Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?


"50 First Dates"






Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
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or Search by State

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Contact The Media
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Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue

Slanglish

It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations


Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"


















 
Mail Trillian here





Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)

CellStories

Alliance for the Great Lakes


Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras


The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.



Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.





Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"







Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


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Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains





























Life(?) of Trillian
Single/Zero

 
Thursday, June 20, 2013  
My past isn't haunting me, it's clobbering me over the head. Coincidence is a funny thing. It's nothing more than coincidence, to apply some higher or deeper meaning to coincidences is a one way bus ticket to the crazy side of town. But how events and people cluster and collide is interesting, especially when they collide with irony.

I've been interviewing for a couple jobs. One has been a farce of discriminatory statements and questions, the other was keeping my dream of a legitimate full-time career alive. We'll dismiss the former for now, because the latter is more to the ironic coincidence point.

First, there was a phone interview. There's always a phone interview. Then there was a meeting with HR and the immediate manager. I thought the interview with the immediate manager was a little off. The manager seemed distracted and not exactly focused on the interview because the conversation meandered to some irrelevant places. But such is the way with interviews. At least I wasn't asked what spice I'd be in a spice rack, which is my barometer for interviews: Stupid pop-psychology interview questions = lame management.

Much to my surprise I was called in for a second interview. The HR person told me the COO wanted to meet the candidates. This is something I'm encountering more on interviews: CEOs, COOs and anyone else with a "chief" in their job title acronym wanting to be involved in the interview process. I think it's a good thing, but, since it seems to have abruptly become the norm I can only conclude there was some management seminar or TED talk that encouraged high ranking managers to insert themselves in the interview process.

So, I walked into the reception area of the office and rather than the usual, "Sign in and have a seat, I'll let Mr. Smith know you're here," I was greeted with, "Ah. Ms. McMillian," and a visual up and down sizing up. This was the same receptionist who was there for my first interview, the same receptionist who dismissed me coolly, even with an air of disdain. But now I was, "Ah, Ms. McMillian." I forced myself to not overthink the receptionist's reception of me.

The receptionist did the intercom buzz thing with the phone, "Mr. Smith, Ms. McMillian has arrived."

Wow. I have arrived.

Through the intercom I heard a man say, "I'm on my way!"

Wow. He seemed eager. I thought, "That's hopeful. Maybe, finally, I've found a management team who respects and values my education and experience."

A man appeared in a very nice suit and tie. Expensive shoes, pricey watch, starched shirt, good haircut...executive kind of guy. 

He was all smiles and pleasantries, and enthusiastically said, "Hi, I'm Bob Smith*," and smiled a beaming smile, as if he was a celebrity, as if he was saying, "Yes, yes, I'm Bob Smith, sure, you can take your picture with me."

I said, "Hello, I'm Tricia McMillian, it's nice to meet you."

We didn't head into a conference room, instead he invited me to a large, well appointed office with what I rank as one of the best views in the city.

He asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I said, "No thank you." He picked up a glass that appeared to be ginger ale, light beer or Scotch. There was quite a bit of ice in the glass and I couldn't discern a distinguishing smell, so for my mental well being I chose to believe it was ginger ale. He then motioned toward a seating area to one side of his desk, and said, "Shall we?"

This was getting a little to affected Mad Men pastiche for my taste, but all I could do was roll with it. I took a seat in one of the chairs and he sat next to me, so we weren't in the usual "Boss behind the desk, candidate cowering before him" position. We were in two comfy chairs, side-by-side, mano-a-mano. A bit unusual, but I chose to think "maybe that's a good thing."

So. There we were. Me and the COO.

And then it got weird.

He opened with, "We had a lot of applications for this position. A lot. Almost everyone who applied is overqualified, which gave us a pool of talent that we might use in cross functional applications. We're going through a shift in our management paradigm and cross functionality is one of our new target goals. I'm not usually involved in screening candidates, but given the experience and knowledge base of the applicants our HR recruiter thought this might be a good opportunity to explore cross functionality. She shared some of the more interesting resumes with me."

