The other night, my company co-hosted an event with Airbnb at their ultra-hip-we're-too-cool-for-school offices. I volunteered to attend the event not because I love talking about student loan refinancing or mortgages (don't tell anyone), but because I love to spy on design-y offices and it felt like there was a 50/50 chance my ultra-hip future husband might also be in attendance. And free food. That, too.
I started getting nervous on the day of said event when I learned that by agreeing to "attend" I would actually have to "man a table and talk about our different product offerings to attendees." So I was not in fact an attendee anymore. I was the attendee educator. Do you know how hard it is for me to even explain what my company does to my friends? When I'm talking to people with whom I can use the word "like" an indecent amount of times and squint my eyes and tilt my head at and say "ya know?" at the end of my explanation? It's very hard. Mainly because I didn't know what refinancing meant until I got hired as their graphic designer and since I don't need a mortgage why would I know what PMI means and what LIBOR rates are? (Do you see how I'm using these acronyms to bamboozle you? I bet it's working).
So anyways I went from casual attendee to casual fake-helpful employee very quickly. Unfortunately when I arrived at the event, I was further upgraded to sweaty, panicking employee. I was charged with taking a sign and its easel-type stand and placing it outside the auditorium where the discussion panel was going to be held. I recognize that on the surface seems very simple. It was, in fact, the opposite (hence the panicking and the sweating and why I'm even telling this story).
I think it's also important to know that while this is happening, I was going through my internal flash cards of appropriate responses to possible attendee questions (i.e. Q: "What is PMI?" A: "I'm not quite sure". Q: "How does refinancing work?" A: "I don't know". Q: "Can you help me?" A: "Uhhhhh..."), plus I was also freaking out about running into someone I had interviewed with in the past. Because one time I interviewed at Airbnb. And during that process I met what felt like 12 different people over multiple hours of talking and interviewing and wooing. Which was obviously not successful because had I gotten the job, I would be married to my ultra-hip Airbnb husband by now and would not be charged with answering questions about financial products.
So I've been entrusted with with this sign and this easel-tripod hybrid stand that comes in a handy box with three-step instructions on the outside that all include the word "easy", "basic", or "simple" and boast very professional results. My designated Airbnb handler escorts me into the elevator and we take a very silent ride to the 5th floor where we are supposed to drop off the signage. Except when we get there I realize he has taken me to the cafeteria and I say "I think the panel is happening in the auditorium" so then we take a very silent walk down to the fourth floor. All the while, I've been surreptitiously trying to read the box instructions and side-eye every person we pass in case A) they look like my future husband or B) I have met them and need to make a very quick decision whether to acknowledge or ignore them.
When we get to the auditorium I am already sweating because I've been walking all over this palatial office and my brain is REALLY hot from trying to remember things about loans and refinancing AKA MY JOB. And then I pull the easel out of the box and realize that the person who wrote the instructions was actually having an elaborate joke because nothing about this set-up was "easy", "basic", or "simple". I could have put up an 8-person tent quicker. It was just a strange conglomeration of parts that seemingly had nothing to do with each other or the images on the box. And while I'm trying to forcibly jam these strange metal legs together, all I can think about is how I would like my 4 years of college tuition back because shouldn't I know how to do this? An additional disclosure I would like to make is that as many as 20 Airbnb employees in the near vicinity watched me in my employer-branded shirt grappling with the easel. And sweating. And probably breathing heavily, if I'm being honest. So it's good my company brought me along as the face of the brand.
At this point, I have spent so much time not putting together the easel that I call my coworker because I'm wigging. I discover that she is also unable to put together the easel that she was tasked with. Unfortunately we cannot help each other because she is 3 lightyears away in another galaxy of this labyrinthine office which is why we needed so many goddamn signs in the first place. I have no idea where my handler is. But I also do not want him to come back and find out that I cannot put together a basic SIGN TRIPOD. I can't leave the area that I'm in because I don't have a badge. I also cannot leave my sign outside the auditorium doors in its current state because I have it propped on a trash can and the easel is laying askew on the floor in front of it. So it looks like trash. Which is a great way to welcome people to a professional event.
At minute 14 of my playing-it-cool sign assembly (NOT), I make a very crucial discovery that allows me to snap the easel right together. Not only does it stand upright by itself, it also holds the sign. I feel equipped to be an engineer at this point. Or train to be an astronaut. I've never felt more accomplished or relieved. I want to look around at the Airbnb employees who have been privy to my struggle, but then I realize that really no one cares. Because the extreme drama of this event is mainly happening in my head. In my mind, I'm a perspiring beast who is warping metal rods with my bare hands and grunting from the effort. To everyone else, I'm a girl in a corner kind of fiddling with some foam core and aluminum legs. Weirder things have happened.
At this time, my handler miraculously reappears to inform me that the event is not actually happening in the auditorium. And then I laugh in that strange, cuckoo way that's too loud and changes pitch lets people know you might go postal, but you're still interested in maintaining some semblance of normalcy. My handler escorts me back to the cafeteria, with the easel signage in tow, because I was wrong and the sign does actually belong there. I drop it no fewer than three times on our silent walk back upstairs to the relative safety of the table I'm supposed to man, where the sign is supposed to be placed, and where ALL my other coworkers are. Has no one heard of the buddy system? Why was I sent on sign duty ALONE?!
At the table, I greet the actual attendees and smile so. much. in the hopes that they will be dazzled into asking me zero questions. And then I eat my fancy free startup dinner and have a fancy rosebud and tamarind fizzy bev. And let me tell you, rosebud and tamarind fizzy bev tastes like 8x better when you're a sweaty wretch who just assembled an easel.