Thursday, July 31, 2008
My story begins at my job. Most of us are in our early thirties to late fifties, with a couple of us in our early to middle twenties, and a couple of us in our early sixties to late seventies. Age wise, it's one of the most diverse places i've ever worked, especially with so many older people. There are more people over fifty than people under fifty. You'd think maturity would be as rampant as When I Was YOUR Age stories here, but it really isn't the case.
There's a younger girl, we'll call her Alice (she belongs to the middle twenties demographic), and an older woman, we'll call her Marge (she's in the late forties demographic) here who can't seem to find enough to do around the lab to fill their days, so they are often seen in corners gossipping about their coworkers. Marge's MO is to manipulate Alice into picking on the people they gossip about so that her hands are clean, and Alice gets into trouble. She's been in trouble for being a nuissance to others more than once, and yet she's too dense to realize what Marge is doing to her.
Now Marge went out on medical leave almost 3 months ago, and i figured Alice would settle down and become a normal person without someone to do her heavy thinking for her. After all, most henchmen don't strike out on their own, they look for a new villain to latch themselves onto, and Alice is most definitely a classic henchman. But because she's a henchman and everyone knows it, coupled with the fact that she's only been working here about 10 months, she can't just bully the general populace without experiencing some sort of backlash or, worse, complete disregard.
Her solution: target the new people and torment them. It's genius, really. Almost too smart for her to have figured out on her own. New employees are generally trying so hard to impress the boss that they're not willing to complain about anything at all, including harassment, to avoid seeming like a whiner. It also has the added bonus of deflecting attention from her poor work performance onto the person she's currently trying to make look bad. Enter "Andy", the new guy.
Andy is a 38 year old easy going kind of guy. He is deeply religious, and has most deeply religious peoples' habit of getting preachy when talking about a moral issue he feels strongly about, but knocks it off when you ask him to stop. Really, though, an all-around nice guy. He walked in the door six weeks ago with upward mobility written all over him. This was NOT cool with Alice, who'd been recently promoted to a position only marginally above the one she had been recently occupying. So marginal, in fact, that no pay raise was awarded for the "promotion". But she's taken this marginal position and is now parading it around the lab as though she's been made upper management with a nice salary and company car. It'd be annoying if it wasn't so ridiculous.
Anyway, after Andy's initial training, Alice appointed herself his trainer (ironic, considering her lack of experience, tenure and her general tendency towards complete bumblefuckery) and set about the business of explaining the job poorly and swiftly, and then complaining to the boss about how slow he is and how he isn't picking anything up. My boss (who is definitely in my top five most clever people i've ever met) is well aware of Alice's habits and explains to her that she doesn't think training is really Alice's forte and that she'd rather someone else with more patience and experience be left in charge of Andy's training. Alice then drops all pretense of trying to train the poor guy and just starts harassing him mercilessly. The only thing that's saved her from walking out to the parking lot to find her paint job keyed and her tires slashed is the fact that Andy's a real turn-the-other-cheek type of guy.
Since she wasn't getting anywhere with "Rose" (our boss), Alice turned to me yesterday for "help".
Alice: Oh, he's just so thick! I tell him the same things over and over again and it just doesn't penetrate! I could drill a hole in his head and it probably wouldn't sink in!
Me: What seems to be the problem?
Alice (with hands thrown dramatically up into the air): EVERYTHING!
Me: I need you to be a little more specific than that.
Alice: Well, take DOT training for example. Everytime i --
Me (cutting her off and making a note): Okay, DOT training. Anything else?
Alice (pausing): And he can't load boxes right either. I mean, i honestly don't think the man can even--
Me (cutting her off again, hoping she'll get the hint this time): Box loading. Got it. I think this is a nice start, i'll get with him and see what i can do.
I walk away before she can say anything else.