Huh.

Okay.

I was simultaneously excited and horrified of where this was going. Cross functionality is an oft-cited term that lately oft means, "We're only hiring one person but we expect that person to perform the unrelated job duties of five people we laid off last year."

But my resume was deemed "more interesting." On the one hand, maybe this is going to be a good thing! Maybe I've stumbled into a great opportunity! Maybe, just maybe this will be the hail Mary job I desperately need! On the other hand, maybe this will turn out to be an inner circle of Hell. Cross functionality is all well and good, but cross functionality could mean managing creative contributors a few hours and cleaning the bathrooms for a few hours and then serving as this guy's caddy for a few hours. Not that I wouldn't leap at any opportunity, but my antennae are tuned into weasel vernacular, and cross functionality is one of the most weasel-y terms bandied about in offices.

I did my mental mantra: Grace and respect, Trill, grace and respect.

He paused and I couldn't tell if he was waiting for a response or gathering thoughts.

I tried to get some sort of visual cue but this guy wasn't giving me anything. "Interesting resume" could mean good or bad, so I wasn't sure if "thank you" was an appropriate response. And I couldn't tell if he was on board with the management goal of cross functionality or if it was something mandated from above and that he resented. Best to not say anything.

Finally he said, "When I briefed the resumes yours caught my attention right away."

I smiled what I hoped was an, "Awwww shucks" smile and said, "thank you."

He continued, "You have an impressive work history and client experience."

I smiled what I hoped was an, "Awwww shucks" smile and said, "thank you."

He continued, "Mike (the distracted hiring manager from the first interview) thought you would be a good skill fit on his team."

I smiled what I hoped was an, "Awwww shucks" smile and said nothing. Because my impression was that Mike wasn't focused enough at our interview to clearly evaluate my skills or anything job-related.

Then he said, "I'm more of a personal characteristics kind of guy. I hire people, not resumes so I'd like to use this opportunity to get to know a little about you."

Oh crap. I'm more of a, "it's about doing the job, not about socializing" kind of girl. Which is what I wanted to say. But instead I just tried not to squirm and smiled what I hoped was a sincere-seeming smile. I thought, "Here comes the spice rack question."

He continued, leaning a little closer to me, "So let's start with your childhood. Where did you grow up?"

Tell me about your childhood? Good grief. Well, at least it's not the spice rack question.

"Primarily in suburban Detroit with a couple years detoured through the UK."

He smiled a huge, broad, beaming smile and said, "Suburban Detroit, eh? Did you happen to attend ABC high school?"

Oh belgiuming swut. Yes, I did happen to attend ABC high school, and the only way he could possibly know that is if he either A) attended there, too, or B) had the FBI do a background check on me because I keep such a tight lock on my pre-college life that it's as if I was in a witness protection program. I do not have my high school, or even my home town, listed anywhere on my resume, on my LinkedIn, heck, even the people I use for references don't know where I went to high school.

I went into panic mode. Does this guy know me? Is he from my home town? Did I go to school with him? I quickly tried to sleuth out his name. Bob Smith. Bob Smith. My home town is small but my consolidated school district high school was enormous and my class was huge, there could have been 15 Bob Smiths in my class alone.

But hold on a minute, let's just say he went to my high school, does he honestly remember me? That's some kind of craziness, I was not popular, I was not cool, I was not remotely memorable. More to the scary point, is this why he called me in for an interview, because he thought I might be a dorky girl he remembers from high school?

I was trying to keep some semblance of composure and nonchalantly said, "Yes, as a matter of fact I did."

"LitWits?"

Oh double belguiming swut.

I don't live life with regrets. I have made questionable choices and bad decisions, but I don't regret them. I make the best decisions I can with information available. If they turn out badly, so be it. Insight is priceless, hindsight is worthless. All that. I own what I do - failures and success, they're mine, I own them and I own up to them.

