I’m wearing my lucky red knickers because this date is the most important date of my life thus far. This date happens to be with the dean of the university where I was supposed to be teaching this fall and he—God help him—doesn’t even know that this date is going to take place.
We did not, as you might have guessed, meet on Match.com. In truth, we’ve never met but his office sent me a contract last month, which I signed and returned immediately, so excited by the prospect of teaching a real course at a real university that I abandoned all plans to return to London.
I’m wearing my lucky red knickers because yesterday—a week before said course was scheduled to start—I received an email from the head of the department informing me that it would have to be “postponed” until the spring due to an administrative glitch.
Postponed? Due to an administrative glitch? This is unacceptable. This is an outrage, at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all morning in the hopes that I’ll be able to march into the dean’s office this afternoon, demand an audience and inform him (in a completely professional tone of voice), that this is an outrage. This is unacceptable. This is unprofessional and dear God, it’s a week before the semester starts so what the hell am I supposed to do now?
I’m wearing my lucky red knickers not because I have any intension of revealing said knickers to the dean (although to be honest, I’m so devastated—an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream devastated— that I’m desperate. If there’s one thing that Match.com has taught me, it’s that looking-good-in-heels gives you a bit of power. Not much, but a bit and I’m hoping that in this case it might be just enough to convince the dean to work some sort of dean magic and grant me a course number. So between you and me, I’m glad that the dean is a man; powerful women frighten me way more than powerful men).
I arrive on campus in my power outfit (red knickers, red blouse, red successful-authoress bag, and a red leather “pad-folio” filled with my notes, a copy of my contract and a list of talking points—and even though the ex-boyfriend who convinced me that I absolutely needed an impressive-looking folio for my grad school interviews no longer speaks to me, I’m glad he told me to buy it). Of course, I’m also wearing my red heels. This may seem like a lot of red but I need it because red is the color of anger and I need to be angry (as opposed to the sniffling, sobbing imbecile to which the past 24 hours have reduced me).
I don’t do confrontation well. In fact, I don’t do confrontation at all, but as I arrive on campus I’m attempting to look as menacing as possible (which is a bit difficult, seeing as I’m hoping to land a “date” with the dean and you’re not supposed to look menacing on date). But this is no ordinary date. The university has made a horrible mistake, the university has screwed up my life, and this is unacceptable. This is an outrage!
I’m going in.
Surprise, surprise, the chair of the dance department isn’t in yet. I tell her assistant “I’ll be back” and she compliments my necklace (which, believe it or not, is not red) so I take this as a good sign.
I then head over to Human Resources, thinking I might as well get my ID card sorted out while I’m waiting for the chair to grace the department with her presence.
Surprise, surprise, the entire HR system is down. I tell the receptionist “I’ll be back” and then I do what I do best: I head to the nearest coffee shop, I order an overpriced drink, and I write. Even though I’m determined to see the dean, I figure I should give the chair of the dance department a chance before I go over her head.
Eventually, I text a friend who works in IT at the University-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. He texts back to say that the system is down so he’s off to the gym. I reply, “I know the system’s down, I’ve just come from HR! But don’t you work for the system, can’t you fix the system?”
He texts back to say that no, he can’t fix the system; evidently it’s a different system than his system. Nor can he hack into the other system (the one that assigns course numbers) but he can meet me at the coffee shop give me a campus tour.
So we tour. I fume. I suck down my chai latte with such vigor that I have to lick the drips off of my fingers every three seconds. My IT friend is a good sport. He cracks funny jokes and lets me seethe until he decides that he ought to acquire some actual lunch on his lunch break and hugs me goodbye.
I return to HR. No go. I return the dance department. No go. Finally, I go marching into the dean’s office and there, I sweet talk the secretary into feeling sorry for me. She tells me it’s not the dean but the associate dean I need to speak to. I break out my red-leather pad-folio, I launch into my speech and I shake the associate dean’s hand telling her (yes, unfortunately it’s a “her”) that I will do whatever it takes—whatever it takes—to make this course run. Just give me a course number, just give me a shot and I will recruit the students.
She says she’ll get back to me. Several hours, two letters, four phone calls and— dear God, I wish was exaggerating— ten emails later, she does. And it’s over. Evidently my lucky red knickers aren’t so lucky after all.