So i spent some time with Andy today. I explained, in great detail, what Alice seemed to think the guy just wasn't getting. He didn't make many comments or ask many questions, so i asked him questions about the topics we'd just covered. He answered them succinctly. I gave him a box, and asked him to load it and fill out the paperwork, which he did without hesitation or error. I thought this might be the case before i started working with him, but i figured it'd be a good opportunity to see what he knew, and apparently he knew what a six week employee needed to know. And then some. So i went out on a limb and asked him if he had any questions, to which he replied, no, he already knew this stuff.
Me: Okay, well someone had expressed concern over your progress, so i wanted to see your skills for myself before taking any action.
Andy: It was Alice. You can just say it.
Me: Well, honestly i like to get with newer hires after they've been here a few weeks anyhow, so i would've gotten around to talking to you soon even if there was no concern expressed. Do you have any idea why Alice is concerned about you?
Andy: Well, i make a lot of mistakes around her. She's just so bossy and intimidating and critical, and that makes me mess up. With you it was easier because i was relaxed.
Me: Ah, that's what i needed to know. Thank you for being frank with me.
So i took Andy and went out to see Alice and explained to her what i'd gone over with Andy and that he seemed to get it just fine if given the space to do it. I also mentioned that i'd like for him to be given the opportunity to do more DOT work for the extra practise. Andy left, and i closed the door to the room Alice and i were in. She started carrying on about how grateful she was that i'd "straightened his ass out" and how tired she was of trying to explain. I interrupted her and told her:
Me: Cut the negative attitude. If you find a coworker in need of development, i have absolutely no problem with you coming to me and asking me to intervene. What i do NOT need is your personal commentary on that coworker's work ethic and personality. You will stop intimidating Andy. You will encourage him, and correct his mistakes CONSTRUCTIVELY and without criticism. You will not hover over him, follow him around or harass him. Maybe you need to remember that you're still new yourself. I could pick over your performance with a wide-toothed comb and find plenty of flaws for you to work on, if need be, so that you have less time to worry about others. I won't ask you to apologize to him, because i know you wouldn't mean it anyway. You would do well to remember that your employment here could come to an untimely end if he tires of your antics and decides to call HR.
(I don't normally talk like this, but 3+ syllable words seem to have a nice effect on dumb people)
She looked rather unsurprised (which kind of surprised me), apologized briefly and walked away. We have a new girl that just started last week. I wonder if she'll move on to her. I certainly hope so. This girl isn't quite so passive.
So what is it that makes an adult want to treat another adult in the work place like they're on contested playground territory? What the hell are these people trying to prove? I wish they'd grow the fuck up already.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
When i moved out and was finally allowed to sleep like i wanted to, i developed a vampire's sleeping habits. I'd go to bed when the sun came up, and then i'd get up and go to work around 2. I discovered that an alarm clock was every bit as annoying as having an excited collie jumping all over me, but at least i was free to sleep as much as i wanted to on the weekends. My roommates discovered the health hazards of waking me up before i was ready.
Life continued like this into my twenties. The days were for sleeping, and the nights were for living. I tried as much as i could to volunteer for shifts that would accomodate my sleeping preferences, which wasn't difficult for the most part, because they were undesirable to most people. When i started working at Syncor, it became even easier to do this, and i got my first taste of the midnight shift.
At first i loved it! I was going to bed at 8 am and getting up at 4ish. I only had to deal with 3-5ish hours of daylight, depending on the time of year. The luster quickly died, though, as i realized i'd just suckered myself into working during the part of the day i was accustomed to enjoying with friends and such. So my friends continued doing fun things with out me, and i had to go to work. By the time i was ready to do fun things, they were asleep or at work. Quite the bummer. This was my first inkling that maybe there was something to be said for being conscious during the day.
Unfortunately, once you get yourself onto a midnight shift, it's incredibly difficult to get yourself off of it. I remained on the midnight shift for the next seven years. Eventually i got used to it, but life wasn't the same. It was just as restrictive to my social life as a 9-5 job would have been. It was, in some ways, worse for a plethora of reasons. At this juncture in my life, most of my friends had grown up a bit and now lived the 9-5 lifestyle. My friends and family now had no idea when to contact me without waking me up. A lot of people just stopped trying. Life went on without me.
