The gauntlet had been laid down, and I had accepted the challenge. Dana had several meetings at the Capitol this week, but he had been called to Houston, on Monday, as an 'expert' witness. Dana is known as 'The Guru', in all things relating to our industry in Texas. He had been asked to review some documents, at the end of 2013, and the case had finally come to court. Although he had provided a written statement, the defence had expressed a wish to cross-examine, and they could not do that if he was not present. My first thought was, "Who in their right mind would want to cross-examine my husband!" I had considered showing them the scroll that is attached to my fridge, which reads, "When I married Mr Right, I did not realise that his first name was 'Always'!" My second thought was, "How am I going to keep the hounds at bay?" Like my heroine, the great Ms Andrews, in her role as Maria, "I have confidence", but those who call and ask to speak to 'The Guru', do not always share my belief!
At around 5:30am, Monday morning, Dana took the dog for his morning constitutional, and then left the house, heading for the airport. The poor animal was rather distressed. His world falls apart if things are not routine, and with the absence of his human parents, Dana is the next best thing! He can cope with being abandoned, as long as Poppa Dana is around to take care of him. Being left with 'That Lady', (a name to which I am referred when talking to the puppy) for the day, was the equivalent of being sent to boot camp!
I chose not to take on any household tasks before leaving for the office, on Monday morning, as I knew I had to be early, and any deviation to leaving the house by 7:30 could have spelled potential disaster. We were on time! Dana's flight had taken off a couple of minutes early, and he had secured himself a bulk-head seat, which suited his 6'4" (and a bit) frame. I opened the door to our suite, managed to take if off 'self-lock' and turned on all the relevant lights. Seating myself at Dana's desk, I turned on the various computers, and waited for all to 'boot up'. I sat and stared at the screen on the machine that was used to access emails, and wondered which password he would use to 'log in'. Nothing worked. Before driving home, picking up a laptop, driving back, hooking it up to the printer, scanner and anything else that would be necessary to function efficiently, I waited patiently for the text to let me know my jet setting husband had landed in the fourth most populated city in the USA.
The text was before 8am, and I called immediately. Not yet having exited the aircraft, I felt that I had let the side down, falling at the first hurdle, but as we were not yet 'officially' open, I chose not to feel defeated. My 'team' arrived at 7:55, and once I had entered the relevant key, all was up and running!
Kelly, who used to work in our office, but now serves papers, kindly offered to be me for the day, as I was being Dana, and she answered the phone as I was attempting to deal with all the emails Dana had not opened before his departure. Kelly's husband, Matthew, who is also one of our servers, was put on 'dog' duty, and dutifully took Frank outside so that he could sniff at several tree trunks (the dog, not Matthew....presumably!)
The first email was not pleasant. It appeared that some paperwork which had been sent to an attorney was still in transit via the US Mail, and was needed prior to 10:30am. This was easy enough to reproduce, but needed a signature! Jerry, Dana's longest serving sub-contractor, does not normally appear until around 11am. Although he had promised to be 'on call' all day, should the need arise, his phone constantly went through to voicemail and I started to see my world crumble around me. However, he was true to his word and I received a call shortly before 9! My sigh of relief was cut short as he explained that something had come up! He would not be in the office until around 10am, and that was rather a conservative estimate. I chose to be positive! I had not yet resigned myself to the possibility of Dana returning to a failed business, courtesy of his wife!
Kelly was the saviour of the early hours, as she prepared coffee. The first obstacle had not dampened my enthusiasm, nor diluted my confidence. I was quite capable of running the business (not into the ground, but over the hills) and one fraught email does not a disaster make! I reminded myself that I had once been the go-to person in all things pertaining to school-administration and continued to wade through the avalanche that had hit the screen on the email page. Just like in space where (apparently) no one can hear you scream, on the written page, no one can hear my accent, so most of the answers given to the questions posed, were accepted as correct. Emergencies were dealt with calmly and expeditiously. Jerry arrived in the office at 10:15, signed the relevant documents, which were then scanned and emailed over to a very grateful, happy and content client. Time marched on and midday was upon us in no time at all. We had managed to keep the business afloat without our beloved leader at the helm, and all was well.
Not so in Houston. The hearing had been rescheduled, and Dana was looking to spend another seven hours in an armchair in the lobby of the Sam Houston Hotel. Although he had enjoyed a hearty breakfast, he was enjoying very little else. His options were to stay seated and watch the world go by, or try to get on an earlier flight back to Austin. Should he choose to go with the latter, he would have to go to the airport, and wait for a standby seat to become available. Should such a seat not become vacant, the armchair at the hotel would have been a better option to the somewhat less comfortable seats at the gate where he would have to wait until 7:10pm! He called a cab and headed for the airport.
We lunched in style in Austin. As I was in charge, I elected to take advantage of my new senior position, and treated my team to a fine repast. Jerry had left for the day, but was still 'on call' should I need anything picked up from the downtown area and surrounds. I took some 'petty cash' and Jason drove to the deli with our orders! He returned very quickly, and we at like kings! (Or at least kings who enjoy lunch from the deli!)
Shortly after our feast, a young man appeared at the door, and entered, cautiously. He had papers to be delivered, and was unsure as to the process. Kelly called me from the back office and I started to explain the procedure. As doubtful as he was when he entered, he was even more circumspect once I had given him the outline of what to expect. He looked at Kelly for approval. The lady with the American accent could not provide him with the answers, but the woman with the very positive English accent was very precise. Just as the papers swapped hands, and the young man was about to leave, not quite sure that he had done the right thing, the phone rang, and Dana announced that he was on the plane and would be in Austin within the hour. He would probably be back in the office before close of business.
