This cuts off in the middle of a scene, but it's almost 2AM, and I think I've reached a point which will answer some questions which, I hope, people have had in mind over the last few days. To be continued...
Kristy had described Schneider & Sons as “just south of Chicago”, and on a map this is indeed where it was. However the translation from map to reality could make even small distances large, and so it was that even after clearing the tangle of traffic and toll stations near Chicago itself, Kristy found herself, an hour after leaving O’Hare International Airport in her rental car driving through corn fields and (according to the GPS) still twenty miles from Johnson, IL.
Upon arrival, she checked into the hotel Schneider & Sons had booked for her. It was a member of one of the national chains of business-focused hotels— please enjoy our complimentary wireless internet and hot breakfast, the workout room and pool are open twenty four hours to accommodate the needs of busy professionals — such that walking the halls Kristy felt she could easily be back in the Bay Area, until she looked out her room’s window and caught a few of corn fields stretching off into the distance. Despite this rural view, however, the city information flier she found in her room assured her that Johnson was one of the growing business centers of central Illinois, boasting not only the Schneider & Sons headquarters, but one of the nation’s largest casket companies, and a newly built Nestle plant. It was still early in the evening, and her interviews did not begin until 9:30 the next morning, so Kristy set out to “Discover Historic Downtown Johnson” and have some dinner on the Scheider & Sons expense account.
Her interview the next morning began with a tour, conducted by a young woman named Stephanie from HR.
“It’s a beautiful day out,” she said. “Let’s take the bicycles. That’ll be much faster.”
Sure enough, outside the employee entrance was a large collection of black touring bicycles.
“Actually, I suppose we shouldn’t really have you on a bike when you’re not on the company insurance,” Stephanie said, hesitating. “Let’s take a pair of the trikes to be on the safe side.”
Kristy took this for a joke and laughed appreciatively, but further inspection revealed that there were indeed several adult-size tricycles off to one side. Stephanie cheerfully threw a leg over one and wheeled it onto the path and Kristy, not knowing what else to do, did the same. A moment later the two women were cruising down the graveled path, past the corporate pond and between rolling lawns.
“We have a big emphasis on health here at Schneider & Sons,” Stephanie explained. “The bikes are to help encourage exercise, but they’re also handy for getting around. It takes fifteen minutes to walk to the factory and ten to the R&D building, but with the bikes it’s much faster.”
With Stephanie cheerfully pedaling away and talking rapidly, and Kristy trying to maintain some degree of interviewee dignity while riding an adult-size tricycle while wearing a suit and heels, they visited the factory, the employee health center, the R&D building, the work shops — employees, Kristy was assured, were encouraged to do projects using Schneider & Sons tools, and an annual furniture and wood-working contest offered substantial prizes — and the distribution warehouse. In passing, they admired the corporate lake, the tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, and the helipad where Gus Schneider IV landed on the days he flew to work rather than driving.
Kristy could not help marking the odd similarities between this 139-year-old companies and the tech firms which had not yet existed as many weeks back in the South Bay. She had never thought of the foosball tables, bike trails and squash courts of which various previous employers had bragged as being a revival of an older approach to combining business and recreation.
After an hour, she and Stephanie returned to the main building, and Stephanie turned her over to Brad, vice president of product marketing and her potential boss. Kristy was feeling slightly windblown and disarranged, but Brad — who proved to be a balding though fit looking man in his mid fifties with a penchant for company golf shirts and cargo pants — was setting no intimidating standard in dress and neatness.
She and Brad talked for an hour, she then progressed through four thirty minute interviews. Last of all was a late lunch with Andrea Gomez, senior vice president of strategy.
“I don’t know why they put me on the interview list,” Andrea announced as they got into her VW to drive to lunch. “I don’t tend to say no to interviews, so I get stuck with a lot. And they seem to like to assign me to interview all the woman candidates. I’m not hispanic, in case you’re wondering,” she added, shaking her long blond ponytail. “My husband is Capt. Jesus Gomez, US Marine Corps. If you come work here I’ll be the one who’s always circulating the office emails about donations for care packages to send out to his base when he’s on deployment. So, what are you thinking about Schneider & Sons so far? Big change from California?”
Three hours later Kristy was sitting on O’Hare, waiting for her flight, when she got a call from Lauren at Search Solutions.
“So,” she asked, “How were the interviews?”
“I would have thought you were the one who could tell me that.”
“Well, how did you feel about them?”
“I thought they went well. They’re a distinctive company and at first I was a little thrown off by some things like taking a tour on a tricycle, but I enjoyed the interviews and I thought they went well.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed your visit. They enjoyed having you. As you guessed, I’ve hear back from them. The whole team is very impressed with you. They did have some questions around whether you’d entertain an offer. Going from the Bay Area to small town Illinois would be a big change. Are you interested in making it?”
