Tea Memory — the “Napoleon of Napa Valley”

Once upon a time, hubby and I lived in what others regard as the beautiful idyllic Napa Valley in California. Steep yourself a nice hot pot of tea and read about my experience there with the guy I refer to in my memory as the “Napoleon of Napa Valley.” Ready? Here goes!

Imagine sitting across from this during a job interview. (screen capture from site)
Imagine sitting across from this during a job interview. (screen capture from site)

Small vineyards abound in Napa Valley, California. During the year or so we lived there, my job search brought me to one such vineyard. There I encountered the “Napoleon of Napa Valley.” Small in stature. Huge in puffed up self-importance. Determined to conquer the California wine industry one grape at a time.

The employment recruiter I was using to find gainful employment in the area (something other than picking grapes, that is) was excited about having me interview for the position of personal assistant to this vineyard owner. (In Napa Valley, wine is everything, apparently.) While I knew nothing about wine nor cared, being a teetotaler, my skills in other areas (computers, etc.) would be of good use here. So, I agreed to go to see this man, feeling sure he would be suitably impressed and see that I was a perfect fit for the job and wonder how he had ever gotten along without me. Mind you, I consider “personal assistant” to be another term for “secretary,” something that I did not consider a good career move for me, having been in IT for so many years and hoping to get back to that someday.

I arrived at his house (more of a small villa) and was feeling better about the job already (it always helps to work in nice surroundings). When entering the front door, I found myself in a large area that looked like a fancy office lobby. A neatly dressed young woman sat behind an overly large desk, one meant to impress rather than serve any real function. (The receptionist, aka “the first hurdle.”) She greeted me as if I had just run over her cat (an accident, I assure you!). Having properly showered and dressed for the occasion, I was certain she could not be mistaking me for some wanderer passing through the valley looking for a hand out. (There were quite a few of those around.) I introduced myself. She phoned “Napoleon” and then asked me to wait.

This “lobby,” by the way, had a large curving staircase that created a rather large opening to the floor above. I could hear “Napoleon’s” voice when he was on the phone with the receptionist. His words, “Make her wait a bit.” Gee, what a nice start to the interview.

After sitting for awhile, I finally heard him phone the receptionist that “Okay, she’s waited long enough. Send her up.” First, I’m not sure why they bothered with phones, since both sides of the conversation could be clearly heard through that floor opening. Second, I was being sent a message here: “We are far more important than you.” What followed not only emphasized that message but played out like some cheesy 1950’s Hollywood movie. I ascended the curved staircase and was not greeted at the top by “Napoleon.” Instead, he stayed seated behind his desk about 15 feet away. I walked over, said “How do you do?” and extended my hand across the desk in greeting. He motioned me to sit, not deigning to shake my hand. Okay, now I was really wondering. Germophobe maybe?

To make a long story short, he sat behind the desk like a general addressing a wayward recruit, extolled the wonders of his vineyard (which was barely old enough to have put forth its first pressing), was clearly more concerned that I be impressed with him rather than he be impressed with me, cut short my description of my skills and past experience, and finally rose (all 5 feet one inch of him) to signal that the interview was over. I rose, towered over him even though I am of average height, again extended my hand, again had to let it drop unshaken, and left.

Clearly, he left an impression, but most likely not the intended one. Time to rush home and have a soothing pot of tea…and chocolate…yes, lots of chocolate. A nice Ti Kuan Yin and some of those handmade chocolates from the local shop soon had me back to feeling that life made sense. Ah!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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