It was an outdoor event, held at noon, in the first week of September in Houston. Who does that?
I dressed for the heat, for the media who would be there, for the who’s who in attendance, and for my boss’ bosses. I dressed to stand in the grass, in the sun, while looking like someone who actually belonged at that kind of event. I was there to work.
After careful consideration I wore a sleeveless wrap dress with a very light short-sleeved knit cover (too light to call “sweater,” too casual to be called “jacket”), low-heeled sandals, no hose, and very discreet jewelry. My face looked polished and bare, an effect that took me 20 minutes to achieve. I wore contacts instead of glasses. My hair was up in a high ponytail that bounced and swayed when I moved.
The whole thing looked effortless and appropriate. I was very pleased.
For over an hour I smiled and air kissed and shook hands and pretended to remember some and actually remembered others. I’ve been at so many of these events that I’ve met everyone at least once. Unfortunately, if I’m working, I’m not focused on who I’m meeting, but who I’m there to assist. That means I’m not going to remember you next time. It’s not personal, it’s just that there are 4,000 names in my address book and I entered them all myself, and I need to meet you at least three times before I remember who you are.
Today they asked me if I was the “handler.” Today I answered “yes.”
It’s my job to bring a copy of the speech, to have a copy of the speeches the others are giving, to take photos of the crowd and the formal presentation, take note of all the media in attendance, run interference if needed, hold the water bottle (or pile of papers) during photos, hand out business cards, collect business cards… and smile while melting in the sun. Every once in a while I have to give positive feedback, before or after the event (sometimes during), and make sure that everyone is breathing easy.
Today I was the handler. I was there to work.
The event was over, the grip and grin done, and I’m walking back to my car. My charge is with me, basking in the glow of a successful event. She deserves to feel good, she was very good today.
And she confides in me, once we’re on the parking lot, that she’s been wishing she could take off her jacket, because of the heat, but she couldn’t. She pulls one side up to show the dress underneath, “I have a bra strap issue.” Her own sleeveless dress, worn under a light jacket, was cut too narrow to cover her straps, which are a very visible white against a dark dress. She gives me a wry grin while I take this in. She goes on to tell me that her husband didn’t understand wearing the dress if she couldn’t take off the jacket, but the outfit looked good, so she wore it anyway.
I start to laugh, still walking. I grab one side of my cover and show her my dark straps, visible against my very light skin, which are not hidden by the sleeveless wrap dress. She laughs with me. “It’s a good thing it wasn’t August,” I say to her.
And, for once, no one drove by at that moment, my boss’ bosses didn’t see me flashing my bra strap in a public parking lot, and no one took an instagram and posted it (to my knowledge). Today I managed to look professional until the very end. And we’ll just keep that bra strap incident among friends… right?
Photo courtesy of Caitlin Regan via http://www.flickr.com/photos/21484712@N00/2892444002.