But.

Dragging up the one of my nerdy high school activities during a job interview is unfair and unprofessional. Especially considering I still could not remember Bob Smith. He knew I was on LitWits so he was either as nerdy as I was or he was one of the 98% of the rest of the school who made fun of kids who participated in activities like LitWits.

I was surprised, to say the least, and I'm sure it showed.

Grace and respect. Grace and respect. Grace and respect. This is one of my worst nightmares. Grace and respect. Grace and respect. But seriously, this is a personal inner circle of Hell. Grace and respect. Grace and respect.

"Erm, well, yes, as a matter fact, I was on LitWits. I'm sorry, I don't recall you from high school or LitWits." 

He laughed. "I went to123 high school. I was on LitWits."

Okay. So, he went to a rival school and he was a dork, too. I still didn't remember him, but I figured I was among friends. Code of dork honor and all that. Whew. It was still weird that this came up at a job interview, and that it was the central focus of the job interview thus far, but there are worse things than a fellow dork remembering you from a really nerdy dork-a-thon like LitWits. Takes one to know one and all that.

"Oh! Wow! Small world!"

"Yep! When I saw your name and resume I wondered if it was you!"

Great. So this isn't about the job, my credentials...

"Yes, well, as it says there on the resume, I'm me."

"I'm surprised you went into marketing. I always figured you'd be a librarian or lit professor."

The guy "always" figured something, anything, about me? I don't remember him at all, meanwhile he was out there "always figuring" stuff about me? And called me in for an interview? This was creepy. Yep. Definitely creepy.

And maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but I felt like he implied, "I always figured you'd be a librarian or lit professor or some career choice that results in lesbianism or spinsterhood with a bunch of cats." But I made myself give him the benefit of the doubt and went with just plain creepy, not creepy and mean.

I tried to laugh what sounded like a jovial laugh, "Well, LitWits was just something I did for fun, one of my teachers convinced me to join and I thought it would look good on college applications."

"You were captain!"

Okay, look, yes, I took it seriously. It was more to me than filler on my college applications, but so what? I was on Model UN, too, and I took that seriously. But I didn't intend to join the diplomatic corp. I was in symphony and I took that seriously but I didn't intend to be a musician. I participated in Science Fair and I took it seriously but I didn't intend to be a physicist. I was a Sea Explorer, I took that seriously, but I didn't intend to join the Coast Guard or sail in the World Cup. If I'd been an enthusiastic cheerleader would he have "always figured" I became...well...whatever cheerleaders do professionally after high school? This guy was quickly moving past creepy and into jerk territory. I started to presume he "always figured" I'd be a spinster with a bunch of cats. I was captain, which makes me the nerdiest of the nerds, so I felt a need to soften the edges of my LitWit glory a bit.

"Well, only by default. There was a bit of a shake up my sophomore year thanks to a few of seniors on LitWits who got caught selling term papers who were ousted from the team. Those gaps catapulted me forward in the ranks. I was really just picking up the slack."

"I never heard that! Wow, scandal at ABC high. Who would have ever thought?!"

"Yeah. The big Term Paper Scandal really rocked the town."

He got a bit somber and said, "You did a great job. You were both revered and feared. Your technique and preparation...it was staggering. We tried to dissect your strategy, but we could never figure you out."

Oh good grief. This was just getting weirder by the second. Okay, fine. He wants to get to know me, fine, he'll get to know me. Let's just get this over so we can both resume our regularly schedule lives. He wants to know about my LitWit strategy, I'll tell him.

"I read a lot. I mean a lot. So it was easy for me because the research was already done. I didn't have to read much to prep for a meet, so I could focus on outlining themes to have ready for whatever debate topic they gave us. It's like improv - you have a few basic, adaptable frameworks ready and just plug in whatever subject is thrown at you. The real trick was figuring which authors or books each of the judges liked. Once I figured out who a judge liked, I just threw in a few references to a book by that author and voila! point for ABC school. And we had a couple really good advisers, too. We would have been nothing without them, especially after the Term Paper Scandal."

