No Adjustment Necessary

Dear Esteemed Male Co-Worker:

During my short tenure here at Valhalla Inc., I have developed a great deal of respect and admiration for you as a colleague. You possess a wealth of knowledge about the company, you are always willing to lend a helpful hand, and your chipper attitude makes it a joy to come to work each morning.

Because I hold you in such high regard, I know that you will understand that this letter, while incredibly difficult for me to write, is essential to the continuation of our successful working relationship. I am certain that you are not aware of this, but over the course of the past few months, I have noticed that you have a habit of adjusting yourself when you are talking to me. I think you know what I mean, so I would prefer not to have to spell it out any further than that.

I’m sure that this is an unconscious habit, developed over years of working almost exclusively with men, so my hope is that by calling attention to it in this letter, you will be able to break the habit. Quickly.

I could probably overlook an occasional shift here and there, particularly if you attempted to do it discreetly. But are you aware that on December 13, during a fifteen minute conversation at my desk, you adjusted your anatomy four distinct times? When I first noticed this habit, I thought that maybe you had a rash, but since this has continued for the past three months, I can only assume that you either have a raging STD that will most likely cause dementia, or you are just a chronic self-adjuster.

I don’t want you to feel that I’m attacking you here – I’ll readily admit that I’m part of the problem. I have a heightened sensitivity to people calling attention to their private parts in a work setting. I prefer to imagine that my co-workers – just like my relatives – all have bodies that resemble Ken and Barbie dolls, i.e. sexless and smooth, without appendages or orifices of any sort.

So you see, when you continually draw attention to the fact that you possess something that needs adjusting, it upsets the balance in my mind, and distracts me from being the best worker I can be.

What I am proposing is a phase-out plan – similar to the Nicorette Three Step program – so that you can shed this habit once and for all. For the first week, you are allowed three adjusts per day, provided that they are not directly in my line of vision. During week two, we’ll drop down to two daily adjusts. Continue this plan through week three as well. In week four, limit yourself to just one shift per day, which I would recommend scheduling during your train ride in. Then, by week five, you will be free of any urges to touch your pelvic area during the workday.

I understand that breaking any long-time habit involves a few setbacks here and there, so I don’t want you to be too hard on yourself. Just make sure that you continue with the program, and set some goals for yourself that are Specific, Measurable, Agreed-Upon, Realistic, and Time-Bound. That’s the S.M.A.R.T. way to break any habit!

I look forward to a long and successful working relationship with you here at Valhalla Inc., and am confident that you have the willpower and commitment to accomplish this goal.

Best regards,



What exactly do you say when your co-worker catches you picking a fight with your ultra-slow laptop at the end of the day?

Me (softly to computer, unaware that I’m saying this aloud): “Jesus! What part of ‘shut down’ do you not understand?!”

Him (channeling all his best South Side machismo): “Your computer giving you lip? You want I should take him outside?”

I guess it’s nice to know that someone’s got my back, even if it is against a Dell.

If I’m Dreaming, Don’t Ever Wake Me!

The weirdest thing happened to me at work last Friday. The administrative assistant for the marketing department came by my desk with an envelope, handed it to me, and walked away without saying a word. When I opened it up, I saw that it was a check from the company written out to me.

I saw that all my co-workers also had similar envelopes in their hands, so I leaned over to my neighbor’s cube and asked what this was all about.

“It’s Friday. You know – payday.”

Payday? I explained to my colleague that I had been out of the workforce for a while, so I wasn’t quite sure how everything worked. After I assured her that I was serious, she kindly explained the procedure for me. Apparently, we come to work every day and do stuff, say stuff, write stuff, and then after two weeks of that routine, the company sends us money.

But that’s not even the best part! I hope you’re sitting down, because the rumor going around the office is that in another two weeks, they’re going to send us more money! I promise you I’m not making this up.

I swear, I’m just waiting for that bald guy from Candid Camera to pop out of the supply closet and let me in on the prank. But my co-workers assure me that it’s no joke, or if it is, it’s been going on for 30 years with still no punch line.

Then, later that day when I was in the elevator, a woman was telling this other woman about a trip she took to Hawaii for two weeks. I couldn’t help but chime in by saying that I was so impressed that her boss would allow her to take time off during the week. Then she told me the strangest thing. She said, “Well, he doesn’t have much choice. I’ve been here so long that I get six weeks of vacation a year. Gotta take it sometime!”

I guess there’s this thing called “vacation pay” where the company actually gives you money to NOT work for a couple of weeks during the year. I know it sounds absolutely insane, but at least three different people told me the same story. All I can say is that I feel like I hit the jackpot with this company!

