I Meeean, For Real?
If Chris Keslar has learned one thing working for Jeff Lewis it's: YOU CAN'T WIN.
I really want to thank each and every one of you who have posted words of support and encouragement on this blog or have contacted me directly through Facebook/MySpace. Your thoughts, observations and kindness have totally blown me away. So, again, thanks from the bottom of my heart. I love hearing from you guys.
So, let's start with a little framework for this episode. The situations you see me in this week (Busgate, Catfoodgate, MemorialDaygate, 3MonthReviewgate) all happen over the course of several months and are a representative sampling of my life working for Jeff. Also important to keep in mind (especially for my three-month review) is the fact that through all of this I had been doing Chris Elwood's job plus mine without any additional help. The job of House Manager and House Assistant merged into one and became my sole responsibility. After Chris' departure, Jeff said that if doing both of the jobs became too much I should let him know but that he intended to hire someone else to help out around the house. In doing that, I could continue to have more time in the field learning the business. I usually worked overtime during the week and if Jeff ever needed me on the weekends, I always made myself available I didn't say "No" to anything because I really wanted to show him how serious I was about the job. He knew that I wanted to advance past House Assistant and I wanted to prove to him that I deserved to.
Chronologically, Catfoodgate happened first. Every two weeks or so, I would make a run to Pets Naturally in Sherman Oaks because they carry the specific brand of premium cat food that Jeff likes for Monkey and for Stuey. Monkey dines on Tiki Cat and Stuey eats Great Life Chicken. The woman who runs Pets Naturally knows us because we come in so often and always purchase the same thing. When I went to pick up Stuey's food that week I noticed that the picture on the bag was different. When I went to check out I specifically asked her about it because I wanted to make sure I was getting the right food. She assured me that it was the same formula -- the same exact food -- but that they had just changed the packaging. It never crossed my mind that it would become as big a deal as it ended up becoming. Apparently, the bag I bought had gotten crushed in transit and, thus, the cat food was soft and crumbled to the touch. Subsequently, Stuey would not eat it. When Jeff questioned me about it, I relayed what the woman at the store had told me. I guess he didn't believe me (?) and was convinced that she was "bullshitting" me! Whaaaaaaat??? Why in the world would she try to bullshit me? About freaking cat food?!! Trying to stay in the solution, I asked him if he would like me to try another brand. Nope! He wanted me to go back and demand that I get the old food! He was convinced that she was holding out on me. Oh my god. FOR REALS??? Before wasting time and money to go the whole way back to Sherman Oaks, I suggested we call corporate to get to the bottom of the matter. After getting permission to go on the computer, I called up Great Life to find out that, in fact, the packaging had changed and nothing else. The formula was exactly the same So, I went back to the pet store, exchanged the crumbled cat food and Stuey was saved from starvation I love that Jeff cares so much about his animals, but this situation was out of control!
The Memorial Day debate was another exercise in frustration. I was pretty sure that the crews were not working that day, so I figured that we, too, would most certainly have off. In an effort to be conscientious, I just wanted to check in with him and make sure that we, too, were going to have off. This is one of the toughest things about working for Jeff: He puts on one hell of a poker face! When I asked about Memorial Day, it was more about making small talk during lunch and for confirmation that we would, in fact, have off. When he came out with the whole "We rotate holidays and Zoila has requested all of them off for this year," I was incredulous. I admit, I have a tendency to take things too literally at times, but this doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor! There are times when Jeff is just kidding and I was beginning to get good at telling when he was doing that. In this instance, I was pretty sure he was just kidding, but he wouldn't break. He just kept playing, playing, pushing, pushing, and pushing. He wouldn't break and just say, "Yes, Chris. It's OK for you to have off for Memorial Day." That's why I kept going back and forth with him about it I just kept waiting for him to break and be reasonable! It never happened! Ha!
