I want to tell you a story about a man named Gabriel I trained once at my job.
First, let’s mention the fact that I had recently become the company’s new training manager. And now let’s revel in God’s amazing wonder at how he used a human being who hates ice breakers and general eye contact as one company’s main point of contact for the new and terrified.
That God, man. He’s a riot.
Gabriel’s class was my first class. I don’t remember everyone who was in it because I’m a terrible person but here are a few of the characters that roughly recall a memory when I think about them: Bill, an incredibly obese and incredibly forgiving gentleman who held a glint of sympathy for me in his eye but was still somehow Gabriel’s best friend; Derek, a young man who had just underwent bypass surgery and whose girlfriend had just left, leaving him to tend to their newborn daughter; and Maggie, an older lady who had a peppery stink about her and was originally from California. She said it would be easy to remember my name since her lesbian daughter had spelled hers the same way as mine before she committed suicide. It seemed like everyone Maggie knew had died. Which worried me a little.
I’ve changed all the names except for Gabriel’s, FYI. And I’m sure he’d be okay with that.
First day, I was all armpit sweat. I thought maybe I could coast through most of the material because it covered Federal laws pertaining to communicating with borrowers via the telephone which isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. But of course Gabriel challenged me on everything and attempted to lead a mini-revolution in our classroom when all I wanted to do was find the steering wheel in my car to smack my head against.
And then there was the moment he threw a wad of paper at my face. After being asked to read from our company’s manual aloud (he did so in a variety of multi-cultural voices ranging from a Cockney accent to a Southern drawl), he crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it directly at my nose. I opened it and it said, “I’m bored.”
I was devastated. I went home empty and yet filled with grief. This wasn’t the first time my job had challenged me, but this definitely was the first time a forty-year-old man in an expensive cologne-soaked Polo had ever thrown anything at my face.
Why, God. Why?
And then that tiny voice that always answers when I ask that very question said exactly what I expected it to: Because you can.
So I did.
I kept showing up for that week of training. I kept teaching and talking and ice breaking like a son-of-a-gun. It was my responsibility to impart wisdom on these people: Bill of the kind words, Derek of the wonky eyes, Maggie of the many deceased relatives who would later loudly ask me if I was pregnant in front of a slew of other employees, and even Gabriel whose favorite target was my face.
And here’s something for you. At the end of it all, they had to write reviews of how I did, reviews that would later be given to my boss. And do you know what that Gabriel said about me? That I was an absolute class act and that the company was lucky to have me. And everyone there needed to take a page from my book.
I’m not quite sure what that book is. Maybe The Complete Guide to Not Punching Someone in the Face When They Throw Paper at You?
Regardless, that experience made me feel like I had won. Like I could do anything.
And you see, that’s the point.
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