ADF Day 2: The Joy of Luncheoning

December 15, 2012 at 6:26 am

So …this luncheon yesterday…  

Granted, nothing about it did that much for my diet/exercise regimen, but it was such an interesting experience that I’m going to write about it anyway.

For one thing, I did eat.  Fortunately and unfortunately, it was a sit-down catered affair with three courses..  So while eating was socially mandatory, at least it wasn’t a browse-and-dine situation with a lot of fatty appetizers.  In fact, the offerings (aside from dessert) were pretty light.  There was a salad of greens, parmesan shavings, dried figs and vinaigrette.  The main course was a stuffed chicken breast in broth with white beans.  The stuffing appeared to be mostly herbed bread crumbs, which could be worse.  The dessert, of course, was pretty fatty — a chocolate lava cake with vanilla cream and candied orange peels.  All told it was quite delicious, but it could have been a LOT worse.  There were no creamy sauces, no heavy red meats.  I resigned myself to participation and simply didn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

So I’m calling it good. But more interesting than the food were my tablemates.  The luncheon was put on by a nationwide bank that funds our work with some local Head Start preschools.  The program puts us in cooperation with other institutions in the area, including the Symphony, Blues Hockey, the Art Museum and the Science Center.  Collaboration between institutions like this is not unusual, but it’s a bit unique to be working with all of the above at the same time.

So my table wound up consisting of two people from the Art museum (both of whom I had met before and like very much), my own instructor Tonya (whom I also, of course, like very much), one of the site directors from the Head Start schools, and a woman from the Science Center whose name is Frieda.  Frieda was of particular interest to me, because two years ago when I was still at the Butterfly House but was needing to go fulltime because of the divorce, I made it to the Interview stage on a Gallery Manager position at the Science Center, and Frieda was the one who interviewed me.  I was turned down for that job almost immediately after the interview, as it happens.  I felt pretty bitterly disappointed at the time, though I suspected the issue was that I didn’t have any formal experience with running a budget.

Since then the Science Center has undergone a lot of media scrutiny and upheaval.  All of our institutions are at least partially funded by a countywide tax called the ‘ZMD tax’, and it was learned by someone that the higher-ups at the Science Center were awarding themselves disproportionately high salaries and bonuses.  In the two years since, lots of Science Center folks have been laid off, and odds are I would have been too as I would have lacked any seniority at all.  Never mind the fact that I wouldn’t be working now where I wanted to work all along anyway.  I have therefore come to regard that rejection as an act of Providence and tried to be glad for it.

Nonetheless, it’s interesting to find yourself rubbing social elbows with a woman who didn’t find you worthy at some point in the past.  Naturally, I wondered if she’d recognize me now.  We went around the table making introductions, and I watched her face for some flicker of recognition.  Nothing.  

The meal conversation was actually quite enjoyable, as Frieda has interesting stories to tell of her life growing up in Alaska and of the foibles of possessing such an unusual name.  I recognized some of the latter anecdotes from my interview, actually, as I had misunderstood the HR lady from the Science Center and come looking for a ‘Rita’.  This wasn’t damning, obviously; Frieda is used to that.  She said, “It’s a name from an older generation.”  I agreed,   mentioned that it’s my grandmother’s name as well (which it is), but that it really isn’t that reflective of age as it’s a solid German name.  She agreed.  

One of the Art Museum ladies is named ‘Nora’, and she was commenting at the luncheon yesterday on the fact that that name has come back into vogue as a baby name, but while she was growing up it seemed to be a name only old ladies had.  Frieda said, again, “Mine is a name from an older generation too.” I again mentioned that it’s my grandmother’s name, and intentionally reiterated my previous sentiment — that it has an ageless quality to it because it’s such a distinctly German name.  I watched Frieda’s face… no glimmer.  Oh well.

Regardless — or perhaps because she didn’t recognize me? — Frieda seemed to like me pretty well.  She asked me engaging questions and we had lively conversations about the Garden’s recent Lantern Festival and all of the adventures it entailed.  I threw one more bone her way by inquiring as to whether or not the front construction on the Science Center had been completed yet (when I interviewed, that project was still in the planning stages and describing what it would entail comprised a big chunk of the interview).  Frieda, again, barely blinked as she described the completed galleries and the new Wildlife Conservation exhibit.  I left it alone after that.

So either Frieda is the queen of tact or the interview left a much bigger impression on me than it did on her.  The latter would, of course, be perfectly natural; she probably had about a hundred worthy candidates at that time.  And to be fair, I’m not sure why I wanted her to recognize me anyway…  I have risen in the ranks here, but not enough for it to be a ‘How do you like me NOW?’ moment or anything.  Fortunately, I don’t think I was too overt about it, and we all seemed to have an enjoyable time.

Afterward, I went back to my cubicle to collect timecards to turn in to the Controller’s office.  The office is located clear at the other end of the Garden, so I had a nice walk out there as I dropped them off and came back.  Then I walked into my cubicle and realized that I had managed to leave about half of the stack on my desk.  So… back out again and back in again.  I figure I subconsciously wanted the exercise since I’d eaten the luncheon, but it was also just a darned fine day out in the Garden for December. 🙂

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