I had a meeting with my Professor yesterday and arrived a little early. I sat in the little waiting area next to the water cooler, reading up on research on the composing process. Titillating stuff, I tell you.
The whole atmosphere reminds me of being back at work, as a teacher. The copy machine being prodded by some frustrated faculty member just out of sight down the hall. The stale bulletin boards in the hallway. The secretary with candy on her desk and a cardigan draped over her chair. The distinct possibility that you'll leave the building with a nasty head cold or the flu.
So, I sit there, in my spring dress and denim coat (looking a little too eager for Spring weather in March). Mid-read about T.S. Elliot's commentary on his own lame poetry, I hear a deep voice to my left.
"Are you getting through?"
The man is well dressed, nicely groomed, but I'm trying to assess if he's just spoken to me in English or whether I've poorly translated his Pig Latin. He appears as if he could be from the Southern Hemisphere, so I try to churn my idiomatic translator neurons to process what the hell he's saying.
"Sorry, what's that?" I offer a meek smile, closing my book.
He repeats again, with no shame or self-consciousness, "Are you getting through?" He's apparently annoyed.
I pause. It has to be obvious I have no idea what he's saying. Am I getting through what?! College? My book? My recent entrance into my third decade without emotional crisis?! Seriously, dude, what the HELLO are you talking about?!
He has no accent, I can now tell, other than the air of pretension. I finally look at him, confused, and just say, "I'm, uh, waiting for my professor?"
He smiles using just one side of his mouth and ducks into the secretary's office.
While his voice is somewhat muffled, I can make out every other sentence or so. I start tapping my foot anxiously, wondering if this dude has instantly assessed me as ineligible for a MASTERS because of blatant ignorance of common English expression.
After a few exchanges, it's clear the secretary is just as confused as I am.
(he mumbles something highly important, unintelligible.)
"Okay, so there's nothing that I have to do, then?"
"Right. Oh, and our meeting today didn't tell us anything."
"Oh, great. [She says this with no sarcasm.] Thank you for that."
His hand emerges from her office to grab the doorjamb and he mutters something else to which she replies with a forced laugh and a labored sigh. He emerges, tapping the door jamb and tossing a flat smile my way.
Heading back down the hall, he sees the man who had been fumbling with the copy machine earlier. The man is holding a stack of wrinkled pages.
"Ah, how's it going Joe?"
The copy machine man smiles whole-heartedly. "Good, good. How's it going with you?"
Without answering, the man dips into his office and promptly shuts the door. Copy Machine Man looks to his sad stack of papers as he walks by me and rounds the corner.
Now, while engaging in verbal debates with my two-year-old on the necessity of wearing pants or contorting my face and voice to make my three-month-old smile doesn't seem all that, well, sane, it does--most certainly--rate above these mediocre exchanges. Even if they are getting paid for them with real live money.
Plus, it appears Copy Machine Man, at least, has just as much chance of ending up institutionalized as I do.