Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Temp Jobs, Car-sickness, Teenagers, and Paradigm Shifts

While looking for a job I have been lucky to have friends in high enough places that I've been able to do some temp work. One such job was working as a receptionist for a few hours a day at an engineering firm. Most of the employees would pass by the reception desk one or more times a day and I would say hi and do my best to learn their names. There was one man that whenever I greeted him would merely look at me and give me the head nod. You know the one. The cool kids in junior high and high school always excelled at it. It's a slightly tilted small head jerk accompanied by an eyebrow raise that said, "I acknowledge your existence....you are excused." I could never get this man to crack a smile, until one day he said to me, "So are you a temp, or a new employee?" I explained that I was a temp, and was looking for a job. He asked me if my background was in reception work (I'm sorry, every time I think of that I giggle...no offense to those who "receive.") Anyway, I gave him a very brief work history and told him which fields I was pursuing. He asked if I had a college degree and was visibly shocked to learn I had two. It was clear that he thought my capabilities were limited to answering the phone and attempting to transfer calls without hanging up on anyone. After this brief conversation he became very friendly and would give me more than a head nod when I said hello. Of course, it could all be in my head, he may have just been shy, or too preoccupied to have noticed me before this - but it didn't feel like that, which made me think of Pioneer Trek. (Go with me...it will all make sense.)

This past summer I had the opportunity to go with the youth from our church on a pioneer trek. The very large group was divided into families and I was fortunate enough to be an Aunt in one such family. (Lisa - you'll be happy to hear they all called me Auntie "M.") One evening, after a particularly long 10 mile day, I was telling the kids some amusing stories from my teenage years. One story, which may be more disgusting than amusing, led to an interesting discussion. First, the story. When I was 16 or 17, the wards (parishes) around Eugene decided to plan a day trip to the coast for all of the 16 - 18 year old youth. I was one of the people on the planning committee, which meant that after our last activity, a dance at a church building along the coast, I had to clean up. By the time I was done all of the people I knew had left and the only car left was a van full of guys from another ward and their leader. They were kind enough to give me a ride home. Sitting behind me was a guy who was feeling very talkative. He was nice, but I was exhausted and really just wanted to sleep. In addition, I had a brutal head and neck ache and kept trying to loosen up the muscles in my neck in the hopes that the pain would go away. He noticed me rubbing me neck and offered to give me a shoulder rub. "Oh, that's okay. I'm fine. Thanks, though." I responded. He, however, would not take no for an answer and the next thing I knew, this stranger starts rubbing my neck and shoulders. This was very awkward for me. How do I nicely get this guy to stop rubbing my shoulders? While trying to come up with a nice way out of the situation, the boy burped and then threw up in my hair and down my neck. Keep in mind that this was the 80s. I had long, huge, naturally curly hair that was particularly adept at catching all of his vomit. It was disgusting...to say the least. We pulled over to the side of the road. We had some paper towels, but no water and I ended up riding the last 45 minutes reeking like you wouldn't believe. We were all on the verge of being sick from the smell. As we finally pulled up to my house and I was scrambling out of the van, the boy said, "I don't suppose I could have your number?" I thought, are you kidding me?! You threw up in my hair! "Um, no." was all I said. Now, here is where the kids I was telling the story to shocked me. The girls were all moaning over how awful it would be to try and wash throw up out of your hair (6 washings - the last with tomato sauce), when 2 of the boys said, "That poor guy! He probably lost all confidence to ask any other girls for their phone number." In the many years since the incident, I never once thought of how mortified he must have been. The kids and I ended up having a great chat about seeing both sides of a situation. Which led me to ponder teenagers....

I get to work with the youth in our ward and absolutely LOVE it. I have done this many times over my adult life, since I seem to lack the maturity to be with the other grown ups. In my years of working with the young women I have noticed a common theme.  Almost all of them go through difficult times where they feel alone, different, misunderstood, and forgotten. They can't imagine that anyone else feels like they do since the other girls all appear to have loads of friends, amazingly together families, and can handle life in general. The irony, of course, is that most (maybe all) of the girls feel the same way inside. I wish there were some way to have an open dialogue so they would realize they are not alone, and that even the most seemingly together girl has moments (or more) of insecurity, doubt, and confusion. I know they would be shocked to learn the number of people who are having the same thoughts and worries they plague themselves with every day - and some of them are adults.

So, maybe I was a little hard on the man I mentioned in my last post...the one who interviewed me for position of wife. While not for me, he clearly was nervous and lost common sense for a few hours one afternoon, something I do on an almost daily basis. Just for a minute today attempt your own paradigm shift. If someone has wronged you, consider what could lead them to act that way....even if you have to wash your hair 6 times.

2 comments:

galsuz said...

Maybe if you let the head nodder at work throw up in your hair he'll feel comfortable enough to interview you for a permanent position...

Jill said...

Wow Michelle what a story! I could feel the horror of being vomited on but also felt so bad for the boy. That's too funny that he asked for your number even after such an embarrassing event. This story has levels...