Have you ever had one of those days when you wake up and things start going wrong in such a rapid succession that the only thing you wish for yourself is to make it through that day without any major casualties? Well, today was one of those days for me.
Two weeks ago I found out that the Creative Director and the Director of Digital Marketing for Hunter Boots (of the British Wellington rain boots fame!) were visiting Silicon Valley and wanted to hear Google’s perspective on building a brand in a digital age. I was asked if I could speak to them about their brand. Needless to say I jumped at that invitation and have been preparing my presentation diligently. As I started to do more and more research I found out that the Creative Director, Mr. Alasdhair Willis, is not “just” a Creative Director, he is the son-in-law of Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney and the husband of renowned designer Stella McCartney. The more I found out the more my excitement grew to have the opportunity to be in a room with Mr. Willis and have him listen to me, Ms. Nobody, for an hour!
Then came the night before the meeting. I woke up at 4am and for the life of me could not go back to sleep. I have done many presentations in my career so far but all the online stalking I had done about Mr. Willis was giving me the jitters because this sure was the first time I was presenting to the son-in-law of an honorary British knight and very much a celebrity in his own right. As if that wasn’t enough to get me off rails I Google-imaged him:
(You wouldn’t believe me if I told you he looked a hundred times better in person after seeing this but wait till we get there…)
At 7.30 am I finally rolled out of bed, somewhat reluctantly, because according to Murphy’s Law this was right about the time my eyes were heavy as lead again and I was ready to fall asleep. As part of my stalking activities I had also found out that Alasdhair Willis has been named one of GQs Top 50 best dressed men on their 2015 list. How could I dare enter the same room as this deity and bring down the dress code average by 50%? I gathered all the energy I could after four hours of shut eye and somehow managed to put together a passable appearance. In a rush to make it to work in time for my first meeting I forgot to wear my watch. And yes, I am one of those people who actually still look at their watch to orient themselves throughout the day. What’s worse though is that I also forgot my office badge at home, which is pretty much like leaving a limb at home if I cared for any sort of mobility while at work.
After getting a temporary badge from the lobby receptionist I reached my desk. As soon as I opened my email I saw a message from a co-worker in Milan sent at 8.30 am that he feels we should move our 9 am meeting to some other day. Mamma Mia! I did not wrestle my way through Bay Area morning traffic to read this nonchalant “let’s meet some other day”. Anyhow, I took a deep breath and started preparing for my next meeting, which happened to be a complete dud since someone had given the person at the other end false information about a client. Sigh! At least we found out 15 minutes into the meeting and went back to our days.
Finally, I slid the door of my office shut and paced through the room for the next hour and half presenting to the walls, smiling, trying to make eye contact with the giraffe and lion in my office. (Yeah, I have a giant stuffed giraffe, lion and snake in my office.) Every time someone would pass by they looked through the glass and hoped I was speaking to someone on a speaker because no one wants to have seen a woman talking to stuffed animals on a Thursday morning. Oh well, after about three quick practice rounds the giraffe and lion gave me their nod of approval. I packed up a bunch of presentation props (bulky tripods and cardboards) and with an aching wrist and hair flying all over my sweaty face I made it over to our company’s electric vehicle fleet to pick up a reserved e-Golf to drive to our San Bruno office where the meeting was schedule to take place. The German in me made an extra early reservation for 1 pm so I could leisurely reach by 1.30 pm for my 2 pm meeting start time. There I was, in the middle of the parking lot, with the peak afternoon sun shining on my black outfit and hair, juggling two giant cardboards and tripods under my arms, fumbling with the badge to get access to the Golf. My heat fried brain had forgotten that temporary badges don’t work to unlock these cars. No problem, I said. I had enough time to go to the electric fleet office and get the temporary badge activated under my name. So I unceremoniously let everything drop and went to get the badge going. With a mental head nod to my German foresight I returned to the car, unlocked it and loaded the car with all my props. As soon as I turned the car on a large number “9” started blinking in my face. Indeed. This car only had nine miles of range left on the current charge. Deep breath number two of the day. I unloaded the car, locked it and walked back to the fleet manager. He made a semi-apologetic face and told me to go see if there was another Golf parked in the lot that had a higher charge level. I leaned over his shoulder, showed him it’s already 1.24 pm and I really didn’t want to be late to meet Mr. Willis. He instantly sensed the urgency in my voice and escorted me to the other end of the parking lot, along with carrying half of my bulky props and opened up another Golf for me. 33% improvement! This one had a charge left of 12 miles but still nowhere near enough to allow me to reach San Bruno. I was about to explode so the poor guy ran into his office, made a few calls and told me I could call a company campus cab to get me to the other end of campus where a fully charged Toyota RAV 4 was waiting for me. With an obligatory thank you I left his office and made my way to the pick up location with all my props dangling behind me. Thank God the company cab driver was a sweet woman who was telling me to take deep lamaze style breaths all throughout our five minute ride to the other campus and even dropped me off right in front of the car that was reserved for me. God bless her! By the time I had this new car loaded and was ready to go it was already 2.01 pm and I was in constant touch with the meeting coordinator to let her know I may be running a bit late due to car troubles. (I later found out she shared this with Alasdhair and his colleague and they were the most understanding people on earth feeling bad for me…awww!)
