Saturday, July 07, 2007

That form again

When I got to work yesterday one of my colleagues was sitting at the big table and sipping coffee. I noticed a form sticking out of her bag. It looked familiar.

"That's not that stupid form about what classes we teach, is it?" I asked, horrified. "You're not going to hand that in now, are you?"

"I have to," she said, gloomily. "I'm taking it over later today. Usually I don't even see the secretary, but on Wednesday I got here a bit later than usual and she pounced on me. I've been practicing abject apologies ever since. I'd forgotten all about it. Did you hand yours in?"

"No," I said, "I always get here too early for her. And anyway, I'm bloody well not going to! It's two weeks before the end of semester, and she never needed it in the first place!"

"I know," she said.

"When you hand it in, ask her what it's for," I said.

"Oh, I CAN'T," said my colleague, horrified. "I wouldn't dare!"

"Oh, go on!" I said. "I don't mean you should confront her. I mean just ask her, innocently. Apologize like mad, then say you have always wondered what the form is for, like you're stupid and she's really, really clever, and see what she says."

My colleague looked momentarily thoughtful, then gleeful, then came back down to earth. She shook her head.

"No, I can't do it," she said. "She'll know I know. I'm no good at pretending. It'll show in my face."

"But she'll have to come up with something different," I argued. "She CAN'T tell you she needs it so she can inform the faculties when you call in sick, because we've been told that we are absolutely NOT allowed to call her. We have to inform them ourselves, now. Remember the memo at the beginning of the year?"

"Yes," said my colleague. "And I teach four different faculties in one day, so I have to make four phone calls if I'm sick."

"She does absolutely NOTHING for us, and she's supposed to be our secretary!" I said. "And don't forget we have to call our boss, too, so that makes FIVE phone calls. We could be dying, and we'd have to make FIVE PHONE CALLS for ONE MEASLY DAY OFF. FIVE PEOPLE listen to you and make you feel as if you're a lazy gaijin, faking it. You know they always do that. 'Oh, you're SICK are you?' they say. 'Riiiight. When will you make up the classes?' "

My colleague laughed bitterly.

"They do, don't they?" she said. "Why do they do that? I never call in sick unless I can hardly move, and they always manage to make me feel worse than I did to begin with."

I could see I was breaking her down, and kept pushing.

"There isn't even the SHADOW of a reason for her to have those forms, now. Oh, go on! Ask!"

My colleague pulled the form out of her bag and stared at it. Every little box had been filled in with her careful, childish Kanji. Every fiendishly difficult faculty and department name had been painstakingly copied. Every class was listed, along with the course title and classroom number. It represented a lost evening of headache-inducing irritation, and was destined to be filed away and never looked at again.

"Weeeell . . . " she said.

"Just do it!" I urged. "It will make you feel better. Besides, I can't wait to hear how she justifies it this time."

She put the paper away again.

"No, I can't," she said, firmly. "It will show. She will KNOW."

Damn. Why can't everybody be as sneaky as me?

But I can't ask her myself, because then I'll end up having to hand in the form. You do not defy the secretary, at least not openly. She is related to the president of the university, so you have to work on your passive-aggressive skills to get anything past her.

And I am bloody well NOT going to fill in that form, and especially not two weeks before the end of semester.

I'll have to find somebody else to ask the question.


Lia said...

I want to hear the answer! But you're right, it's not worth filling in the form, because then she wins. But it's almost worth it.