Last month I made a decision to volunteer some of my time at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, tutoring adults in reading and writing and also ELL (English Language Learners). I was pretty pleased with myself and the new found resolve to use some of my time for good instead of evil. If by evil we can agree that I mean stalking Donnie Wahlberg on twitter. What I didn’t realize was that I would have a litany of hoops to jump through to even be considered as a volunteer, the most imposing of which was a one-on-one interview with a “literacy liaison” that took place earlier this evening.
I sailed through the initial orientation, even though the elderly gentleman running the show was visibly startled at the sight of me. I was cordial, attentive and asked relevant questions like any good English major knows to do. I consented to a criminal background check with only a slight cringe (that delinquent speeding ticket has come back to bite me before). I trooped through a guided tour of the facilities and pretended not to notice the piles of paperwork on most of the desks, although that did give me an idea as to why my initial inquiry email went unanswered for several days. And there I was letting it affect my self-esteem. I didn’t reel when they informed me that I’d need to complete a series of four classes, all more than three hours in length, and I didn’t even balk when I realized that my “classmates” were all seemingly bored (and terribly dressed) housewives. And one appropriately frumpy librarian. I was sure to be the hip tutor, the one everyone wanted to work with. Or…I would alienate the men and women from cultures that frown on brash, tattooed, pierced women with a penchant for red lipstick. Either way.
I was cool as a cucumber (assuming that cucumber has been properly refrigerated) until I had to sit down for my one-on-one interview today. Truthfully, it wasn’t even an interview. I sat at a conference table with a super-old lady and she asked me all the same questions I had already answered on my very detailed application. But she did it while looking me dead in the eyes. I returned the favor by awkwardly staring at her eyebrows, which stopped being eyebrows halfway through and decided to become randomly placed smudges of rusty makeup instead. Eye contact makes me extremely uncomfortable. Is it really necessary to search my soul for five uninterrupted minutes while asking me which library would make the most convenient meeting place? Was she looking for hidden meaning behind my perfectly timed nods and intermittent “uh huhs”? Or had she read in a self-help book that when interviewing one must assert dominance by putting the fear of being inhabited by a poltergeist in the interviewee? I don’t have the answers. I just have the uncomfortable fidgeting and shifty glances to shade the windows to my soul. I understand making occasional eye contact to show that I’m not socially inept, and I can handle that. I legitimately fall apart when someone locks in, however. I’m the same with platonic touching, which is a fact that my roommate exploited quite a few times tonight. Snuggle time is my worst nightmare. Especially if that snuggling includes eye contact or a one-on-one interview. That’s a scenario I might actually be willing to brave just for the story, though. I’ll keep you all posted.
Shifty behavior aside, I am officially signed up for the four required classes in October and well on my way to making a difference (positive, this time) in the lives of fellow Grand Rapidians.
And I probably need therapy.