Friday, February 5, 2010

Words_The Handshake Fail

Come April, my time at the community college will have reached 3 years (yikes; I mean, wow). Unfortunately I haven't watched the show Community enough to sufficiently answer if it truly embodies the cc culture, however, if it means encountering weird, awkward, tightly wound science instructors, then yes, it's exactly like that.

One of my main responsibilities at the college is making sure all the Web site content is up to date. This means I manage (nag) around 100+ people (we call them content contributors) to change their "2009s" to "2010s" and their "falls" to "spring" among other endless reminders. It seems like an impossible task and many days it is.

This past week, one content contributor apparently "fell off the face of the earth" as his supervisor described. So the supervisor phoned me, pitched his sob story, and left me no choice but to take his pages under my editorial wing. Classic move. He then sent an e-mail to his department colleague announcing my declaration of adoption which prompted the following phone call with this particular colleague.

"Hi Kimi?"
"I'm Beth, I hear you are taking over our pages for a little while?"
"Yes I am."
"Oh, that's wonderful. Well, I have some event updates for the college that I wanted to go over with you."
"Sure, do you want to send them to me?"
"Send what to you."
"...The events."
"You could e-mail them to me... the events."
"And I'll put them on the Web site?"
"Well, Kimi, (insert irritated voice) I have never met you before and I really like meeting people first before working with them."
Cue my insides simmering
"Would you be able to meet today?"
"Um, yeah, I'll be here until one so..."
"You can say no, Kimi," she said laughing, almost spitefully.
What the...?
"No, it's fine," I say. "I won't be able to make your updates today but I can meet with you today."
"Okay, then. What time is good for you?"
"Anytime really, how about 11 a.m.?" (It was 10 a.m.)
"Ok...," she finally agreed. I'll see you at 11."

I hang up the phone, my heart beating wildly. I kept returning to the same question: What. The H. Just happened. How was it that the person who should be thanking me for shouldering her and her department's work load was looking more like my adversary than my cheerleader? I hated her. If it was possible, I would have channeled myself through the phone and b-slapped her, maybe twice for good measure.

I willed myself not to think about it and returned to my work. 11 a.m. finally came and I decided that I would set aside my riled up emotions for the sake of this business relationship. This was a professional work setting and I was set on keeping it that way.

I heard some meek footsteps land outside my door. I looked up to see an older, slender woman with a brown disheveled bowl cut. She was smiling--warmly, I might add. I took that as a good sign. I took that as a good start. We were going to pretend that phone call didn't happen; we were going to make this right.

"Hi Kimi," she said.
"Hi Beth," I returned the warm greeting and extended my hand. She extended hers as well and I went in for a firm grip. As I closed my hand around hers, I noticed her hand was barely open, in fact, instead of meeting mine grip to grip, it was more of my grip to her withered hand.

"Ow!" She exclaimed and drew back her hand abruptly. I stared in shock, her reaction generously unfitting for the mild offense. She rubbed her hand and said, "I've got rings on, you know."

Again, the same question arose in my head. What. The H. Just happened.

"I'm sorry," I managed finally and sat down quickly in my chair, turning my attention to my computer screen. Had I entered the twilight zone? Was I the one going crazy? Or was withery mcwitheron out of her mind.

She broke the silence and like a switch began to talk brightly about the events she wanted updated.

"So we have a special event happening in April, I sent you that e-mail," she said as I opened up the document file.

"Ok," I said.

"And then we have an event in February," she paused. I turned in her direction and realized she was waiting for me to document it somehow. She had nothing on paper to give me. She didn't take the time to write any of this down for me or save a tree and e-mail it over to me. She waited for me to acknowledge her words. I awkwardly shuffled some papers toward me and began to scribble the date. Then, she continued, "March 16... April 20...May..."

It took a total of 10 seconds for her to breathe these dates out to me.
I copied them down.
I looked over at her, sending a thousand imaginary darts into her face. Bullseye.

"Well, thanks Kimi, I'm glad I got to meet you."
"Yeah, it was nice meeting you."
I didn't dare try to shake withered McGee again.

She promptly rose and shuffled out the door.

I sat a little bewildered in my chair, replaying the entire five minutes over in my head, realizing that more than half of that time was taken up with me experiencing a major handshake fail. What could have been avoided was instead painfully played out in a bizarre unfurling of events. And it wasn't long until I came round again with the question of the day:

What. The H. Just happened.

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