Climbing the Corporate Ladder – One Artsy Rung at a Time - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #3
It was March in the Dakotas, but not spring. The blast of icy wind that slapped me in the face reminded me of this as it wrenched the door of the Chevette from my hands and flung it wide open. I struggled out of the car and got a firm grip on the art portfolio for Duran Architects, the firm doing the remodeling for the pediatric unit at St. Alexius Medical Center. The forceful wind snapped the car door shut like an ice cube cracked by a hammer.
I tugged the itchy wool cap down over my ears and fought my way along the sidewalk as gravel-like snow pelted my cheeks.
A few steps before the building entrance, I skidded on a slick piece of ice. The art portfolio sailed into the air, throwing me off-balance. I hit the cement, hard. I was on my knees, which was better than my butt, especially since I was wearing my dress-for-success skirt. My right knee throbbed as the bare skin rubbed against the hard-crusted snow.
Getting myself upright, I checked my skinned and bloodied knee. I felt the same on the inside. Robert’s quick escape from me, from Bismarck, from the Midwest, meant unexpectedly I was on my own. My emotional wounds needed more than the Band-Aid that could fix my knee.
I took a deep breath.
Another whoosh of wind blew me through the exterior entry door and right through to the interior door. This double-layer door system is common in the plains for keeping the arctic temperatures at bay from the warmth inside a building.
Straight ahead I could see a tall brunette facing a mirror and poking at her coifed hair. She finished jabbing her waves – they looked exactly the same as before her attack. She turned and shot me a look that reflected boredom or annoyance or both. From her military-straight posture, my guess was annoyed. And I became certain she was the abrupt lady on the phone who scheduled the appointment.
I assumed I would be meeting that abrupt individual … so now I was juggling a box of bakery-doughnut bribery, figuring a mass quantity of sweetness, rainbow sprinkles, chocolate frosting and all, would win her over. At least I hoped so. Splurging on pastries had me scooping the last of my loose coins from the piggy jar.
All around us was an impressive space, a large atrium encircled by floor-to-ceiling windows, with a view of the wide-open terrain that surrounded the city of Bismarck. In the center of it all, the 19-story Capitol rose high above the other buildings. It was a stunning scene, and I was momentarily captured by the landscape. From above I heard a phone ring. Turning toward the sound I noticed a steel staircase that lead to a glass-enclosed loft area. Very state-of-the-art.
I took a step, slow and measured.
“Hello, I’m Kate Moynihan,” I said, not letting the rigid glass-and-stone structure and equally rigid staff rattle me.
“I’m Mrs. Duran,” she snapped.
“It must be your husband I have a meeting with,” I said, wanting to confirm that this Queen of Mean was the boss’s wife.
“That’s right,” she fired right back as her eyes narrowed to slits.
I wasn’t sure why I was getting a cold shoulder; the offering of donuts didn’t seem to be doing the job. Maybe I should have brought coffee, too. Caffeine can sometimes ease grumpiness. Persevering, I swallowed back the lump in my throat the size of a donut hole and offered a cheery “Nice to meet you.”
Just then a door swung open and out strolled a hefty man whose his hair was buzzed short, spiking up with a shot of gray. “Dan Duran,” he said, extending his hand and shaking mine with a vigorous up-and-down pump. He had the grip of a bear. And the watchful, wary eyes of a snake.
“Let’s meet in here,” he said, motioning toward a large conference room with a long, slate-topped table and a dozen straight-back chairs. “Have a seat.”
Trying hard to look calm and collected, I eased into a chair while feeling my stomach churn a bit; I needed their approval and I needed the money.
Mr. Duran yanked a chair from the table and roosted.
Meanwhile, the Queen of Mean came in the room, closed the door behind her and stood with arms folded while showing me what a good, solid sneer really looked like.Despite the distraction, I concentrated hard: Must. Make. Words. Happen. I took a deep breath and launched into my pitch focusing on the interior designs. One of the benefits I offered was that my own artwork coordinated wallpaper boarders.
Mr. Duran fired a glance at the Queen of Mean, and she was the first to speak. “Our budget on the hospital project doesn’t call for interior designer fees,” she said, icicles dripping from every syllable.
I can only stare back, stunned and a little out of my element.
“We can’t pay for your services,” the Queen explained.
Quietly, I heaved a heavy sigh and made my reply. “There’s been some confusion, it seems. I understand that the hospital will pay for my fees,” I told them, trying for my calm-and-collected look.
Very quickly, I saw I had hit the right note.
A grin spread across Mr. Duran’s face as he slapped one of his bear-paw hands on the table: “Well, you can do anything you like!” he bellowed.
The Queen’s ridged mask melted away, too; a smile lite up her face. “Glad to have you on board,” she said, adding a quick note of detail about the project: “I never liked doing that matchy-matchy thing, anyway.”
I was ready to kick up my heels right along with them, but then remembered my next hurdle. I had to find a place to live that I could afford. My stomach was in knots once again.