Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The View From There

All last week and this week I've been trying to schedule meetings with my student workers at the local college. They're smart and busy people, and I've had the effrontery to require them to attend a week of staff meetings during which I go through some writing theory with the new people and explain new policies for the experienced folks before I set them almost entirely free to go about their tutoring in their own way.

In the past few years, I've gotten more lenient about scheduling make-up meetings and suspending judgment about the reliability of someone who agrees to meet me at a certain time and then forgets to show up, or waltzes in fifteen minutes late. Because everybody has a story. Sometimes I don't hear the story, because the student turns out to be a person I really can't rely on. But occasionally I do hear the story, and I realize that my list of prospective staff members is less black and white than it seems. It turns out that in a world where more bosses are responding to overscheduled young people by making meetings "mandatory" and work times non-negotiable, that showing some flexibility in scheduling nets me a few of the rare and exotic breeds that aren't easy to catch.

There's always a small group of people in the world who know what it's like to aim at one college major or graduate fellowship or prestigious career and end up in another, or in a job that they might have once thought would be temporary but which turns out to have occupied them for, well, years now. It's something of a secret society; we know how to shake hands and convey fellow-feeling with our eyes; we know what it's like to be in someone else's shoes. We've seen what poet Susan Wheeler calls

The View From There

The old boss was surprised when you ran into her
on the street. Behind her eyelashes a model TV
hummed a sports coach and a car. The old boss
said, for instance, Well I'm so glad things are going
well for you with genuine surprise. She rubbed
at her eyelid and tried to revise her history of you,
invisibly. But it showed. The lazy sky and the car
gliding under the trees, the library's false front:
the view made a fit backdrop for hysteria.
She thought she was in the clear; she was wrong.

Old patrons know how to patronize, the sports star told the
sports coach, although you could not hear him from
outside the store. Herr Arbeit showed me the desk by
appliances: eleven more forms to blot with dry
snow, seven mock beavers to stuff. Then show.
My work is cut out to a tee.

Living well is the best revenge, but if you can't manage that and someone catches up with you while you're still stuffing mock beavers, then isn't it a comfort to know that what of you can be captured in a resume is not all of you? That for some of us, in fact, it is the smallest part, the part that a giant inquisitive stranger could pull off carelessly--and for the loss of which you could rather easily compensate?

4 comments:

readersguide said...

Yes. Yes indeed.

thelass said...

Yes, ma'am.

lemming said...

hint taken

Jeanne said...

Lemming, that wasn't really aimed at you and yours. Inspired, maybe, but not aimed!