“I think I need to think about it on the way home, talk to my family, and see an offer, but if they’re prepared to make a fair offer I think I’m pretty likely to accept it. Remember, I’m from the area. I’d be within two hours of my parents, and that would be nice.”
“Okay. Thanks for the candid feedback. I’ll pass that on to them. You keep an eye on your email. I think you can probably expect to see something fairly soon.”
“I will. Thanks.”
“They’re offering you the job already?” Katie asked.
“Yeah, I’ve got an offer letter. It’s less money than the Aspire Brands job, and it’s a manager role rather than a director one, but does seem like a good company. And it would be a lot cheaper living in small town Illinois than it is here.”
“How soon would you have to go?”
“Pretty soon. They want me to start within three weeks. They’d move us out, of course. There’s a relocation package.”
Katie sat on the couch, hugging her knees and looking worried. “Kristy, I can’t leave the state.”
This odd claim brought Kristy out of her own thoughts and caused her to focus her attention on Katie. “Why can’t you leave? I thought we were getting along really well together. Wouldn’t you want to come with me?”
“No, you don’t get it. Kristy, I—” She looked desperately around, but finding no relief, plunged on. “There’s something I haven’t told you.”
The pause stretched on long enough that Kristy expected the next words before she heard them. “Do you remember that time I was out all night? The day before you got laid off?”
“Oh my God!” Kristy’s mind was running far faster than her words. In a moment she had already envisioned the future: she and Katie drawn ever closer together as they struggled together to raise Katie’s child — a daughter surely. The late nights. The time away from work. The crying and toys and diapers, but the small face with its pale blue eyes looking up at her aunt. Kristy had never felt the attraction of a baby before — she had on many occasions expressed the opinion that she lacked any mothering instinct. But now she saw that helping to care for Katie’s child would give her life a new sort of meaning. “Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant, Katie?”
“What?” Katie squawked. “I’m not pregnant. How could I be pregnant?”
“But, you said—”
“I’m not pregnant, Kristy. I’m going to jail!” This last came out in something very near a wail, and Katie buried her face in her arms.
This claim of Katie’s was so utterly unexpected that Kristy could not yet even make herself alarmed. “What? Wait. Katie, what you you talking about.”
“I can’t leave the state. The papers from the court all said that,” Katie said, sounding close to tears. “And I think they’re going to send me to jail.”
“Katie, this isn’t making any sense. Explain from the beginning,” Kristy fetched the box of tissues, handed one to Katie, and sat down next to her. “What happened? Why do you think you’re going to jail?”
Katie blew her nose thoroughly, wiped her eyes, and pulled Kristy’s arm around her more tightly, then began. “Well, you remember that I went out with Abby and Myra from work, and I met a guy named Brian?”
“Well, we’d all been drinking a lot. And then, after a while, Abby and Myra went home, so it was just me and Brian. I had had a lot to drink, and we were going to go over to his place, or maybe he was taking me back here— Okay, to be honest, I don’t really remember where we were going. We got in his car, and he said he could still drive, and we took off. But the cops pulled us over. They were making him do a breathalyzer, and they were both being real assholes. Well, okay, I mean, I think they were. To be honest, I was really drunk. I was telling them that they should leave us alone, and that we were just trying to get home, and they should be out protecting people, and… You know. Like I said, I was really drunk. And I guess I was yelling at them a lot or something after they told me to stop, because the next thing is they handcuffed me and they took us both to the police station. And I think I kind of passed out or fell asleep for a while or something. But when they let me go the next morning they gave me a ticket for $500 for ‘interfering with an officer at a crime scene’. And I didn’t have the money, so I filled out the paper saying I wanted a court date instead, so I’d have some time. But now they keep sending me court dates, and the papers say that I owe $500 plus costs or else I’ll go to jail for 6-10 days. And it doesn’t say what the costs are, and I don’t now how much longer I can keep delaying the court date, but I don’t know what to do and it says if I leave the state they’ll issue a warrant for my arrest and— Oh, Kristy, I’m sorry!”
After having gradually increased in energy and speed her explanation finally devolved, upon this apology, into tears.
“Katie. Katie, it’s okay,” Kristy comforted, stroking her hair.
“It’s not okay. I know it was stupid of me to get drunk and yell at police officers, but I don’t want to go to jail.”
“Don’t be silly. You won’t go to jail. Katie, this is easy. Let me call up my friend Dan, who’s a lawyer, and we’ll get this all sorted out. No one is going to jail. It’ll be fine. Why didn’t you tell me about this back when it happened?”
The cruelest month, a few days early
8 hours ago