May 14, 2008

Que Sera, Sera

I can't find Rachel Hunter. I was fully prepared to take a header off her head.

I got the email today, the "Thank you but no" one. *insert Gallic shrug* "Life," as my syster likes to say, "goes on." There's other jobs, other places. I still love my trains (as evinced by my taking several snaps of the local bringing a long string of brand new UTLX tank cars back to the yard today.*) I simply won't be working on them.

Not being the sort of person who points to signs and portents with a gasp and a quick defensive gesture I'm not going to say that it was ill-omened, because it wasn't. It was sheer coincidence that I had a panic trying to find the key to my brother's truck (my sister-in-law had moved the truck and moved the key, also.) I won't say that being stuck in what seemed like an eternally long line at McDonald's was a warning that perhaps this wasn't my day.

What I might point to in the "could have been a warning sign" was the fact that I arrived for my interview EXACTLY on time.

You see, I'm one of those people who suffer from chronic punctuality. I was raised to believe in the ancient axiom "On time is late" and so I usually strive to be at an appointed place ten to fifteen minutes early. Naturally it was with intense mortification that I watched the "Arrival Time" counter on the GPS stay firmly nailed to 3:01 pm for the duration of the trip, no matter how much I tried to press the speed. Granted, I COULD have made it much earlier but the 5-oh patrol those byways very heavily, so I sped in a very restrained manner.

Walked into the building just as the interviewers were walking out to see if I was there. Performed the necessary paperwork (release of info, background check, pint of blood) and did a quick detour for ablutions (I hadda pee) and went into the Baton Rouge Yardmaster's office.

It's funny. Over the years I've gotten very good at interviews. I know the right body language. I spent the entire time leaned forward in the chair, my open posture showing a receptive nature. Every time one or the other looked up from their notes at me they found my gaze meeting theirs with just the hint of a smile. Not challenging but welcoming. It also didn't hurt that they used the exact same interview system that was used on me just over three years ago when I interviewed for my current position at Very Big Home Health. I scored a possible 5 points out of 5 on that interview. I'm certain I scored the same because they asked the exact same questions. I'm even pretty sure I gave the exact same answers as I did three years ago.

They asked a few off-the-cuff questions designed to catch me out, which I batted back with aplomb. "What do you think is the most important part of a conductor's job?" Wow, could you give me a tough one? "Safety." Along with a detailed explanation on why. I swear, I need to teach a damned course on how to get through interviews. One of the interviewers even went so far as to walk me out and complimented me on my interview, my maturity, my obvious intelligence and my appearance (I guess I was the only guy thus far to come in wearing a polo shirt and slacks. Maybe it was the elegant moustache that won his attentions? *shrug*)

When it was all said and done I went home with a head-full of information and another two hour drive ahead of me.

In that two hour drive home I thought a great deal about what was told to me. That evening I talked it out with Mrs. I and I batted it around my head even more. I weighted and I analyzed and I came to the conclusion that the amount of time I was told I'd spend away from my family simply wasn't worth the eventual monetary gains. I was told that I'd work sometimes as much as three or four weeks straight without a day off. I was told that I'd be many states away from home for the better part of a week every week. Staring out I'd be the low man on the totem pole in an industry where "seniority is everything" and as such I'd get ALL the shite jobs. The nights. The weekends. The holidays. The bad jobs, the hard jobs. The distant jobs. The hire rate, I was told after I asked, was on average once every six months so it would literally be years before I had any sort of pull.

I had a long hard talk with myself before I fell asleep that night and decided that it simply wasn't worth it to watch my daughter grow up in jumps and spurts rather than in a long, slow progression of days. I'd rather see her grow slowly rather than watch her as though I were watching snippets of a movie stuck on a staccato fast-forward. If that means I'll eventually have to be a greeter at Wal-Mart at age 65 then so be it. So, I wrote a very nice, politely worded email to the HR rep asking that my application be withdrawn from consideration.

About an hour later I got the generic, official "Thanks but no thanks" email. Maybe the job went to a guy who doesn't have a family, or doesn't care to be home with them. I hope he enjoys the job. Maybe one day I'll wave and take his picture as he rolls by.

But it's okay. It wasn't, as Schmoopie said, meant to be. I learned a lot more about the job I thought I wanted, and I realised something much more important: I've got a LOT of friends scattered out across the country who know me only by my words and pictures and occasional foray into radio broadcasting. Those friends care a great deal for me and want me to succeed and moreover, be happy. That knowledge, the sure and certain knowledge that you guys are out there rooting for me, THAT makes all the difference in the world.

Thank you.

Post scriptum: Weerelephant's choir group took first place in their out-of-town competition in Texas over the weekend. I was here to hug her when she got home. I'll be there with her tomorrow night when she has another competition locally. I'll be there to hand her a bundle of roses when she leaves the stage at her tenth year dance recital later this month, just as I've been there each of the prior nine years. I'll be there when she steps back off the airplane from spending the summer in Oregon with her Mom in August.

By gods I'll be here for her.



Rudi said...

