Death of an Internship

•November 2, 2011 • 2 Comments

Before I begin, you should know that I changed the name of my supervisor. Throughout this post, I’ll be referring to him as Nancy.

I probably should have expected something was amiss between Nancy and myself the first time we spoke on the phone about two months ago. The conversation felt like an uphill battle as I attempted to “sell” myself as a quality candidate for the intern position at his private practice. I quickly got the impression that Nancy wasn’t all too interested in the majority of what I had to say. I couldn’t seem to sell him on my experiences at school, abroad, or in the field. The one discussion point that Nancy really seemed to latch onto, however, dealt with curricula vitae. More specifically, Nancy latched onto the fact that my experience in writing one wasn’t to his liking. Apparently, upon hearing this, my voice slowly morphed into something similar to that of the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons as his fixation with this particular document overwhelmed his senses. I could tell I wasn’t getting through to him. As the minutes passed, I realized my “first good impression” window was starting to close. I tried desperately (yet casually) to build myself up in the closing moments of our conversation, but I’m fairly confident all he heard was a weird, muffled sound similar to that of a talking trombone. They say it takes over 100 follow-up good impressions to erase a bad first impression; little did I know, I wouldn’t even be given an additional four.

A week after arriving in Santa Cruz, I was given the opportunity to meet Nancy at his office during his lunch hour. As I walked into his place of business, I noticed he had a bit of a filing problem–like, he didn’t know how to do it. Papers were stacked on top of files, that were stacked on top boxes, that were stacked on top of any available horizontal surface. The show Hoarders came to mind. I digress.

His office building wasn’t all too large, so the tour only lasted around ten minutes. We chatted a little about my hopes and aspirations and, not surprisingly, about his favorite topic: curricula vitae; Nancy asked if I would bring mine in the following Tuesday when we met for my first observational session at 8:30am. Not only was I prepared to give him my curriculum vitae, but I had a couple aces up my sleeve as well: two stellar letters of recommendation. I felt I was slowing reviving myself from our previous phone conversation. As we made our way back to the front door, I thanked Nancy for the tour and for giving me the opportunity to work with him. I knew I’d win him over.

As I drove out of the parking lot, my phone rang. Nancy. It seemed that we were having such a great time getting to know one another that the topic of “appropriate” dress never made it to our conversation.

“Hi, Jon. I just wanted to talk to you briefly about what to wear when you come in next week.”

“Oh, sure thing.”

“Okay. You know, considering the type of work we’ll be doing, dress presentable.”

“Yeah, absolutely.” My mind shot back to fifteen minutes earlier when I first laid eyes on Nancy wearing an oversized Hawaiian shirt with, what looked like, corduroy pants. At that moment, I knew our definitions of  “presentable” business attire were a bit different; but I was willing to compromise. Obviously we were working within a casual yet appropriate frame (and I use “appropriate” loosely when referring to what he was wearing).

“Great,” Nancy replied. “That’s really about it.”

“Alright, I think I got it. I’ll be sure to be presentable.”

“Okay, see you next week.”

“See you next week, Nancy.”

The following Tuesday, I arrived at exactly 8:30am; curriculum vitae in hand. I decided to go with straight-legged, dark blue jeans accompanied with a white collared shirt under an Argyle sweater. Given, it wasn’t quite down to Magnum P.I.’s standards, but I thought I would go a little above and beyond. I knocked on the door ready to impress. A strange thing then happened. I was greeted with multiple subtle, bizarre, and somewhat spastic, gestures as Nancy tried desperately to hide his disapproval of my attire. I knew I was in for it when he repeatedly looked me up and down as I stood in the doorway…which yes, quickly became a bit uncomfortable.

I decided to saddle that elephant in the room and ride it like a show horse.

“You’re not happy with what I’m wearing, are you.”

Nancy answered sternly with a deathly seriousness to his voice, “This is a place of business. We never, ever wear jeans here. I try very hard to to uphold a sense of professionalism for my clients and appearances play a very important role.” I glanced over to his chaotic desk, his odd crooked pictures, and his thrift store couch (and not not the trendy, halfway decent kind, but the kind that gives you the impression that a cat’s given birth on it).

“You’re right,” I replied. “I apologize and assure you that you’ll never see me in jeans during business hours again.”

“Good.” I then handed Nancy my curriculum vitae along with my two reference. He took and added them to his impressive paper collection on his desk.

