In which the scarf turns out to be very useful*

I finally had a chance to give my presentation to The Man last week.  In anticipation, I wore the scarf, practiced the presentation, and even deleted the slide with The Scream on it, just to show how seriously I take everything.

He was only a few minutes late, and sat as far from me as possible at a table that could seat 10.  That would be across the table, and 5 seats down, right next to the door.   I know.  I got a bad feeling right then.

He started off with, “well, I suppose you know why I’ve called you in here.”

I thought that was my line, and I wanted to say, “Um, actually, remember the part about how after requesting this meeting several times, you agreed to it, but then didn’t show up?  Remember how since then I’ve asked your secretary to reschedule a bunch of times, and she did, and this is it? So, not to be presumptuous, but didn’t I call you here?”  But I was trying to be positive, and I thought, hey, if he thinks this is his idea, that’s a good start, right?   So I let it go. 

I made a tiny attempt to break the ice with a joke about how I’d zoom through the presentation quickly so as not to bore him, but he could also look at his watch to signal that it was dragging and I’d step it up.  He took my joke further with a crack about how he’d just get up and leave if it dragged at all, and laughed heartily, which I didn't really like, but I guess I started it, so I let it go.  It seemed especially not funny with him seated right by the door and all.

I ran through the powerpoint really fast, the results of a 2-year research study on how effective we are at what we do.  He didn’t ask questions or take notes, which was a bit troubling, because I was hoping that the results might be interesting or useful to the person is about to reorganize our department.  Like, hey, let’s look at what we already know about what works and doesn’t around here before we make changes.  At the end, he just said, “yeah, this is very negative.  You’re going to have to redo it.  Let’s go back to slide 1.”

So I do, I go back to the first slide, because sadly, my first instinct is always obedience.  Slide one thanks the agency that provided the $250,000 grant, and has a dozen words describing the study:. “we spent 2 years, conducted 700 site visits, and evaluated outcome for 300 permits.”

“Yes, see, you’ve already lost your audience here.”

“Um, thanking the grantor?”

“Yes.  That, and methods.  No one cares about methods.  You’re going to have to redo this whole thing if you ever give it again, which I don’t expect you will.”

I started to explain but stopped myself because he was so close to the door and I was pretty sure anything I said would be in the “this is dragging on a bit” category, and would cause him to get up and leave.  And I suddenly realized that unless there was a crack in a dimension that allowed one of us to morph into a different reality from where we normally lived, we wouldn’t ever find a common language, so I used all my energy to keep my mouth shut.

If I thought he were interested in another point of view, I would have explained that the study was funded as research, and one of our obligations is to share what we’ve learned with other jurisdictions so that they too can improve, and by the way, maybe he should take some notes, or ask some questions, or ask to read the whole report, because as the director, he should at least feign interest in how we’re doing.  And also, not to be snarky, but most people I know wouldn’t consider, “Thanks for the generous funding!” to be a big dense methods section, but maybe I hang out with smarter people than he does.

But I focused on breathing.  Breathe in peace, exhale compassion, breath in peace, exhale compassion.  It took so much attention to just breathe that I might have missed a bit of what he was saying, but I tuned back in to hear him describe how I needed to redo it all beginning with slide 1, and right on through slide fifty, finding more suitable content, photos, and a more positive message. 

I shared my belief that good government requires transparency, and that we should self-evaluate and act on the results rather than covering them up, and he smiled and said, “You’ve done a great job. Period.  A really great job.  Period.”  But I could tell by the way he kept saying “period” that it wasn’t a period at all, but rather a “but”, which it turned out to be.  After the second period, he said, “But, if you ever want to show it again, you’ll need to redo it, slides one through 50, to show us in a more positive light.”  He got up and left then, which was pretty easy because he was so close to the door already, and didn’t even have a pen or paper to pick up. 

A few hours later, I went to talk to my supervisor, who asked how it went.

“Not so well.”

“Yeah, I had a feeling about that.  I saw him later and he said you looked crestfallen, and I thought, uh-oh, Betsy doesn’t even have crestfallen as a look, I wonder what that was.”

“Seriously?  Crestfallen?  He said that?  Google crestfallen, will you?”

“What happened?”


So we search for images tagged, “crestfallen”, and, as I feared, it shows defeated athletes who blew an important play, slumped down, head low, arms on knees. 

We look at the images, and he says he’s sorry, and I start to cry.  I know.  That’s always an excellent strategy when your goal is to be taken seriously, especially in the workplace. In my next most professional move, I was able to use the scarf to blow my nose and wipe my eyes while my boss patiently sat there looking like he wished this would stop, and frankly, so did I.

“My look was so not crestfallen, by the way.”

"I know.  I’m sure it wasn’t."

I decided not to wear the scarf to court the next day.  I was just sitting here writing this, mostly to get it off my mind, and thinking about whether it was blog-worthy, when R. and his buddy walked in. 

“Hey you two!  I’ve got a lecture I’m going to give to you guys in about a month. Can I practice it?”

“Um, sure.  What’s it about?”

“Driving.  Okay, here goes.  'You’ve come to the point when you are allowed to drive someone around, R., and that person is likely to be you, B.  The most common way either of you are going to die in the next ten years is in a car accident…”

“Is that true?  Fact check.”

“Yes, true.  Anyway, you’ll need to help each other make good decisions….”

“Mom, when you do the real thing, can it be a Powerpoint?”

“Uh, maybe.”

“With a projector?  Please?”

I guess I’ll do that for these fine boys, but I’m not sure I’ll put the scarf on.


  1. You are a marvel, Bets. I love reading your stuff!

  2. I would like to meet the Man. I will shave his head and paint a picture of a monkey with a blue bottom on it. That is what he deserves. Stupid Man.



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