I’ll let you all know if the company actually sends me more money in two weeks. I mean, can you imagine? Well, I guess I should get going – I have some forms to fill out for something called a “corporate benefits plan.”

Let’s see here… medical, dental, vision… what the? You mean to tell me the company pays for most of my benefits? I don’t have to worship at the altar of COBRA, evil goddess of healthcare, anymore?

Ohmigod. Somebody pinch me!

By Doze Id All Ztuffed Ub

My head is pounding.

I’ve gone through two boxes of Kleenex in two days.

I’m popping chewable Vitamin C pills like they’re peanut M&M’s.

My throat is so scratchy that I sound like Brenda Vaccaro’s chain-smoking brother.

It’s only my second week on the new job, and I’m pretty sure I have SARS.

It would appear that after four months of near isolation, spent socializing with no one except my two cats, my two friends, and my mailman, my body’s tolerance for foreign germs has dangerously plummeted.

Now, as I squeeze into overcrowded train cars each day, breathing stale air, clutching damp poles, and sitting on seats that are the equivalent of vinyl Petri dishes, my immune system is being overwhelmed. I thought I was being careful. I wash my hands about fifteen times a day. I sterilized my new phone and keyboard at work before using them. I make people use Purell before I allow them to shake my hand. Yet still, here I sit, hopped up on Theraflu and Echinacea.

When I had to cancel my dinner plans with Natasha last night due to the onset of double vision, she got all Susan Powter on my ass: “Of course you’re sick! You’re weak because you don’t exercise! You need to get out more! You don’t see Seamus and me getting sick! We run 5K’s! We drink Vitamin Water! You’re like the boy in the bubble! Stop the insanity!”

At first, I was offended by her mockery of my malaise. But then I started to think about what she was trying to tell me. Sure it was tough love, but she was trying to help me out. She really did make a good point. Maybe I did need to take charge of my life and stop the insanity.

So I’m currently researching this whole “bubble” suggestion that Nat gave me. Why not a bubble? I recall seeing nothing in the dress code policy prohibiting giant plastic germ suits. I think as long as I don’t wear cutoff shorts or open toed sandals underneath it, I should be just fine.

In fact, through the magic of Google, I just found out that Land’s End now makes a business casual giant plastic germ suit (currently available in Melon, Nude, and Pewter), which I plan on ordering as soon as I can find my credit card underneath this colossal pile of Kleenex. I just hope it gets here before flu season.

So… Very… Sleepy…

After my long sabbatical from the working world, I am experiencing some severe challenges with reprogramming my body to meet the grueling demands of a traditional 9-to-5 job. It seems that, although I need to wake up at 6:30am, my body still doesn’t want to go to bed until about 1:30am. I don’t do well with five hours of sleep on a consistent basis. I’m not a kid anymore. I needs my sleep.

I thought that maybe I could catch up on some sleep this weekend, and kind of stock up for the week ahead of me. The best laid plans of mice and men. I got home pretty late on Friday night after an evening of karaoke hijinks, and had to get up early on Saturday to drive to my parents’ house because my brother and his family were in town. Then, after spending the day Saturday chasing after my nephews, I was all tuckered out and ready to fall into a deep, rejuvenating sleep that would carry me through this week.

That was the plan, at least. Until I noticed that there was a TV in the room I was sleeping in. A TV with cable. Digital cable. My mom knows that I have issues with a mild TV addiction, which is why I refuse to get cable! Why would she put me in that room? Why not leave me a crack pipe, a bottle of scotch, some chocolate cake, and a Playstation 2, while you’re at it?

I told myself that I would only watch a little bit of TV, and then go right to sleep. But then I flipped past the TV equivalent of a train wreck: The Surreal Life, starring Brigitte Nielsen, a guy from New Kids on the Block, and Flavor Flav. It was gruesome and disturbing, but I just couldn’t look away. As I watched the former sex-symbol star of Rocky IV roll around on the floor in a leopard swimsuit in her saggy 70-year old body and make blatant passes at the still gold-toothed and giant clock-wearing Flavor Flav, I just felt funny inside. Kind of like I needed a shower. When Flavor Flav serves as the moral compass on a reality TV show, you just have to ask what the world is coming to.

So here I am, Tuesday morning of Week Two, and I can barely drag myself out of bed. I think I have developed a mild obsessive-compulsive disorder because my exhaustion has made me afraid of sleeping late and missing work and getting fired and ending up right back where I started so many months ago. To combat that fear, I am now using two alarm clocks, which I check and re-check no less than four times each night to ensure that they are, in fact, set for 6:30am and not 6:30pm.

