Monday, October 10, 2005

A B----- story

Good Morning, Blogstalkers!

Posted below is a piece I wrote in order to win a contest. B-----, in trying to promote the practice of vanpooling, is having a story contest, and top stories will be awarded $100 (it didn't say how MANY top stories there would be) so, in the true spirit of blogging, I posted it for comment and feedback. Say anything!

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I started riding the Vanpool in May, introduced to it by a man 30 years my senior.

This wasn't any different than anything I had done, so far, at B-----. Welcome to B-----! Meet your coworkers! See the pictures of your coworkers' kids! Realize that you're working with people who have kids older than you are! At first, it was a surprise, and then it became, like waking up early and commuting, just a part of the job. I revamped my wardrobe so that I wouldn't stand out, tired of people dropping what they were doing to gape at a Young Person walking by their desk. I wore smaller earrings, I stopped wearing makeup. I refrained from making pop-culture references and shooting my mouth off. I resigned myself to aging before my time. I thought about changing jobs.

And then, in May, four months after I started B-----, I started riding a vanpool. Filled, as my life had been so far, with people older than my parents, and (also not unusual for B-----) all male. Except for me. At first, I was shy, quiet. I dreaded getting on the vanpool in the morning—what would I say? Where would I sit? Was it customary to talk to the driver, or the guy sitting next to you? What if they thought I was weird?

A month went by. I learned the name of my van driver, and then I learned the name of his customary shotgun rider. I started to tutor the son of one of my co-riders, and I learned that not everyone around me was an engineer, like I was. I met HR people who explained snarly parts of B----- Policy to me, I met other women engineers—I even met other Young People!

Now the only thing that gets me up at 4:30 in the morning is looking forward to seeing that van every morning. I've changed vans since I started and now I ride with mainly women, which is often the only female contact I have all day, and it's surprising how necessary it is to my mental well-being. Now that I look back, I can see that sitting at my desk all day and staring at my computer was a fast track to depression and isolation; people need to be bounced around by the Brownian Motion of society. I've started putting on make up again, even at 4:30 in the morning!

I knew I had truly become a part of the B----- community when I was part of a conversation among the ladies in my vanpool a few mornings ago: "Every time I go into the cafeteria now, I’m shocked my all the kids at the tables!" One said. Said another, "I know! I always think, 'Is B----- having High School Visitation Day?'"

At first, I was profoundly insulted—I like to think I've finally moved beyond high school—and then I was honored. The ladies had forgotten my age! I pointed out that I was the same age as the "kids" they were maligning, and they rushed to my defense. "But you’re not like that," said a chorus of voices. "You’re not a typical new hire." While I appreciate the sentiment, that's not true—I know quite a few of the New Hires at the Developmental Center, and we're all pretty much the same—engineering school backgrounds, long hours, a habit of going out in Seattle on the weekends. But the ladies on the vanpool saw me as different because they had gotten to know me on a personal level, and I hope that their good impression of me, and the two other new hires in our vanpool program, might carry over to other new hires, promoting better relationships over the generation gap. I know they've certainly done that for me.

And the best example: a few nights ago, I was out for a quick beer on a Wednesday night, and as I walked through the door of my local tavern, a voice on my right hailed me. "Hey, [Aarwenn]!"

It was the man who, back in May, introduced me to the vanpool, and I hadn't seen him since. We talked for a few moments, and even though he mentioned meeting his daughter, who was indeed older than I was, I didn't feel any younger than the man in front of me. For all intents and purposes, we were identical—we worked for the same company, rode the same vanpool, and were even drinking the same beer. It was great, and I mentioned off-handedly that I was looking to seeing "my friends" on the vanpool tomorrow, possibly the first time I had ever used the term in that context.

How did I ever think I would never feel comfortable at B-----?

14 comments:

Erin said...

A - you forgot to "---" out the name of B----- in one paragraph.....

As far as submitting it.... I don't know. It could be that I'm a tad gun-shy from my current job about blatantly stating that I don't fit in (even though its the truth). I'm not sure it paints your coworkers and situation in the best light. Not that it isn't the truth - but you may want to be careful of the consequences if it gets published.

Aarwenn said...

Thanks for letting me know!

And, really? shoot. I thought it was a nice, heartwarming piece showing how a girl goes from feeling left out to realizing that all of us are the same, under the skin. And I thought it painted my coworkers in a great light! Am I crazy?

Erin said...

I could see that people would only remember the beginning of your story instead of the end. I dunno. You know your coworkers and corporate culture better than I do.

Aarwenn said...

