Just When I Thought I Was Out…
My cell phone rings.
“We need you on a plane in two hours.”
“Yes. Did I wake you?”
I glance at my clock. The red numbers are 5, 2, and 0. I pull the pillow over my head, but it doesn’t help because the phone’s still against my ear. “I don’t work for you anymore.” There’s a plaintive note in my voice, but I think I’m entitled.
“I called your manager. He said I can borrow you for this assignment.”
I grumble something; I’m sure it’s a curse on my current boss.
“Where’s the rest of your team?”
“You were part of the project and I know you can leave on short notice.” (Translation: you don’t have a husband or kids, so you don’t have a life outside of work.)
“Houston, then Maryland.”
“I not going to get through customs in time if the flight’s in two hours.”
“We chartered a private jet.”
I shove away the pillow. “Really?”
He tells me and, two hours later, I’m on the jet. It’s a small, sleek Lear. Inside, it’s not as nice as either of the two company private jets (they have burled walnut paneling and leather armchairs that are softer than a newborn’s bottom), but it’ll do. There’s a little wet bar across from the door, but I can’t indulge since I have to drive later on and I’m more interested in making up my missed sleep before the jet touches Houston tarmac.
We land at George Bush International and someone’s waiting for me with a package (sounds sketchy, doesn’t it?). Since we’re on a tight schedule, I’m not even allowed to step off the jet to stretch my legs. (Good thing I’m short so I was able to make do with pacing up and down the cabin.) Then we’re off to Dulles. The pilots check into a hotel in Washington while I rent a car and drive to a facility in the middle-of-nowhere, Maryland and do my thing (no, really, as dodgy as it sounds, it’s all LEGAL.)
Twenty hours after I was rudely awakened by a phone call, I check into a hotel and crash. Three hours after that, I feel like hell and look even worse, but I’m back on the Lear and flying home. This time, I make use of the wet bar. Despite its size, it’s very well stocked. That, however, was no longer the case by the time we enter Calgary airspace. (The co-pilot was nice enough to give me regular updates, along with making me real food.)
Late Sunday afternoon, I call my former boss and tell him he owes me lunch for the next week.
“You should rejoin the team,” he suggests. “We’ll make you a lead. Then supervisor or manager by the time you turn thirty.”
“Hell, no! As a peon, I was already working eighty hours a week!”
“How many hours are you working now?”
I make a disgruntled sound in my throat. “Sixty, maybe seventy. A hundred tops during plan.”
“Come back.” Then he turns all snake-in-the-garden-of-Eden-like. “There’s going to be an opening in Budapest in a year or so.”
I whimper. For a very long second, I’m tempted. I have many fond memories of living in Europe.
Then I snap back to reality and remember the insane hours, the 4 AM meetings, the constant travel (I used to keep my passport handy and an overnight bag ready to go in my front closet), the living-out-of-my-suitcase for weeks at a time, the sleeping-in-my-office on weekends, and–this one clinched it–the writing that trickled down into nothing because my brain was fried every night.
“In [insert current role], the money’s the same and I have the tiniest glimmer of hope of attaining that mythical work-life balance.”
He laughs. “If you change your mind…”
I think…but Budapest is so very tempting. Then maybe a two-year stint in Brussels…since I’m already in that part of the world, anyway.