Ritual Confessions

February 21, 2008

Last night’s story, continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 5:48 am

A few weeks into this little campaign, a guy named George responded to my Craigslist post with a single, unpunctuated line:

Ok I am interested in your proof reading skill

There was no intended irony in his response. Beneath this sentence was his name, title, and phone number. I called and offered to proofread an initial document free of charge so that he could judge my work for himself. He e-mailed a client testimony; I edited it and sent it back. Over the phone, he told me I was hired; that we’d continue to send documents back and forth via e-mail; that he would pay me through PayPal.

“I really look forward to working with you,” I told him. “In the meantime, I’d love to drop by your office and meet you briefly. My experience has been that an in-person meeting helps me to better understand and impart the client’s message.”

The truth is, my experience has been that when I meet the client, I get more freelance work. There is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting when trying to build rapport. When I sit down with clients, look them in the eye, listen to them with obvious absorption, and project an attitude of careful attention and serious regard, they will usually feel more heard and understood and reassured than is ever possible after an electronic or telephone conversation. But George did not seem to need or want this.

“That’s not necessary,” he told me. “We can just e-mail back and forth.”

“I know it’s not strictly necessary,” I said, as lightly as I could. “It’s just something I like to do. It helps me with the process.”

“Well, don’t bother this time. I’m sure you’ll do a great job.”

“It won’t be a bother. I would really prefer it.”

“It’s just, we’re really busy over here.”

“I understand. And I’ll keep it very brief.”

We went back and forth several more times before he finally snapped, “All right! All right. If you think you absolutely have to come in, then fine, knock yourself out. I don’t see the point, though.”

“Great!” I said brightly. “What’s your address?”

After hanging up, I put on stockings, heels, and a little skirt suit. I then went out into a freezing blizzard and began making my way from the lower east side to midtown west. This involved a bus and then a subway, as well as several icy blocks on foot at either end. The address he’d given me was in a filthy, depressing part of town near the Port Authority, where junkies and other marginal types made up a disproportionate part of the street population. The building was run down; the walls in the lobby were crumbling. George’s company was on the fourth floor, and even before I reached his threshold, I could see that his space was little more than a hole in the wall.

I’m 34 years old, I thought. And I’m fighting tooth and nail just to get into this guy’s pathetic office. Suiting up and crossing town in a snowstorm, taking all this time and trouble, just for the sake of possibly getting a few more hours of freelance work. Stepping through the doorway, I felt weak with humiliation and defeat.

“Suite 400” might have been named for its square footage. It had industrial carpeting and a few crude cubicles. The walls probably hadn’t been painted in years. A row of grimy windows provided a view of the building’s airshaft.

In this small, dismal room were four men. One was an administrative assistant. One was the computer geek who would build the company’s proprietary server. One was George, who ended up teaching me everything I now know about business development, who helped me make more money in the subsequent two years than I’d ever seen before, and probably more than I’ll ever see again. And though I didn’t have even an inkling of it then, one of them was my husband.

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7 Comments »

  1. That’s not nice! Where’s the rest of the story?

    Comment by Shawn W — February 21, 2008 @ 6:06 am

  2. That’s the end! Is that an unsatisfying ending? I thought it would be a crowd-pleaser.

    Comment by elissakaren — February 21, 2008 @ 6:10 am

  3. That is, if — as they say — three’s a crowd. 🙂

    Comment by elissakaren — February 21, 2008 @ 6:11 am

  4. Well, see, I know more of the story, so I can’t gauge the satisfactoriness or lack thereof. I think you should tell the anecdote about Nick and you and the Coke machine. I still chuckle to myself over that one.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 21, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

  5. I agree with David. Tell the anecdote!

    I liked this. I want to know the other story. The one about how he became your husband after being one of those guys behind a cubicle. Tell! Tell!

    BTW, how is Charlotte feeling? Better?

    Comment by Corina — February 21, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

  6. Speaking of jobs — I emailed a couple of things to you off Craigslist … caught my eye when I was looking around.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 22, 2008 @ 4:20 am

  7. Oops! I forgot. You don’t know me very well, yet.

    I’m greedy when it comes to well written, interesting stories. I want details. 🙂

    Comment by Shawn W — February 22, 2008 @ 4:58 am


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