I only drink decaf, so I can’t count on coffee to pick me up in the morning. I am contemplating taking up smoking, because isn’t nicotine a stimulant? I’ve heard that exercising is supposed to give you energy, but that defies all logic to me, so I suspect it’s just a propaganda campaign launched by Bally’s Total Fitness. I saw what my friends looked like after they ran that 5K the other night, and let me tell you, “refreshed” and “energetic” are not two words that come to mind.

I guess I’ll have to rely on what my friend Seamus told me gets him through the day: shotgunning a couple cans of Red Bull first thing in the morning.

A Fowl First Day

I reported to HR right on time Monday morning, all smiling and eager to learn all about the new company I hope I can call home for a while. After spending the morning in general orientation (“The company was founded in 1498; we have 49,034,987 employees worldwide; we generate $12,098,909,200 in revenue annually; the bathrooms are located to the left of the elevators…”), we were then informed that our new managers would be taking us out to lunch.

Oh crap.

I was really hoping to avoid any fancy lunches for at least another few days, given the fact that I’m finally recovering from what was most likely a week-long case of dysentery. But there was no way I could bow out of this one. All the new hires were going out to lunch with their respective bosses. I couldn’t be the only one who said she didn’t want to eat lunch. And I wasn’t really eager to tell my boss why I couldn’t eat lunch with him. Does he even know what the B.R.A.T. diet is?

So noon rolled around and I had no choice but to pack up my bags and head out to lunch with my new manager. He asked if I had any preferences, and I just said that I was open to anything, but preferably nothing spicy. Or greasy. Or Asian. Or fried. Or rich. Do you have any good toast restaurants around here?

He suggested a little corner restaurant known for its burgers. Great. That’s not rich or greasy at all. But I was trying to be agreeable, and I was sure they must have had other things, so I said that it sounded great to me. When we arrived, I immediately noticed that there really wasn’t anything on the menu other than burgers. Except chicken wings, deep fried potato skins, and deep fried mozzarella sticks. Basically, we were in a bar.

I ordered the entrée that I suspected would be the gentlest on my currently delicate constitution – the chicken breast sandwich. No mayo. No barbeque sauce. Just chicken on a Kaiser roll.

Our lunches arrived very quickly – so soon that I hadn’t had adequate time to mentally prepare myself for the first solid food I’d had in a week that wasn’t rice or… rice. This was clearly a restaurant that catered to the male crowd because the hamburger my boss ordered had to have been at least 16 ounces of pure beef, and my chicken sandwich took up almost my entire plate. The chicken extended well past the bun on all sides of the sandwich. It was the Dolly Parton of chicken breast sandwiches.

Everything was going along fine at first – we were talking, eating, talking, eating. I was pretty sure that I was going to make it out of this lunch unscathed. But then it happened. I got cocky and took a fairly large bite of my sandwich, when I heard a noise that you really never hope to hear when eating a chicken sandwich.

Something went crunch.

It sounded really loud in my head, but my boss just kept talking, so he must not have heard it. I had bitten into something incredibly hard and bony in my chicken sandwich, and my throat immediately closed.

My first thought was, “Ohmigod. I just ate spine.”

Now, sometimes when you bite into something you know doesn’t belong in whatever food you’re eating, you can just quickly swallow it whole and pretend you never noticed it in the first place. Unfortunately, this was not the case for me. I had such an enormous mouthful of bread and chicken and spine in my mouth that I couldn’t possibly swallow it without needing an emergency tracheotomy.

Up until that point, my boss hadn’t made overly intense eye contact with me, but for whatever reason, he chose that moment to start talking about a really important marketing initiative we were launching, and didn’t avert his eyes from mine for what seemed like ten minutes. I tried desperately to find a moment when he might glance down or take a bite of his food so I could quickly deposit the chicken skeleton into my napkin, but he never looked away.

So for ten minutes, I just held the vertebrae in my mouth, trying to hide the mass in my cheek, hoping it might dissolve if I took a sip of my Sprite. But after a few minutes, I couldn’t concentrate on anything he was saying. I knew he was telling me some critical information that I needed to remember, but I didn’t hear a word he said. I could only think about the bone in my mouth and how I was going to get rid of it.

My boss: “Pokslinm aknd licno marketing plan inlds nlcon diocna corporate-wide initiative cpnmd…”

My brain: [Oh god. Look away. Please just look away right now!]

My boss: “So Jenny, ikcuny ksyajrpc alsi sj ikkdpsh direct mail campaign kcisl unytobok…”

My brain: [Please David, please, just take a bite of your food. Oh god. Some vertebrae just touched the back of my throat. I’m going to gag. Don’t gag. Do not gag.]

