So I know I said I was done with the vacation posts, but there’s one aspect of French culture that we have not yet discussed, and I believe it bears discussion.
French customer service.
I’m not even sure if I should call it that because, really, customer service doesn’t really exist in France.
The French get a bad rap for being rude, smug, and snooty. In most cases I resist generalizations, but in this case, the French actually seem fairly proud of their above-it-all attitudes. And part of being above it all means refusing to deal with the plebes who come into your country asking all kinds of questions (usually in the wrong language).
Both times I’ve gone to Paris, I’ve encountered some variation of this attitude at least a few times. The first trip, it was a man at the metro ticket booth who (even though I had just heard him speaking English to the people in line in front of me) got snotty with me for speaking English to him. That, I can at least understand. I should have just asked first to be polite. FINE.
My friend Diana had a much worse experience when she lived in France where a woman at a car rental agency charged her and her friends over 2,000 euro for a car without telling them beforehand that it would cost that much. She then literally smirked in their faces while they sobbed and begged for mercy. And then charged them anyway.
And then there was my most recent trip.
I’ve mentioned a few times that my bags didn’t arrive until the fourth day of our trip. This was annoying (and distressing for the marathon), but it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if I had been able to get any assistance from our airline. The day after we arrived (and after they had tried to deliver me the wrong bag), Diana, who speaks pretty great French, tried calling the airline to ask about the status of my bad. She was told that there was nothing they could do (MY ALL-TIME LEAST FAVORITE PHRASE) and that they didn’t know anything. Politely, Diana said — in French — that she was hoping to speak to someone in the baggage department who might have more information. The woman on the phone replied — also in French — “Well, don’t hope.”
And then our brains imploded.
That would have been bad enough, but the French weren’t quite done with us.
The day of the race, Joey actually managed to get a helpful person on the phone who told him that my bag would be delivered that day. Spoiler alert: It didn’t happen. But at least we had some reassurance that we were in some system somewhere. It turns out that they actually delivered my bag to the same wrong person again.
The day after the race (after I’d purchased an entire outfit at a nearby store because I couldn’t just keep wearing my new race shirt forever), I called the same number Joey had, and that is when I encountered the worst woman in the world.
I actually started out the phone call speaking with a different representative. But when I pressed her for a few details (you know, like where my bag was and when I could possibly expect to receive it), she passed me to another rep without telling me. The new rep (the aforementioned WWITW), liked to interrupt me mid-sentence to remind me that she was a new rep so I would have to start from the beginning and shouldn’t expect her to know what I was talking about. (She actually said this.)
With the very last of my patience, I explained my situation and that my bag had been sent to the wrong person multiple times. I wanted to know where it was to see if I could possibly go get it myself.
“It’s far away,” she replied.
The rest of the call is honestly a bit of a blur to me. I know she interrupted me every single time I was speaking to tell me that it didn’t sound like I wanted to hear what she was saying (I mean, she wasn’t wrong), to tell me that that I was wasting her time (she said this twice), and to again tell me there was nothing she could do (ROAR). She also, at one point, told me it would take three more days for me to get my bag. Also known as the day I was going home. (This turned out to be a total lie. She may have just been screwing with me.)
The highlight was when I asked if she could at the very least tell me when they expected my bag to arrive back at the airport — silly me believing there was any kind of system in place to track these things.
“I can’t tell you that — I am not God.”
Well, THANK YOU FOR CLEARING THAT UP.
Now that I knew I was dealing with the antichrist, the call dissolved even further. I was basically crying into the phone begging this woman to show some sympathy and give me any kind of information, while she kept cutting me off and telling me I wasn’t listening to her (repeat herself for the seventh time). Then she hung up on me.
Let me repeat that: Customer service hung up on me. Customer service got upset with me for getting upset that they had lost my bag for half of my vacation.
I may have had a tiny breakdown in a French cafe.