I still couldn't remember this guy, but there were a lot of dorky guys from other schools who competed at LitWits. Typically schools just retooled the debate team, made them read certain books and called them the LitWit team. My school didn't do that. Our LitWit team was comprised of kids who were chosen by the lit teachers. The boys on our team were the bookish, broody types, not poncy, self-righteous debate team dorks. So by comparison the kids from other schools, especially the boys, all seemed like defensive, confrontational jerks. When I was in high school I came to derive a lot of smug satisfaction in quietly but self-assuredly cutting the debate team-come-latelies from other schools to the quick with one well placed Faustian-theme-within-a-Faulkner theme and an allusion to Ulysses. And when it came to female character analyses, I never went for the obvious Shakespeare or Dickenson choices, I went for the jugular with Virgina Wolfe and Ayn Rand, taboo authors relegated to the banned book list in most schools. But I had progressive teachers who "suggested" books I might enjoy reading outside of the classroom. Consequently I could throw in a few references to books and authors other kids hadn't read, and I always scored a victory over the guys from other schools when I referred to a female author other than a Bronte sister or Jane Austin.

Apparently Bob Smith, my erstwhile interviewer, was one of those guys.

And I'm now an unemployed spinster who would, if she could afford it, live with a lot of cats. Maybe I should have been a librarian.

Great. Once again the Universe mocks me with irony and leaves me questioning every choice I've ever made in my life that led me to this point. Sure, my high school lit teachers would be proud of me, but they're not here to see this. They're not unemployed and quickly losing the small remnants of will to live. I need a job, any full time job with health insurance, and who calls me in for an interview? A guy I faced off with during LitWits in high school. My belief about God is changing: He is real and He is vengeful and He is exacting revenge on me and I am experiencing Hell on earth. Repent ye sinners, because this lost soul is attesting to the fact that you do not want to get on God's bad side. He will smite thee in devious ways.

Bob Smith smiled and nodded in recognition of my LitWit approach and recognition of my team's advisors, "Our advisers weren't that great. We were mainly the debate team [told you so] and a couple of the Quiz Bowl alternates.**"

I didn't know what to say to that. I wanted to get off the topic of LitWits and high school in general, but this guy seemed to want to dwell on it. I thought about complimenting him and bringing the conversation to present day, something like, "Well, it seems to have all turned out all right for you anyway," but I thought it sounded sycophantic.

Then I thought maybe in the frenzy of LitWit competition I wounded his developing ego in high school. This could be an opportunity to atone for that. I could stroke his ego. But it still seemed sycophantic.

So I just sat there nodding in recognition and uttered something about teachers and after school program funding.

He referred to my resume and asked me about college. I told him why I chose an even more involved academic path than what was detailed on my resume. I wanted to ask him about his college experience, but it seemed inappropriate. He was interviewing me for a job. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to ask a prospective manager about their academic credentials during the job interview. Maybe I'm way wrong about this, but comparing it to a dating situation, it seems more like a third date topic of conversation. Funny, that. In a dating situation college is a polite breaking the ice topic, but in an interviewing for a job situation it's an intimate topic.

I came to the interview with a list of prepared questions about the job. He, on the other hand, wanted to "get to know me," or, he wanted to see with his own eyes how the champion of LitWits ended up desperate for a low ranking job. I was angry at the situation and angry at him. At this point I figured he had no intention of hiring me, so I asked him a question specific to the job. His response?

"I don't know much about that unit of the marketing department, you'd have to talk to Mike or someone down there. Like I said, I'm more interested in personalities, not resumes."

Asshole. The guy was an asshole. What if I hadn't been the girl from LitWits in high school? Then what would he talk about?

Apparently this:

"You married? Kids?"

Yep, those are illegal interview questions. And this was not the first time I've been asked illegal questions at a job interview, so I had my answer ready.