The rest of the morning was pretty straight forward: tests were given; notes were taken. At the end of the day (which was around 1pm) I offered to buy Nancy lunch with the hope of creating even the slightest resemblance of a bond between the two of us; and, for a moment, it felt like my plan was working as we talked shop for nearly a half hour. Then, he asked me a question I did not want to answer–a question I knew, if answered truthfully, could make my life very difficult.

“So,” Nancy asked. “Was there any differences in the way I conducted the tests that differed from how you were taught?” My mind went to a very specific entry I made in my notes while observing Nancy in action: “He’s doing the digit span and block design tests wrong.”

“Uh, not really,” I replied. “I mean, a few of the tests you use are new to me so…”

“Not really?” Nancy replied.

It’s like I literally couldn’t keep it to myself. I wiped my mouth with my napkin contemplating my delivery. I then, very delicately, confronted Nancy on his mistakes. He paused for a moment giving a slight smile. “Well,” he said. “I suppose it has been a while since I thoroughly looked at the test manual.” I’m not really sure what I was expecting to hear in his response, but I guess I was hoping for a better explanation than that.

“Oh,” I replied. The awkward in the room jumped a few degrees. Thankfully, we were all but finished with our meals, so the silence that ensued could’ve reasonably been attributed to a simple lull in conversation or a depletion of talking points. Shortly thereafter, I paid the bill and we were outside standing by our vehicles.

“Alright,” I began. “So, we’ll see you tomorrow then?”

“Yes. See you tomorrow. And, thank you for the lunch.”

“Sure thing.”

“Oh, and you can show up sometime around 8:30. It can be a bit later than today.”

“Sounds good. We’ll see you tomorrow a little after 8:30.”

“Okay, Jon. See you then.”

The next morning, I arrived at 8:40 wearing slacks, a pin-striped collared shirt, and shiny black shoes. I wasn’t about to give Don Ho the chance to light into me again. I knocked on the door, once again, ready to impress.

“Hello, Jon.”

“Nancy.”

“You’re late. I was expecting you at 8:30.”

Was he joking? I couldn’t tell. I tested the waters with a smile giving Nancy the opportunity to respond in kind. Nothing. “Um…I’m sorry. When I left yesterday, you said to be here a little after 8:30.” I looked at my phone. “It’s only 8:40.”

“Well, I’m not sure I said that. But it’s very important that you’re here at 8:30 in case the client shows up early. I can’t have you coming in while I’m testing.”

“Sure. Understandable. Definitely don’t want the client to be distracted while testing.” I glanced around Nancy’s office once again.

“Well, come in. I have something very troubling to talk with you about. I’ll get right to it. It’s about your reference letters. They are unsigned and they are not no letterhead. What do you have to say about that?”

“Well, they were emailed to me since I was in the process of moving.”

“So, we have two letters without signatures printed on plain paper.”

“It appears that way, yes.”

“And you expect me to believe that they are from who you say they are?”

“Excuse me?”

“After reading the letters, I think you may have written them yourself.”

“Well, I assure you, I didn’t. You should know that once I have access to a fax machine, I planned to request that the letters be signed and sent again. But if you question their authenticity, I included phone numbers for both of my references. You’re more than welcome to call either of them.”

“Oh, I plan to. Believe me.”

A knock on the door interrupted our pleasant conversation. A man in his early 70s arrived to receive his scheduled battery of neurological tests. I introduced myself and then took my place on the thrift store couch. The man took his seat at a small testing desk in front me. He looked around the room. “Damn Doc! You ever hear of a secretary or a filing cabinet?” I looked down at my notebook to hide my smile.

“Ha,” Nancy forced. “Organized chaos, right?”

“Well, chaos, yes. But, organized is a stretch.” I let out a subtle laugh that I cleverly masked with an impromptu throat clearing. I probably appeared far too interested in my notebook as I refused to make eye contact with either man in the room.

“Well, why don’t we get started,” Nancy said.

The rest of the evaluation went, more or less, smoothly: tests were given; notes were taken. After the client left, Nancy made clear to me that we would’t be able to discuss the session due to the fact that he was scheduled to receive a flu shot. That put my mind at ease. The last thing I would want is for Nancy to come down with anything. So, I grabbed my bag off the floor and headed for the door. “Alright, we’ll see you tomorrow then at 8:30.”

