Notorious RRZ: Press Leak
2004-06-21 - 10:31 p.m.
Sometimes, I think things happen a certain way just so they can go in this diary.
Today was the day that my mom found out about The Big Job. I'm not sure if I mentioned The Big Job in here, and truth be told I really hope I didn't, because it's the kinda job where her son keeping an online journal where he excoriates Republicans and talks frankly about all the naughty things I talk about might prevent her from getting it. It is, technically, a government job, and the government in question is decidedly a conservative Republican one.
My mother wanted this job. It took her a long time to admit that to herself. She loves the job she currently has and was concerned about leaving it when she wasn't sure her minions were ready to function on their own. She even considered dropping out of competition for the job, relenting only when the people on the search committee begged her with sugar on top to stay in the running. She had come a long way to make it this far, and was thus a bundle of nerves throughout today.
Now, if there is one trait that doesn't run in our family, it's modesty. While some of us have self-deprecating senses of humor, our witty put-downs about ourselves mask a streak of vanity that requires measurement in light years. We're about as self-effacing as a supernova. If we think we are good at something, we have no problem telling total strangers all about it. I certainly have no problem admitting to everyone what great massages I give, and what fine cocktails I prepare, and that I'm awesome in bed. My mother is much the same.
Whether she was willing to admit it or not, my mother had invested a lot of vanity in this process. After every interview, she called me to tell me how much she "rocked," in her own words. Every hurdle was leaptover with the grace of an Olympian, every obstacle overcome with elegance and dexterity. She may not have come out and said she was the most qualified for the job, but she did say that anyone who had done better than her certainly deserved the position, which in my family's language means that she was not only the most qualified for the job, but that she would only accept the position if they hired a skywriter to ask her.
This didn't mean that she wasn't pacing when I arrived at the hotel downtown where she was waiting for The Big Phone Call. I was to be her official date for the press conference were she to win the position, and I would be the one to buy her a drink were she to lose it. I had my suit on a hanger in my hand, not wanting to jinx her chances by putting it on beforehand, and I had miraculously found a parking meter across the street from her hotel that still had a whole hour left on it, which would easily last me until the meters got shut off at 5:30pm.
Thus began the waiting game. According to my mother, the winner would receive a call between 5:30 and 5:45pm. The winner would then go to the aformentioned press conference. The losers would be notified immediately afterwards, and would get only another night's stay at the hotel as their consolation prize. I arrived at 4:50pm and tried to read my book as she paced, smoked, flipped channels, and smoked some more, my mother having chain-smoked maybe a grand total of three times in her life.
Then 5:30pm rolled around. Then 5:45pm. At about 5:50pm she abruptly exclaimed, "It's over!"
I didn't know quite what to do. Truth be told I had been worried that this would happen ever since she told me that the committee had said they were very "impressed" with her. "Impressed" sounded to me like something one said to the runner-up.
I told her not to lose heart, that the decision was large enough that they probably hadn't finished on time, but as time rolled on all I could do was give her big hugs and tell her that it was their loss.
She handled it very well. I could tell, though, the she was disappointed. I don't think she intended to break down in tears, but I knew there would be some heavy sighing as soon as she got home.
She said, "You know, it's okay. I'm okay with not getting it."
I gave her a smile and said, "Yeah, I know, but it still sucks." She laughed and gave me a big hug.
We decided that we would give them until 7pm and then go grab some consolation food. When 7pm arrived with no phone call, we headed a few blocks down to Cuba Libre. Mom decided to go ahead and check out of the hotel, and they brought her car around, even though the restaurant was only five blocks away. We managed to get another miraculous parking spot along the way, and as we walked the few feet to the door she began making phone calls to friends and co-workers telling them the bad news.
I decided she needed to indulge, so I ordered the plantain chips and the spinach artichoke dip for our appetizers, and the shrimp-stuffed jalapenos and the fried oysters for her meal. I tried to get her to have a mojito, but she said that, as she was going to be driving home tonight, she'd stick to diet coke.
