cinnabon.

My first day of work at the new job was weird.

I got there at 8:00, and nobody was there.  I had to sit in the parking lot and wait for someone to come open up the office.

Once I got in to the office, I didn’t know where my office would be.  So I sat in the lobby, various workers walking back and forth, ignoring me because they didn’t know who I was.

Finally, at 9, the owner’s secretary walked in and greeted me.  She handed me a handful of paperwork to fill out, and said “I don’t know where your office is going to be, so we’ll have to wait for Fred to get here.”

I filled out the paperwork and handed it in, and then waited some more.  Finally, at around 11AM, Fred arrived at work.

“Hey!  Buddy!” he said, greeting me with a warm handshake.  “Welcome aboard.  We’re going to have a lot of fun together, aren’t we?”

“Sure are,” I said.  “I’d love to get settled.  Nobody seems to know where my office is, so I’ve just been sitting here in the lobby.”

“Let me bring you on a tour of the facility, and then I’ll show you your office.”

He took me through the offices and showed me where accounting and engineering were.  Then, he took me downstairs to the factory floor and introduced me to some of the plant supervisors.  Determined not to be known as “Chupacabra” at this company, I greeted them all warmly and friendly, with big smiles.

“Okay, let’s get you your office,” Fred said.  We hopped on the elevator, and Fred lit a cigarette.

“You’re smoking in the elevator,” I observed.

“I’ll smoke wherever I want.  I own the building.”

We got up the elevator and walked towards the corner of the building.  “We’re going to put you in the corner office,” he said.

Heh.  I was getting a corner office.

When we got to the corner office, though, it was clearly decorated with someone else’s stuff.  And there was a guy sitting behind the desk.

“Hi, Tim,” Fred said.

“Hi, Fred,” Tim said pleasantly.

“This is Al,” Fred continued.  “He’s our new Product Manager.”

Tim and I shook hands.

“Tim is in charge of IS,” Fred said.

“Oh, great,” I said.  “I’m sure I’ll be begging you for help every day.”  We laughed.

“Tim, I need you to pack up all this shit and move to the empty office down the hall,” Fred told him.

Tim’s jaw dropped.  “Really?” he asked.

“Really,” Fred said.  “My product manager gets the corner office.”

“No, no, no!” I exclaimed.  “I’ll take the office down the hall.  I don’t need a corner office.”  I was freaked out.

“No,” Fred continued.  “You’re my Number Three.  You should get the good office.”

I was desperate.  “No,” I said.  “I’d rather be closer to the elevator.  I’m going to be back and forth in the factory all day, working with the guys in production.”

Fred looked at me for a second.  “Good thinking,” he said.  I exhaled.  “Let’s have lunch.  Did you bring a lunch?”

I hadn’t.  I had become accustomed to going out for lunch.

“We usually bring lunch, and then we all eat together in the break room,” he said.  “Everyone takes lunch at the same time, around one o’clock.”

It was one o’clock.  So we went to the break room – there was one, large table, and a refrigerator.  About ten people sat around the table in silence, eating.  I joined them and was introduced to everyone.

“I want you to come to Las Vegas with us,” Fred said, looking at me.  “There’s a trade show for the two-way radio industry.”

“Oh, okay,” I said.  “When is it, I’ll put it on my calendar.”

“We’re leaving tonight, right after work.”

Tonight?” I asked.  “I don’t even have anything packed.”

“The limo is coming here to get us at 8:00,” he explained.  “You can go home after work, come back, and fly out with us.”

“I usually just put my car in long-term parking,” I pleaded.

“You don’t want to leave your car at JFK overnight,” he explained.

“JFK?” I asked.  “I usually fly out of Newark.”

“Newark?” he asked, “Why would you fly out of Newark?”

“Because I live in New Jersey.  I live twenty minutes from Newark.  I put my car in long-term parking, get on the plane.  When I get back, my car is waiting for me.”

I was frantic.  I had no time to prepare.  I had nothing packed.  I didn’t even know if I had enough clean suits.  I had no idea how long we were going for.  I was petrified to fly.

“Nonsense,” he said.  “Go home after work, get packed.  If you leave here at 5, you’ll have plenty of time.  We’ll see you back here at 8.”

I was useless for the rest of the day.  Here I was, starting a brand-new job, knowing nobody at the company.  Petrified of airplanes, I was going to get on a flight with a bunch of people I’d just met, and fly to Las Vegas – a pretty long flight, into a city where the landings were notoriously horrible, with lots of banking and turning and bumps.

We got to the airport at 9.  It was me, Fred, and three salespeople.  I was a wreck, nauseous at the prospect of getting on the plane.  By that point I was using xanax to keep me calm on flights, but I had none left, and so I was au natural – no chemical enhancements.

“What’s that smell?” Fred suddenly said.  It was the unmistakeable smell of cinnamon, from the Cinnabon store at the airport.

“Cinnabon,” one of the sales reps said.

“What the fuck is Cinnabon?” he asked.

“It’s a cinnamon roll,” he said.

“That smells great,” he said.  “Go buy me one.”

The sales rep immediately walked over to the Cinnabon store, got in line, and bought a roll.  He brought it over to Fred, who sat down at a table and slurped it down, grunting as he ate.  “Mmm.  Fuckin’ great.  I love this taste.  Get me another one.

The sales rep walked over and bought another.  Fred ate it.

“Get me a whole box of ’em,” he said.  “I want to bring these to Las Vegas and eat them in my room.”

The sales rep obliged.

I thought that was weird, sort of barbaric in how he gobbled down two giant cinnamon rolls in minutes, and sort of tyrannical in how he barked orders at his sales rep and couldn’t go wait in line himself.

The show itself was uneventful, except for one conversation over dinner one night.  Fred took the entire company out for seafood (he asked me what I wanted for dinner, and I suggested Italian – he said “no, I don’t want Italian” and took us to a seafood place).  At the dinner was the company’s western regional sales manager, an older gentleman who’s name is also unimportant to the story.  Over dinner, Fred continuously belittled the sales rep, explaining to him that the company needed to hire me because the sales rep was incompetent and incapable of growing the business.  By the end of the dinner, the sales rep was clearly frustrated and tense, his eyes watery with embarrassment and his face beet red.

When we arrived back at JFK, they had not planned on a car service to pick us up – we needed to call a service once we arrived at the airport, and Fred would only use one company.  So we waited at the airport for more than an hour while the car came.  Once it arrived, we all had to load our luggage into the car, and there wasn’t enough room – so suitcases had to jam in the back with us.

The result of this was that one of the female sales reps – who I had just met a few days prior – had to sit in my lap.  For well over an hour, as we made our way from the airport to our company parking lot.

The whole way back, Fred grilled me about what I had learned.  Any time I said something wrong, he corrected me.  I answered his questions with an unfamiliar woman in my lap, a suitcase jabbing me in the ribs, hardly able to breathe, sweating from the heat, stifled by the cigarette smoke in the car, having just spent six hours in an airplane, exhausted from the nervous tension.

When we arrived back at the office, I got in my car and drove the hour and a half ride back to my house.  Everyone was asleep when I walked into the house.

I often say that my first day at that company was a week long.  I say it with a smile.  In reality, it was the first day of the worst year of my professional life.

~ by Al on October 11, 2009.

One Response to “cinnabon.”

  1. I laughed out loud at:

    “Get me a whole box of ‘em,” he said.

    …and the idea of him eating the box in his room. The end image is great, too.

    God… this is horrific. You never know what a company’s really going to be like until you get in, I guess – and then, of course, it’s too late.

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