In the end, things worked out. I actually got my bag the next day, thank the not-God. And the trip went on as planned. The rest of the trip was actually so good, we joked that France had been having a little fun with us. But they were sorry now, and here’s a park filled with puppies and rosé and sunshine!
BUT BE FOREWARNED. The French do not want to help you. They don’t really want to deal with you. So don’t take it personally — and please stop assuming they are all God.
Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.
All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)
One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.
The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.
The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.
Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).
Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.
And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)
The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.
Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.
About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.
When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.
I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.
Notes. About me.
I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.
And under that it said:
Not that into sports
Not funny or creative
There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.
(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)
Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.
And then…suddenly everything changed.
I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”
Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.
Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.
The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?
Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.
Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.
That’s a lot for anyone to take.
But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.
And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.
So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?
Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).
It would be unreasonable to expect that every run would go swimmingly, right?
Enter the bad run: Your legs feel like lead, your stomach bothers you, you can’t focus (or rather, unfocus and get into that weird, mindless running headspace), and the miles seem to molasses-crawl past.
It’s not the same thing as hitting “the wall” because, in this case, the wall smacks you in the face the moment you step outside.
I’m sure I had bad runs when I was a casual runner. I remember how sometimes four miles just flew by, and other times I was killing myself to eke out two. But when you’re staring down an 8-, 12-, or 16-mile jaunt, a bad run just stings a little bit harder.
Saturday’s “12-miles” was a bad run.
From the moment I woke up, I just wasn’t feeling it. Determined to shake it off (and with, you know, this little thing called the actual marathon winking at me from three weeks away), I laced up my new sneakers and donned my fleece.
Because, oh yeah, it’s still freezing. This weekend’s run was a delightful mix of just barely uncomfortably warm (when the wind was at my back) and face-numbingly freezing (when I was running into the wind).
So, you know, generally awful.
I tried all my usual running tricks, including reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to run. Including trying to remember when I couldn’t run because I was injured, and how jealous I was whenever someone sprinted past me on the sidewalk. Nothing worked.
In the end, I ran about eight miles. And felt like a total loser.
I’m trying to shake it off, though. I do think I could have forced myself to finish those last four miles. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hate running. If I had made myself pound the pavement a little while longer, I think I would have ended the run hating it and dreading my next run.
And considering I have another 20-miler next weekend, that’s not a place I want to go to mentally.
So I cheated one of my runs. I don’t actually think this will hurt me significantly. This time next week, I’ll hopefully be back to my confident I’m-running-a-marathon-and-you-can’t-stop-me self.
Any other runners have experience with bad runs? How do you shake it off (in case I wake up on April 6th with a bad case of dead legs)?
I need to let a few things out.
In the immortal words of white girls everywhere, I’m over it.
I’m over the cold. Do you know how cold this winter has been? No one in New York remembers a winter like this in the last ten years or more.
That’s how cold.
It just keeps snowing, and the temperature keeps not budging above thirty. It’s a sick joke.
Speaking of sick jokes, here’s another one: No matter how cold it gets, I still have to train for a marathon.
That means one to two runs a week in the biting cold, wondering just how many times I can lose feeling in the tip of my nose before it just falls off. It means that at least once a week, I spend hours in literally freezing temperatures wearing various layers of spandex and fleece and telling myself that it’s not that bad.
And let’s talk about those hours. I’m getting tired, y’all. The last month, I’ve been leaving my apartment about half an hour later than normal because, when my alarm goes off at the usual time, my brain just rejects that it is time to get up. My body refuses to swing my legs to the floor and vacate the bed because I’m so dang tired and did I mention it’s cold out there?
Because, oh, another thing: My apartment is freezing. The super keeps playing dumb like we’re imagining that our thermometer says it’s below sixty degrees. Like maybe we won’t notice. But I notice.
And then when we complain, the heaters magically turns on for a few hours. And then it shuts off and we start the song and dance again.
I am tired of this dance and I hate this song.
