Creaks and Groans

Ok, so I’m back in the proverbial saddle. The warm Christmas weather has gone south (literally and figuratively), the wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating, regenerating respite of the Christmas break is now long since forgotten.

It’s week number one. I’ve enjoyed first and second lectures in all my new courses but one – and it looks as if they’re all going to be fascinating to me. The best part, though, is that the knowledge in the courses is overlapping. The rhetoric course teaches some of the same points as the Public Relations course, and so on. This is the very best way to study. It’s reinforcement – what we used to call “revision” in my youth – and is an absolute must, and it is all the more effective if it’s not saved only for the last week before exams and quizzes – it should be ongoing, continuous reinforcement of concepts and facts.

I don’t suppose I look it, but I feel smarter than last semester. I have a better idea of what the teachers are up to, and what they expect. You’d think I’d have that down from my last degree, wouldn’t you – but you’d also be surprised what you can forget in twenty years.

I attended the Co-Op interview. Interesting, interesting… Good questions, good answers. Bright, young students, careful, concerned – oh, and me. I have an advantage over the youngsters, though. I know that they were very nervous about the interview, but I wasn’t. Clearly, I’ve been through that kind of thing before – and in the scheme of things that particular interview ranked quite low on my stress-o-meter. Aside from anything else, as the ranking old fart in the room (including the interviewers!) I have absolutely no right to be nervous, so I was my own relaxed, ebullient self – I answered my questions clearly, with lucidity and aplomb, and even chimed in to ensure there was dialogue where it felt like it might flag.

There was one girl – no names (actually I don’t remember it) – a sweetheart, really, a slip of a girl, very pretty, with all sorts of earnestness and enthusiasm. She seemed very nice to me, but in part of the answer to one of her questions she actually went out of her way to downplay the importance of the part-time job she works at. She said “It’s really not all that important, is it?”

Okay, now this is a fundamental interview error – I know this to be true – and as the resident old fart I made a point of drawing everyone’s attention to the enormous importance of first-rate customer service skills which you learn in a job like hers. The interviewers both agreed with me and we moved on.

Afterwards, though, on our way out the door I asked the girl if she minded a little advice – she said not at all so I suggested something that would help her in the future.

Using my best, most eloquent Toastmaster happy-sandwich evaluation method I told her that she came across very well in the interview, then re-affirmed that she should never sell herself short, then reinforced that she clearly has excellent communication abilities. I told her that – for the future (because she was very good today, no problem) she should be sure to emphasize only positive aspects of her experience – that she should learn to think of mundane things in glorious terms.

The poor girl burst out crying! I couldn’t believe it! She burst out crying. I apologized left, right, and center – I really had been gentle and diplomatic, and I really had only meant the absolute best for her. My motives were 100% pure, and yet there she was – crying!

I kept apologizing. I asked her why she was crying (I really could not conceive it). She was crying so persistently that for a while I actually couldn’t get a word in. Finally I was able to calm her down a bit and explain again that she had done very well indeed in the interview, my thoughts were only for future reference. There she went again.!

Omigosh, what to do? What to do? I have never seen anything like that in my life. Ultimately we parted company. I watched her walking down the hallway, snuffling all the way to the first corner, and away.

I don’t think I said anything inherently wrong. On analysis of the moment I think there may (must) have been something else at work that elicited that kind of reaction. Even so, I felt absolutely rotten to the core.

Rotten. So rotten that I stewed on the incident for at least 20 minutes before I realized that I couldn’t let it lie. So I returned to the interviewers and was lucky to find them still working in their office. I explained what had happened, explained that I sincerely hope that the poor girl’s marks are good enough to get her into the program because if they aren’t it’s going to be like some kind of personality-reinforcing horror for her and she’s going to hate me for the rest of her days.

I’m glad I got it off my chest with the interviewers. They thanked me for sharing the story and told me not to worry about it, which is all well and good but I’m still blown away by the poor dear’s reaction. It would simply never occur to me that anything I could say to anybody would make them cry, so her reaction was a real shock.

Anyway, I have moved on because I must. Results? I won’t know that for a couple of weeks. I haven’t heard from the recruiter since before school started again, so I’m not assuming anything there. Life washes over me and I watch it happen.

J

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