Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Alter Ego

During the week I am an engineer for an enormous, multinational conglomerate.  My reputation is built on working on nearly every product that our company currently ships.  I spend a frightening number of hours sitting at my computer using spreadsheets and project planning software to figure out how to keep a line of building controls products on track.  I work with budgets, resource planning and company politics to keep everything moving along.  
As the weather starts to look hopeful, suddenly my schedule changes and I begin to take random Fridays off of work.  I am not the only one with such a schedule, many of the folks I work with are obsessed with golf, sailing, fishing, hunting and the like so people don't notice too much.  The only difference is that when I take a Friday off I do NOT check my voice mail and email periodically. At some point this becomes an issue, I miss some big event that crops up on a Friday and on Monday (while I yawn and try to recover from my weekend) I finally have to answer the question "what do you do with all those Fridays off?".  My answer (stated with a sneaky smile)  "I have an alter ego!"
Some folks get very perplexed about what I might mean and walk away.  This is a fair reaction given that we once had a very conservative employee (wore suits in a jeans environment) who came in on Monday mornings with traces of glitter all over his face.  Some people think I'm pretending to be a super hero, laugh and walk away.  Other people just get curious, which gives me the opportunity to talk about my favorite topic despite the fact that I am at work.  That's when I tell them "I am a glass artist".

The best part about my job is that my boss and most everyone who works directly with me knows about my alter ego, and they are all very supportive.  I have given countless gifts of my own artwork and have a few pieces scattered around my cube.  However, those outside of my immediate associates rarely have a clue.

The most interesting scenarios occur when someone I work with who doesn't know my alter ego strolls through my booth at an art fair.  Reactions vary but usually fall into one of two categories: "wow I didn't know that about you!" and "um, do I have to buy something?".  Usually when I see the individual later at work they at least acknowledge that they saw me and ask how the show went.

At One of A Kind I ran into a co-worker with fascinating results.  This woman is a very high level manager type who I interact with on a regular basis.  Many of our interactions are conflict based, always respectful but by design we are usually on opposing sides of an issue.  I have known her for roughly 20 years, but we have never really interacted at all outside of work.  During the last day of OOAK, when Wendy and I were so tired that we might have been described as "slap happy", this woman wandered into my booth with a group of friends.  I watched her pick up some pieces with apparent interest and then I said hello.  She recognized me, realized I was the artist, was shocked, asked a few polite questions and then couldn't get out of my booth fast enough.  
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I have seen this response before, I think these people are afraid that knowing the artist obligates them to buy something and they want to leave before they feel trapped.  The most fascinating part of running into this particular individual is how she has completely ignored the fact that she saw me in the weeks since the show. I have seen her in the hall, been in meetings with her and been on several calls with her.  I have no desire to make her uncomfortable so I haven't brought it up, but I am somewhat amused.

I wonder what the reaction would be if my alter ego was something more shocking?  Or is the artist life shocking enough?

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