Monday, January 15, 2007

Boat Shmoat, We're Going to Paris - Part 8

The next morning I awoke and my back was aching from sleeping on the floor. I was still a bit jet lagged too. But I was thrilled to be in Paris and really nervous about my busy day of interviews. I had five interviews scheduled and lunch with Dr. A. I took a nice hot shower and dressed in my brand new size 2 stylish Isabel Ardee designer pants suit with a white silk blouse and Italian designer made shoes. I accessorized with mabe pearl earrings and my pearl necklace and the hand bag I had bought in Rome. I felt like a million bucks. Well, at least I looked like a million bucks. Sean wished me luck and I kissed him goodbye as I left.

I went down the elevator and checked out the hotel’s breakfast offerings. They were way too expensive. They wanted more then $20 for coffee and a croissant. So I headed for the metro. The Porte Maillot station is just across the street from our hotel and I entered and bought a ticket from the automated machine for the straight shot ride to La Defense. I people watched the whole way there. Parisian women have a certain style all their own. They always look put together as if they own mirrors and use them. Their make up is well done; accessories, such as scarves, are colorful and well thought out. The women I saw were all on the cusp of style.

The La Defense stop was busy with commuters. There were lots of exit options but it was not difficult to figure out where to go. Once upstairs and outside again, I could right away see the Grande Arche and what a stunner it was! The design was part of a contest begun by French President François Mitterand. Johann Otto von Spreckelsen won with his design of a four dimensional cube or tesseract, but he died in 1987 before the completion of the Grande Arche in 1989/90. The dimensions of the cube are 108 x 110 x 112 meters and the sides are made out of Carrara marble and glass. The Arche was inaugurated in July 1989 to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution.

My company’s offices were housed in the Grande Arche. But first, my stomach was growling and I had to get something to eat. I saw the CNIT center across the plaza and went to check it out. Inside there was indeed a small area on the left that served food. So I sat down. In no time a server was with me asking what I wanted. I ordered some café and a croissant and wolfed it down when it arrived. As usual the coffee was served with a bit of dark chocolate and the crystallized sugar on a stick (yum) and the croissant was rich and buttery, though I did add some more butter. My size 2 pants were beginning to feel a bit tight. No, no, that was all in my head. I looked at my watch and it was time to go to my first interview.

I paid and left. I crossed the plaza in no time and climbed the steps of the Arche, which are higher than they look once you are on them. Also, the plaza beyond the steps is broader than one might imagine. I entered the glassed in lobby and went up to the reception desk. I said, “Bonjour!” with a big smile and then switched to English because I wanted to make sure I was understood. The receptionist smiled and said, “Hello!” back. I told her that I was there to meet with Dr. A at 9:30 AM and she called upstairs to let them know I was there. Then she proceeded to take my name, company name, etc. to create a security badge for me. She typed it all into a computer, snapped a photo and out came a photo identification badge just for me. This was pretty impressive given that it was 1997. A woman came down who spoke very little English, but apparently was Dr. A’s secretary to escort me upstairs. We ran into some other employees on the way to Dr. A’s office and they all smiled and said hello as if they knew who I was and asked me if it was my first day at work. This had me totally confused. Didn’t they know I was there for an interview?

I was shown into Dr. A’s office. She soon arrived and asked her secretary, in French, to bring us coffee. Yum, more coffee. I let Dr. A take the lead during the interview. She went through the types of problems I would be dealing with on this job. I would be interacting with the clinical research heads of each of the 17 European countries who report to her and are all strong minded individuals and essentially telling them how to do their jobs. She then detailed the problems, country by country by personality of the country head and with ethnic stereotyping. I thought, well that is just lovely (not). She told me that I would be flying around most of the time making my case for the clinical initiatives. The job sounded just about impossible, but I would be living in Paris and traveling around Europe with Sean on weekends. It could be a dream come true. I couldn’t think of anyone who could take a better stab at this mission impossible than me. Her inbox was stacked two feet high with unread mail. She said that she would just give it to me to go through on my first day. I felt that the interview was going very well. Our time was up and I stood and shook her hand. We both smiled.

My next interview was with Monsieur P, President of Human Resources, France. He was average height, dark hair, middle aged, and his suit looked stylish and tailor made. It probably cost major bucks. I didn’t like the way he shook my hand. You know how some men shake a woman’s hand and won’t grasp it all the way like they would a man’s. They just hold gingerly onto the front as if it might break. I hate that. But I gave him a big smile anyhow. I went into his office and he motioned me to a chair and I sat down. He began to talk, and I began to sell myself. He kind of just looked at me and said something like, “Well when you start you will be doing this…”

I was flabbergasted as I thought holy shit does he mean that I have the job? Suddenly I couldn’t focus on what he was saying so I interrupted and said, “Wait. Stop. Are you saying that I have got this job?”

He replied, “Yes. I thought you knew. We should have your contract ready for you to sign before this Friday and it can be all set this week.”