I gave him my, "we both know you just crossed a legal boundary but here's all you need to know" response: "My personal obligations do not interfere with my professional obligations."

He took a drink and said, "Good to know." 

He was wearing a wedding ring so I assume he's married. Not that I cared, but there was no need to continue the illegal exchange of pleasantries and ask him if he was married.

Then he asked, "Do you get back to Detroit often?"

"When I can. You?"

"I haven't been back in years. When my parents moved to Florida there was no reason to go there. Is your family still there?"

"Yes, my mother's still there." The small talk went from strange to strained, so I said, "Tough break for the Wings, eh?"

He gave me a weird look, like he didn't know what I was talking about.

"The Red Wings? Knocked out of the playoffs?"

"Oh right, right. I don't really follow hockey. I should, though. When people find out I'm from Detroit they always assume I'm a hockey fan."

"Well. It is Hockey Town. It is the Red Wings. There's a legacy. People assume..."

"Yes. They do. They always assume I'm into old Motown, too. Do you get that a lot?"

"Yep. But, I don't mind, I'm kind of into it, in the sense that I can't not be into because it was so pervasive, like fluoridated water. We had Motownidated air."

He fake chuckled.

I couldn't come up with anything to say. I had my list of questions about the job but he didn't have answers - he already referred me to Mike - and he didn't seem to be too into hometown small talk, so...

Silence.


Silence.


Silence.


It seemed like he saw my name on the resume, wondered if I was the girl who was his school's arch LitWits nemesis, called me in on the pretense of an interview, saw me, now, saw how I turned out, evaluated that even though I kicked his ass in LitWits he ended up with the nice suit and an office with a million dollar view and I ended up unemployed.

Maybe that's my insecurity talking, but you have to admit it's kinda weird. Yes, it's a small world, after all, and loads of people from Michigan flock to Chicago, so it's not at all unusual to bump into someone from a couple towns over from your hometown or even from your own school. When I was still dating I met a guy whose cousin was on Model UN with me. I had a client who went to Girl Scout camp with me. I have a lot of 2 degrees of Michigan separation situations happen to me, but never on a job interview. I am unable to discern whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm leaning bad because, see above, smite from a vengeful God, and because he didn't seem especially interested in anything other than LitWits. I need a job, not a reunion with my nerdy high school extracurricular activities.

So I just came out and asked him when they were going to make a decision about the job.

He told me they wanted to have a body in the chair in three weeks and we made polite excuses to end the "interview."

Maybe I should have, could have, handled that all differently and maybe that's why I'm still unemployed. I don't handle "these" situations correctly. But in my defense, what is the right way to handle that situation?

I got home from the "interview" dejected, deflated and regretting everything I've ever done and every choice I've ever made since the age of 6. Thank you, Bob Smith, for yet another shove farther down the spiral of low self esteem. And yes, of course his success, and all the trappings thereof, added to my "I'm a loser, baby, why don't you kill me" attitude.

I wasn't even out of my suit when my mother called.

Bad news.

A boy I've known since kindergarten died. We'll call him Brian.

He was a funny kid. Not quite a class clown, just a live wire with a quick wit. And he shared crayons. And he understood the importance and value of the silver crayon. Which were the only real requirements I had for friendships. Our kindergarten room floor was tiled with letters of the alphabet arranged in a circle. When we gathered for lessons we were to sit on a letter of our first or last name. He often sat next to me. He paid attention to the teacher, he was a good kid, but his entire body shook, like he was sitting on a motor that made his body tremor. Ritalin was not commonly prescribed back then, which is good because this kid would have been dosed so heavily on the stuff that he would have been in a numbed stupor. And that would have been a shame because he was bright, funny and a great asset to the classroom. He was labeled hyperactive and every so often the teacher would allow him to go to the coat room and run in circles for a few minutes. He did, and then dutifully returned, once again ready and able to focus on the lesson.