After I got my mojito, Mom's phone rang: "Yes? . . . Hi Nancy, we--what? . . . I'm at a restaurant . . . well I thought . . . but you all were supposed to call by 5:45! (at which point I start laughing hysterically and clapping like a maniac) . . . well, we're . . . no I checked out of the hotel . . . yes . . . yes, we can be there in a few minutes . . . did I? . . . you can't? . . . well, I changed out of my clothes . . . I'll just use the bathroom . . . okay . . . we'll be there."
My mom hung up the phone. "We gotta go now!" I asked her if she'd gotten the job, but they had refused to tell her over the phone. I said that if they were bringing her back to the hotel to tell her that someone else got it, I would kill them all with my bare hands.
On the way out I grabbed our waitress and told her to cancel our food. She charged us only for the drinks and I gave her a 100% tip for the drinks we'd had. As an afterthought, I raced back to the table and drank down my mojito in 10 seconds.
Of course, my mother wanted me to drive. Fortunately, I have decent tolerance, because those mojitos don't play.
I dropped her off on the corner by the building. I had to pull over so that she could open the trunk and retrieve her outfit that she had taken off thinking she no longer needed it, promising me that she'd find a bathroom and change there. In the meantime, I once again managed to find a superb parking space (the gods were with us) and I then raced back to my car to grab my suit that I had taken back to the car before we went to dinner. As I got closer to the car I noticed that, in my disappointment earlier on, I had left my dress shoes on the roof of the car, and they had miraculously not been stolen. I pulled off my sandals and put shoes and socks on right there on the Austin sidewalk, after which I gathered up my suit, carefully making sure that I had left nothing on top of the car, and I headed back to the building that my mom had gone into.
I was stopped by a security guard on the way in. I breathlessly explained to him that I was the son of the woman who had just run in here with a suit in her hands. Eventually he figured out who I was referring to and he directed me to the 9th floor. When I got out of the elevator, I was in a room full of people. I tried to make it to a bathroom to change but yet another security guard stopped me. He asked me who I was. I told him whose son I was and he immediately dragged me out of the room and into the adjacent hallway.
"I'm sorry I had to do that," he said, "but you just leaked the name of the person who got The Big Job to the press."
Perfect. I felt like I was on a bad episode of The West Wing.
The guard ushered me into an empty conference room where I started laughing again at the ridiculousness of my situation. When the guard returned, he led me to a bathroom where I could change and when I emerged clad in my fabulous suit, I saw my mother being announced as the newest person to take on The Big Job.
I was so happy for her. She totally deserved it.
Of course, at this point she went into a private meeting with the board of directors. Now, the announcement of The Big Job had been broadcast to various newsrooms and over the web. When they went into their executive meeting to talk about the various problems and scandals my mother would have to handle as she took over The Big Job, they kinda sorta forgot to, you know, turn their microphones off.
At least this wasn't my fault. It really was like a bad episode of The West Wing.
Once they had figured out that they were spilling silos full of beans, they realized that all they could do was handle it at the big press conference. My mother, of course, had to field some questions about it, but she handled everything with sincerity and poise. A woman leaned over to me and said, "Your mom handled that so well."
"She's the best," I said. It's something everyone in the room knew.
Afterwards, we headed back to Cuba Libre, and over our excessive meal my mother let go enough to have a margarita and let a couple of tears fall about how much The Big Job meant to her. I just smiled at her and told her what she already knew: that she was going to kick major ass.
Tomorrow, she'll head out to take a tour of The Big Job and I will head to San Antonio to make sure our pets haven't eaten one another. I'll also get to start figuring out what to do with all my possessions, because we will now have to sell our house. It's going to be weird not having my usual home to come back to, but it seems like a fitting way for my mom and I to get started on the next stage of our lives. We both have huge challenges ahead that we're looking forward to.
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