When the opportunity to rejoin the daytime world came, i pounced on it like a jonesing cat on a catnip mouse. It took a couple months of adjustment, but i now enjoy a life where my family and friends can contact me whenever they want to, and it isn't a disruption to my life.
As i grew more and more accustomed to this new lifestyle, i discovered for the first time in my life the joys of being an early riser. I very seldom woke up after 7 am, even on my days off. I now feel like i'm sleeping my day away when i sleep in past 9 am. I kept this up for the next threeish years and I figured i'd become a morning person for life. . .
Until i went on vacation last week. I started waking up later and later each day, and before the week was half-over, my husband's cousins were calling me a vampire. My average waking up time shot back into the noon-time hours, and the habit started creeping back up on me. Today is Saturday, and i woke up at 10:30 am. I had to MAKE myself get up.
So now i'm sitting here pondering my sleep patterns and i have to wonder: which is my true nature? How can three years of happily being a morning person be undone by a week's vacation? Most people can firmly identify themselves with the Morning Person Camp or the Night Person Camp. I seem to drift between the two. I really want to be a morning person. I'm concerned that once i reestablish myself in the Morning's camp, the pull of the Night's fire will lure me away. It may take years, but it'll happen eventually. So i guess i've answered my own question. I'm a Night person pretending to be a Morning person.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I stared at the tetherball court at the resort, waxing nostalgic. Ahhh, tetherball. I was the queen of this sport in middle school. I played it in as much of my spare time as possible and took first place in intramural tournaments, beating out such fearsome rivals as my best friend Bridgette and the Botello twins. This was no small feat, as i was pretty short back then (not that i'm a towering giant today) and these girls were at least a head taller than me.
My husband also claims to have ruled at tetherball when he was young, so naturally it was an unspoken pre-determination that we would clash on this court at some point during our stay. That day did come.
It was Tuesday, the day before the fish fry. He was messing around with the ball and i approached him. I didn't need to say a word; he served the ball. It was an epic struggle, with most of the rules completely disregarded. He sought to use his superior height to his advantage, but the pole was a bit shorter than tetherball poles usually are, and the advantage was lost. The ball was predictably half-inflated, which any tetherball veteran knows is a recipe for nasty bruises and knuckle-cuts. Three times my husband nearly bested me, and three times i untethered his ball, fighting for dominion and past reputation alike. As the battle wore on, my wounds weakened me quickly and soon i was no longer able to hit the ball without pain, and i was beaten. Wounded as i was, i could not challenge for a rematch.
As i walked away from the court, all the memories of the sliced, swollen and bruised knuckles and forearms came rushing back to me. Even back then, my pinky knuckles were permanently swollen up and purple; i used to be thankful that i didn't write with my left hand. How could i have forgotten that part?! Over the next few days, i would look at my battered arms and wonder what the hell i was thinking.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I hate missing a Weightwatchers meeting. I really hate it. It throws my whole week off. I feel the same way about missing my weekly meeting as some people feel about missing church on Sunday.
I'm on vacation here in Arkansas, leeching off my annoying neighbor's unsecured wifi, and having a great time hanging out with my husband's family. The icing on the cake was when i discovered that WW has a meeting here out in the middle of nowhere, as i wasn't happy about having to miss my meeting this week. It was on a Monday, but that's alright, at least i was going to get to go (i usually go on Thursdays).
So yesterday, my MIL drove me to the place where the meeting was being held. It was at a senior citizens center (no surprise there, considering this is largely a retirement town) on the west end of town. We went inside, and the place was HUGE! And there were so many people! My meeting is very small, with 11-17 people normally in attendance. Very personal. But, hey, you can't have everything, and i was just grateful to get to go. So i got in line and waited my turn to pay. I'd never been to an out-of-town meeting, so i did a little research beforehand and discovered that this meeting does not accept the Monthly Pass. This kinda sucks, because it means i paid double for this week. I got over it, though.