Q: What's large, grey, and matters very much to Weerelephant, Mrs I. and a rag tag collection of odd balls across the galaxy of the net.

Yeah, I'm talk'n to you Irrelephant.

Stucco said...

You'll feel better tomorrow when my package arrives at your place (hopefully in one piece).

Besides, who's to say that you working for the railroad isn't like me becoming a gynochiatrist? It'd surely kill the mystique.

Gordo said...

Being there for your family is an excellent place to be.

Stucco's right, I used to be way more in awe of sysadmins before I became one.

Oh, what a load of crap. Nobody's in awe of us. ;-)

Jean said...

We'll always have Paris...


Stucco said...

also - have a look: Train stuff in Russia

Schmoopie said...

It sounds like you made the right call for you (and definitely weerelephant!)

All my best to you :)

meno said...

Oh daddy, you think the right thoughts.

Clowncar said...

I've never heard the sobriquet Weerelephant before. Sweet. Then again, I'd never heard of ablutions either.

I think you made the right call there. Being there to hug the wee one as she returned from victory is exsctly the right post script for this story.

Having said that, I'm also sorry your dream job didn't come through.

I have found - finally - a crucial difference in our personalities. I strongly believe that "late is on time."

Mona Buonanotte said...

I'm so proud of you!

Just wanted to yell that out.

You made the best decision possible...that sweet girl of yours will be grown before you know it, and you're too good a dad to let that jumpy motion picture of hers be your only link.

Like you, I believe that 'on time is late'. Got that from my parents, who set all our clocks 10 minutes ahead, so even when we were late, we were early.

If you can't find Rachel Hunter, will we do?

Maggie said...

You're a good man. Rare and good.

Nancy Dancehall said...

You made the right choice. And the right thing will still come along for you. In the meantime keep snapping those pics of trains.

Irrelephant said...

Rudi, if I were religious I'd say I was blessed or some such like that. As it is I am humbled that I have earned such friends as you all.

You're quite right, Stucco. I thought about that yesterday a lot, listening to the far-off horns across the bayou. And the box arrived with it's lagniappe! You sir are one in a million.

Gordo, I need to find a story for you, I thiiiink it was Gene Wolfe wrote it, called (again, I'm sure I'm close but not on the money) "When SysAdmins Ruled The World." FUNNY stuff!

Ah, Paris. *muah* I recall Paris very well, my dear Jean. You wore blue. The German army wore grey.

Schmoopie, I can't help but feel like I passed a big node, a very important crossing (as it were) in my life. I'm thinking it was the right one, but honestly I'll never really know, will I? *s* That's the trick of it all--we don't get to see the other outcomes.

That almost sounds wonderfully filthy, meno. Almost. *lol*

CC, I think it's really what I need to do, no question about it. I'm glad you like my little term for her...I know I haven't written about the family in a while. In blogging as in my work life I find myself keeping a curtain drawn between family and the rest of the world. It's an unconcious thing, and worth digging into when I have time.

I have a friend who seems to keep his own timetable, who for whom "on time" is "whenever I get there." We call the clock he lives on "Micah Time" because it's only applicable to him.

Mona, you're a complete dear, you know that? And yes, I think you guys will definitly do. With Rachel I've got a wonderful place to leap off from but with you guys I have a safe place to land.

Maggie, you're making me blush. *s*

Thank you, Nancy. With support like the support I get from you all I cannot do otherwise. And you know I'll never stop photographing those steely beasties. *S*

Rudi said...

OMG, I just read When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth by Cory Doctorow. That rocked and spooked me.

Now I gotta go back a do my sysadmin work!

Queen Kong Rules!

Joan of Argghh! said...

What a fine and terribly honorable thought process you walked yourself through, and how admirably sweet was its conclusion.

The Unknowables, for all their promise of romance, are very rarely as regrettable as the Should-haves.

Batgirl said...

I think you made the right decision, hon. The Batman worked out of town for the first 3 years of our marriage and missed out on a lot of firsts with our first born. There were times when I could tell it was killing him that something had changed in her and he missed it. When you're around your children all the time, the changes aren't as intensly noticeable, but to one that's gone frequently, it's heartbreaking. It wasn't unusual for me to act like some things were done for the first time when he was home, just so he can get that little flutter that I felt when I saw her do something for the first time. It's a great sacrifice to be away from your family for days at a time. Now you know that it's something you can admire from afar, and if you never went for it, you would have always wondered 'what if'.

Mother of Invention said...

Sounds like you have your priorities in the right place. Worth way more than $$$.

Irrelephant said...

Rudi, that's it, you found it! I'd forgotten it was C.D. Isn't it hilarious?

Joan, you summed up nicely in one line what it took me paragraphs to do. *smile* Well done, and thank you for sharing your own troubles with me.

BG, I actually talked briefly to a conductor yesterday morning, and reaffirmed my decision. He hadn't been home in days, and tho he seemed okay with that I can only imagine he doesn't have kids waiting on him.

Kids vs decision needed there, MoI. *big smile* I'm happy with what I've done.