And you know what else? In an effort to avoid exposing my tired, cold skin to even more frigid air, I foolishly decided taking the bus eight blocks would be smarter than walking this morning after a 7-mile outdoor run. I then sat on said bus for an hour before finally giving up at ninth avenue, meaning I STILL ended up walking five blocks in the cold. I COULD MURDER SOMETHING RIGHT NOW.
My apologies for this spree of negativity. I promise to do better next time.
Would you describe yourself as someone who handles disappointment well?
Until recently, I think I would have. I’m pretty resilient and adaptable, with enough grit to plow my way through just about anything. Sure, I needed to work on letting things roll off my back a bit more, but in general, I thought I’d outgrown letting other people how I should feel about myself.
But lately, I haven’t been so sure.
A few things have happened that have been, for lack of a better word, disappointing. Nothing terribly tragic or disastrous has happened. A few things in my life have just unfurled in unexpected and undesirable ways.
And, you guys? It’s messing with my head.
I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth in the last five years overcoming most of my insecurities, and for the first time in a while, I’ve felt them start to creep back. And I don’t like the reminder of how I used to feel and think.
In my first draft of this post, this is the point where I actually listed a few of them out. But the shame I felt at even seeing the words was a bit too much for me to share with you guys. Suffice to say, I think they’re things everyone feels sometimes. Suffice to say, I feel a lot like that unfortunate dude in the photo above.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doubting yourself from time to time. I think it’s normal. The problem is when it starts to become a weight to carry. The problem is when it starts affecting your will to try again.
Whenever these feelings start creeping in, I always reread my Happiness Project post. I remember even when I was writing that thinking, “There is going to come a time when this is not going to feel so easy. There will be a day when I am so down, I will feel stupid for even writing these words. When I’ll scorn my own hubris at thinking I can control my happiness.”
But I still wrote them. And I still published the post. Because even when those two sides of my are at war, I want it on record that the most rational part of me sides with the optimist.
And I’m trying to keep perspective. I am so incredibly fortunate to have a great support system around me who love me and believe in me even when I stop believing in myself. Plus, like I said, what I’m dealing with are disappointments, not tragedies. If I was talking to me, this is the point when I would gently take my own hands and say, “I am both sad and happy for you that this is the greatest struggle you’re going through right now.” Because I know and love so many people going through so much worse.
So, I get it. I get it. I’m just wondering…how do you deal with disappointments?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m not a camping person.
I like the food, remember? I like hiking and lakes and campfires.
So at this point, I thought I could safely say that while I may not be the ultimate camper, I do like camping.
I thought wrong.
As I actually pointed out in the post at that first link, I had only ever camped in cabins before. Bare-bones-wooden-bunk-communal-restroom-type cabins, but cabins nonetheless. I had never expressed nor felt the desire to camp in a tent. And if I had just followed my (prissy little) gut, I might never have had a bad camping experience.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
Last weekend, we joined a few of our friends in Vermont for a little camping adventure. I knew going in that it was tent camping. I knew it. But I had convinced myself that it would be fine. FINE. I mean, how much time do you spend in your tent anyway, right? I would still have all the parts of camping I genuinely like. And the company would be great. WHERE COULD THIS WATER-TIGHT PLAN GO WRONG?
Actually, “water-tight” is particularly apropos. Because it rained. The entire time.
And what did we discover upon arriving at the campsite and opening our tent? That we were missing the top part that keeps the rain out. Le sigh.
Fortunately, Joey was able to fashion a frankentent out of a few extra tarps:
Unfortunately, the door zipper was also broken, meaning water could leak in from all sides. Fun!
After one night of torrential rain and damp EVERYTHING, I opted to sleep in the car. I have no regrets about that.
Other than the rain, though, it really was a nice trip.
We toured the Magic Hat Brewery:
Visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory:
Shopped at a local farmer’s market that made me miss the Midwest like whoa:
And, you know, spent some time communing with nature:
Plus, we swam and rowed at the lake, ate way too much of everything, and enjoyed the company of our friends. All in all, can’t complain.
Though I think we can rule out tents for the rest of my life.