent of a frictionless vacuum (if you’re thinking of physics) and it is the least useful way of analyzing the rollout of RU-486 in France in 1989. I had pointed this out to one of my teammates early on in the game and he responded by saying that that was too bad. Some other team got the political angle.

In spite of the fact that this was possibly the least useful perspective from which to analyze the case, we had a solid presentation. We had spent seven hours working through it on Saturday and even if we found pronouncing some of the words difficult (Even I had difficulty with the name of the German company involved) we knew what we had to say and we had lovely PowerPoint slides and a nice handout to help drive home our point. I was looking forward to giving this presentation because I knew how solid our work was. This meant that the Panic Monster had nothing to say about anything once the professor called our team to take the floor. We did a good job. We smiled at each other when we made nice points or pronounced some jaw-breaking word correctly. I fielded a sticky question with confidence. And then it was time for us to sit down and watch the rest of the shows.

While the other teams gave their presentations I ate dinner (Odwalla bar) fed one teammate another Odwalla bar and gave both of them gum to chew. I actually like doing this because it is a nice non-verbal (and therefore not rude) way for us to communicate and share during other people’s presentations. I made several lists of things that I needed to replace (first priority list-bank card, State ID and RFID card to get into work. Second Priority list BJs card, UMB ID and health insurance card). This also helped keep the Panic Monster at bay.

We sat through all of the presentations. One of my teammates had to leave at class break. The professor gave us back the paper we had written a few weeks ago. We got a good grade on the paper, but we had some questions to ask. I gave us time to ask these questions even though I knew this meant that I would miss my train (realistically, it had been such a horrible day that I knew that I was missing the 9:30 train sometime around 7:30. Just cuz.) When we lurched out of the classroom and towards the shuttle to the T, my teammate asked “aren’t you afraid of missing your train?” I responded, “It’s okay. I know I missed my train, but after losing my wallet a missed train is not that big of a deal.” Which was true at that point, although getting an A/A- on a paper I knew Was Not Our Best Work after giving a good presentation certainly sweetened the deal a bit.

The next day I called the office manager and left her a message saying that I’d be late because I had lost my wallet and I needed to visit the bank, talk to the MBTA transit police etc. I didn’t freak out about any of this even though there were about 10 things marked “Urgent” that I needed to deal with at work. I had lost my wallet. This required that I take certain steps, which were just as urgent as the work that needed to be done. Furthermore, I knew that I had lost my wallet not because I was a useless spaz who shouldn’t be allowed off the leash but because I was juggling chainsaws. I was trying to register for classes while fixing the computer of the lady who writes our quarterly letter, convincing my boss not to take my server-room key to the locksmith (because he’d misplaced his and I wasn’t sure if I’d be together enough to demand it back from him and I need that key-he doesn’t) setting up accountants on our online vault so that they could get tax information (this all happened on April 13th) getting my notes and our handouts for this evening’s presentation printed and doing about 12 other things. The fact that I put my wallet in my pocket and it fell out after I swiped my T pass at Back Bay station was not my fault. I have been losing my wallet or having it stolen from me regularly since I was 14. But this was the first time I had dealt with everything involved so calmly.

I place this firmly on my involvement with UMB’s MBA program. Doing good work and getting good grades and pat-pats from my teammates has increased my self-confidence. Increasing my self-confidence and giving the Panic Monster reasons to go away (I can’t deal with you right now-I’ve got a presentation to give) are both good things. Yes it sucks that I lost my wallet. I am, for the record, still pissed about it. But I can deal with it because there are other things in my life that don’t suck and these things allowed me to calmly deal with the MBTA police, the credit card companies, my boss and the RMV. And now if you’ll excuse me I have two papers to write.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are my hero.