Saturday, March 23, 2013

True Life: Costco cost me my JOB

Subject: Following up

Hi Alexandra,

I hope you are liking your first week here at Micromanaging, Inc.  Please let me know if you need some assistance as you place your first Costco order.  Remember the order is to be delivered on Friday.  Moving forward, please used the attached list as a guide for what to order.  Also, Reginald* said he had to remind you to book his rental car for next week.  In the future, please book all travel (hotels, flights, rental cars) at the same time.  Also, did you figure out how to make the coffee?  Please set a reminder on your Outlook calendar to do this every morning.  Do you know how to do that?  Let me know if you have any questions at all. :)


Rhonda Chafeton | Senior Royal Pain in the Ass
Micromanaging, Inc.
69 Condescending Road
Chafeville, CA

I slouched down into my seat and sighed. It was my first week as the receptionist at Micromanaging, Inc*.  This job marked my 3rd reception gig in one year.   A lot of people don't understand that being a receptionist requires a lot of attention to detail, which I was not blessed with.  "This is an important job," my recruiter informed me in an attempt to try and glamorize this thankless profession.  "You're the face of the company.  You're the first person people see as they walk in."  I was also the person who was in charge of doing all the bitchwork ordering Costco and Safeway, cleaning the kitchen, doing the dishes, booking travel for Execs, refilling the tampon basket in the Ladies Restroom and making sure the conference rooms were tidy.  These seemingly easy tasks were extremely daunting to me. I'd never been good at tidying up and my short-term memory is weak to quite weak. There's no way I'd remember to restock the super-pluses every Thursday at 10am.  I even needed a reminder to set my outlook reminders.

I had resolved to really try hard to succeed as the receptionist at MI, in spite of my aforementioned shartcomings.  It was my ultimate goal.  Rhonda was my master supervisor.  From the knee down she reminded me a lot of Hillary Clinton.  She was intense - one of those people who took her job (as the Hall Monitor Receptionist Supervisor) REALLY seriously.  She was also a hoverer - she would sneak up behind me (enveloping me in her coffee breath) and watch me type as she gave me instructions.  I knew she was going to be a giant CHAFE extremely helpful and informative, especially during my first week.  I had to do a good job, if only to get Rhonda off my back. 

rabid rhonda surrounded by dark clouds
So I did what she told me to do and believe me, she liked to tell me what to do.  It was as if she would orgasm a little every time she gave me some bitch task to complete.  "Alexandra!  I need you to faaaax this to our New York offiiiice!" (I swear the pitch of her voice would become higher and airier every time she'd command me to do something.) 

I felt like I was killing it during the first couple of days.  I transferred calls to the right people, I greeted clients like I was geeked up on lithium, I made coffee every morning, I had an overtly positive attitude and I constantly had a shit-eating grin on my face.  I was the Santa Clause of receptionists - just really, really jolly. I fetched people's coffee and I did it with gusto.  I cleaned the conference rooms, kitchen and front office until they all shined.  I felt like Cinderella on adderrall.  I refused to be defeated by yet another reception job.

Then, Friday (AKA Costco day) arrived.  We had practically run out of food so everyone was chomping at the bit and asking me when Costco would be arriving.

"Uh - Alex-han-dra, did you know we run out of Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt,"  the little Indian engineer asked me that morning.

"I'm on it, Assahn!  Costco should be here in a half hour!  Dontchu worry." 

I'd spent about an hour making sure I had ordered the right foods from Costco.  Keep in mind, Micromanaging Inc was a start-up of about 100 people.  I didn't want to piss a bunch of starving engineers and HR people off by not ordering the right shit.

You know how I mentioned earlier that I'm not good with attention to detail?  Well, this fact become abundantly clear on this fateful Friday.   I sat at my desk eating my 5 dolla foooot lonnng when I heard the doors open.  There stood two HUGE Costco delivery men.  I thought it seemed odd that my order was large enough to necessitate 2 sumo wrestler-esque delivery guys.  I stood up to help them with the door.  In they came, pushing 2 GIANT carts filled with food.  I went to shut the door behind them when one of them uttered the 3 most terrifying words that will haunt me until the day I die.