The next two hours were quite busy. Emails were flooding the 'inbox' and as soon as I sent one of our servers out to deliver one paper, did I require them back to collect another. Had Kelly not been so proactive on the telephones, she too would have been sent out into the wild blue yonder, but I could not do without my right hand woman! As she had previously worked in the position now occupied by Jason, she was well aware of the administrative side of our business, and between the three of us, we managed to keep things on an even keel. By the time Dana arrived back in the office, everything was under control, there were no crises left to be dealt with, and all appeared to be quite calm.
Not so the dog! Once he spotted the tall gentleman, (I shall give my husband the benefit of the doubt,) his world had gained some sort of composure. No longer was he at the mercy of 'that lady'! Matthew was also quite relieved as walkies had become as frequent as the paper deliveries, and each time he returned to the office, the dog required to go and sniff a tree!
I am not sure whether my husband was surprised, delighted, amazed or just plain nonchalant about what he found when he returned. Although he had no doubt that I had the capability of dealing with any scenario that may arise, being one man down can often bring its own set of problems. Whilst I am able to give an answer to most questions posed, I cannot site the rule, regulation or law off the top of my head, as can Dana! I do have a copy of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure at hand, and have become proficient in finding the relevant passages, should the need arise, but speed if of the essence and that is how 'The Guru' obtained his name!
Dana did not have to leave the office, for the following two days, apart from the daily constitutionals with the dog, and I was not required to practice my newly founded superiority! Those who wished to speak to me, spoke to me, and those who wished to have the comfort of a like accented person were able to do just that! Tuesday and Wednesday were like a holiday compared to the first day of the week!
Thursday was not so! We had collected Samantha and Edward from the airport during the early hours of Thursday morning. Their flight, which was due to land shortly after midnight, had been delayed, and whilst they arrived twenty minutes early, it was shortly before 3am when our heads hit the pillows, and we were able to enjoy three hours of fitful sleep before the alarm chimed! I got myself ready to leave and head out for coffee with Joe and Gail. Before I left the house, I sent a message to make sure my journey would not be wasted, and was glad that I had taken the precaution. I received a text from Gail to say that Joe was in Montreal, and no one would be at the shop! To illustrate the exact measurement of my sleeplessness, when I received the text I was seated in my car, engine running, ready to back out of the carport. I sat, car in gear, foot on the clutch, looking at my phone, for what must have been a full minute. In retrospect, I think it may have been for the best that I did not drive to the south side of town, as my reaction to the text was not particularly quick, and although I have no doubt that once on the road, I would have been quite alert, I certainly was not whilst deciphering what to do next! Samantha called from Dunkin Donuts, where she had stopped to get some coffee and early morning refreshments for Dana, and I informed her that I was going to be coming into work at the normal time. Her offer to collect me was readily accepted, and eventually, I turned the key, exited and locked the car, and then returned to the warmth of my house.
Dana's absence from the office, Thursday afternoon, was somewhat worse than Monday. Jason was delayed at the courthouse, and Kelly was not employed behind the desk! Of course, the phone did not just ring once, but all four lines lit up like a Christmas tree! As I asked one person to 'please hold', so I requested that the second and third did the same. No one could be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no' and I became quite proficient with 'verbal juggling'. As soon as all four lines were safely closed down, did they started to light up again! Attempting to give directions to one attorney, who wanted to come by the office, was hindered by explaining a legal procedure to an attorney on the other line. When the original attorney finally arrived at our office, I was able to quote the relevant law regarding his particular papers!
The return of 'The Guru' was once again a little too late to experience the mayhem that had been in progress during the hours of his departure. The office was calm, the staff were calm, and even the dog was calm. It was as if he had walked into a holiday resort, and everyone was enjoying a relaxing vacation! Late Thursday afternoon saw a slow-down that we had not experienced during earlier in the day.
Not so was Friday morning! With a meeting at 10am, I was once again thrust into the driving seat! Attempting to stay on the Buckin' Bronco, would have been easier than staying in the saddle of 'The Guru's' chair! As soon as I thought I had gained the upper hand, the force of work threw me off course, and I ended up face down in the mire! However, no matter how metaphorically bruised had I become, I climbed back on to the horse and rode some more! One problem after another was solved, and those who resisted my knowledge were now slightly more confident with my answers. By the time Dana, once again, returned to the helm, the seas were calm! The Bronco's had stopped buckin' and we set sail into the sunset on a crest of a very small wave.
Friday night was very cold. The temperature had dipped below freezing, and we were treated to a modicum of sleet. Various road closures were being reported, as ice was forming on high bridges, and Austinites were being warned to 'drive carefully', and if at all possible to 'stay at home'. This was an offer I was quite happy not to refuse! Tucked up in bed with a hot cup of tea was my idea of a reasonable end to the work week!
I shall be sitting in the Director's chair a couple of times during the week to come. Prepared as I might be, I am never sure of what may come to pass that will send me off course, but the confidence levels are reasonable! Although I will always, no doubt, remain the 'grasshopper', to the 'master', (oh the memories of 70's television shows!) I am quite proficient without the training wheels! Yet again, of course, I shall report any deviation in ............ another story!