“Honestly, I would rather repair it myself than wait for the landlord to hire someone,
but since I am not an electrician, I don’t have a lot of options.” I wanted my new coworker to understand that I had the ability, that cleverness and handiness characterized my talents and skills and that I belonged in my new environment.
“Did he say when he’d be able to get someone to your place?” Bonnie made polite
conversation, but she still hadn’t embraced my presence in her quiet, moderately reclusive corner of the world. Don’t get me wrong, Bonnie appeared to be a lovely person, just introverted and less forthcoming than the boisterous gang I left in Texas. The United States Forest Service local office lacked the chaos and exhaustion of a high school teacher’s lounge, for which I was grateful, and to which I continued to adjust.
“Well, his voice mail didn’t offer me a lot of details, but I’m sure he’ll be in touch anytime in the next week or three.” Subtly wasn’t my strength, one of many, and sadly the landlord’s voicemail received the brunt of my frustration. I know this is one of those areas where I have room for growth and the opportunity to improve as a human being, as my performance reviews in my younger years may have identified, but for now, I just wanted dry clothes.
After two weeks in my apartment, I avoided giving in and visiting the laundromat,
already putting me at odds with the owner, plus I hated to go to a bank and beg for rolls of quarters. I’ve never been particularly prone to confrontation, having lost way more conflicts than I’ve won and seeing the advantages of slinking away. I don’t avoid them for the sake of eliminating all hassles, willingly tackling just the ones that involve business associates. Or at least the business associates that I’m not dating, and my very-nice-otherwise, twice-my-age landlord definitely did not fit that category.
If I plugged the dryer into the wall, it ought to run, and the concept of such seems worth debating with the landlord to my advantageous resolution. Were the dryer not less than six months old, the question could arise as to the fault of the device, or the apartment, or perhaps even user error. But in this particular case, I safely narrowed it down to magic not happening inside the wall. The sooner the landlord sent someone to restore the electrical brilliance of my apartment, the sooner I wouldn’t have to leave my clothes draped around the apartment on the partially unloaded boxes still awaiting their opportunity to be unpacked completely.
I wanted Bonnie, and truthfully all of the Forest Service staff I just began to get to know, even those who wandered in and out of the office during the course of the day who I barely recognized but hoped to be better acquainted, to realize that even though my short-term quick hire status, they could not have picked a more eager, effective employee. Of course, I needed to learn everyone’s names, barely able to identify the face of my immediate leaders and team, much less the fire crew based in our office and the staff from other offices who happened to be stopping in for the day from other bases of operation. I tried not to rely too heavily on Bonnie, but as the only other employee staffing the office during business hours, I needed to glean her
knowledge and I tempered my inquiries about who was who until absolutely necessary.
“And you think this will work?” Bonnie’s inquiry came after several minutes of silence as if she were starting an entirely new topic. I’d heard her do this several times, which made conversations difficult to follow, but this time I happened to be catching on to her idiosyncratic style.
“It always works.”
“How many times have you tried this technique?”
“Well, just the once but the results were outstanding.” My enthusiasm betrayed my
Bonnie’s visual reaction confirmed the pessimism of her voice.
“It will work,” I confirmed, “assuming, of course, I can get him in the same room. I think that’s a far greater challenge at the moment.”
Bonnie’s attention to her computer screen implied she returned to her responsibilities, although she could have been pseudo-ignoring me, so I let her work in silence. When she glanced my way nearly twenty minutes later, she returned to the topic as if only moments passed.
“So if you go to his store, why are you so certain this will work? What happened last
“Well, I tried it on our head of IT. I wanted to learn how to activate the LAN connections wired in our building, and since he was based at the district office and not our school, I thought if I ever given the chance, I would ask him.
“When I attended in-service training one day, I sought him out and when he went to
introduce himself, I feigned more enthusiasm than you’d traditionally express to an IT guy, and extended my hand. Once he shook back, he fell into my clutches. Ten minutes later when I let go of his hand, he was leading me into the LAN room and providing me with a personal tutorial.” I could still visualize his face as he tried to figure out how to extricate himself from my grip. “I’m telling you, it works.”
“It’s not that I doubt its initial success, but how do you know it will work on the
“I’d wager it would work on anyone. No one wants to shake hands longer than a couple of seconds. It’s bizarrely awkward and uncomfortable, and they will do whatever it takes to get me to let go. Trust me, I am a master of awkward.” This was so true. “It’s also humorous to watch, unless of course, you are my target.”