The Wrong Person, at the Wrong Time, Doing the Wrong Thing

It happens to everyone from time to time — you are just not the ONE. Let me tell you a little story from way back in my high school.

I skipped the eighth grade and most of the seventh during my family’s relocation from USSR to New York City. I went directly into high school — the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. It was really an amazing school — tons of art instruction and a good academic program. The problem is that I’m horrible at languages and really couldn’t put two English words together, much less spell my name. This was the start of very confusing times.

I’ve managed to talk my way into 10th-grade art curriculum. No idea how other than I didn’t like my classes, but I didn’t figure out that I was a grade ahead for almost a year. I struggled to answer questions in science and math — I knew the material but had no words to demonstrate what I knew. I had no words to speak my mind. I had to learn a whole new notation for showing geometric proofs.

I was finally put into an ESL class — English as a Second Language — and promptly asked to write a book report. Since I couldn’t read English and refused to read anything in English (I was a stubborn teenager, after all), I took the option of drawing a new book cover. I chose “Jaws” as my novel, got a good grade based on my realistic portrayal of the shark — I could always draw — and, on the plus side, I didn’t misspell “Jaws”.

I hated gym class. There were so many embarrassing moments, I can’t even go there. Instead, I managed to finagle my way to becoming the school’s student telephone receptionist. That’s right! I — a person who couldn’t really speak or understand spoken English and who couldn’t take a message to save her life — was manning the school switchboard! For years!

You might ask: “But how did it work?” The answer: Poorly. And since I was really antisocial, I volunteered to answer the phones during my lunch hour and during all of my long free periods to avoid talking to people. Perhaps the school administration was thrilled with the arrangement:
“No, I never got a message from you, Mr. Parent.”
“No, Mr. Officer, never knew you called. Several times, you say?”
“I had no idea you were trying to reach me, Ms. State Boards.”

I did get better with years, although I didn’t really learn how to write until I was in grad school. Perhaps to this day, in the giant basement of that building, there are files with my messages, filed in boxes, saved for laughs. I know that this can be the case because I’d been shown to that basement storage by the school secretary who was my boss. She took me down and proudly showed me the files for Calvin Klein, who had been a student at the school a few years before me. He wrote a “what I want to be when I grow up” essay for his first assignment in freshmen English. Apparently, he wanted to own a supermarket. The man we all know for his tighty-whities underwear ads wanted to run a grocery store. Go figure?

Calvin Klein Ad in Times Square

Next time you are dealing with “you can’t get there from here”, please consider that the person you are dealing with might just be the wrong person at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing. …or not. Some failures ARE by design.

Thank you very much for reading. And if you got this far, please note that I will make my new book, Mirror Shards, free on Amazon Kindle on June 15th. Enjoy!