I am not sure if you have ever driven a Toyota RAV 4. It’s not a bad car but it’s certainly no race car. The electric version of it only goes up to 87 mph even if you completely floor the accelerator. How do I know? Highway 101 was my race track and I was Michael Schuhmacher. I needed to make it to San Bruno in less than 25 minutes and in the process I took the wrath of an old Chinese lady upon me. She was so annoyed by me overtaking her car that she demonstratively blocked me off by speeding up, pulling in front of me, giving me four rounds of windshield fluid showers and eventually showing me one of her fingers. I couldn’t exactly tell which one, nor did I particularly care at that moment. Wow, feisty little lady!
Dehydrated to my core I reached the San Bruno office just in time at 2.25 pm. The car was left with 22 miles of charge by now and I knew that I needed to connect it to a charger if I wanted to make it back home after the meeting. As luck would want it the charge card I had on me did not work with the electric charger in the spot I parked at. Meet Mr. Willis or worry about getting home? My choices were tough. In case anyone spotted a woman covered in sweat, with her hair all over her face, a bunch of tripods, cardboards, bags, under her arms, balancing a cell phone between her ear and shoulder trying to plead to a Charge Point employee to please activate her card all the while she is limping towards the office building that was me.
2.30 pm sharp! I made it to the conference room where the meeting coordinator greeted me with a somewhat worried yet relieved expression. Here I was, fretting since the morning how I can polish my appearance to meet Mr. GQ, now sweating like I just played a game of football and didn’t comb my hair in a week. Never in my life has meditation practice come in more handy. I closed my eyes, took three deep breaths and entered the room. As soon as I saw Alasdhair’s smiling, welcoming face I knew it’s either flight or fight. The voice in my brain told me: “It’s game time, Aprajita!” There’s something about being “on stage”. It really puts you into character and no matter what was going on off stage you put your cloak of confidence on and perform.
Mr. Willis, by the way, is the best looking 44 year old human creature I have ever seen and will probably ever see in my life. Not an iota of exaggeration here. How can a man in a plain dark blue jeans and a white round neck t-shirt look so godly?? I was pretty confident the hotness radiating from the other side of the table would have melted me into a puddle had I not maintained eye contact and stared in his cool grey-as-morning-sky eyes whenever I got a chance. I feel terrible about objectifying Mr. Willis like this but hey you gotta praise what’s praiseworthy and I’ll get to his inner qualities in a bit. You lucky duck you, Stella McCartney!
The next hour passed by in the blink of an eye and I could not have been any happier with how my presentation turned out. Maybe I should create artificial stress around my future meetings to be more “charged”.
All these days I had been preparing I was thinking Alasdhair being the celebrity he is and being related to the McCartney family would have all this air around him, be too engrossed in himself to even pay attention to a single word I had to say and probably walk out of the room to tend to his cell phone but to my utter surprise he was engaged from start to finish, listening to every single point I had to make. I was just floored by his humility and his interest in bringing back new ideas for Hunter. I am utterly impressed by you, Mr. Willis, and silently apologize to you for thinking you’d be one of those stuck up celebrities who can’t keep themselves grounded. On the contrary, I can tell your feet are firmly rooted inside your Hunter boots and wish you all the success in making this a world-class brand.
The next three hours of my day went by without any of the anticipated craziness that had been forecasted since the morning but I’ll spare you the details of how I almost ate a bite of chicken at night. Almost. Yikes!
I think it’s time to say Good Night and hope for a somewhat less eventful start to the weekend.