So as the line advanced, i saw a woman pacing around and decided to ask her for information about how they process out of towners. She looked at me blankly and asked: Is this your first meeting?
Me: No, i'm a current member, but my normal meeting is in Indiana.
Her: Oh, i don't know if you can attend with us then.
I was absolutely stunned! I had already talked to my own leader, and she had told me that she's never encountered a problem attending an out of town meeting, with the exception of having to conform to that meeting's payment policies. And here this woman was, trying to turn me away!
Me: What do you mean?! I'm a current member. I consulted my leader and she assured me that i could attend any meeting in America as long as i paid my weekly fee.
Her: I'm afraid not. Your leader must be mistaken.
Me: Is there someone else here i can talk to?
Her: (grudgingly) Well, i can ask one of the receptionists, but i'm pretty sure you can't attend.
Me: I'll take verification over "pretty sure", if you don't mind.
So she walked over to the receptionists (which kind of boggled me, because i thought she must've been a receptionist herself) and talked to them. She walked back over to me and asked if i planned to weigh in. I told her i did, and she went back over to the receptionists and talked to them some more. She finally returned to me and told me i could stay, but i had to pay the fees. I indicated that this was acceptable to me, and she looked at me and said: ALL the fees.
Me: What do you mean? There's only the weekly fee i'm aware of.
Her: Well, since this is your first week with us, you'll have to pay the $40 fee associated with first-time members.
Me: But i'm not a first time member. This is my 28th week. I'm not paying you $40.
At this point, the receptionist stepped over and said: No, honey, just the $12 if you're a current member.
Me: I'm a current member (i pulled out my stamp card and gave it to her).
The other woman gave me one last nasty look and stopped talking to me. I didn't pay her any mind.
The receptionist started to process me, and i gave her my credit card as payment. The nasty woman said to me: There's a $22 minimum for credit cards. Flabbergasted, i pointed out that the sign said the policy for CHECKS is a $22 minimum. There was nothing said at all about credit cards except that they couldn't be prepaid. At this point, i was seriously considering leaving. The nice receptionist apologized and assured me that the same policy applied to credit cards, but she hadn't had the time to update the sign. Annoyed, i grabbed a box of Peanutbutter Bliss minibars (which were ridiculously overpriced at $11/box). I was processed and was allowed to walk over to the scales. My MIL and i started heading over when Miss Nasty barked out: Hey! What about her?
Me: What ABOUT her?
Miss Nasty: Is she a current member?
Me: No, she's my mother in law. I'm visiting her and she just drove me here.
Miss Nasty (smirking): Fee for first time members is $40.
Me: She isn't a member at all.
Miss Nasty: Well, she'll have to come back and pick you up then.
At this point, i'd had it with this woman. I walked back over to the table and handed the receptionist her box of mini bars. I then demanded my sales slip be destroyed as i'd changed my mind about staying.
Me: My meeting wouldn't make anyone leave just because they're not a member. In fact, OUR first meeting is free. It's hot outside, and gas is expensive. If she has to go sit in her car and let it run with the A/C on or drive around aimlessly waiting for this meeting to adjourn, then i'm not going to support it.
The receptionist gave the woman a What IS Your Problem? look and assured me that my MIL would be welcome to sit inside during the meeting, and i proceeded to weigh in. I'd lost a pound and a half, but after my experience with that woman, i could barely summon the energy to be happy about it. Little did i know, the biggest shock was yet to come.
I went and took my seat at the back of the room, as i was in no mood to actively participate in this meeting. After everyone'd finished weighing in, Miss Nasty went up to the front of the room and began to speak. My jaw dropped into my lap. This was the group LEADER?! How could such an uninspiring, unsupportive bitch EVER gain a leadership role where caring about people was such a vital part of the role?? After i got over my initial shock, i began immediately comparing her to my leader. I won't give a play-by-play, but Miss Nasty's approach to leading a meeting seemed to be "Raise your hand if you did exercise this week", and "Raise your hand if you lost weight this week", and "Raise your hand if you hit a milestone this week" while walking around and distributing stickers. After that, she read cue cards to us.