"Ma'am, there's MORE." 

me hardly working hard at work right as i saw the Costco deliverers at the door.  and yes, i gave myself bigger boobs.   no judgements plz.
I gasped as I peered out the into the hallway and noticed at least 7 jumbo-sized carts - each one filled to the brim with groceries. I felt like they were staring up at me as if to say: YOU ARE A COMPLETE IDIOT AND YOUR INCOMPETENCE IS ASTOUNDING.

"Sir!  Are you sure you sure you have the right place!?  This is Micromanaging, Inc.  You have the wrong place! Right!!?"  I said, hoping that merely saying these words out loud would make them come true.
"Is this 56 Condescending Avenue?  Suite 69?" Mr. Sumo Costco retorted. 


At this point people were starting to flood into the kitchen, eagerly awaiting this wretched Costco order like a bunch of rabid piranhas.  My eyes welled up with tears.  This was it.

"Follow me," I mumbled as I ambled solemnly toward the kitchen.

My great aunt Edna* always told me "You learn something new everyday.  So don't get down on yourself if you fuck something up so badly that people assume that your brain size must rival that of a fetus's." 

This is what I learned on that fateful Friday: Costco is a "bulk" store.  People go there when they want to buy 20 of something.  So when I ordered what I thought were 5 jugs of milk I'd actually ordered 5 CASES of milk.  Each case contained 10 jugs.  That's like the equivalent of 4 breast-feeding cows.  I'll break it down for you a little more:
  • 4 orders of HoneyNut Cheerios = 5 boxes per order= breakfast for the entire financial district
  • 6 orders of apples = 20 apples in an order = a FUCKING ORCHARD OF APPLES
  • 2 orders of cream cheese = 8 giant tubs of cream cheese = enough cream cheese to spread on all of the bagels in the bay area  
As we entered the kitchen people began to crowd around us.  Some commented on the number of carts being wheeled in.  Others began ripping boxes of food open.  Like 3 soldiers headed into battle, the Sumo Costco Deliverers and I began unloading.  After awhile the refrigerator became more filled with milk than Octo-mom.   One guy suggested I put some of the milk in the freezer.  He told me that freezing milk was a thing.  I wasn't sure if he was fucking with me or not so I stashed a few in the freezer only to be reprimanded by Rhonda who looked like she wanted to hurl her outdated Tory Burch flat at my face.

For the rest of the day I sat at my desk, hiding behind my computer trying to escape from the embarrassment of my Costco blunder.  I'd found a huge basket in the kitchen that I stuffed with apples.  Every time someone passed my desk I'd look up awkwardly and quietly say "Want an apple?  10 apples a day keeps the doctor away!  There's also fresh milk in the fridge and freezer.  It will make your bones strong." :(

The day was coming to an end and I couldn't wait to go home and get in to bed, far away from all of the apples and milk.  When the clock struck 5pm I beelined it for the door and rushed home.  I got home and poured myself an enormous glass of wine.  Then, my phone rang. It was my recruiter.  My heart sank.

"Hi Alexandra.  It's Genvieve*.  I have some very bad news.  Micromanaging Inc. does not need you to return tomorrow."  (I am confident that I will remember these words and how they made me feel for as long as I am an egg-roll eating, Haribo abiding American Citizen.)

I screamed.  I sobbed.  I begged and pleaded with her to help me find a way to get my job back.  Failing at another reception job!?!   Is that even possible?  I felt beyond sad and disappointed in myself - which is probably why it took me so long to write about this on Toe Pick.  Seriously, it's taken me nearly 2 years to be able to laugh about what happened.  It took me 2 more Administrative Assistant jobs to learn that I should never, ever be in charge of managing an office.  Like, it should be illegal.  But just 'cuz I can't make it as a receptionist, office manager, Executive Assistant, etc doesn't mean I can't place them.  Now I'm a recruiter and I meet with them all the time. 

