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Exxon Etiquette

Over time, the position in the Documentation Department became more difficult to navigate. The major difficulty was maintaining boundaries with Cheryl as my boss from the platform of friendship. It is quite odd to get chewed out for the latest offense and giggle about the George Michael adventure all over the same cup of coffee. This tension became more trying as my marriage began to deteriorate. The cultural differences became more challenging. In the end, the marriage did not survive. The trials of grieving my lost marriage and learning to operate as a single mom while walking a tight rope at work were overwhelming. I decided to look for another position within the organization.

It so happened that the Vice President of Purchasing, Roy, had an open position for a buyer. Roy was a good country boy who loved to joke around. He told the same jokes over and over. “Do you know how to push a rope?” he would ask. Every time I answered “No, how?” “You just keep pushing and pretty soon you’re pulling it, either way it gets there.” Yes, he was very corny but he was a nice guy and he thought well of me, especially after the George Michael yodeling stint, so he offered the purchasing position to me and I took it. Cheryl was not happy. I was relieved.

I worked as a buyer for Roy for about two years. The job entailed choosing the best vendor to print the hundreds of forms used by the bank. Different vendors were better suited for particular forms so I dealt with several different printing companies and their sales reps. I was frequently treated to fancy lunches and received nice gifts, all part of lobbying for the print jobs. The interaction with the salespeople was interesting but all in all, the job was boring. I yearned to use my writing skills. I learned of an opportunity with a contracting company that placed technical writers at various businesses.

Decision Consultants, Inc. (DCI) sent me to Exxon Corporation for consideration for a six-month, contract to hire, technical writing position. Exxon had recently relocated their headquarters bringing most of their upper management personnel from New Jersey to Las Colinas. I was interviewed by Carole, a loud Italian with a heavy New Jersey accent complete with attitude. She proclaimed during the interview that she found Texas secretaries lazy evidenced by the fact that they walked from their desks to the copiers rather than running, like their New York counterparts. I shook my head apologetically and offered that I just did not know what was wrong with some people. I was glad that I was not applying for a secretary position and quietly thinking that she was never going to hire me. Well, I guess my long hair covered up my red neck because she did choose me. I found myself sharing a floor with the company vice presidents, including Carole. There was only one floor above ours. That floor above held the offices of the directors, their private lunch room, and the office for the CEO, Mr. Rawl, whose name was uttered only in hushed tones as if he were the Wizard of Oz.

Carole and I got along pretty well. She was quite similar to Cheryl but there was no danger of any undignified assignments. I played the role to fit in. I dressed in prim and proper suits, tilted my nose slightly in the air, and did not get caught socializing with “office workers.” Every now and then the cover blew off my cornbread and I received an etiquette adjustment. In a meeting to plan a baby shower, my offer to pick up a cake was met with stares of disdain as I was informed that the catering company would be delivering petit fours and caviar. While riding in the company limousine to lunch one day, my suggestion of a nearby Chinese buffet was met with a moment of silence followed by Carole’s instruction that “Exxon employees do not stand in buffet lines; Exxon employees are served.” I was also frequently corrected on my pronunciation of Exxon – Carole said I sounded as if I were saying “eggs on.” I began to realize why those New Jersey secretaries ran for the copier, they were actually attempting to throw themselves out the window. As my six month contract drew to an end, my DCI sponsor informed me that Eggs On offered to convert my contract to a full-time position with a very tempting salary. I considered it for about 20 seconds, then told my sponsor that I had enjoyed all the hoity-toity I could handle and to find a position for me where I could talk about ice tea and tennis shoes. I also began to explore opportunities on my own. Once again, the job hunt was on.

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