In contrast, my leader opens every meeting by asking us to share noteworthy stories or moments we had that happened over the last week. Then she starts a conversation about a topic she'd picked before the meeting and we discuss it amongst ourselves for a half an hourish. At the end of the conversation, she does "celebrations". If a member had lost their five pounds for that month, she'll call out that member and ask what they did this week. That member responds that they lost a pound, putting them at x pounds lost total, and they receive their recognition and reward (the reward, of course, depending on the achievement). The point is, every person is recognized and praised for their achievements individually. I always leave my meeting with the feeling that my leader genuinely cares about me and helping me achieve my weightloss goals. I left this Arkansas meeting feeling like i'd inconvenienced this leader's day.
Even though it really sucked, I really valued this meeting experience for the eye-opener it was. I had assumed that all leaders were like mine, and now i understand and appreciate that i have an awesome, caring, supportive leader. If i'd had a Miss Nasty as my leader, i can honestly say that WW would not have worked for me. Kudos to you, Jen, for making it look so easy.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I'm leaving tomorrow to go to Arkansas to visit her. She moved down there a few years ago, and i haven't gotten a chance to see her house or her town yet, so this is our summer vacation. It's turning into an impromptu family reunion for my husband's side of the family; so far an aunt and three, possibly five cousins are planning to go the same week we are, so i'm very excited about it.
Last week, she called and left me a voice mail, asking me to swing by this grocery store Brookhaven to pick up some dried cantaloupe to bring to her. It's not sold down there, and apparently Brookhaven has a produce department that puts the other stores' produce departments to shame. It sounds like a simple enough request, until i realized that Brookhaven is almost an hour drive away from me, in another state. This in and of itself is enough to give me pause, but the icing on the cake is: this store is in the same town as her sister. It's five-ten minutes from her house. I was absolutely baffled as to why she wouldn't ask her sister to buy some and mail it to her! The answer, of course, being that she didn't want her sister to have to pay to mail it to her since we're already coming. She's completely ignoring the fact that it'll take me a 3/4 tank of gas to go to Illinois and back, which would cost WAY more than the three bucks her sister would have to pay to have the stuff mailed. Not only is it an expensive drive, i'd be hitting the Chicago traffic at rush hour because i don't get off work until 4:30-5 p.m. So my 50 minute drive there and 50 minute drive home is gonna get another 45ish minutes tacked onto it, putting me at home at a really unreasonable hour.
Unfortunately, as thoughtful as she is, she can also be incredibly selfish. I don't think she intends to be, she just doesn't stop and think that if it isn't something she'd be willing to do for someone else, then she shouldn't ask someone else to do it for her. I know for a FACT that she wouldn't be willing to do this one, because when she stays with her sister, she isn't willing to drive to my house to see me. I have to go see her.
As much as i hate to disappoint her, i can't do this. So i'm hoping that in her excitement to see us and show us around her house and her town, she'll forget about the cantaloupe completely.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Alan: You are the most fruit-eating person i know.
Me: I dig fruit. It keeps me honest.
Alan: Honest? Like how?
Me: I'm a sweets freak. If i don't get something sweet at EVERY meal, i go nuts on chocolate or ice cream at the end of the meal. If i eat fruit, i can get away with eating one small sinful thing after supper.
Alan: I don't see how fruit could qualify as something sweet.
Me: What are you talking about?
Alan: I don't know. Fruit just isn't sweet anymore. I think it has to be all the chemicals they use in farming now adays.
Me: . . . Well, do you think organic fruit tastes sweeter?
Alan: No, not really.