And guess what?  I admire them.  Because they can do what I never could: Not fuck up a Costco order.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"I'm like the least Virgin-y Virgin ever"

"How are you?  Long time no see!"  Manuel*, the corner store attendant greeted me as I slammed my Luna bar, plum, floss, Nacho Cheesier Doritos and apple juice onto the counter in a huff.  
"I know, I've been working a lot," I responded dramatically.
"Working to make the money to support the boyfriend, right, hahahaa," Manuel teased with a hint of  condescension in his voice. 
"Ugh.  Ha.  No boyfriend.  Just trying to save up some money to buy more frozen egg rolls from YOU!"  
Manuel giggled.
I remained dead serious.

Happy Friday, humans.  I know I promised I would feature my How to Get Through An Awkward Situation Guide today but I haven't had a chance to finish it.  Why?  Because I've been working (as you can see).  Then babysitting. Then picking at my split ends. And working. Then changing my Facebook profile picture. Then babysitting.  And working. Then instagramming. Then babysitting.  Everyday and every night.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining at all.  That's the thing: for once I have nothing to complain about.  There's no drama in my life.  No boys to pine after.  I've even been keeping my eyes peeled for FuglyMuniShoes but I haven't seen ANY.  I did see a Shoshanna (from GIRLS) lookalike on the Muni but that's it:


Everything in my life appears to be running smoothly and I'm not sure I'm okay with it.  I sat down to write this AWKWARD SITUATION segment and realized that, welp: I got NOTHING.  The only thing that happened that was semi awkward was when I was interviewing a candidate the other day and well, just read:

Me: What kind of industry are you interested in getting into?  What's most appealing to you in terms of company culture, size, personalities, etcetera? (i tend to use the word etcetera A LOT)
Candidate: Well, I just moved here and I've been hearing a lot about how startups are kind of taking over.  So, that could be interesting - you know, to work at a startup.
Me: Great!  We work with shart startups a lot.  And you're right, they are very condom - ahem, COMMON - uh, excuse me, in SF and around the Bay Area.  Excuse me.  Jesus. (nervous laughter)  Haha. (GULP)  Wow, it's been a long day. 

Yeah.  So that happened.  I said condom instead of common.  (Who hasn't?)  And my entire office heard me.  There was also a time last week when I ate too much soy sauce one night and woke up the next morning looking like a cross between a blow-fish, Long Duck Dong and a Jumbo-sized beach volleyball.  Whenever I smiled my cheeks stuck out so far that my eyes became so squinty and small that I could barely see.  So that was a difficult time.

Other than the above isolated incidents nothing else exciting or awkward has happened.  My Ole Miss pal is coming into town on Saturday for a week for work and to hang with me.  We are going to wear sexy Talbot's business suits and act like we're Romy and Michelle as we peruse the financial district after work in search of cute guys.  This should GLEAN some excellent Toe Pick material.  Until then, have a great weekend and I'll be back soon.


*I'm not sure if that is his name.

PS.  Do you like my use of the SAT word "glean"?  Did I even use it in the proper context?  I'm trying to sound smarter expand my vocabulary.

PMS.  Even my stapler is mocking my boring life:
flat face
PMS.  Spotted: An Adele lookalike on Muni this morning. xoxo, Gossip Gurl
PTSD.  Cawl me.