“Well, you don’t have to be here at exactly 8:30. Around 8:30 is fine.” At this point I knew that Nancy wasn’t a joker…and that he might be crazy.

“I’ll be here at 8:30.”

“Oh, and about earlier today. I wanted to scare you.”

“You wanted to scare me?”

“Yes. Falsifying documents is a serious thing.”

“I agree.” I didn’t feel like talking with Nancy anymore and, evidently, he wasn’t prepared to say anything else. “Alright, then…see you tomorrow.”

Being the optimist I am, I truly believed that things would eventually level out and that Nancy and I would develop a healthy working relationship. So, I was a bit surprised the following morning when I didn’t even make to the front door. As I pulled into my parking spot, I noticed a man in my side mirror scurrying towards my vehicle.

That looks like Nancy, I thought to myself. Great. It is him.

Unless he was carrying coffee and doughnuts as an apology, I knew my calendar was about to blow wide open. I stepped out of my Blazer to face Nancy. No coffee. No doughnuts. I decided to initiate the conversation.

“Nancy! Great to see you this morning! Did you by chance see the sunrise? One word. Breathtaking.”

“Jon, we need to talk.”

“Oh, sure thing. Want to go inside though? It’s a little chilly out here, wouldn’t you say?”

“No, we should…we can stay out here. I did a great deal of thinking last night, and I’ve decided that it is in both of our best interests for me to sever our relationship.” Wasn’t really sure how it was in both of our best interests, but he was the smart one between the two of us. “I wish you the best, but I have my reputation uphold and look after.”

“Well, I can’t say that I really understand where you’re coming from or how my being here endangers your reputation, but you’ve obviously made up your mind about this.”

“Yes I have. I wish things could’ve worked out between us.” I’m beginning to think he didn’t mean that.

“Me too.” I’m beginning to think I didn’t mean that.

I held out my hand. “Well, I’ll be on my way then. Take care.” We shook hands and I left.

As the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens…or, a window opens after the door closes. Well, for sure, something closes and something opens. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending–a happy ending in that I know there’s an amazing opportunity for me just around the corner…one that doesn’t involve a mentally unstable neuropsychologist. Though this chapter in the Cruz came to an abrupt close, I’m hopeful and confident knowing that God’s plan B is always better than my plan A, and that when it comes my California story, the rest is still unwritten (sorry, I just heard that song in a store and it’s stuck in my head…hey, maybe now it’ll be stuck in yours too).

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Wetsuits 101

•October 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

If surfing was half as difficult as trying on wetsuits, I knew I was in trouble. My first surf adventure wasn’t on a board; it was in Santa Cruz’s Freeline surf shop. Being completely ignorant of all things related to the sport, I knew I had to ask some pretty basic, if not dumb, questions if I ever wanted to get in the water. So, first things first: wetsuits.

Any hope of not going through this process with an attractive female employee was out of the question as, apparently, they were all scheduled to work. Knowing I had to start somewhere, I approached the counter and said something smooth like, “Hey, how’s it going? I’m looking for a wetsuit. What do you recommend?” Apparently, that was somewhat of a loaded question as it required around a half dozen question in return to answer it.

“Sure thing. Have you surfed before?”

“Nope.”

“Oh…alright.” She stopped her paperwork knowing this was going to take her full attention. “Where abouts will you be surfing?”

“Hmm. Around here, I guess.”

“How often?”

“As often as I can.” She wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “Two…no, three times a week.”

“Okay, how much are you looking to spend?”

“Not to sound cheap, but as little as possible.”

“That’s fine. With your skill level, you don’t need anything very expensive.”

“Awesome.”

“How tall are you?”

“6′ 1″.” Nailed that one.

“Weight?”

“160-ish.” I was on a roll.

“Alright, so here are a couple options,” she said as she grabbed two suits off the rack. “The XCEL might be a better fit, but the Quicksilver will probably keep you warmer.”

“Are there any that can do both?”

“Why don’t you just try them both on.”

“Separately, right?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Perfect.”

I entered and stood in store’s only fitting room looking at my wetsuit options. Two questions suddenly came to mind (one basic and one more advanced): 1) how exactly do you put them on? and 2) do people go commando in these things or not? The second question had me a little more concerned than that first. A knock on the door broke my deliberation.

“Yooou don’t know how to put on a wetsuit, do you?”

