Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Working at Tulane: It's All the (Road) Rage

So I guess you've heard that I got a job at Tulane, right? Well, if not, then I'm telling you now -- I got a job at Tulane. I'm a writing instructor in their business school.

Here's how it works (it actually takes some explaining):

(1) The students I'm working with are taking a legal/business class. Every couple of days, they go to a classroom in the business school where they learn from a professor. The professor assigns papers that they have to work on.

(2) Once students have been assigned their papers, they have to meet with two other instructors. One is a legal coach, assigned to look over their papers for content and factual issues. The other is a writing instructor (me), assigned to help them with grammatical/structural issues.

So yesterday I was asked to go and visit the students in their classroom for a brief introductory session at 8 a.m. No big deal. I'm used to waking up early. I was up-and-at-it by 5:30 in the morning. Took a shower, put on a shirt and tie, prepared a few notes, and was out the door by 6:15. (FYI - It takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get to New Orleans from Biloxi, so I was giving myself about a half-hour more than I needed to deal with the inevitable morning traffic.) Well, I'm booking right along, feeling pretty good about myself, eager to make a good first impression....and then all of a sudden traffic just kind of STOPPED right around Slidell. Okay. Stay calm. We all sat in one place for five minutes or so and then we started moving again. But not really moving, it was more like CRAWLING. And we crawled and crawled and crawled and crawled...and I'm thinking there must be a wreck or something. Surely there's a good reason why traffic had suddenly ceased to flow.............No. No wreck. Nobody's car had broken down. Just an inexplicable stop. Stay calm, J.

With one eye on the clock, I continue to crawl...and crawl...and crawl...And the more I crawl, the more I start thinking about the last two years, and how I've been working so hard to start living up to my potential. I've worked on my Masters degree (only one class away now). I've gotten in shape. I've kept all my bills paid. I've gotten better about staying in touch with people. And to top if all off, I've been hired at Tulane. A very respectable job. The kind of thing I can admit to a girl without fear of embarrassment: "What do I do? Oh, I'm just finishing up my Masters and working as a writing instructor at Tulane Business School" (insert the pretentious sipping of a drink here). "After that, I'll probably go to Chicago and work on my Ph.D. I plan to teach, be a novelist, start a publishing firm, do some filmwork, and tour the lecture circuit. Maybe start a magazine if the fancy strikes me." (insert another pretentious sip here, followed by a stretch and the checking of my watch).

I'm thinking of all this, and it occurs to me that THIS is my first day on the job. THIS day is the one the professor I'm working with will use to gauge my performance. THIS day will be the day when my students form their opinions of me...And I'm running late, because the people in Slidell have decided that they'd rather sit in their cars on the interstate than drive. Well, like any decent driver, I frickin' lost it. I cursed the car in front of me, shouting his license tag number as if it were his name. "COME ON, LLJ 136!! MOVE! YOU SLOW ASSHOLE!" I squeezed the steering wheel. I shook. I clenched my teeth....And all the while, I imagined myself walking into the classroom halfway through the class and hearing the professor say something real Hollywood asshole line like, "Well well well, look who FINALLY decided to show up today! Are you gonna be late with EVERYTHING, Mr.Wiltz? Is this what passes for professional behavior in BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI!? You think you can just show up whenever you want to?"

And the worst part is that I'd tried. I'd really tried. I didn't oversleep, or go to bed late, or take too long getting ready in the morning. I did everything I was supposed to do so I could be there on time...And then the traffic stopped. How cruel and unfair. I imagined myself being reprimanded and fired, doomed to live a life of failure because of stupid little circumstances beyond my control.

Long story short (might be a little late to use that phrase), I got to class about 20 minutes late. My tie was turned around the wrong way, I was sweating, and I was actually a little nervous because I thought I might be in trouble. But when I walked in, still a little shaken by road rage and out of breath from running across campus, the professor gave me a very warm and friendly smile and said, "Are you J.?"

"Yes sir," I said, trying not to pant.

"Great!" he said. Then he gave the class a quick synopsis of my job duties and asked me to tell them a little bit about myself.

"Hello, everyone," I said. "My name is J. Wiltz. I'll be the writing instructor for this course. You can find me right here in the Business School, Suite 200. I'll be available for any help you may need with writing and organizing your papers. My own background is primarily in English, but I worked with a law firm for two and a half years so I'm familiar with business and legal writing. I'm a Masters student at U.N.O. I've written for two newspapers and done a lot of creative writing. I'm proud to say that a short play of mine took top honors at this year's California Thespian Conference. (mild applause) Does anyone have any specific questions?.....No? Well, you're all Tulane students. I'm sure you can figure out what a writing instructor does. And I guess that's it."

"Thank you, J.," said the professor. "Would you mind writing your e-mail address on the board so the students can contact you if they need to?"

"Not at all."

I wrote my e-mail address on the board...And that was IT. The whole thing lasted somewhere between 45 and 90 seconds.

And for THIS I nearly sent myself into hysterics on the interstate.
When wil I ever learn to trust my dumb luck?
Looks like I'm gonna make it after all.


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