I Remember My Dad teaching me the lyrics to a variety of songs when I was 10 years old. He would drive me back to my mom’s every Sunday night and, as I’d crank the volume up and roll the windows down, he would tune the radio to Q101. Thankfully, because music in 1999 mostly sucked, Q101 played stuff from earlier in the decade. I remember distinctly singing along to the likes of Radiohead, Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins and, man, this made me feel like I had arrived. Here I was, singing about emotions that I hadn’t yet understood along with my pops. It’s like I was getting a preview of what manhood would be.
I’ll never really know the reason he taught me the lyrics to countless songs. My guess is that he wanted me to not fall asleep on the rides back like I had countless times prior, so that maybe we could get an extra twenty or twenty-five minutes of bonding. Regardless of the song, really, my dad would always lower the volume after the first chorus and repeat it slowly. He didn’t only teach me lyrics, he taught me how precious these little moments, these simple car drives along Lake Shore Drive and I-55, could be. I’ve learned how they can still resonate with you years, even decades later. The importance of discussion, the bonding of two strangers through common ideas, the ability to put a smile on the face of another through similar, quirky observations are all just a few things I managed to take away from my father.
Fast Forward Years Later, as a sophomore in college; a time when I failed to live by what my father had taught me and where I didn’t make the most of moments and where I definitely wasn’t as social as I should have been. A time that saw me settle surprisingly comfortably into a lackluster job with absolutely no room to move up on the ladder, coupled with mild regret and bad habits consisting of eating poorly and this abnormal lust of drinking a little too much and wandering around town until drowsy, when I get a phone call. A company. Offering a job. An internship. They wanted me! Well, they wanted me to take this internship since I had, you know … wait a minute, I had no experience. But by the time this offer rolled around, I had become honest enough with myself to admit that I needed something more. I had seen all of these people taking pride in their work and had yet to experience anything even remotely relevant to that. Of course I was excited. This was years ago, before my impulsiveness would get the best of me, before I would even consider taking risks or chances. Way before, while during a road trip to New Orleans, a spontaneous decision in itself, my friends and I would decide, Stop in Nashville for a night of bar-hopping? Why not? My life knew nothing of this thing called impetuosity.
So I took the job.
My first day and I already have a staff meeting. I walk into Conference Room 3B and can’t help but notice a gigantic table. It’s, like, huge. loaded with deli spread cold cuts, hot coffee, bottled waters and … my God, this entire tray of muffins and cookies. The chunky pre-teen who wore “husky” jeans inside of me is going apeshit. I wipe the drool from my mouth and take a seat. As I see the managers and directors walk in and mingle and can’t help but think that this is where I’ll come up with my most genius ideas. I’m relatively, well, alright, completely unknown to everyone in this room besides my boss, but I feel that in no time will these people not only know my name, they will come to me for advice on their most creative ideas and projects.
I remember those rides with my dad every Sunday night. I remember what I learned: how this very moment, one that’s at the start of my very early career, can be infinitely more significant if I just talk. I can make a name for myself in these next few minutes. I can show these people that I’m not just some dumbass kid who knows nothing about marketing and sales. I’m going to school every one of these sons’a bitches. That’s right, welcome to the command center of this mega starship called The SS Corporate America, sister. Hovering at six whole stories off of the Earth’s surface. This ivory tower of success and creativity is a place above anything I’ve ever experienced. Here, my nine-to-five seclusion will surely lead to brilliant ideas; a place where I can stare at revolutionary rough drafts of marketing strategies instead of dirty laundry and unfinished homework. Let’s get this meeting going! Let’s stoke the fire that kept me and probably everyone in this room alive when we were young and laying in bed in the middle of the night while we were drunk on slow-motion visions of introducing the next big thing, changing the game, and setting a new standard. I’m pumped. Alright, let’s go. Somebody say something already. Fuck it, I’ll break the ice; unthinkable, usually, but then again, right now I’m connected to a force much larger than you or I will ever be. I stand up and make my move:
“Oh, nice. Is this a, um, chocolate chip one?”
You are a dumbass. Not what I had in mind to open with.
“Those are actually toasted pecans,” says the office receptionist.
“Oh, okay. Pecans. Toasted. Nice.”
“They’re good. What’s wrong with pecans? I brought them from home.”
“Nothing’s wrong with them, I’m just saying…”
“Are you turning your nose up at them?”
Holy Christ, is this woman serious? I could tell from when I came in for my interview and again for the second one. Even when I walked in today, this woman just seemed mad. Almost like she’s been mad for years about something or at someone. Listen, lady, I swear to God I was just trying to make conversation. I was just trying to get noticed so that some of the upper-level guys here could learn my name though, now in retrospect, I’m fairly confident they’d forget it immediately. I honestly don’t care about the stupid cookies. I want to tell her that I love cookies; that I used to eat Chips Ahoy by the sheet as a kid, silently to myself with a big-ass glass of milk while watching the likes of Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and 2 Stupid Dogs. I want to explain that there were so many times as a kid that I’d sneak cookies away from the kitchen before my grandmother was done making dinner and run into my room to catch my breath and eat them. So why would I turn my nose up at them now?
I’m about to say something when she interrupts me.
“So are you going to take one or not?”
I pause, mouth half-open and stare at her. I don’t say anything, place a single cookie on my napkin and take my seat.
The Meeting Starts and we’re down to brass tacks. There’s a mix of office jumble, every word seemingly flowing into the next, but I somehow manage to write everything down as quickly as it’s being spewed at me. I manage to keep a straight face while repeating these exact expressions in a random manner:
- Look at boss until she looks at me, then nod like I understand exactly what she’s talking about and write anything down on my notepad.
- Stare at new dress shoes and back at boss, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and silently mouth, “Ahh, okay…” when I notice one of the upper-levels looking at me.
- Blink, raise eyebrows and refocus to show everyone here that I am so focused that I constantly need to refocus, almost like I’m flooring the pedal and switching to the next gear.
It’s amazing how fast an hour-long meeting goes when you have absolutely no idea what is being said and are, almost stupidly, unfamiliar with every term that has been thrown around.
The meeting’s over and an upper-level says he’s leaving early because he’s got concert tickets for some band playing at The Metro tonight. I have no idea who this band is that he’s going to see, but I still say, “Oh, nice!” We exchange this awkward stare and I realize that this office environment has knocked me on my ass. I’m in way over my head. Hopefully I can come in tomorrow with this all behind me and start fresh. Walk in through those glass doors and be the new guy again. I go back to my desk and can’t help but think how I messed today up. The upper-level walks by and tells me he’s going to let me know how the concert went, that he’ll take pictures and show me tomorrow.
Rock on, boss I think to myself as I Google and Youtube the band he’s going to see so that I’ll have something, anything to talk to him about tomorrow.