Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ain't That Just My Luck

Well, I've had a little "adventure."

Those who know me, know that "adventure" is my code word for anything bad that has happened or, in more colorful terms, a "WTF!" moment.

In the beginning of my career, the managers had all attended a seminar on positive thinking. The root of changing your thinking from negatie to positive comes in the words you use to describe what happens to you. "Problems" become "Challenges" or "Opportunities", becoming "Overwhelmed" or "Stressed" becomes "In High Demand,"  being "Lost" becomes an "Adventure."  Get it? I was not in management at that time, but rememeber all our managers walking around correcting others when they used a negative description. It was hard not to pick up.

So this was a Challenge that put me In High Demand.

The Big Boss (i.e. My Bosses Boss) has retired after 32 years with our company.

The company threw a lovely retirement party downtown in an event space, open only to members, called The Summit Club.   The Summit Club sits on the 31st and 32nd floors of Birmingham's Regions Harbert Plaza. The building is affectionately known around town as "The Ghostbuster's Building" based on it's art deco styling, and being the second tallest building in the city.

                      Regions Harbert Plaza    \/

Now if you look, just to the right of the RHP, you will see a short beige building with lots of windows. That is a building called Park Place Towers. I know, not exactly towering but it is on Park Place.  Between PPT and RHP sits a parking garage, used by both buildings.

The cocktail reception started at 6pm, with dinner at 7pm. As someone who gets turned around pretty easily in the city, with it's one way streets and constant construction, I was at RHP at 5:30pm. I was already apprehensive about attending this event given it was going to be outside my "safe zone."

I try not to go anywhere above the 5th floor. This was pre-911 too.  Did you know the average fire and rescue hook-and-ladder truck can only reach the fifth floor of your typical office building? Well, now you do. And I bet you will think about it next time you travel above that fifth floor, at least once.That never bothered me before either, until I found that out. Now it is a constant, nagging thought, that I fight, along with the ensuing panic attack. I was trying not to think about it all day long.

It was a good thing that I was early. I had driven around the block twice trying to find the entrance to this parking deck, that was tucked in an alley on the other side of the building. I parked my car on the second floor of the Sixth Avenue side and hurried across the street.

Elevators have always freaked me out. I have quite a history of unfortunate events surrounding elevators, and many coworkers have been on hand to witness them because it usually happened at our company Sales Meeting. Like not being able to het my suitcase on a full car, the doors closing between us.  I rode down and my suitcase was left orphaned floors above, or the heel of my shoe being hopelessly stuck in the space between the floor and the car, making everyone trapped along with me late for dinner. Or becoming trapped for close to two hours in the hotel elevator trying. By the way, if that should happen to you in the Birmingham-metro area, do not panic when they inform you that "the fire department is on the way." Apparently firemen are the only ones trained to operate elevators.

The elevator ride was harrowing. These particular elevators skip floors two through fifteen, servicing only floors sixteen through thirty-two. The first part of the ride is a short, quick burst. Once it reached the sixteenth floor, the car shook violently, and continued to do so as it passed each floor. I was caught so off guard I let out a loud, audible yelp. The fellow in the elevator eyed me suspiciously. He must have been a frequent flyer.  When we finally reached the 31st floor, it was all I could do not to kiss the marble floor.

I could feel the building swaying, but tried not to think about it. I was 26 floors above my "safe zone" and trying not to panic, or at least, let on that I was panicking. Another semi-retired long term employee, "Old Tom" was already, helping set up the presentation. He motioned for me to come to the (gulp) window.

After a few minutes of staring out the window at I-20/59 passing by the Civic Center and the Alabama School of Fine Arts, winding onto I-65, and I was aclimated to my height. Since I am deathly afraid of heights, this was an accomplishment. A few rum and pineapples also helped.

The party was fun, as many retirees were in attendance. Many had not seen me in quite a while and complimented me on my weight loss. Big Bosses children, all having once worked for the company as well, were most complimentary. There were speeches, sharing memories, a few tears, a few senior moments and even one coreographed cheer.

Everyone said their goodbyes and I prepared myself for the zipline elevator ride to the ground floor. Several coworkers rode down with me, all familiar with my luck with elevators ("Should we be  riding this elevator with Joy?!" one had quipped) and we made our way out in to the lobby.

As I exited the building, I saw the gates closed and locked on the parking deck. My car, lights peeping out over the second floor barrier, looked like a puppy trapped in a fence. That was when I saw the sign. At the bottom of the sign that outlined the parking rates (in the same size and color font I might add) it read "Lot closes at 6pm."

Ain't that just my luck?!  Feet firmly on the ground, I panicked.

The Numero Uno Executive Assistant To The President was opening her car across the street. She asked if I was okay.  I explained my plight.  She accompanied me back inside to speak to the security guard at RHP. He was really helpful....not.  A no-nonsense Yankee, despite her many years in the South, told me to calm down, and that if she had to, she would drive me home and then come get me bright and early to get my car.

That is when the President and CEO of my multimillion dollar nationally-branded company exited the elevators across from us. You know that you have a President and CEO that cares about his people when he takes the time to call you by your name. Numero Uno explained what was happening, pointing across to the parking deck.  "We will find someone" he announced and stormed out the doors into the street. He surveyed the situation and declared that there must be someone on the other side of the building. Off he marched down the block and disappeared around the corner. At nearly 9pm. Alone, In downtown Birmingham.

As I stood there, I saw a telephone number for security on the bottom of the same sign (same color font, even smaller letters) and called. The gentleman that answered told us to come to the other side of the building. Numero Uno and I got in her car and drove around the block. No sign of the Prez, but she had him call him to let him know where we were.

He answered in his bold voice, and I told him we were on the move. I don't think that he heard me, as he was obviously ordering someone to the gate. I really think he may have adult ADD. He was a 'make things happen" kind of person and when he was in "fix it" mode, he would not be distracted.

Phone to my ear, I could hear him calling my name out on the street. And I couldn't get him back to the phone to tell him we were coming back around the block.

When we got back around, there stood the Prez, hands clasped in front of him as if in prayer, and a very nervous-looking security guard. The gate was up and they were waiting for me. The Prez offered to pay for my parking, which I of course declined. He waited as the security guard escorted me to my car.  Despite the charge only being $10, the money from the register long collected, I gave the security guy my twenty, told him to keep the change as a tip (I've always wanted to do that) for his trouble and bid him adieu.

As I drove home, I thought what a lucky break this was. I didn't even think about the extra $10.

I thought about what a lucky girl I am to work for a company with people, at all levels, that care about each other.

No...not lucky...BLESSED


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