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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Go Ahead….Underestimate Me

Just like that, my trip to Scottsdale, Arizona is over. This part of the state is just as brown as the northern part of the state I’ve previously visited. When I first visited the west, New Mexico, in 1992, I wanted to move here there because it looked so different from flat ‘ol Illinois with its mountains and desert. Now I know I want 4 seasons and the colors that accompany those seasons.

My flight out was uneventful minus the guy next to me ordering a Chardonnay at 745 AM which the flight attendant did not have so he settled for water. Maybe it’s just me and almost 19 years of sobriety but I thought 745 AM Chardonnay seemed like a strange request. As Andrea said, “At least order a Bloody Mary.” This same guy asked the flight attendant to tell a fellow passenger to put her mask on. The attendant peered at the reported rule violator and then looked back at Mr. Chardonnay and replied, “She’s eating an drinking, sir.” Which made me wonder if perhaps he’d downed a Chardonnay prior to boarding.

I arrived at my hotel at 10 AM local time. I’m clearly time zone illiterate because I thought I’d arrive at noonish. Fortunately, I was able to get into my room, though I was fully prepared to tuck my suitcase behind the desk. It’s not like it’s their fault that I can’t tell time.

The flight back is already proving eventful. My flight was delayed meaning I’m missing my connecting flight. I called the airline and asked that they just let me and my luggage out in Charlotte, NC. My plan had been to rent a car and drive to the Raleigh-Durham airport which is where I’d left from and where my car is. Apparently a lot of people had an idea about renting a car because there were no rental cars were available. Andrea stepped up to be my knight-ess in a shining Jeep and is picking me up in Charlotte. Most of my colleagues in a group of 20 have encountered similar or worse troubles in an effort to get home from Scottsdale.

The trip was good - it’s great to work remote and then get together in person and realize you like people just as much in real life as you do when they are in your computer. I’ve been beating the Netflix drum since I got here, pushing their “No brilliant jerks.” Agenda. Which, if you’re in management, you may want to consider implementing for your company or l, at the very least, your team. It worked at Netflix and it’s worked at my company in creating a strong culture.

One thing that definitely a plus, for me, in working remote is that Andrea no longer has to give me a sports briefing at the end of a weekend so when I arrive at work on Monday I don’t look like a gd idiot not knowing who won what game. This was particularly valuable when I resided in the Boston area. I’m fairly certain if you’re not on top of Boston sports, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts makes you leave. On Monday of this week, Kansas won the NCAA basketball tournament (or whatever the hell it’s called) - a fact that may have escaped my attention had we not had dinner at a colleagues Scottsdale home. I took the second ride back to the hotel with a group of guys from work who seemed pretty happy for Kansas and their big win. I never feel odd being the only woman in a group of men at work - four years in the Army left me both non-plussed & scrappy.

I’m traveling again in June, this time to attend the annual SHRM conference which will be held in New Orleans this year. I’ve been to NOLA before (twice) but it was a long time ago - back when I was in the Army & stationed in Alabama. Initially, I went for a leisurely weekend. The 2nd time, I went was with the Army, having been assigned to a “detail” (which is code for extra work we will not be paying your ass to do, soldier). I was assigned to funeral detail. I’ve written about this before because it ended up being one of the most interesting experiences during my time in the Army for a lot of reasons. There were 7 of us and assigned to funeral detail and a 8th joined as our leader. Me and 7 men. Soldiers who were active duty or veterans are eligible for a service with military honors. Clearly, being on funeral detail required us to have our dress uniform ready to go at all times because people usually don’t know when the hell they’re going to die, when they’re funeral will be, etc. So, we would get word that someone had died and wanted a service with honors. We’d meet at a large utility van, the exterior the color of mint chocolate chip ice cream. We’d hop in, hang our things in the back, and then head over to the armory where each of us (minus the leader) would sign out an M-16 rifle. We would slide the barrel of the muzzle into a clip that held it upright in the back of the van and would drive off to the service in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New Orleans, or some other humid place. We did this in the summer, the sun beating down on us without remorse. Dress uniforms are not cool. I’d wear pants, like the men, so we appeared uniform (pun not intended). When we would arrive at the destination the funeral was to be held, our first stop would be the local police station so we could secure the weapons overnight. Hotels frown on you bringing M-16s in and we couldn’t leave them in the van because the Army gets understandably pissed off if their shit gets lost or stolen. As someone how lost their gd Kevlar helmet in South Korea and witnessed someone lose their bayonet during basic training, you can trust me on this. So we’d lock our weapons and then check into a hotel. The men had to share a room while I got my own - a peek of being the only woman in the group. The next day, we would meet at the van, retrieve the weapons and head to the funeral service which may be at a church, a cemetery, and once was in someone’s back yard overlooking a lake - I still believe I can hear those shots echoing.

Sometimes, we would act as pallbearers and other times, the family had other pallbearers or the funeral home would set the casket as instructed by the family. We would assemble on either side of the casket, fold the flag together and our leader would present it to the family member. Then, taps would play. We legit would play a recording of a bugle playing taps which sounded pretty good. Then, on command, each of us would fire our weapon 3 times for a 21-gun salute.

Nowadays, whenever I say I was in the Army, I add that occurred many years and pounds ago. Which is true - the physical fitness aspect long left me (save the muscle memory of push-ups, my form is pretty good) - but the scrappy part, the rolling with the punches, the work ethic, the treating people with respect, and my appreciation for military time (my watch and phone both tell me it’s 1439 at the time of this writing) - all of that seems to have had staying power. That and working with a group of men.

At home, I have a sign hanging in my office that reads, “Go ahead. Underestimate me. That’ll be fun.” Another hold over from the Army, no doubt. I remember being in basic training and I had a female drill sergeant. And she was a royal pain in the ass and she was on my case for something (I can’t recall what) - I recall I was marching and she was right along side of me and asked, “What?! Are you going to CRY about it, soldier?!” And I retorted, “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction, drill sergeant.” Ordinarily, this is precisely the kind of response that has a drill sergeant yelling, “Drop and give me pushups, soldier! Keep going until I say you can stop!” In this case, I heard her snicker softly to herself but didn’t dare make eye contact while marching - eyes forward. I couldn’t tell if she was surprised or impressed by my reply. Maybe both.

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