A week later,
I pull into a parking lot surrounded by expensive vehicles. It is my first day consulting with Mark on his food distribution project for the government. Mark told me the dress was casual, but I still opted for khakis and a button up. I needed to show some professionalism, not only to the job but for myself. I had to prove to myself that I can do something right. Since I quit my other job, I have not been myself. I am struggling with who I am and what I am going to do with my life. I need this contract position, probably more than Mark needs me.
At the reception desk I introduce myself and let him know that Mark Baxter was expecting me. It was only a few moments before Mark came storming out of the coded doors.
“Jane!” His booming voice fills the tiny reception office. “Finally, you have come to save me from the work piling up on me. Come. I will introduce you to Tara. She is my number two on this project, and she will get you started on your tasks. At the end of the month, you will just invoice us for the hours you worked and hand it to Joe at the reception desk out front. Luckily I do not have to deal with any of that.”
“Mark,” I say to him, “Thank you again for this. I am very excited to help out the best I can.”
“Jane, as I told you on the phone multiple times, you are doing me the favor. I am officially swamped with this project, and it is really killing the creative juices,” he says to me with a wink.
“Either way,” I continue, “Thank you.”
“Jane, this is Tara. She is your go to person for the project. Most questions she already has the answers to. She is a very bright kid in her 20’s. I expect great things from her.”
As Mark is giving his praise, I notice that Tara is turning a nice shade of pink. “By what Mark has told me about you,” Tara says to me recovering quite well from the praise, “You will be just fine. You will pick up everything quite simply. Let me give you a tour of the facility and show you what you will be working on.”
As Tara and I walk away from Mark, I look around at what I see. I am trying to discern what type of food distribution project this is. Tara must be good at reading expressions because she says, “Mark elaborates some when he says this is a food distribution project. He makes it sound like we are solving the problem of how to feed the world. That is not what we are doing at all. I am sure you have been hearing a lot of stories lately about contaminated food. Every week it seems there is a new food we should not eat. That is what we are trying to stop.”
Although this clears up some, I am even more confused about the reason I am there or even why it is Mark’s project. We are both engineers, not biologists. Thankfully Tara continues to explain. “This project is a dual department project. We have biologists and engineers trying to build a machine that can detect and eliminate any bacteria pathogens that could cause sickness in consumers. You will be helping me with the prototype that we have developed at this stage.”
“Wow,” I say. “That is a beneficial project that could change the world. That’s nice.” Tara laughs at me. “Sorry,” I say. “My last job was not concerned with the well-being of anyone but themselves and their clients. This is a nice change of pace.”
“And I thought Mark always made up what he said about his last job,” Tara said to me. “But now that I am hearing it from you too, I should probably stop picking on him. Regardless, I think you will like it here. We act like a team, and all of us are concerned with making the world just a little bit better. This is your work station. Sorry it is small. We are at full capacity, as the project is in full swing right now. At least you have a window.”
I look around. She was right. The desk was small, but it was organized with plenty of storage for anything I could possibly need. The window was a nice touch too. I could stay connected here.
“Thank you, Tara.”
“Project notes are in the top drawer. Everything is in there. You may want to acquaint yourself with that first before getting started. Let me know if you have any questions,” Tara said as she walked away to let me begin in peace.
To Be Continued…