“Um, not really. Figured I’d just…put it on one leg at a time.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” After a few quick tips, question “one” was answered. I decided to keep question “two” to myself. “Let me take a look when you have it on.”

“Sure thing.”

I closed the door and once again stood in the tiny fitting room looking at the wetsuits with question number two heavy on my mind. I had a decision to make and I was pretty confident I knew what I had to do. Thank goodness I first saw a small sign above the mirror which read something like: “Don’t be gross. Please leave on your underwear when trying on wetsuits.” Gotta be honest, somewhere down the road, some poor schlemiel was about to unknowingly buy a new, slightly used, wetsuit. Crisis averted…for him.

Now that that was out of the way, I began trying on the Quicksilver utilizing all the tips I had just learned. I inched, I stretched, I shimmied, and I may have even jived. After a few minutes of this, the suit was finally on and I was only slightly out of breath as I walked out to get the expert’s opinion. As I stood talking with my new Freeline friend, I began to experience, first hand, the wetsuit in action. I was getting warm, fast. Thankfully, we both quickly agreed that the Quicksilver was actually a pretty good fit but that I should still try on the XCEL to compare it with. The sooner I could get out of this formfitting sauna, the better.

Right off the bat, I noticed that the XCEL didn’t fit as well as the Quicksilver. All the helpful tips were’t so helpful this time around. With each move the suit counter-moved resisting my efforts. My temperature continued rising. Beads of sweat began to develop on my forehead as I struggled to establish dominance over this insulated onesie. A voice from outside the door asking, “How we doing in there?” let me know I was taking way too long. Temperature still rising.

“Great,” I replied. Obviously, she hand’t given me the right size as the battle between myself and the suit began to escalate. After a few more tiring minutes, along with more than a few muffled grunts, I was finally able to lift the suit into place over my shoulders. Success. I took a couple moments to try and cool down which, in hindsight, was pointless considering I was wearing a nonconventional oven. I grabbed my t-shirt off the small bench and wiped my face before exiting the room.

“Well, what do you think?”

“I think it’s on backwards.”

I looked down. “Well, what do ya know. So, it is.” We both turned and walked back to our respective corners of the store. Temperature really rising.

As I closed the fitting room door behind me, I knew the only thing worse than what just happened was having to put this suit on again. Drops of sweat were now streaming down my face. Even my legs were starting to sweat. My legs! Apparently, there’s a chemical reaction when sweat and wetsuits make contact–a reaction that creates an adhesive-type property similar to that of products such as J-B Weld, Bondo, and Krazy Glue. I felt like I was in a full-body Chinese finger trap–the more I struggled, the tighter the suit became. I can’t be certain that the noises coming from inside the fitting weren’t heard by employees and other customers as I fought for my freedom. Things were heading south fast as images of Chris Farley were coming to mind (Tommy vs. the John Scene from Tommy Boy Movie (1995) | MOVIECLIPS.).

When I finally freed myself from that devil suit, I knew putting it back on wasn’t an option. I sat exhausted. A familiar voice from outside the door then asked, “So, does the XCEL fit alright?” I looked down at the suit with distain.

“Ya know, not so much.”

“Really? I’m surprised…I thought for sure–”

“Nooope. Really doesn’t.”

“You mean even after you put it on the right way?”

“Yep, that’s what I mean. I think I’ll probably just go with the Quicksilver.”

“Oh, okay. Well, that would be my pick too. The warmer the better, right?”

Of Men and Mavericks

•October 23, 2011 • 2 Comments

I had just grabbed a cup of coffee before checking out a popular surf spot on 41st street called “The Hook.” I figured there’d soon come a time when I don the water wings and venture out into the blue in an attempt to surf, so why not check out the local scene ahead of time? Long story short, I more or less wandered bass ackward onto a shoot for the upcoming film Of Men and Mavericks (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1629757/). They were shooting the final scenes of the film and were using a mess of extras for a “paddle-out.” Now, I’ve played the role of “extra” plenty in my day–most regularly as an extra (or third) wheel–but never as an extra in a movie. Would today be the day that get my foot in the proverbial Hollywood door? Well, the short answer is no. I never made in front of the cameras…at least not while they were rolling. I did however walk past this guy: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4103976/. As our paths crossed, I raised my coffee cup and gave him the ol’ head-nod saying, “How’s it goin’?” I probably just didn’t hear him but I didn’t get a solid response. I didn’t push the matter. Sometimes you just gotta let it go. It’s a show-biz thing.

