Monday, May 4, 2009

OMG...did that really happen?

Sometimes you just wish you could have a do-over. I wish we could buy do-over's like you do mulligans at a golf tournament. Buy as many as you need, keep them handy for when you need them. In my perfect "do-over friendly" world, you could use a do-over for just about anything. My sister could use one when she has in "did I really say that out loud?".

Man, do I wish I would have had one available a few weeks ago. I write this story now, several weeks after the event, because I've tried in vain to suppress the memory and figure maybe I should just purge it instead. So here goes.

I'm a member of President Paul Zingg's Advisory Board at CSU-Chico. The Advisory Board funds special awards for Chico State students who excel at community service. We drop into the classroom unannounced and surprise the student with their award. It's really fun. At least it was until a fateful Tuesday in April.

I was in a hurry. No surprise, I'm almost always in a hurry. It was windy and cold that day, and I was late getting over to President Paul's office to meet the other members of the Board for the presentation. All the way over I was wondering how I would keep the dust and pollen out of my eyes and my wildly blowing hair from getting stuck in my lipstick. Little did I know, these would be the least of my problems that day.

I arrive out of breath in the President's office and thankfully had a few minutes to sit in his waiting room with other Board members while we waited for Paul to finish a phone call. Shortly he joined us and we began our walking journey clear across campus to the building housing the Construction Management classes. Again dust, pollen and lipstick laden hair kept my mind occupied as we trekked against the wind, hands thrust deeply in pockets to stay warm.

We arrive outside the classroom and meet up with several faculty members who want to witness the award. As a group with single purpose-of-mind, we flung open the doors to the classroom and marched to the front of the room. Staring up at us in surprise is a jam-packed room of construction management majors, mostly young men in their early 20's, eagerly waiting to hear why the University President and his entourage have crashed the classroom.

After introducing us, Paul reads the award announcement, and the honored student joins us in the front of the room for pictures. I'm feeling really good about being part of this ceremony, and at that moment am thinking "I'm so lucky to be here". We finish the ceremony and file outside to say our goodbye's before hoofing it the 4 blocks back to my office.

It is at this point, I have no idea why or how, that I realize the zipper of my black slacks is down. All the way down. NO, NO, NO, this didn't just happen! In the same instant I take stock....what color undies am I wearing today? OMG, say it isn't so...I realize they're white. Black slacks, white undies, zipper down, hands in pockets in front of a big group of people for pictures. Do-over...please God, let me have just one do-over.

Weeks have gone by and I've told this story to only two other people...Alice in my Chamber office, because we can laugh about anything together...and my husband, only because I'd rather he hear it from me first and he already knows I'm a dork.

These silly events can be a learning experience, however. I've learned to be much more forgiving in the last several years. Particularly in business, and particularly in Chico. As much as we all want to be perfect, everybody makes mistakes and this is still a relatively small town. How well we do in giving folks a do-over speaks much more loudly about our own character than anything else.

For instance, there was a period of time when the Chamber of Commerce was heavily involved in politics, including candidate endorsements. Not everybody loved this, in fact lots of folks were really upset about it and turned their backs on the Chamber of Commerce. It's not quite the same as standing in front of a group with your zipper down, but sometimes it feels the same.

If I could ask for one do-over for the Chamber, it would probably be on this issue. But I can't, so we'll just learn the lessons and move forward. But it bears repeating, often, that the Chamber of Commerce no longer participates in candidate endorsements. We focus on issues only and stay out of the personality of the candidates. Tell your friends. It's important that they know, too.

I know that the Chamber learned a few things from the experience, and we'll remember the lessons. My experience with the CSU-Chico President's Advisory Board taught me a few lessons as well.

First, slow down for goodness sake! Rushing is a mistake when you've got someplace important to be (especially if you're going to be in front of a crowd with your hands in your pockets). You should always make time for one last "mirror check".

Second, black undies with black slacks. No exceptions.

Third, don't kid yourself into thinking you're so important people will remember who you are, unless you've been standing in front of them with your zipper down.

Lastly, there really are no do-overs, so try not to picture these mistakes in your head, and for heaven's sake learn to laugh at your dorky self!

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