I was completely stunned and in shock to say the least. Part of me was excited and celebrating, jumping up and down cheering, saying hooray for me!!! I got the dream job in PARIS. I get to live in PARIS. The other part of me was saying, gee, why didn’t Dr. A tell me? And holy shit, how am I going to do this shitty ass job? And that explains why the whole office assumed it was my first day. And I wonder what is in the contract? And how can I possibly break it to them that I cannot sign the contract this week? All of this was boiling up in my head as I was sitting there trying to listen to Monsieur P.

Ultimately, I decided that it was most important to tell Monsieur P that I could not possibly sign the contract by Friday as I would have to take it back home to examine the financial aspects more closely. I did manage to work that into the conversation at some point, but he assured me that the final package would be so attractive that I would have a difficult time saying no. I told him that I couldn’t wait to see it and he told me it should be available by the end of today.

I was quite excited when it came time to leave his office, but kept my cool and gave my warmest half handshake, which was all he would allow. I had to wait a bit for Dr. A for lunch. Before then, I went to the office ladies room. In Europe, most of the restrooms are coed; there is one for both sexes. I sure wish it was this way in the U.S. because it would solve the problem of long lines at stadiums, theaters and movies for ladies rooms. Those always get my goat. It is that way at restaurants also.

Dr. A showed up, and we began walking back to the CNIT place where there is an Italian restaurant for lunch. On the way I chided her for not telling me that I had the job. She looked at me and said, “Oh, I thought I had. Did I not? Sorry about that.” She said it as if it was nothing to her. Sigh.

We had a delightful lunch. You know, just us gals chatting about this and that. The weight of selling my self was really off and I could relax and be my usual charming self. She mentioned that I should reward my self for getting the job and treat my husband by taking ourselves to the five star fish restaurant next to our hotel that is one of the best in Paris. I shamefacedly admitted that we went there last night. She grinned as she asked how we liked it. I reported that we just loved their three fish dish. Two hours later, we returned to the office.

My next two appointments were with people who worked with Dr. A. But the pressure was off and these just flew by. I just couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and tell Sean that I got the job. One more thing, I had to see if the contract was ready. So, I stopped by Monsieur P’s office and his assistant handed it to me, hot off the press. I grabbed it and ran to the metro.

Once on the metro, I started to read the contract. It was surprisingly short. The first thing I noticed was that there was no car. There also was no allowance for the loss of Sean’s income, or subsidy for living in Paris. There was a good salary increase, commensurate with the level increase, but no cost of living increase for Paris. The mortgage coverage for our house in the US was underestimated by about 25%. On the face of it, it seemed a disaster. But, I was sure there must have been some miscommunication between the US human resources and the French. This was nothing like what was promised by Ms. S of the manicured nails. That must have been the problem, a lack of communication. I was sure I could get that sorted out. I tried not to be too let down. I could make this happen. I would not give up.

I got back to the hotel and greeted Sean with a big wet kiss and the happy news! He had no idea that I could be hired on the day of my interview and come home with a contract in hand. We speedily were on the same page as far as the contract. We really are kindred spirits and had already discussed it. We were in high spirits that night as we headed out for dinner. We ate at a diner and had another fabulous meal. I had fettuccine pasta with salmon strips. This meal could have easily gone astray had one over cooked the salmon, but it was done perfectly and the salmon remained tender. Sean had a mushroom stew that he said was wonderful.


Shaney said...

Hmmm Did I detect a little doubt about ones chances back there in the interview room...(Never doubt yourself, thats everyones else's job) hehe
When I get a phonecall that says " Sorry you were unsuccessful" I politely tell them "Not a problem, it is most certainly a loss on your behalf, but Thankyou for the consideration" I bet your glad you weren't forced to sign anything 'there & then'...I want to see the CUBE! I want to eat at a fancy restaurant in Paris...I want to make a fool of myself and attempt to speak the
Oh I want I want I want...:P
Great reading once again Sue!

Sue said...

Thanks so much Shaney. It is a pleasure to write for fans like you! Have faith that you will get to do the things you want and then you will. :)

a boy said...

beautiful pics!

Sue said...

All from google, but thanks for noticing!

frequent flyer X said...

hey there. I loved reading your blog and this post in particular, but the thing that stood out for me was the bit about shaking hands with the French guy. I like to think I have a firm handshake, but I'm always a bit hesitant shaking a lady's hand - it does kinda feel as though it might be too physical a gesture. And in any case I'd rather kiss her (on the cheek of course). Shaking hands just seems like a macho thing, one that I suspect may have been misappropriated by the sexual equality of modern industry.

Sue said...

I think that the proper etiquette in shaking a lady's hand is to let the lady take the lead. If she offers her hand to shake, then give it a hearty shake grasping her entire hand firmly. If you don't, you may be offending her. If she offers her cheek, then kiss it. Though I suspect this is rare in business situations. All bets are off in Europe, where in social settings it is more freqently kissing of cheeks that happens. Thanks for commenting and glad you are enjoying reading the posts!