Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
This morning, just as I dragged myself into the office, I looked out the window and saw a fire boat shooting water a hundred feet in the air. Someone else noticed me standing and staring, and in no time everyone who was in early was up against the glass enjoying the show.
It turned out the massive, mobile fountain display was being put on to greet a much-more-massive cruise ship. As it crept into view, it seemed to dwarf Aloha Tower, and crowded onto its topmost decks there appeared to be no fewer than three or four thousand people.
An impressive, majestic display. It was the first time in two weeks I could draw a full breath.
Work had absolutely consumed me. I was running myself ragged, and there were days that I didn't even sit at my own desk once. My pockets collected a tree's worth of Post-Its and other paper scraps, covered with frantic notes. I was coming home later and later and snapping at a very confused Jen more and more. I'd fall asleep reordering my to-do list, and wake up and pick up right where I left off.
Although our annual meeting coming up in Hong Kong in May is supposed to be the great grand-daddy of projects, it was what went on this week that really pushed the office to the brink.
Our international chairman came to town to scout things out for next year's meeting, which is taking place here in Honolulu. Although he was only on the island for four days, every hour was packed with luncheons and dinners and interviews and meetings with local bigwigs from every corner of the state.
And while I, like everyone else, was scurrying about doing a hundred other things, my main job was handling the technical side of a PowerPoint and video presentation to rouse local support for our organization.
I was one paperclip away from insane. Part of my stress was simply because I hate PowerPoint. But mostly, it was because this presentation was going to be in front of essentially all of Honolulu's movers and shakers, including Governor Ben Cayetano and his wife, Mayor Jeremy Harris, and CEOs from hundreds of local companies including Bank of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric.
Everything had to be perfect. Absolutely perfect. And it wasn't just because the audience was so important, or because my boss is a perfectionist. It was because an earlier presentation organized without my involvement had gone completely and horribly wrong. So this time, almost every time my boss asked how things were going, he'd not-quite-jokingly remind me to have my unemployment application on hand just in case.
So, to make an obscene understatement, I was nervous.
We annoyed the hell out of the catering and meeting staff at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to make sure every cable and knob was going to be set up just so. The PowerPoint presentation was rebuilt from the ground up countless times to ensure perfect coordination with our boss' prepared (and frequently revised) remarks. The video, which we already had edited at considerable expense, was sent out to be edited all over again.
We went down to the hotel and sneaked in on the coattails of other groups' meetings to test the equipment. We ran through the fifteen-minute package so many times, it started looping in my head.
After our laptop failed once once, out of a hundred trials we decided we'd haul our new Pentium II tower system (monitor and all) down to run the show instead.
Yesterday, Thursday, was The Big Day. We made a ridiculous number of copies of the 19MB presentation on the tower's hard drive. We put it on the laptop and brought it along too. We even put copies on two Zip disks and packed up the drive. Our two copies of the final video finished only the day before arrived at the hotel in two seperate cars.
Yeah, you could say we were a little cautious.
As planned, we were there two hours early. We figured we'd finalize the lighting, then do a couple of mute rehearsals, then finally test the whole shebang, ballroom sound system and all. We walked in and marveled at the classy setup.
We then spent an hour and twenty minutes waiting for the hotel's hired presentation company to find the projector.
We then started a practice run, which was interrupted halfway through when one of the presentation guys suddenly unplugged everything to move a table.
We then lost another ten minutes rebooting the computer, waiting for Scandisk, starting PowerPoint to find the fonts all messed up, crashing, and restarting the computer again.
It was right about at this point that I wanted to break one of the hotel's fancy plates and hack my left arm off.
We had time for one practice run. Then the VIPs started filing in.
Our chairman. The Cayetanos. Harris. And about 200 other business leaders, a number of which I was terrified to discover I could now readily identify.
Though the speeches and lunch ran for over and hour, it seemed to pass in a blink. The next thing I knew, our boss hit his cue, I plunged the room into darkness, and we were off.
Our boss stuck to the script. The slides clicked in when they were supposed to. With the 'dramatic pause' timed to the split second, the last slide led straight into the video. The music filled the room, eventually building up to a rousing conclusion. Another perfect pause, and I brought the lights up.
People clapped. Our boss thanked everyone and sent them on their way. And it was over. Over!
Everyone's brains were so scrambled, when we gathered to start cleaning up, we were downright goofy. For no reason whatsoever, I decided to share with everyone an observation from my one visit to the hotel bathroom:
"You've never peed under pressure until your city's seven-foot-tall mayor steps up to the next urinal and says 'Hi.'"
Just one quick addition to "kids make you stupid" file.
When Jen was pregnant, everything from Christmas cards to dog food commercials would make her cry. I loved teasing her about it. She'd say, wiping away tears, "I'm going crazy!" And I'd just laugh.
The joke's on me. Turns out such overwhelming sappyness is contagious, and is one of the unavoidable side-effects of parenthood.
See, now there's this one Visa ad that instantly transforms me into Tammy Faye without the mascara. I honestly have to jump up and turn off the television when it comes on, or else I'm a whimpering, weepy wreck for the next two hours.
A piano twinkles in the background. Romantic lighting, soft focus, slow-motion, the works. And as we watch short, five-second vignettes of a little girl growing up, a woman sings.
There's a boy outside, his name is Jay,
There's a boy outside, his name is Tom,
There's a man outside, and his name is Jim.
Good god. Jen just watched me type this and we're both blubbering.
O little Katie! Our little girl! Smiling, laughing, trying to stand. Her universe still doesn't reach very far beyond our arms. Jen and I are her sun, moon and stars, and she's the center of our universe.
Don't you see? After two decades of boundless joy and gutwrenching heartache, she's going to leave us! After we pour every ounce of our heart and soul into building a beautiful, brilliant woman, she's going to fly away to become a part of Other People's Lives.
Dammit where's the Kleenex!