Sunday, August 30, 2009

did you hear the one about the gas leak at the salami plant?

When a family has two jobs, three pets and two children under the age of four, the unexpected often throws a spanner into our carefully laid plans. On Friday we had a busy day. I set off for work, first ensuring that Geekygirl had her show and tell (tiny plastic Cinderella in sparkly latex ballgown), and that Geekyboy had his lunch and enough milk for the day. Geekydaddy intended to drop the kinds at daycare, then return home and take the cats, unhappily corralled in the house since the night before, to their long overdue vet appointment. After that he had a lunch meeting in Palo Alto, and was then charged with picking up all the groceries for our weekend in Tahoe.

I have my team planning meeting on Fridays at 10.00, and then was supposed to be organizing a surprise baby shower party for one of my team members. At least I was hoping that it was still a surprise, since I had moved another meeting via "Outlook" calender webmail, with the message "meeting rescheduled due to surprise baby shower" and was having the sinking feeling that I may have accidentally sent the message to the surprisee.

In retropsect, something smelled funky in the air as I got into my car. I noticed a pungent uriney smell, but I just assumed that Orangegeek cat had been spraying the car tires again. As I drove down 101, though, I noticed that the South San Francisco exits, one of which Geekydaddy takes to get to daycare, were all closed off and police cars and ambulances were blaring all around.

Geekydaddy, coming later with the kids, tried an alternate route, but found himself shunted into a railyard and stuck in traffic with hundreds of other bemused commuters. We learned later what the problem was. An explosion at the columbus salami factory in South San Francisco had had caused an ammonia leak. the whole area was being evacuated, or people were told to "shelter in place" in their buildings. This is biotech central, so Genentech, Amgen, and countless other companies were affected. The manager sensibly decided to close our daycare, so Geekydaddy was stuck with a car full of kids and nowhere to take them. We decided to bring them to my office.

I went straight to Target and picked up diapers, wipes, crayons and assorted small toys. Kids in the office are always a welcome distraction to the other employees, and it is rather nice to show them off; they were both looking particularly adorable, Geekygirl in a pink dress with butterflies and Geekyboy in a striped polo shirt and jeans. I have a nice big office, with fun swively chairs, a white board, and magnets all over my filing cabinets, so the kids settled in and turned the space into an impromptu daycare. Geekygirl played nicely with her new spangly latex attired princess (Snow white this time), and while geekyboy was not all that interested in his blocks and dinosaurs, he did decide that my office recycling bin made a great drum. I ran my meeting with the sounds of sesame st podcasts in the background (thanks iphone), and with a toddler on my lap, crayoning all over the data we were looking at, and occasionally bashing the table to emphasize one of my points.

I managed to get most of my work done before the baby shower party, which fortunately was still a surprise, my errant email had not gone to the whole team after all. The kids sat adorably at too large chairs in our conference room, incongruously tiny, colourful and sweet in the spartan, formal room, made only marginally less so by the balloon decorations. Their legs dangling from the large chairs, they made conversation with my co-workers, while stuffing their faces with cupcakes.

I was starting to enjoy myself, the mum-to-be was delighted, the kids were being adorable. Geekygirl even remembering her "pleases" and "thankyous" and not ordering me around like a drill sergeant (my tactic of resorting to sticker charts for unprompted politeness seems to have paid off, though something about giving material rewards for mastering basic courtesy doesn't sit right with me, I needed a quick fix and her rudeness was driving me crazy). I felt rather on display, mothering my two kids under the scrutiny of the entire company!

Of course, everything went horribly wrong when a colleague, a mother of young kids herself, came over to speak to my daughter. Geekygirl is rather shy, and this encounter caused her to fumble and drop her paper cup of water. All over herself. She hates to be wet, and has no inhibitions about nudity, so as well as bursting into floods of tears, she proceeded to strip down completely, discarding her wet frock and knickers right there in the conference room. Helpful co-workers offered oversized T shirts to no avail (too big, too blue). In the end I carried my howling naked child back to my office, leaving Geekyboy munching away at the table, crossing my fingers that he would not mind my absence if surrounded by food. My only spare clothing options for Geekygirl were her sweater and one of the diapers I had purchased for geekyboy that morning, so that is how she was dressed for the rest of the day, returning to the lunch party cheery and ready for more cake! If only I had the foresight to pick up a spare outfit on my preparatory shopping spree.

Afterwards, one of our VP's said that he now saw me in a new light. I'm hoping he means that having seen me successfully negotiate the "screaming, naked, soaking child" situation he realizes that I am ready for a director role. What do you think?


followthatdog said...

I know the reality of it was rough for you, but I can't help but laugh at the headlines. Glad the kids were good for you. Last time I had Ansel at the office he snuck out and ran down one of our maze-like hallways while I was on the phone. He will not be coming to work with me again.

septembermom said...

I'm sure he sees you in the most positive light. Funny, though embarrassing, that she started to strip down. You never know what kids are going to do!

Bobbie said...

"Afterwards, one of our VP's said that he now saw me in a new light. I'm hoping he means that having seen me successfully negotiate the "screaming, naked, soaking child" situation he realizes that I am ready for a director role."

Bwahahaha! Awesome. Great blog Maria!

A Modern Mother said...

Oh my, what a day. I think the US has more lenient attitudes towards bringing children into work -- I would NEVER have even thought to do that at my Slough-based software company.

Love that salami.

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