The whole bus debacle was just ree-dunk-u-lous! So blazingly stupid and such a waste of time! Let me just state for the record that I have absolutely no problem taking public transportation. I'm an East Coast boy who has logged countless hours taking public transportation while living in Philly, New York, and London. In this instance, however, there was absolutely no good reason for me to take the bus back from the body shop. I couldn't agree more with Jeff when he says, "When the situation warrants it, we do what we have to do to get the job done." However, in no way shape or form, did this situation warrant me taking the bus. The amount of time it would have taken me to wait for the bus, make the appropriate transfers and wait through all of the stops would have been well over an hour and a total waste of my time and money for Jeff. In the scene, Zoila asks why she can't follow me and take me home. Jeff says it's because she has cleaning to do. For real, folks -- there was nothing that pressing on the home front that needed cleaning that day! Trust me. It would have taken a total of 30 minutes max for Zoila to follow me and take me home. Jeff just wanted to taunt me and to tease me! As Jenni says in her interview, Jeff likes to play the "How far can we push it" game. After a while, that game gets old (and not fun when you're on the receiving end of it all the time) when you're just trying to get through your workday in the most efficient and expedient manner possible. Realizing I'm not going to sway him, I leave pretending I will take the bus back.
Although the viewer doesn't get the framework for the call in the episode, the scene with me in the car talking to my friend, Kate, was actually an attempt on my part to remedy the bus situation so I could skip the idiocy of Jeff's request. I called Kate to come pick me up and drive me back to Commonwealth so I could continue on with my day as quickly as possible. My list was usually pretty packed with errands and cleaning so losing an hour plus on the bus is not something I wanted to do. Seeing that scene played back on TV made me bristle. I hate that I refer to Jeff as a "d-bag." I'm sorry that I said it. It's the antithesis of class and I really dislike that it came out of my mouth. I was just getting really frustrated because I didn't understand why he was trying to test me like that -- for the fun of it, for shits and giggles -- when there was no reason to do so. It starts to get to a gal after awhile!
Finally, we have the occasion of my three-month review! I'll say upfront that in my professional life I've never had an employee/boss review where the whole company was present and weighing in on my job performance. It felt like I was on the firing range! Seeing this scene played back was bittersweet. I really appreciated the nice, positive things everyone had to say about my work ethic and my job performance. It really meant a lot to me that they all thought I was a hard worker. I always show up and try to give it my all. However, I can really see the toll that doing the job of House Manager and House Assistant was having on me. When I well up with tears in the scene, it is simply because I just feel misunderstood by Jeff. Plain and simple. And overwhelmed. And tired. And underappreciated. As I mentioned in last week's blog, before Chris left I had a day each week to go out in the field and shadow Jeff. That's what was exciting to me. That's when I was learning. That's what made the mundane aspects of the job palatable. But, after Chris left, my day out in the field to specifically shadow Jeff evaporated and without warning. And that was truly disappointing to me. Sporadically I would get to do things out in the field, but mostly my job was confined to taking care of the house. While I recognize that I was hired to do that job, I was also hired with the promise that I would be trained in the business of house flipping. I didn't feel like I was growing or advancing at a pace that was consistent with the work I was putting in. I felt like I was paying my dues and after my review it felt like Jeff didn't see it that way. I realized that I was long ways away from advancing up the ladder at Jeff Lewis and Co.
Here's the rub working for Jeff: if you don't stick up for yourself or question him, he'll walk all over you. If you do stand up for yourself or point out inconsistencies in his management style, then you have an attitude problem.
It was around this time that I really started to learn the number one rule in working for Jeff:
YOU CAN'T WIN.
And he would say that to me a lot in regards to any number of situations: "You know you can't win, Chris." There's nothing less inspiring than to work for someone when you know you can never win -- that no matter what you do, it's probably not going to be good enough. I hope that I have made it patently clear in my previous blog posts (and hopefully from what you have seen of me on the show) that I really do respect Jeff, the quality of his work, and the opportunity to work for him. Feeling like I can never please him, however, starts to become really disheartening and discouraging to me. And next week, you'll see how we both come to deal with the situation.
Until then my little chickadees ...
Love and light, Chris. PS!!! O
ne question that keeps popping up is whether Angela from Season 3 of Project Runway is my sister. YES! That kooky, rosette lovin' Angela is, in fact, my big sister! Which then means that my dear, darling mother is Darlene of the "Everyday Woman" challenge in Season 3. I was so proud of my cute, little mom for WORKIN' IT OUT ON THE RUNWAY! Mama Darlene rocks the hizzzouse! Angela's participation in Project Runway had no absolutely no bearing on me being hired by Jeff Lewis. Neither Bravo nor Authentic Entertainment had any role in hiring me to work for Jeff. In fact, I don't even think that Jeff knew my sister was on Project Runway until after I was hired. (Jenni might have known, but I don't think Jeff did). If you're curious to know the scoop on how I ended up working for Jeff, head on over to my first blog, "Being the New Guy," and you'll see how I landed my job with Jeff!