In preparation for my demise as a publicly-funded private missionary high school teacher, I have spent the last week responding to late-breaking job positions. Yesterday, one of the temporary business English recruiters contacted me and today, mid day, she informs me she’d like an interview this evening.
With only a half hour to change out of my Michelin man costume, (it’s freezing at school and there’s remodeling going on, so I’m dressed in as many unflattering, comfortable layers as possible) I rush home to survey my wardrobe and find NOTHING corporate-looking in my closet. I continue to wear the white turtleneck I was wearing all day, throw on a scarf, pop in my old contact lens prescription, line my eyes, pin back my too-long bangs, de-fuzz my black pants, black sweater, and black coat, and rush out the door in less than a half hour. Of course, the directions from the subway to the recruiter’s office look much shorter on the map, and then I fail to see any bike repair shop and walk an extra three blocks looking for the place and am five minutes late.
After a normal interview, the recruiter asks me to give a demonstration lesson without warning, and hands me a book. It’s the student book and there is no teacher manual and no guidelines, and she just tells me to give a lesson to her in a conversational manner. It kind of throws me because the format begins in a formal, class-room-like way, so I have too many questions on how to proceed. This hesitation = failure, and yet somehow I manage to convince her that I really do enjoy teaching conversation and explain to her what tripped me up.
She doesn’t think I’m ready for the corporate classes and yet; yet maybe I might be interested in this one client she has, who has different concerns than the typical students. Maybe if this one client is happy, then I can be given other classes. By all means! Let me try! The recruiter looks worried.
Long story short, I will now, in the near future, at the crack of dawn, have English conversations with the president of a hugely major (can’t disclose to you) company in Korea. This person has already eaten four English tutors and has a strong personality! I am a failure in the regular business conversation classes because I do not present myself confidently enough, but something about me is different enough to be given to the eater of English tutors either as a possible solution to their problems or out of desperation or both!
Can she do it? Can she teach the president? Will the president’s son fall for her? Will he end up carrying her on his back? Will this be a rags to riches story? Where is and who is the third person in the love triangle? Will she not only save the tycoon from English embarrassment, but bring the family closer together?
The recruiter, even more worried, asks why I came to Korea alone and why I’m not with my family. I tell her American families are different, and she disagrees and says she knows several American families. She already knew my kids were in college, but Korean kids stay with their parents until they land their post-college jobs, so that didn’t register with her. Finally, I reminded her that American kids usually leave home at 18 and that, actually, I’ve lived alone for several years already. That seems to satisfy things somewhat.
The recruiter looks at me and says, “Do you own a suit?” No. But I’ll buy one. (I’d mentioned several times that I would be purchasing more appropriate attire earlier) I tell her that I’ve never owned a suit, because the West Coast is a different business environment and suits are considered stuffy there. “What’s that on your face? Is that a PIERCING?” No. Maybe you’re looking at a mole. (actually, it was a pimple) “Please put your hair up when you meet the client. You should get a haircut. And you need to straighten your hair.”
“And put on some makeup.”
Ahh, back in the world of narcissists and sociopaths. This, folks, is why I never pursued my Architecture license and hated business meetings. The whole image-is-everything mind-set is such a bankrupt place to spend your time. My hatred for such pretenses and glad-handing is actually a strong knowledge base, but pretending to be that way while at the same time being nurturing and empathetic to someone who wants to be that way in a second language has an irony to it that would be laughable were it not for the shared desperation.
Nothing is for free and there is no such thing as easy money!
If I weren’t so intrigued and compelled to meet the kind of person that can send four tutors packing, I probably would have moved on. But I like odd characters, even cantankerous ones, and hope they prove to be interesting.