This went on for what seemed like hours, until finally I knew that I was just moments away from vomiting right on the table. I had no choice but to spit the gigantic wad of half-chewed chicken and bones and soggy bread out in front of him. It looked like a baby gerbil had crawled into my napkin to die.

I’m not sure if he looked away just as I was spewing this out, or if he saw me do it and looked away in horror. Either way, the carcass was now no longer in my mouth, and it no longer sounded like he was speaking Klingon.

So there you have it. Only my first day on the job and I almost coughed up a chicken backbone in front of my new boss. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Clean Slate

Today is my first day of work at the brand new job that I spent so many months searching for. As I was planning my first-day-of-work outfit last night, it struck me that I have an amazing opportunity here. Not the job itself, although I am just thrilled about that. My realization was that I have the rare chance to decide who I want to be to these new people. They know nothing about me or my past, other than what was on my resume, and who really remembers any of that? I can create and live out any persona I want. No pre-conceived notions of who I should be, no judgments. It’s what we all dream of – a clean slate.

Maybe I’ll part my hair on the side from now on. They never knew me when I parted my hair in the middle. Or I could wear earrings. Now I’m the kind of woman who wears long, dangly earrings to work.

I might claim that I grew up in Phoenix originally, but don’t have fond memories of the Southwest. I never say why.

I could be a vegetarian. Or Canadian. I’m Jewish. Or divorced. Maybe I’m an orphan. I have a twin sister. Maybe I’m all these things: a Jewish Canadian divorced vegetarian orphan twin.

Too much? You’re right – lose the vegetarian part.

I could be left-handed. No, that’s too hard to pull off. Instead, I’m ambidextrous, but I favor my right hand.

I lost 175 pounds after getting gastric bypass surgery.

I used to ski moguls before I blew my knee out. Now I can’t do anything physical anymore.

I wasn’t allowed to eat sugar or watch TV until I moved away from home to go to college. Now I’m addicted to both.

I have two children, but don’t like to talk about them. Or show their pictures. But I often have to leave work early to pick them up from daycare.

As these fantasy lives are swirling around in my head faster than Hurricane Ivan (or is it Jeanne now?), I suddenly remember that I really like this company, and I think I can see a positive future here. What am I thinking? I can’t lie to all my co-workers! I can’t fabricate a life built entirely on falsehoods! I can’t build a successful relationship based solely on lies and deceit! That’s what my personal life is for.

So that’s that, I guess. I am who I am, and frankly, I’m pretty happy with that. I’m a thirty-something recently employed amateur tap dancer. I have two cats, no children, and have never been married. I’m right handed, and have no athletic ability. I ate a lot of sugar and watched a lot of TV as a kid, which is why I’m currently addicted to both. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and I like to eat meat sometimes. Earrings bother my ears.

But I really might try parting my hair on the side. Don’t even try to stop me. I’ve got a clean slate, people, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to totally waste it.

For Immediate Release

CHICAGO, IL – September 9, 2004 – Amidst rumors that the Run Jen Run blog is being discontinued due to the author’s newfound financial freedom in the form of a real job, has interviewed the founder to confirm or deny these outrageous claims.

Several readers have expressed some concern that Jenny’s new job will interfere with her true priority, which clearly is this blog. While flattered by the concern, Jenny told Blogger representatives that she wanted to calm any fears people may have, and give her solemn promise that she will work hard to ensure that nothing changes. “I refuse to let some job interfere with the routine I have worked so diligently to establish for these past few months,” said Jenny, CEO and author of Run Jen Run. “No job is ever going to prevent me from singing karaoke, tap dancing, blogging, drinking scotch, eating Pop Rocks and Coke, staying out until 2:45am, waking up at 10:27am, picking up hitchhikers, fighting the power, running with scissors, mixing bleach and ammonia, or sticking it to the man. I mean it. I’m the same Jen you knew a few months ago. But now I will be able to look my landlord in the eye when he comes pounding at my door.”

According to Jenny, these four months of unemployment have given her something she never had before. “I’ve gained knowledge that you can’t learn in any corporate seminar or online continuing education course,” exclaimed the newly employed blogger. “Now, I’ve got street smarts. I’m a scrapper. I can make one bag of ramen noodles last for three days. I know which phone booths typically have forgotten quarters in them. I remember exactly which friends are most likely to forget that they lent me money.”

A recent interview with the author confirms that now that she has tasted this kind of ultimate freedom, she cannot be caged into some corporate routine. Jenny went on to say, “Oh, I’ll play the game all right, but just don’t try to lay some heavy set of rules on me. I’ll chew off my own leg to escape if I have to. But just on the outside chance that my new boss doesn’t admire my conviction and decides to send me packing after a week, can I borrow $10 and a pack of smokes? I’ll pay you back, I swear!”

