Mar 4, 2012
'Good morning, Southern California,' intoned the voice over the radio and I smiled, wondering how those deejays always managed to sound so chipper.
'It's a beautiful day in San Diego – 72 degrees at 7:23 in the morning and going up to a high of 85 this afternoon. If you're heading out to Ocean Side or Laguna Beach, we've got a light onshore breeze which should give you peaks of about six feet. Surf's up!'
I signaled, shifted and cut to the left, my low-slung, silver Audi gliding effortlessly around a sluggish delivery van as the music came on. 'The Tornadoes', I thought happily – 'beautiful' and the car's interior filled with the jangling chords of a heavily reverbed Stratocaster. My thumbs drummed contentedly with the simple beat against the steering wheel. Moments later, as the brief flirtation with carefree summer, sand and surf faded, the car phone trilled and the radio was automatically muted.
'Penny,' said the synthetic, female voice.
“Answer,” I commanded and the call came through.
“Good morning, sir.” The call was from my assistant, Penny Richards.
“Good morning, Penny,” I responded, smiling. “Are you already in?”
“Yes, sir. I just got in and it looks like you have a busy day lining up.”
“Busier than usual, Penny?”
I heard her laugh over the line and the sound was bright and enthusiastic.
“Maybe just a tad.” She began to rhyme off chapter and verse of a number of urgent requests to my department.
“Oh! And you have a project status report presentation to the CEO at 8:30.”
“Did Javier get the presentation ready for me yesterday?”
“Yes, sir. Your USB and notes are right here for when you come in.”
“Perfect,” I commended. “I should be there at about 8. Line up the new requests and we'll knock'em down when I get there. Thank you, Penny.”
“Thank you, sir. We'll see you soon.”
The line automatically cut and the radio returned to its previous volume. Hearing some manner of unintelligible hiphop, I turned it off and, rolling down the window, offered myself a cigarette.
I never ceased to be amazed at my life because, in reality, I couldn't conceive of how I had arrived here nor find a logic in it.
I continued to guide the thrumming Audi through dense traffic, not allowing my own thoughts to distract me from that task and, noticing my turn-off into downtown San Diego, I signaled and started to move right. The smoke curled from my mouth and was whisked from the window on the warm breeze.
Life is, I reasoned, the product of one's own mind and imagination; there always being the possibility that the outcome is actually what you intended it to be. It depends not a little on what is desired to create and the building blocks that are put in place to achieve a particular end. That process, however, can take years of coaxing.
The reason for my confusion was a simple one: I had little or no idea of who or what I was from any external perspective. Instead, I had filled any number of personae over the preceding 40 plus years – from academic to artist – and, in business today, no one is looking for unique talents and skills to bring to the table but, rather, an individual who has been groomed with specific skills to fill one specific niche. I, on the other hand and despite how it may sound, had never allowed myself to be limited by my own ignorance: when I needed to learn a language, I learnt it; likewise with advanced statistics or population genetics – I simply bought the books and studied. Similarly, I had conceived that, in any sort of creative endeavour, only the imagination and vision can be lacking. I became convinced that there is nothing in particular – other than self - to stop any individual from being successful at what they put their mind to.
Unfortunately, my eclectic background had left me isolated from the mainstream workforce, depressed and severely under-employed for many years - with only a fraction of my skills being challenged.
I calmly extinguished the cigarette in the ashtray while following the steady stream of cars down the off-ramp and into the heart of the city. With only a few turns into the maze of one-way streets, I would bump into the parking lot of the nondescript research facility and, ascending the 10 floors to my office, find a fresh pot of coffee brewing, courtesy of my wonderful assistant, Penny. My mind was already beginning to buzz with excitement for the possibilities of the day and I smiled with inner contentment.
Throughout that period of malaise, I had persisted in my course of action; attempting to build a portfolio of creative work that would distinguish me in some regard. I came to recognise that, at least for me, creativity in research, writing or artwork were facets of a single creative need – that how it was directed made little difference to me intellectually. When I saw the job posting for a corporate communications manager, it seemed that it had been written for me and, as the selection process began, I continually took the printed page from my pocket to re-read, wondering how it had been possible for such a position to materialise. That was then.
With my tablet already on and logging in to the wireless network, I swung through the logo-etched, glass doors of the IntelliSeach Corporation (The 'Eureka' in Market Research!) and the comic 'light-bulb' icon made me smile, setting us off, as it did, from our more dire and serious competitors. Penny, as usual, did not disappoint and, as I doffed my jacket, she was already in action.
“Here's your presentation and notes; put it in the pocket of your jacket. Your coffee is on your desk.”
“Yes, ma'am,” I responded, following her instructions.
“The new requests are lined up chronologically by deadline.”
“Yup,” I said, sitting and getting into focus. I scribbled notes on the first priority and passed it back to her. “Give it to Shane and have him see me...,” I quickly scanned my schedule, “...with a preliminary work-up at 3.”
“OK. What about London on Wednesday?”
“No problem. Can you pass by my apartment tomorrow afternoon and pack my case for two days?”
“Thank you. I'll leave word with Maria to make a good supper for you to take home to Glen.”
Penny beamed and I scribbled more notes.
“This is another presentation for Javier – he'll have my notes by 8:30 and I'll need to see it ready by first thing on Friday morning when I get back from London. Get me the client file. Is there anything else?”
“That's it – I'll get you the file.”
We paused, both collecting our breath. I took a sip of coffee and studied her.
“Have I told you that you're a great assistant, Penny?”
She thought for a moment and then responded.
“Yesterday afternoon, sir.”