Monday, March 11, 2013



We spend about 40% of our lives making it.  I go to great lengths to avoid it but it's inevitable.  Being able to make small talk is a necessary skill to have if you want to survive in almost all social settings.  That said, having a strained conversation with an acquaintance is about as painful and tedious as trying to pop a whitehead on your upper lip line.  Forced banter with a Random is perhaps the biggest chafe in all the land.  Whether it be at work, on the subway, standing in line at Chipotle, at a bar, on a date, at a cocktail party, or in bed with a member of the opposite sex the morning after a one-night stand, you better be well equipped to make The Small Talk if need be.  Sometimes when the weather is exceptionally nice in SF I wonder how many office buildings are echoing with clients exclaiming, "It sure is nice out today!" or "Gosh, the weather in San Francisco changes so much.  Why, just yesterday I could barely see my feet through the fog but TODAY! TODAY is gorgeous!"  WEATHER is the godfather of small talk.
"It's raining!"
"Tell me about it!"
Wikipedia describes the painful silence one experiences once small talk goes stale and an awkward silence ensues.
3. Space filler to avoid silence
In many cultures, silences between two people are usually considered uncomfortable. Tension can be reduced by starting phatic talk until a more substantial subject arises. Generally, humans find prolonged silence uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearable. This can be due to human evolutionary history as a social species, as in many other social animals silence is a communicative sign of potential danger.
Right on, Wiki.

Sometimes, <rarely for me> you find that one diamond in the rough: a random person with whom the conversation just flows But for the most part, it's a struggle to stay afloat amid the rough seas of small talk.  Here are some STR (Small Talk Required) scenarios I've been in and my failed attempts to avoid sinking into the Awkward Silence abyss during them.

1.) Small Talk on an Elevator:
me: "Does it smell like smoke in here?" I say to the suited businessman next to me as I hone in on each floor button, as though I'd never seen numbers before. (Incidentally, that's another trick to avoid small talk on an elevator: peruse the buttons as though you're completely fascinated by them.)
Mr. Suit: "Uh.  I don't smell anything."
Me: "Oh. It must be me."
so that's what the number 23 looks like.  I'll be darned.
SMALL TALK ATTEMPT ON AN ELEVATOR: FAILED.  And I had to marinate in my failure for the next 7 floors.

me: "Ahh dith yew dow thenthists have da thithest thuithide waths owf ahhhny profethion auuhhhaa?" I  try and say despite my mouth being wide open as Mr. Dentist prods at my gums with that terrifying,  silver instrument with the pointy, sharp tip.
Dentist: "Sorry, what's that Alexandra?" Mr. Dentist responds as he removes his chubby rubber gloved hand from my mouth.
me: "Did you know dentists have the highest suicide rate of any profession?"  I enunciate this time.
Dentist: "Is that so?" Mr. Dentist says as he jams his hand and that instrument back in my mouth.

Shit.  In an attempt to make small talk/avoid awkward silences I've managed to piss off a man in the midst of taking a steel pick to my gums.  MORAL OF STORY: Don't try and make small talk at the dentist.  The sounds of the drill annihilating Root Canal guy one chair over is sufficient enough to mask the awkward silence.

Rita: "Alexandra, now - you're gonna want to put it in when it's still wet." (my hairdresser instructs me as she puts anti-frizz serum in my sopping wet tresses)
no comment from Rita for about 35 seconds or so...
Me (in an attempt to kill the awkward silence and change the subject so Rita doesn't think I'm a huge pervert): "I have a question.  You know how people can have split ends?  Are there such things as octo-ends?  Because I swear one of my hairs has eight ends.  That's how badly I need this haircut."
Rita (nervous laughter): "I don't think so Alexandra.  I have never heard of that."
oops. made it worse.
awkward times at the salon.
coworker: "So, do you have a boyfriend?"
me: "No, but I've been making out with MacGrubar."
coworker: "Mc-who?"
me: "You know, the actor from SNL - Will Forte... better known as McPuber?"
coworker: "I've never heard of him."
me: "Wait - I will show you a pic.  This guy!"

coworker: "Wow.  He seems nice.  I have to get on a call.  Nice to have you here!"

oops. Made it worse.

Y'all get the picture.  I suck at making small talk.  I have, however, developed some methods to avoid having to make small talk.  Here goes...