At that point, i figured i'd better drop it before i said something smartassy he wouldn't forgive me for for a few days. I finished making my sandwich and started slicing the strawberries for my yogurt. Then i gathered it all up and sat down. Alan stared at me as i was eating my fruit. For fruit, i had brought some grapes, some strawberries to put in my yogurt and a huge piece of cantaloupe. The cantaloupe, however, was the big prize. It tasted like it had been brined in sugarwater before i ate it! I cut off a piece and handed it to Alan.
Me: This thing tastes like i dipped the whole thing in sugar and let it sit overnight.
Alan dubiously put the piece of cantaloupe in his mouth and chewed it up with the most EEEEW! look on his face.
Alan: Jesus, that didn't taste like anything! That wasn't cool at all, Christie.
I was absolutely dumbstruck! How could he possibly have found that to be flavourless? Did he really think i was playing a joke on him? I shrugged and continued to eat it as he watched me in horror.
Me: It tastes fantastic to me, man. I wouldn't sit here and suffer through an unripened cantaloupe for the sake of playing a joke on you. I'm just not that committed to a joke.
He shuddered and finally started to eat his own lunch. He had brought in a subway sandwich (yuck, imo), two 24 ounce bottles of Mountain Dew, a king sized Snickers bar and some chips. As i watched him down the first Mountain Dew in a few gulps, i could understand why he didn't find fruit to be sweet anymore. Compared with all the sugar and high fructose corn syrup he was consuming, i probably wouldn't have been able to taste the sweet in the cantaloupe either.
I thought back to when i started Weight Watchers. I've always been a fruit person, but i've damn-near quadrupled my daily fruit intake since i joined. When i first started eating a lot more fruit, i didn't think it was very sweet either, but i thought it was just because nothing's really in season in January. As i've been taking in less and less sugars and corn syrups, fruit has been seeming sweeter and sweeter to me. Really, i thought it was because of the progression of the seasons (and i'm sure to some degree, it is), but now i'm thinking that the sheer volume of sugar and corn syrup in the average person's diet anymore is probably the reason fruit isn't considered a "sweet" anymore. If that's the case, we're really ripping ourselves off. Fruit fucking rocks!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
"Well, that's only two years older than me, maybe less depending on the month you were born in," i replied.
As i made this reply, i started thinking about the relative ages of my fellow guildmates. There are a few of us in our thirties, but by and large they're in their early to middle twenties or late teens, with a few in the middle or early teens. This puts the median age of my guild at about 23. That's ten years younger than me. A whole decade! If i met some of these people on the street, we'd have very little in common with a generation gap like that.
This got me thinking about my life. Hobbies and interests wise, i haven't changed much since my late teens/early twenties. I like playing video games (prefereably multiplayer or online multiplayer), i like playing my music loud, i like going to/renting movies, I prefer comedy and action to drama, the Renaissance Festival is the yearly event i still look forward to the most, i enjoy fucking around on Myspace, and i still like Anime. Reading is probably the only "adult" hobby i have, and the only "teen" hobby i had that i've developed a distaste for is hanging out at the mall. I hate malls.
Not really very grown up of me at all.
My friends out here in the real world all have very adult hobbies. Last week i asked my friend Jay what he did the previous weekend. He cleaned out his pool, worked in his yard, shopped around at Home Depot for items for his next project, attended his son's baseball games and did a few things for his wife. Another friend of mine worked in her yard and went fishing. Another took her kids shopping and had lunch with some people from her daughter's doubledutch team. They refer to Myspace as something their kids do. And so on. The common theme seemed to be yard work and kids. These people are my age or slightly older than me.
So when am i supposed to "grow up"? When does the music become too loud? When am i going to start rolling my eyes at things like Japanese cartoons and playing video games as i get ready for a lunch date with my friend Mary and her kids? What do my hobbies say about me as a person? Do people see me as fun or immature? Am i going to be one of those girls people look at and say, "Look at that 45 year old woman pretending to be 25!"? Do i even still qualify as a "girl" or should i start referring to myself as a "woman"? What if i don't want to start thinking of weekends as an opportunity to rake leaves and trim hedges?
