Passing the torch

Perhaps the best part of my job is the opportunity to mentor “young ‘uns” in the organization.  My career path hasn’t followed any prescribed path – mostly improvisational dance with loads of energy*.  Despite no serious attempt on my part to “advance”, i’ve done pretty well.  Especially considering that i was voted “Most Likely To Be Found Dead in a Gutter” in the informal poll of my high school class. 

Got this from one of the members of the local “Junior Engineer-Force” council last week:

SUBJ:  Opportunity to Influence the Minds of the Young

As part of our monthly meetings, we try to give members a sense of what it takes to make it as a successful employee in the organization, and what to expect from a variety of career paths.  We’ve hosted members from organizational senior leadership at our meetings for informal chats.  I’m trying to be selective about the people we ask so that we don’t just get “the line”.  I feel that your frankness in these matters makes your perspective particularly valuable.    Typically they are around a ‘brown bag’ lunch on the first Wednesday of the month.  The next opportunities are March 4th, April 1st (seems fitting) and May 5th.

Needless to day, i chose April Fool’s Day for this particular event.  i look forward to warping impressionable young minds.  And free cookies…

Beyond the workplace, i also coach and mentor my own spawn.  The Girl has been buried under a ridiculous workload as she careens toward the end of the semester and is trying to knock out enough credits to secure her dual major.  With massive reading/writing assignments, final exams lurking and classroom presentations hanging over her head, she’s been operating under pressure and sleep deprivation**.

This afternoon she called on her way to class – dreading giving her portion of a team presentation.  She’d been up most of the night, and seemed a bit rattled.  Rather than just cheer her on, more guidance seemed in order.  So, i dug deep into my slacker psyche and pulled out one of my favorite tactics for presentations/performances:

focus on your intro and your closing!  if you open and close strong, you’re more likely to make them forget everything in the middle.

Which is a lesson i learned in 5th grade.  Clarinet*** solo.  This is the first year i’d been playing, mind you, but the music teacher told me she wanted me to do a solo at the Spring concert.  i said “whatever” when she gave me the music.  And promptly ignored it, never practiced it, and never bothered to get together with the music teacher to let her know i hadn’t bothered… 

On the day of the Spring concert?  We’re all on stage, and i’ve completely forgotten about the solo.  She has one kid do a trumpet solo.  Then we go on with another painfully executed ensemble number.  i’m in shock when she calls my name.  In front of every student, teacher, janitor, child molester and rat in the elementary school.  Finding the piece in the back of my music folder, i strode confidently up to the front of the stage.  Shitting my pants****. 

She started playing the piano accompaniment – which i’d never heard before.  i can barely read music – i’m 10 years old.  So i just dived in – i sight-read the first line of the piece, playing it when it seemed like a good spot.  i repeated this phrase – getting stronger with repetition – until the music changed.  And i just stopped playing.  Rather than run off the stage, humiliated, i dodged it…. by looking over at the piano teacher and acting as though i was waiting for her “solo”. 

When the phrasing sounded about right again i dropped back to the intro phrase, and just repeated it until the merciful end.  i knew i screwed the pooch.  The music teacher knew i screwed the pooch.  Perhaps 10 adults in the audience were writhing in pain during this event because they’d figured it out… But the rest of the school was just tired of sitting there, throwing spit balls or excavating the inner reaches of their nostrils.  And no one really cared…

Faking it.  The next best thing to actually preparing…

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

And for my next trick, i'm going to look competent!

* Before i burnt out and gave up on my plot to take over the universe…

** Unlike her mother, the kid has high standards.  She isn’t comfortable turning in shitty papers, or operating at less than “stellar” when it comes to her writing (Arabic or English).

*** Yep.  Clarinet.  There go any remaining “cool” points i may have scored with my readers (sigh).

**** Figuratively speaking. No, i wasn’t *THAT* kid…

14 thoughts on “Passing the torch

  1. The quicker she learns getting a ‘c’ is still passing the better her mental health will be. I chose all my uni subjects around whether or not they had oral presentations in them… anything to skip oral… I’ll let you come up with the joke for that.

  2. unbearable banishment – all about the corruption of youth, that’s me! there are no photos. well, there are, and i’m praying they stay off facebook. my high school pals are pretty brutal with the old photo collection…

    alex – when i started my last “professional development” couse, i was optimistically planning to graduate “with honors”. after failing the first test? my battle cry became “71% – it’s enough!”. Sorry to hear you hate oral. i’ll tell the other gals not to bother…

  3. “Faking it. The next best thing to actually preparing…”.
    This dovetails neatly with my own work mantra, which is pretty much that if you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls***. Then run. Preferably far far away, into another zip code if possible.
    Hasn’t failed me yet 😉

  4. ah so “faking it” is pretty universal for women,,meaning that we use it all all possible contexts. Works for me.
    I have a step son who is a perfectionist. He has to get straight “A”s in everything. His Arabic is very rusty and he is having meltdowns trying to learn it on Rosetta Stone. I haven’t learned much more than “hello” yet.

  5. Come on now Daisyfae, you know the Clarinet is far from the geekiest instrument in the band. That singular distinction goes to the Oboe.

    (You will of course excuse me if I do not elucidate as to how I know this. My excuse is that if I too played that most god aweful of woodwinds I’d get to sit next to a very pretty girl.)


  6. Miss P – a good strategy if you’ve got mobility! i’m slowing down with age… and am too tired to keep moving. now? i just frown a lot… makes people think that i’m thinking deep thoughts, when really, i’m just trying to remember if i took the dog out to pee in the morning.

    hisqueen – from what i’ve observed? Arabic is a highly challenging language for the non-native speaker. She’s pretty good, but is afraid she’ll never be “good enough”…

    kyknoord – Never “away” camp…. so technically, i have no ‘band camp stories’. Sorry.

    uncle keith – Grrrr….

    TAG – ok. you win. oboe and bassoon are at the top of the “dork” meter when it comes to instruments…

  7. Warping young minds, eh. I never had much opportunity. People did like to work my floor when I was in charge, because I’d teach them things. Little did they know it was because I was lazy, and it was easier than not teaching them, and having to pick up the slack for them.

  8. Pingback: Little Pitchers… « Trailer Park Refugee

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