54. “I like tea, and the ladies like me!”

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Today is December 1, which means 2 things:  1) Ed will shed the pumpkin suit and 2) it’s time for the Ladies’ Christmas Tea!  Mommy hosted Tea at our house for 15 years.  The picture above is from J, who took it at the 2008 event.  Mommy has since retired, and now K hosts it at her lovely home.  Seriously, if she wasn’t a marketer you’d think she was a decorator.  My sister is also hosting a Ladies’ Christmas Tea at her house today.  She used to be a consultant but chose to wrangle my two children at home after having Hannah, and I think the stories that emerge from Mommydom are much funnier than anything corporate America could produce.

When Tea was still at Chez Tan I was working downtown.  One of my first bosses, S, tried to convince me that he should come to Tea.  “I like tea, and the ladies like me!” He argued.  I laughed heartily at his plea, but there was no budging on the girls-only nature of the event.

His attempt to come to Tea was unsuccessful, but he did succeed in getting me used to the corporate world.  This was my first job out of school and just the sound of the phone ringing gave me the shivers, which was unfortunate since my job as an administrative assistant required me to answer the phone.  There was also this horrible thing called “Phone Duty” which meant you manned the switchboard in the lobby for 30 minutes while Ms. R (the lovely receptionist) took a break.  One day on phone duty I panicked when somebody called with an obscure request but no name I could transfer him to.  I had no idea what to do so I called S.  “Give him to me,” S, said, and I was grateful that S took that call off my plate so readily.

I actually learned a lot by listening to S on the phone.  My desk was right outside his office at first, so I heard him on the phone all the time whereas B, another boss (who would eventually become my main manager) occupied the proverbial corner office which was down the hall so I didn’t hear him at all.  S is a born salesperson, and I am not.  I did try and sell handbags for a while, but I was always rather apologetic about trying to sell my bags or trying to buy purse parts (handles/toggles etc.) on the phone.  S deals with multi-million dollar buildings, not lowly purses, but he still started the selling process with the practice every new broker had to learn how to perform – the cold call.  I used to sit in my cube with one ear attending to what was happening in S’s office and marvel at the confident friendliness of his voice as he called a zillion people.  Given my horror of answering the phone I figured I should take a page from S’s book and not freak out so much.  By the time I moved closer to B’s office the phone was my friend and I trained others to do “Phone Duty” downstairs.

I asked S once why he hired me, seeing as I had zero knowledge of real estate.  B had to explain to me that “SF” stands for “square feet” on my first day.  My strongest memory of the interview process was that the first time I walked in to the reception area Ms. R asked me sweetly, “Do you need to go to the ladies’ room?”  This was her gentle way of telling me I needed to go fix my hair before my prospective employers saw me.  When I met S he explained what I’d need to do for his team, which consisted largely of helping them get their “books” (pretty investment profiles of the building(s) for sale) out the door.  I got to know the UPS man by the end of it, but during the interview I just listened to the requirements and was kind of like, Yeah, I can help you with that.

S told me it was my certainty that I could help with the books that made him cast his vote in my favor.  I guess there’s something to be said for confidence.  So as K and Ai Ai gear up for Christmas Tea-fest 2012, I just want to tell them – don’t worry, you can do it!