As you can imagine, gym and recess were his time to shine. He was the first to run into the gym when the doors opened. Before the rest of us even made it to the mats, he had climbed the rope all the way to the ceiling and rang the bell and was sliding back down the rope. He had a circuit: he pommeled the horse, leapt the vault, swung on the trapeze and bounced off the trampoline in minutes flat. He was like the Tasmanian Devil only slightly more acrobatic. On the playground he ran in circles around the playground boundaries.

The rest of us were benefactors of his hyperactivity. He ran and pushed the merry-go-round, only rarely jumping on to enjoy the ride. Because of this he was puked on more than a few times. Eventually his mother just sent a spare set of clothes to school for him to change into if someone puked on him. But no one teased him about that because we all reaped the benefits of his running of the merry-go-round. Puked up fish sticks, tater tots, applesauce and chocolate milk were just an occupational hazard. If a kid's stomach couldn't handle the dizzying speed of the merry-go-round, the kid should hang out on the stupid duck and rabbit on giant springs.

And I'm certain he saved my life.

I once was hit so hard in the face with the tetherball that I got a bloody nose and a black eye. The chain ricocheted around my neck (hazards of being tall and playing tetherball on a playground intended for shorter kids) and in my dizziness and pain of being hit in the face with a tetherball, I was disoriented and I fell, with the chain still around my neck. I essentially hung myself with a tetherball chain noose. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't talk.

The kid I was playing with didn't realize what was happening, but Brian, who was making his run around the playground boundaries, saw what happened and ran to my rescue. He untethered me from the ball and chain, screamed for the playground supervisor...and held my hand, and patted my head and with a tone of authority no doubt gleaned from reruns of Emergency!, he told me help was on its way. When the playground lady rushed over Brian told her what happened and then started off on a lecture about how unsafe tetherball is and how schools should outlaw them. I don't remember much about the incident, other than the pain and the chain tightening around my neck and the blood on the tetherball viewed through a swollen eyelid and my inability to talk. But I remember Brian helping me and yelling for they playground lady and holding my hand. Even when the playground lady carried me into the school nurse, Brian tagged along, holding my hand, assessing the damage. "Her nose is bleeding, is it broken? Will she be able to smell? Her eye is swollen, will she be blind? Will she have to learn braille? What if she can't talk ever again? Will she have to learn sign language? My aunt knows sign language, she can teach her." Okay, so my hero wasn't exactly tactful, but still, he held my hand the whole time and was quick with the contingency plans.

The school nurse immediately started working on me: Ice packs, plural, gauze, some sort of ooze on my neck. The principal was called into the nurse's room. He had the school secretary call my mother and then asked Brian what happened. Brian dutifully gave a full account, adding his admonishments about tetherball being unsafe. After that he asked Brian to step out of the nurse's room. He was still holding my hand and I didn't want him to let go. That's when I realized that he wasn't shaking with his usual hyperactive tremor. He was just a normal, non-shaking kid. I mused about this wondering when he stopped shaking, trying to remember the last time he sat next to me and if he was shaking as usual.

My mother loves to tell the story of what happened next. She rushed to the school, panicked, of course, as you would after receiving a call from the school saying there was an incident on the playground that required medical attention, and Brain, who was sitting on a bench outside the office, sprang up and ran to her and hugged her. "She's going to be okay, Mrs. McMillian, but if she has to learn braille I'll help, and I can smell for her, I'm a good smeller."

My mother took me straight to our doctor, who doctored me more than the school nurse. My mother was told to put me to bed, keep me as still as possible for a couple days. This happened on a Friday. Friday night Brian's mother called my mother inquiring about my well-being. (Our parents knew each other.) Obviously Brian had filled his parents in on the tetherball incident and his mother was concerned. Saturday afternoon Brian's mother called again, and told my mother Brian was worried about me and she thought perhaps he would calm down if he saw that I was home and okay. An hour later Brian and his mother showed up with an enormous teddy bear, an activity book and a new box of crayons, the box of 64 with the built in sharpener, no less.