I think you're right, reading over it. Now the first two paragraphs are much shorter and sound like this:

I started riding the Vanpool in May, introduced to it by a man 30 years my senior.

This wasn’t any different than anything I had done, so far, at Boeing. Welcome to Boeing! Meet your coworkers! See the pictures of your coworkers’ kids! Realize that you’re working with people who have kids older than you are! At first, it was a surprise, and then it became, like waking up early and driving on I-5, just a part of the job

And then, in May, four months after I started Boeing, I started riding a vanpool. At first, I was shy, quiet. I dreaded getting on the vanpool in the morning—what would I say? Where would I sit? Was it customary to talk to the driver, or the guy sitting next to you? What if they thought I was weird?

And then the rest is the same. What do you think?

Erin said...

I think that's much better :)

alex said...

Nice Brownian motion reference!

I think you should geek it up a bit. Say: Life at B--- is like a differentail equation, and the vanpool is the Laplace transform that allows you to work in s-space...it's much easier!

....or maybe not. :)

Aarwenn said...

Thanks, guys, and Alex, what's a differenTAIL equation? Is that like shaking your tail feather?

Erin--after I changed the first two paragraphs, some of the future references don't make sense, either, so I'm changing a few of those. I'm taking out the female vs. male sub-theme entirely--it takes away from the blurring-the-generation-divide theme, which should be front and center. Now the middle four paragraphs read like this:

This wasn’t any different than anything I had done, so far, at B-----. Welcome to B-----! Meet your coworkers! See the pictures of your coworkers’ kids! Realize that you’re working with people who have kids older than you are! At first, it was a surprise, and then it became, like waking up early and driving on I-5, just a part of the job

And then, in May, four months after I started B-----, I started riding a vanpool. At first, I was shy, quiet. I dreaded getting on the vanpool in the morning—what would I say? Where would I sit? Was it customary to talk to the driver, or the guy sitting next to you? What if they thought I was weird?

A month went by. I learned the name of my van driver, and then I learned the name of his customary shotgun rider. I started to tutor the son of one of my co-riders, and I learned that not everyone around me was an engineer, like I was. I met HR people who explained snarly parts of B----- Policy to me, I met other women engineers—I even met other Young People!

Now the only thing that gets me up at 4:30 in the morning is looking forward to seeing that van every morning. Looking back, I can see that sitting at my desk all day and staring at my computer was a fast track to depression and isolation; people need to be bounced around by the Brownian Motion of society. I knew I had truly become a part of the B----- community when I was part of a conversation among the ladies in my vanpool a few mornings ago: “Every time I go into the cafeteria now, I’m shocked my all the kids at the tables!” One said. Said another, “I know! I always think, ‘Is B----- having High School Visitation Day?”

kt said...

erin had some good comments.

i am struggling now with the whole age gap thing. on one hand, i AM still young. i'm nearly the youngest in the office, i've only been working 5 years (but only have ~2 years of REAL experience since my last company was worthless). yet, at 27, i'm at the point where I think I need to start being careful about how i act/what i say..

and it's hard! because i'm constantly questioning myself. did i say the right thing? did my face show how utterly bored i was at that meeting. does hightailing it out of here at 5pm make me look bad? The younger me wouldn't give a f*ck and could get away with it. i'm fighting with myself because i want to stay young, and hope that a youthful personality will put others at ease, make my job more fun, and possibly even work in my favor since i won't be considered boring. but i also want my bosses to know that i'm capable of handling clients and projects.

it's all about balancing right now.. and i feel like i'm going to topple over.

Shananigans said...

I think the revisions you made are good. You’re right; it’s better and more streamlined to just focus on the one blurring-the-generation-divide theme. It can be really hard to be the young ‘un in the office. I can’t decide if I should feel patronized or encouraged when people comment that I do an “exceptional job” and say how I’m “really on top of things” especially because I’m new to the agency and “so young”. Again with the trying to figure out exactly what someone else is thinking. I need to develop some telepathy skills here. Good luck! I hope you win the contest.

Aarwenn said...

Thanks, y'all! Having three business women--two of them actual engineers--give me really in-depth feed back just makes my day and makes me more likely to win the contest! Woo!

And, kt, this is why we need to be business partners. We wouldn't HAVE to worry about being young, there!

kt said...

i'm dead serious about being business partners.

like, totally.

although i'll be the old fart since you're WAY younger than me!!! =)

Aarwenn said...

Dude, by a whole 2.5 years. I turn 25 in just two months. And you're still comfortably 27, right? That's not WAY anything! Look for my email. :)

GlitterGlamGirl05 said...

Aww...I got the warm and fuzzies

Aarwenn said...

Sweet, thank you, Glitter!