In the bottom left picture, if you look closely, you can see Gerard Butler. You sorta have to squint your eyes a little, but he’s there toward the back.

Run for Fun?

•October 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So, I decided to take up running again…and I say that loosely as I’ve never been that big into it at any one point in my life. But the sun was shining, the beach was near, and I had just found my only pair of mesh shorts in the bowels of my suitcase. It was a sign. So I charged up the Zune (yeah, the Zune), laced up the Adidas, and headed for Rio del Mar. As I pulled into the small public parking lot, what sounded like gunfire filled my Blazer. New to beach life, it took me a second to realize that I was indeed the victim of drive-by shooting…and by drive I mean fly, and by shooting I mean pooping. By the time you read this, I’ll have grown to hate the seagulls of the greater Santa Cruz community. But that’s neither here nor there…actually, it’s on my Blazer but whatever. As I walked toward the wet sand, I threw my shades on, popped my earbuds in place, located the right mix, and looked left and right to decide which direction to start. The decision was made and I began my run. I was feelin’ it.

About 30 seconds in, I came across a small channel of water laying between myself and miles of beach. Not wanting to lose all the momentum I had gained over the past half-minute, I stood jogging in place for a moment looking for a way around. This running in place thing didn’t last long as I realized the waterway stretched a sizable distance and I began looking a bit ridiculous. So, I walked alongside the channel’s edge hoping to find a spot narrow enough jump across. It soon struck me that if I followed the waterway much further, I would end up back at the parking lot. So, I stopped. You know that feeling you get when you know someone’s watching you? I was pretty confident there were a few eyes on me as their owners grinned guessing what my next move might be. A woman not wearing shoes who looked to be in her 70s ran through the channel’s shallow water with a graceful ease and all I could do was watch as she conquered that which I couldn’t. The grandma-woman (as I chose to call her) continued with her run in sweet anonymity as I was left forced with a decision to make under the scrutiny of multiple judgmental onlookers: test to see if skills acquired years ago on the Nintendo Power Pad paid off, or turn and run…or more accurately, turn so I could run. A little piece of me died as I chose the latter. Though ending up face-first in shin-high water and receiving assistance from the grandma-woman was a close second choice, I decided to explore what the beach had to offer in the other direction. I didn’t like this side of the beach anyways.

The further I ran, the better I felt as I started to put some distance between myself and the channel (my first coastal nemesis). I gave the occasional friendly nod to fellow joggers and felt Santa Cruz start to warm up to me. Then, as if beach knew I had yet to earn my stripes, a guy in a weighed backpack slowly passed me. A weighted backpack…really? And if that wasn’t enough, he kept pulling away–pulling away to the point that I literally couldn’t see him in the distance (and not Rob Lowe’s character on Parks and Recreation, literally; but literally as in, well…literally). Another small piece of me died on the beach in that moment…the pieces were starting to add up. More-or-less satisfied with my progress, I slowed to a walking speed (which honestly by then really wasn’t all that slower than my running speed) and decided to call it. It felt right… especially considering that my five-track mix had just about ended.

All-in-all, the first day of running could’ve been worse…I suppose instead of writing about, well, nothing really, I could’ve been writing about how I received mouth-to-mouth from the grandma-woman. Blessings counted.

Step One

•October 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” Minus the cigarettes, Chicago, miles involved, and it being dark, my trip to California started the same way a couple weeks ago. I did have a full tank of gas (because I’m all about the planning ahead) and I was wearing sunglasses (because it was sunny). As Seattle faded in my rearview mirror and the radio slowly turned to white noise, I sorta felt like I was mid-stride in a step-of-faith…come to think of it, I still feel that way. While the details of my employment and internship are still being worked out (and my checking account continues to show off its ability to count backwards), I rest knowing God is in control. He reminded me of this through an app on my phone…indeed, the Lord works in mysterious ways. A few months ago, I downloaded the “Daily Bible App” and day one of my new adventure it read Philippines 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” It’s not always the overt miracles in our lives that reminds us of God’s grace…it’s the quiet whispers He speaks to us as well. Some say expect the worst but hope for the best. I’m believing for the very best, period.

“We’re on a missions from God”…there, three Blues Brothers references.