What if i like me just the way i am? Should i care what others think? I suppose it doesn't matter if i should care or not. Because in the end, though i'll think about it from time to time, i just can't bring myself to care at all.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Cretins made me think of croutons. I briefly imagined a huge salad bowl full of mixed baby greens and tomatoes, topped with creamy delicious ranch. And this bunch of smirking snobs. I chuckled as i imagined their dismay as the fork descended upon them.
I slowed to a jog as i approached the tall imposing building that housed my newly-remembered class. It was seventeen storeys high and constructed of crumbling red brick grown over with militant ivy. The building continuously shed red dust, trying to dislodge the mass of life slowly trying to suffocate it, but the ivy dug its roots in and continued its inexorable march upward toward the spires. I shuddered to think of what lurked in the dark, obviously disused turrets, and forgave myself for not remembering this class. I wasn't sure i could have approached this building day after day. The thing was practically threatening me, daring me to put a foot up on its cracked stairs; anticipating the moment i passed through the door and it got to swallow me. Would i ever make it back out? It didn't really matter. I HAD to take this final.
I looked to my left and saw a girl of similar age standing, looking at the building with the same expression i could feel my face wearing. She looked back at me and said, "No wonder i forgot this class." I nodded in sympathy. We clasped hands and started climbing the stairs. I hoped my palms weren't sweaty.
Once inside, we navigated the hallway that was more like a storage space. Over disused desks, around stacks of rat-chewed books, and through busted book cases, we battled the obstacles that stood like sentries trying to turn us back. Stupidly, we paid no heed and pushed forward. After climbing over a mountain of smashed up podiums, we arrived at the single spiral staircase and began to ascend. There was only one floor to the huge building, and of course, it couldn't be on the ground. I cursed and grumbled under my breath, and my companion ranted about the uselessness of buildings whose size were disproportionate to their floor-content. Momentarily flashing back to my earlier thought of the building swallowing me, i thought it was really inappropriate that i was not going DOWN the building's gullet, but UP it. All the while, we raced up the stairs, desperate not to be late.
Nearing the top of the stairs, we saw something surprising: Cheerful light filtering through an open doorway, with muffled laughter drifting down toward us. Well, how bad can it really be? My companion and i stopped on the landing to mop our brows and catch our breath. Then we walked into the door, and it shut gently behind us, leaving the dreary downstairs to its own devices.
Inside, there were fifty-ish grade-school looking desks gathered around a central desk that clearly belonged to an adult. I looked down at the knee-high desk and its tiny chair in dismay. Even as short as i am, i knew this was going to be quite uncomfortable and felt a spark of pity for my taller friend. I looked around at the other empty desks, wondering where the laughter was coming from. I turned to ask my companion what she thought, but she'd also disappeared. Trying not to panic, i began walking around the ring of desks, examining them more closely. I noticed that there were book bags and purses and lunch bags next to some of them. I stepped inside the circle of desks, but there was no change in the room. I came upon a desk with my companion's bag and purse on it, and set my things down on the empty desk next to hers. I sat down.
As soon as i sat down, others began to coalesce and take shape. In a few seconds, i could see that most of the other desks had occupants and that they were all engaged in a lively conversation. No one seemed nervous about the exam at all, though from the chatter i could tell no one had been to the class all semester long. I looked at my friend, who had not yet joined the conversation. I was about to ask her what she made of all this when the teacher coalesced in the center of the room, frowning at the lack of order she found in the room. Almost as if someone'd flipped a switch, all noise stopped.
She was quite a sight in and of herself. She was dressed in a long black habit that more resembled the robe of a Catholic priest than a dress. Her hair was pulled into an iron gray bun on top of her prismic head. Her head had fourty facets so that she could frown at all of us simultaneously without having to bother with something so mundane as turning around. She reached a long, bony arm out for an egg timer on her desk, set it, and said in forty of the same voice: