The Learning Curve

That weekend was a quiet one, outside my head at least. Cara and I caught a Saturday afternoon matinee before parting ways for the evening. She went over to a friend’s place for board games and girl talk while I went out with some friends for a drink and boy talk.

The sun came out on Sunday so we did our civic duty and took full advantage of it with a bike ride around Stanley Park and lunch on Emily’s Sandwich Shop’s patio. Cara spent the evening finishing up homework and I did a bit of reading to keep my mind off the week ahead.

It didn’t work, but it was worth a try.

After a restless night of too much thinking and not enough sleeping, I took Cara halfway to school, said a brief hello to her friends and made my way to the Employment Center.

I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of that building and feeling very uninspired. The gray paint was chipped and peeling, as though the structure was trying to shed its skin in a desperate attempt to be something else. The door sat crookedly in its frame, uninviting and more than a little sad.

The interior was as lifeless as the exterior promised so I didn’t have long to wait before I was sitting across from one Mildred Williams, who matched the décor perfectly. Mildred took me in through inch thick lenses, pursed her lipstick caked lips and did her best to make me feel unwelcome.

“What can I do for you today Mr. McDaniel?” I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I just knew that gargoyle really wanted to help me. Perhaps it was her monotone voice, or maybe it was the way she inspected her ruby red nails while she spoke. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

“I’m looking to change career paths but I’m not quite sure where to start,” I said, somehow resisting the urge to give her a hug. "I'd prefer to find something that really challenges me intellectually - I've been doing physical work for too long."

“Well you’ve come to the right place,” she droned. “Do you have a resume I can look over?”

“Not really, but anything you need to know is up here,” I said with two taps of my temple with my right index finger. Mildred looked suitably impressed.

“Fine,” she said as she grabbed a clipboard and clicked open her pen. “Let’s start with your full name.”

“Nathaniel McDaniel – I suspect my mother hoped I would be a poet,” I said with a smile.

“Education?” Mildred asked with a flat stare. I cleared my throat and shifted on my concrete slab of a chair.

“I graduated from UBC with a major in History and a minor in Human Kinetics in the top 3% of my class,” I told her, tacking on the last bit of information in the hopes of winning her over.

“That’s nice. I graduated at the top of my class,” she said without looking up from her clipboard. I narrowed my eyes at the top of her head but remained silent. “And what did you do with yourself after university?”

“I became a professional boxer. Although technically, I actually turned pro before I graduated.” Mildred stopped writing, but only briefly. She was a tough woman to phase. I decided to try harder. “I also fathered a daughter, outside of marriage, who I have raised on my own for the last twelve and a half years.”

Her pen slipped from her liver-spotted hand and skittered across the floor like a fleeing metallic spider. I suppressed a smile as she glanced up at me, grabbed another pen and returned to her notes. I wondered if she was now writing a prayer for me.

“In summation then: the only work experience you have is boxing and raising a child?”

“Odd combination, I know.”

“We will begin then by assessing your current skill set and from there determine what needs upgrading and what,” she paused briefly as she lifted her eyes to take in my reaction, “is yet to be learned.”

“I’m sure it will be a learning experience for both of us,” I said with my best smile. She let slip a derisive snort before creaking to her feet and signaling me to follow her to the row of computers against the wall.

It appeared that my first lesson would be one of humility.

The End

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