Unexpected

When I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I participated in a program at a place called Exchange City. Basically, we were to apply for jobs, learn how to interview, and, once our positions were secured, we went on a field trip to a makeshift “city” set up where we were told to run our businesses and do our jobs and try to make a profit. I suppose this was to prepare us for the “real world,” and it was a very cool and valuable experience overall. I only wish we could have done a more advanced version later on, maybe during senior year of high school.

When we were deciding what jobs to interview for, I narrowed it down to three – the total number we were permitted to interview for – and though I don’t remember the third, the two main ones I wanted were Postal Worker and Environmental Control Agent. I desperately wanted the latter, and was eager to interview for it. I could imagine myself strolling along the carpet streets of the Exchange City facility, ensuring that everything was going well. To be honest, I don’t really remember what the job entailed, all I know is that I REALLY wanted it. I pinned all my hopes on that job.

The 6th grade teachers got teachers from other grades and parent volunteers and other school staff to act as interviewers. I don’t recall interviewing for whatever the third job was, but the Postal Worker interview was with the mother of a boy in my class, held in the instrumental practice room. I had dressed up for the day, and even wore a skirt despite the fact that my usual wardrobe at that point in my life was full-on workout gear, complete with sweatband.

I answered her questions honestly, treated it like a normal conversation, explained why I was the best for the position, and wasn’t overcome by nerves. I walked out of the room content that I had done a fair job and represented myself well, but since that wasn’t the job I dreamed of, I didn’t think too much about it afterward.

Then, it was time to interview for the Environmental Control Agent position. I was wracked with nerves, and I don’t even remember who it was with, it passed in a blur. I was so anxious to impress, I stumbled over questions and my knees shook the whole time. I left the room rattled, but still held faith that I had done enough to earn the job. I stuttered, but got my point across.

After some days of deliberation, our class received our jobs – the ones we would maintain for the duration of our time at Exchange City. I waited for my slip, fully expecting to see “Environmental Control Agent” at the top. That is, until a girl in my class proudly exclaimed from across the room that she had gotten it instead.

I was crushed. I couldn’t fathom doing the assignment as anything else. In retrospect, it was a school assignment and not a real job, so there was no reason to be upset. But I was twelve, so, everything was a big deal those days. Obviously, I hadn’t impressed during my interview, and someone else had deserved the job instead. I’d let myself down.

Eventually, I got my slip. I took a minute to open it, trying not to be upset over losing out on my dream position. And at the top of my assignment was the position: Postmaster. Not Postal Worker, which was the position I applied for. Postmaster. I had not only knocked my Postal Worker interview out of the park, I’d done so well they gave me an even better job!

Just like that, losing out on the other job didn’t seem to matter any more. I still succeeded, but in a way that was a little… unexpected. And I made the best of it, selling candy-grams and other letters when it came time to perform my duty, making sure the Postal Worker delivered them all on time. I did have to buy us out of debt at the end of the day at Exchange City, but still, I had a great time and I loved the job I was given, even though it wasn’t the one that I originally wanted.

To this day, I have no idea what an Environmental Control Agent does. But I do still look for the positives, and my successes, in places and situations that might not be expected.

 

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Bizarre School Memories

1.) Bag milk. Until second or third grade, my elementary school served individual milk bags during lunch. Which was fine, unless you stabbed them the wrong way. Then they exploded. We definitely had cartons by third grade, though, because I remember spilling one all over myself. I’ve heard that bagged milk is common in other parts of the world, though.

2.) At my junior high, you could get rid of gym demerits by showering after gym class. Like, if you forgot your uniform or missed a class at some point you could improve your GRADE if you took a shower. I’m sure this was for hygienic purposes, because they didn’t want students to stew in their own filth after working out, but I was blessed by the schedule gods every year and had gym class at or near the end of the day, and thus, never had to shower at the school. Because those showers were gross, and I was not stripping in front of my classmates. Swimming class was bad enough.

3.) BIG pencils. Do they still make young kids use those huge black pencils while learning to write? The ones with no erasers? I absolutely hated using them – especially when we got to the cursive unit – and I irrationally blame them for my poor handwriting to this very day. Speaking of which, do they even teach cursive any more?

4.) Gymnastics in gym class. Not only did we have a gymnastics unit every year until high school, we were forced to do a synchronized gymnastics routine with a partner in eighth grade. Which is cruel, really. Fortunately, I used to be (USED TO BE) pretty good at gymnastics. I just thought it sucked for the kids who weren’t flexible or necessarily skilled at somersaults or handstands. It’s not what I’d call a morale-booster of a sport. Then again, we also played dodge-ball, so…

5.) Square dancing in gym class. I’m not sure how many schools offer dancing of any kind as a unit, but since I live in an area known as Pennsyltucky, square dancin’ and line-dancin’ were a popular choice. I opted for Tai Chi, instead. I still remember the move “Parting the Horse’s Mane.” It’s become my signature party move.

6.) Bowling in gym class. This is the LAST gym class-related one, I swear. But since my high school was down the street from a bowling alley, we could actually take bowling as a unit. HOWEVER, if you sucked at bowling, you wouldn’t get a good grade, since your grade was your score. I took bowling twice, but due to a knee injury, I almost got stuck with a 54 in sophomore year. Fortunately, an excellent essay on duck pin bowling saved me from failure.

7.) Trash lockers. The cafeteria at my high-school was being renovated for like, 2 years. So, for a significant portion of my high school experience, we ate lunch in various classrooms and in the hallways. If you had an empty locker in an area where lots of folks ate lunch, you could end up being the unfortunate owner of a “trash locker.” Lots of students didn’t use their lockers (opting, instead, to carry all of their books in their backpack and thus developing severe spine problems) so folks would toss their trash into empty lockers after lunch. And then, when locker-clean out happened at the end of the year… well… it wasn’t pretty.

 

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