Advice Taken, pt. 2
I loved Mel's advice about spreading calm in the academic workplace. (See her 7/23 entry, "thoughts from the mat.") Instead of offering any of the typical, self-flagellating responses to the "How was your summer?" question, Mel urged a more merciful, human response.
Last Monday, Z. was the first person I saw in our department. And, predictably, she demanded that I evaluate the break. I took a breath, ready to spread the zen. “It was very relaxing,” I said.
Z’s brow furrowed. The blue vein by the side of her nose began to throb. “That’s great for you,” she said sarcastically. “Some of us didn’t have a summer.”
(Note to self: The theory behind the “relaxing” line is good, but best tried on someone other than the cranky department secretary. And best avoided altogether with the justifiably cranky department secretary who, since the abrupt departure of her colleague back in June, has been saddled with the labor of two.)
Brain was screaming “Mayday! Mayday!” I had to do something to right this conversational nosedive.
“I know it’s been just crazy here, Z. But everybody has a summer, right?” (Mental forehead smack. What kind of doofus logic was that?)
Z. seemed shocked. “Well, yeah. I had a summer."
Then it was my turn to be shocked, as Z. broke into a huge grin. "And you’re right. It was actually pretty nice. Good for you for reminding me of that."
(Snaps to you, Mel, darling. But that was a close one.)