The Mandarin: A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound... Chinese. But they're actually an American invention. Which is why they're hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.
—Iron Man 3 (2013)
The school I’m working at is holding a city-wide event today. They’ve got all the bodies they need, so I decide to go up to my office and do a little catch-up work.
The school has assigned someone to assist me from time to time (she gets pulled a lot for classroom coverage so giving her any regular tasks is troublesome at best), and she also happened to be at the school this morning. So when I went up to the second floor, I wasn’t surprised when the door to the office suite was open.
I was surprised, however, when I stepped through that doorway and spotted a small child trying to open my office door with a set of keys he had.
“Uh…hello?” I said, as he finally managed to get my door open and step inside.
“I’m just looking for a doorstopper,” he said.
“There aren’t any in this office,” I replied.
He stepped out and started working the keys on the conference room door. “None in that room either,” I said to him. From there he ambled into the hallway. He may have tried some of the classroom doors; I don’t really know. I re-closed the suite door and headed downstairs, where I spotted the assistant principal.
“Hey, do you know why there’s a kid rifling through my office?”
The AP confirmed that he was just looking for a doorstop, which really cut no ice with me. “There’s no doorstop in that office, there hasn’t been one in months, since a student threw it down the hall and it broke in two,” I said. “And frankly, I’m not comfortable with anyone who’s not supposed to be up there—especially a child—running around unescorted.”
Now, there are some people who would think I’m kind of foolish for going to an administrator with something like that. She sent him up? I don’t care; you don’t send a small boy into that space by himself. That’s MY house, and those are MY rules, and if I’m being insubordinate then I’ll eat the consequences. I have an open-door policy the whole rest of the week, but if I’m coming in on Saturday, I think it’s a reasonable expectation not to find a child poking around in there. Even the best-behaved kid can get nosy, and next thing you know, I’m catching crap because when I brought in my own tools to install that bulletin board, I left a drill bit on a counter that he subsequently put in his mouth. Or perhaps that’s the day he spies the extension cord and decides that’s the day he tries to find out what electricity tastes like. No thanks, ain’t happening. There’s no way I’m backing down when my integrity is at stake.
When I was working for Central Office, one of the things that drove me crazy was the fact that I’d often have to break some bad news to a principal or some other staff member at a school, and I usually took the “rip the band-aid” approach: say it plainly, say it bluntly, and then let’s move on to how we can solve the problem. As it happened, some people (one or two) didn’t really like that approach. That’s OK, I can roll with that because not everyone appreciates that level of candor. But the part that bothered me was that these people rarely, if ever, came directly to me with their complaint. They’d wait until I was out of earshot, then call my boss, or fire off an email, so that when I got back to the office he’d be asking me just what happened. And there I am, not fifteen minutes later, having to explain myself all over again and demonstrating how I’d actually gone easy on those folks, because they really deserved the flamethrower treatment. And usually my boss would back me up. (There was one time when I was really pissed about having my time wasted and was an absolute snot about it; so that time I took the hit.) But in the long run, it gets very tiring walking on eggshells and checking yourself because you have no idea what’s going to offend someone who, when you get down to it, has exactly zero control over your destiny.
Hey, if you don’t like me then you don’t like me; that’s just one more birthday card I won’t be getting next year. But don’t be a coward about it and go crying to someone else. I’m right here.