Saturday, January 25, 2014

To Braid or Not to Braid- That is the Question

When people ask me how I ended up living in Columbia, South Carolina, I tell them I moved here for a great job opportunity, which is only part of the story.

The truth is, I’m here because of a French Braid.   

In fact, the entire course of my life was altered because of that damn braid.

Flash back to June, 1982.  Bowling Green, Ohio.  I was fresh out of grad school, eager to land a job in the real world.  I had an interview with the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency at 10:00 the next morning.

It was my dream job.  Leo Burnett was one of the top advertising agencies in the country, and they were looking for a statistical research analyst. That job had my name written all over it.

And it was at Leo Burnett!  

The creative geniuses behind the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Keebler Elves!   They were the stinkin’ Super Bowl winners in the Advertising space.  And I was going to work for them!

My new navy blue interview suit hung over my closet door.  My red silk blouse was ironed.  I’d even invested in a new pair of panty hose. 

Remember those?

OMG.  I was so excited.  All I had to do was go to bed, wake up, drive ½ hour to Toledo, hop on a plane, take a cab to Leo Burnett’s downtown office, and impress the interview team with my brilliance.  Simple.

The French Braid was my idea.  I thought I would look more professional if my hair was braided.  My friend Janet O. came over that night to braid it, tucking ever loose hair in place, generously applying hair spray to maximize the hold.  

I looked fantastic.  How could they not hire me?  Amazing brain, killer suit, and rockin’ French Braid.  I went to bed, taking great care not to mess up my rockin’ French Braid.

I’m a side sleeper, but I quickly discovered that sleeping on one’s side is not conducive to keeping a French Braid intact.   I could feel the braid begin to loosen. 

So I rolled to my back, carefully placing the braid flat on the pillow before joining it.

It felt like I was laying atop a beer bottle.   Made of rock.

I attempted some creative pillow origami, placing one pillow on either side of my head, with the beer bottle braid wedged between them.  If I could remain perfectly still, the rockin’ stinkin’ French Braid would survive the night.  

As you might imagine, it was a wee bit difficult to fall asleep in this position, and with every tick of the clock I became more and more anxious.  At about midnight I drove to an all night pharmacy to buy Sominex (AKA Tylenol PM of the olden days).  

The clerk complimented me on my hair.

Sadly, the Sominex did not work. In fact, I never slept a wink until the plane took off for Chicago.  I slept for 43 minutes, the length of the flight.  And in the cab on the way to my interview. 
I somehow pulled it together and kicked some ass in the morning interviews, running on pure adrenalin.   It was at lunch when things started going downhill, or more accurately, where the fatal crash and burn occurred.  

The manager of the analytics team asked me a series of technical questions.  I became less and less coherent with each question.  

I was in a fog.  For all I know, she was asking, “What is 2 plus 5?" 

“Could you please repeat the question?”

“What is 2 plus 5?”

“Um, yes I learned that in my Applied Statistics program.  I love that kind of problem.  It has something to do with the normal distribution.  Or a table of random numbers.  Or maybe a French Braid?”

Then I started performing my Multicollinearity Rap.  

OK, I didn’t really sing my Multicollineariy Rap, but I probably would have if I had written it by then. 

It was the worst interview in the history of interviews.  I suppose it could have been worse.  I never threw up.

But my French Braid was lovely.  Not a hair out of place.

About a month later I interviewed at Miller Brewing Company for another amazing job.  I did not braid my hair and, although I didn't look as "professional", I landed the position.  

And I met Dave.  And we had kids.  And I changed jobs. Which led to my job in Florida.  Which led to my job in Columbia, where I got involved in the theatre community.  Which got me writing this blog.

And, at the risk of sounding hokey, I'm glad I wore my hair in a French Braid for that interview.

The more I think about it, those Keebler Elves are kind of creepy.

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