Scenario:You're in a grocery store and you spot Vicky, a random acquiantance.  The grocery store is perhaps the worst place to run into a person you "kind of know" and will necessitate multiple attempts at small talk on your part given the number of aisles you will likely both be perusing similtaneously.  It is awkward and uncomfortable to try and chat about the weather when you can't help but notice the family sized tube of Vagisil popping out of Vicky's shopping cart. This is the time when your trusty cell piece will come in handy.  Pull it out (that's what she said) whenever you see Vicky and check your VM or call your mother or someone you know will answer.  You can also be a huge tool and pretend to talk on your phone.  Viola!  Small Talk with Vagisil Vicky is avoided and you get to clean out your inbox and/or catch up with a family member. CRISIS AVERTED.
oh no oh no - there's Vagisil Vicky.  Time to pretend to talk on my cell phone.

SMALL TALK MORAL of this story: your cell phone is a key weapon in the war against small talk.  USE IT.
how much do you want to bet I wasn't talking to anyone on the phone here but instead trying to avoid small talk with the photographer...

Next up: I'm not a good small talker but I am a good deep talker.  I have found that one way to dodge small talk is to delve right into the personals of the individual with whom you are chatting.  I always said if I couldn't be an actress, a writer, or whatever Jodi Foster's character in Silence of Lambs did for a living, I'd want to be like Barbara Walters and interview controversial figures like Pee Wee Herman, Boy George or Lorena Bobbit.  I love to interview people and try and entice them to expose their innermost thoughts.
idol - the Queen of crushing small talk

It's simple: People love to talk about themselves. (Why do you think I have this blog?)  Use this to your advantage when making small talk.

You're a girl.  You're leaving Whole Foods (after having picked up some Kombucha) and walking toward your car in the underground parking lot when you spot <let's call her> Rhonda, a girl you've shared your bronzer with in the bathroom at Balboa and had brunch with about 2 years back with mutual friends.  You've got like 23 facebook friends in common.  You know her but you don't know know her. SMALL TALK ALERT!  Shit.

You approach her and begin the small talk escapade.  It is important in the beginning of the convo to find a reference point you can use as a segway from forced chitchat into a deeper dialogue.  You want to shift the focus solely onto her so she has to carry the conversation.  For example:

Me: "Hey Rhonda!  Long time no see. Is that your new Ford Focus?  Snazzy.  How are you?"
Rhonda: "Hi!  Yep, isn't she a beaut?  I'm good.  Just here picking up some food for this weekend.  Craig's parents are in town."
Me: "Oh nice!  Wow - meetin' the parents!  You and Craig must be getting pretty serious.  Happy for you - you deserve it after what happened."
Rhonda: "Yeah it was a little rough there for a couple months.  I've finally moved on."

PERFECT TIME TO TRANSITION FROM SMALL TALK TO DEEP TALK (girls love to talk about their break-ups. I talked about mine for at least 2 years straight.)....

Me: "That's great to hear.  I heard about what happened with Tomothan.  What an asshole."

Rhonda will then likely spend then next eleventeen minutes rehashing the drama she went through with Tomothan and your small talk struggle will cease.  The only problem with this small talk demolishing tactic is that you find yourself stuck in a deep conversation in an underground Whole Foods parking lot on a Tuesday afternoon.  To get out of it I normally say I have to go babysit or that my landlord is coming to my house to inspect the chimney.  Be creative and come up with your own excuse.  Have fun with it!

BTW, If I sound disingenuous, I'm not.  I like to hear people talk about their problems because it makes me feel less alone and like I am not the only person with issues.

  We all strive to find ways to cope with small talk. I hope my small talk manual helped!  Remember, you're not alone in your disdain for The Small Talk.  I despise it.  Have you experienced any small talk blunders?  I'd love to hear about 'em.  E-mail me at

As always please "like" my page on Facebook by clicking here and follow me on twitter by clicking here!  Thank you for your support!

Have an awkward Tuesday!

xo, Nige