PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Reflex

What I'm going to write about isn't :that: serious. It isn't like Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, where a soldier comes home from war. Or even being in a serious accident. But I opened up one of my numerous marketing emails today (having deleted all the ones that arrived over the holidays, because seriously, I would not be able to get anything done if I just read the daily news.) And there, the first article in the summary email, was a little write up about how a former client of mine (at an old job) was relaunching their brand and their new spokesperson and blah blah blah blah, and ordinarily I read that stuff with some interest, maybe click through, whatevs, jobs and clients do ebb and flow, come and go, and while I try my darndest to come up with a revolutionary idea on all my accounts, sometimes you just part ways. Like people you dated in college. But this client? This client scarred me.

This was a piece of business that seemed fantastic and exciting and wonderful and it was quickly discovered to be a shiny thin veneer of 24k gold that belied an evil below the surface, a tar baby of a project, that required vast amounts of atypical work and unreasonable deadlines. This would be when I worked under the person who habitually disappeared for hours (or the rest of the day) and basically did as little work as possible while making life hell for everyone under her. So as I describe this, know that I was out there at the edge of the plank already, unsupported and alone.

The project involved trading trips for advertising. With very little cash, mostly trade. If you've ever worked on trade, you have already flinched a little yourself. But we're talking certificates beyond just "you can stay here for 4 nights". This involved airfare (they had their own airline service), and then free nights at one of several hotels/resorts. The value of each resort was different. The value of the airfare was different from each departing city. There were - oh god, I've blanked so much out - maybe 17 markets? And we entered into trade agreements with every cable system in each market, parsing out packages and flights and oh, did I mention they had expiration dates, too? and it was all in exchange for advertising time. And the client changed their needs, expectations, and mind every other day.

This project required multiple daily conversations with my national cable sales rep, Joe. Joe and I were the lone paddlers in this boat, because at this point, not only did nobody else want to touch it, nobody else could even do it, what with the elaborate spreadsheets and our Rain-Man-esque ability to calculate various configurations of resort stays and flights from all the different cities. Our friendship was seared and sealed in the blood, sweat and tears we shed working on this project. We found our own strange coping mechanisms - singing, using funny voices (he does a Gay Cuban like nobody's business). One of the markets was Miami, and when he would call about issues in that market, he was always starting out with the MY JAMMIES, We have to figure out MY JAMMIES, Chennifer. Oh god. It was just brutal. I altered a poster of the movie Waterboy to have his face on it and renamed the movie "BarterBoy" and it hung on his door for the rest of his tenure with that company.

So of course, when I found myself seeing my client's name in print, and caught myself reflexively wincing and moving my head sideways away from the screen?

I sent him the article immediately.

I wish we'd never had to go through that hell, but I know one thing for certain. He will be my friend until death. We were In Country together and we got out alive. I'm still blinking a little bit, just traveling down memory lane. But smiling, too, because we at least found a way to survive, together, and get some laughs in - because there was no other choice except to cry, and it all kind of fits with where I'm trying to put my head in 2008. To be happier. To be less sad. To manage the Very Large Pain that has stayed with me, to laugh more than cry. I'm not exactly sure how to do it yet? But I'm going to start with a phone call to my buddy Joe and schedule lunch.

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posted by PlazaJen, 4:31 PM