# # #

Work Jen Work

Labor Day – the day we recognize and honor the contributions of workers across the country, and the traditional signal of the end of summer. It is only fitting that shortly after this most celebrated day, I get to utter those four sweet words that have been swirling on the tip of my tongue for the past four months: I got a job.

Yes, it’s true. Run Jen Run is Done Jen Done with the agonizing and demoralizing process known as the job search. I have just accepted a job offer and am now in my final week of inactivity before I get to start my cool new job, where I will wear some snazzy new shoes, walk into a tall fancy new building, that I will commute to via a slick new train, and where I’ll interact with stimulating new co-workers.

So what do I do now? What if I’ve forgotten how to function in a corporate environment? I’ve spent so much time telling people what I can do for them, what if I burnt out the part of my brain that controls my ability to actually do those things? Now, after selling myself for four months, I actually have to deliver the finished product. Some assembly required.

Frankly, I’m far more worried about going overboard when I start the new job. I have felt so idle and ineffective for this whole summer that I’m about to bust out of the gates at the first chance I get. I may have to reel myself in so that I don’t freak out my co-workers.

“Uhh, Dave? Who’s the total spaz you hired in marketing? She just introduced herself to all 800 of our employees, individually. And then she read our annual reports from 1984 to 2003. And now I think she’s scanning all our old marketing plans and posting them on the Intranet for easy access. Nice hire, dude.”

I can’t help it if I’m a bit eager to get started on this newest chapter in my life. If you’ve ever gone to an animal shelter, then you know how I feel. Let me tell you a little story about a dog I once knew, that may help illustrate my situation. Chopper ran away from his previous owner because he found the home to be an unhealthy environment, and one that didn’t appreciate all his talents like Frisbee catching and newspaper fetching. He ended up in the animal shelter, and sat patiently in his cage every day, desperately waiting to find a new home.

Chopper was older than a lot of the other dogs in the shelter, a little mangy, and had been kicked around a bit by his previous owner. Some days, people would come over to his cage to pet his nose, but then they quickly were drawn in by the lure of the fat-bellied German shepherd puppies in the corner. Chopper never stood a chance.

For over four months he watched them walk by, peek into his cage, and turn away without so much as a, “Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy!” Chopper tried to adopt many different personas, hoping that one would attract an owner: the happy-go-lucky black Labrador type that families love, the demure and sophisticated Afghan Hound that would be a status symbol, the strong and outspoken Rottweiler that was fiercely loyal and would protect the family, the spunky and high energy Jack Russell Terrier that made everyone laugh.

Nothing seemed to work, but Chopper never gave up. Sure, he felt depressed and desperate at times, and occasionally contemplated leaving with a family as bad as the one he had escaped, but he never let the families see that. He just worked on keeping his cage clean and his teeth white, and barked enthusiastically at every family who walked by. Eventually, his tenacity paid off and he found the family that needed a reliable and experienced Frisbee catching, newspaper retrieving mutt. And the best part of the story is that this kind family also agreed to let Chopper wear jeans every day, immediately contribute to a 401k with company match, and pay Chopper more than he had ever made at that mean, nasty house he ran away from.

So why am I telling this story about some silly dog? Well, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Sometimes the search for a new home takes a long time, and you may sit in that cage for months, staring at families walking out with their new puppies, wondering why they didn’t pick you. But as I have discovered, with enough time and persistence, every dog has his day. Ruff!

Clear Indications That I Need a Job Very, Very Soon

  • I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about winning the lottery, but can’t bear to part with $1.00 for the ticket.

  • The breadcrumb-to-meat ratio in my meatloaf keeps increasing. I’m only a few weeks away from making meat-scented bread.

  • I came in the other day to find my cats eating Kleenex because I had to buy them generic cat food instead of Science Diet. True story.

  • When I flipped on the Maury Povich Show the other day, I found myself actually caring who that lady’s baby’s daddy was.

  • I switched from Starbuck’s lattes to White Hen drip coffee. Oh the humanity!

  • I bought potpourri.

  • I have rearranged my living room furniture seven times in the past month, but I only have a love seat and one chair. They just keep swapping places.

  • I am spending too much time role-playing job interviews with my cats. On my last interview, I hissed at the recruiter, coughed up a hairball, and then started licking my shoulder.

  • Now when I watch The Price Is Right, I actually know how much Tuna Helper costs.

  • Yesterday I walked past a half-eaten bag of McDonald’s french fries on the ground and for a split second thought, “Huh. I’ll bet some of them are still good.”