It all turned out okay, I wasn't blind, I didn't have to learn braille, I could talk, and my nose healed. The wounds on my neck healed, too, although I had to wear huge Band-Aids with oozy gunk for what seemed like months.

I returned to school, somewhat of a gawk-show for a few days and then everything returned to normal. There was no romance or anything different between me and Brian. I noticed that he still shook and tremored most of the time.

Brian and I didn't have any classes together after that year, but because our parents were friends we still occasionally saw each other or heard about each other. The Monday after I took LitWits to a regional victory the team's success was mentioned in home room announcements. The perfunctory taunts about loser nerds were made by the cool kids and that was that. Later that day I passed Brian in a hall at school. He did a 180° and ran up to me and attempted to high five me as he jumped in the air. "Way to go, Trill!" It was the only positive recognition of my, and our team's, achievement other than from teachers.

And now he's dead.


Our family sent flowers. My mother went to the memorial service.

I signed the online condolence book. It's rough, I mean, what do you say to parents whose son died? There's nothing I can say that will ease their pain or enlighten them to a place of peace. Everything I wrote sounded like a trite platitude. He was a good guy. Which doesn't sound like much, but the reality is that it's a huge deal. Good guys, like him, are uncommon. 


In my struggle for words when signing the online condolence book apparently I neglected to check the "keep my email private" box. I didn't realize this until yesterday when I received an email from one of my LitWits team mates. She heard about Brian's death (small town...parents keep their farflung kids in the loop with hometown news), found the obituary and saw my entry in the condolence book, clicked on the "contact Trillian" option and voila! two women who haven't seen or heard from each other since high school are emailing each other. Coincidence is weird sometimes.

We caught each other up on our lives (she's married, three kids, stay at home mom), and talked about Brian.

I asked her if she remembered any of the LitWits kids from other schools. I didn't say anything about Bob Smith in particular. She replied back with, "Oh yes, remember that girl from XYZ school who turned everything into a lesbian issue?" (How could I forget?) "And of course there was that boy from 123 school who had such a huge crush on you he turned to jelly every time he had to face off with you."

What? I don't remember anyone turning to jelly. I remember kids who weren't prepared for the competition who faltered their way through lame character analyses and thin analogies.

"He was taller, thin, better looking than usual LitWits nerd boys. He always did really well except when he had to face off with you. It was so obvious he liked you and you just crushed him to a pulp. It was fun to watch. Poor guy."

What??? I don't remember anything like that! I was always nervous during competitions, maybe too nervous to pick up on my competition's nerves.Wait. Did she say 123 school? Bob Smith's school? Noooooo. Can't be. Couldn't be. No. No. No. No. No.

I asked my former teammate if the guy I turned to jelly was Bob Smith.

"Yeah, maybe, something like that, Bob, Billy, Robby, something like that. My roommate in college went to 123 school, I'll ask her if she knew any of the kids on LitWits."

For the sake of my sanity I am forcing myself to assume Bob Smith, COO of the company at which I am seeking employment, is not the boy my former teammate claims I turned to jelly in LitWits competition.

What has me really thrown by all of this is the chain of events and the timing of them. I know it's nothing more than coincidence, but what an odd set of coincidences. One for the books, I think.

An unemployed woman applies for a job where the COO recognizes her name from a high school literature competition, calls her in for an interview that turns into a conversation about the good old days of nerdy school; she goes home an gets news that a childhood friend died; she signs the online condolence book, neglects to keep her email private and a classmate gets in touch with her; they converse about the old days and it's revealed that a boy from the school the COO attended had a crush on the woman seeking employment. Life = stranger than fiction.



*Names changed. Of course. Duh.
**You had to pull off the nerd hat trick to be on the Quiz Bowl team: Math/science whiz, history geek and bookworm. Many tried, few succeeded.

1:41 PM

 
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