(‘other’ referring, of course, to this debacle)
There are four certainties in life: death, taxes, Harry Redknapp doing interviews out of car windows, and me getting ignored and walked away from by near-strangers. On this last point, I will now tell you the violin-squeaking tragedy that occurred to me, last summer at my school’s Prospective Parents’ Evening.
This event, known as PPE, is a relatively formal occasion in which parents of children aged nine to ten are encouraged to look around the school, before they decide if they want to send their kids there; our school is locally very popular, and there are many parents who want more information about the place, so this has become an annual event. The year twelve Prefects, of which I was one, are expected to lead groups of such parents around the school, showing off our fancy, black-bordered interactive whiteboards and hallways not infested with vermin, like glorified, CV-writing tour guides.
The first of my groups managed to totally reject me, with each family coming up to me individually and apologising profusely that they had another event to attend to – their son’s kickboxing class, for instance, an occasion that somehow involved the leaving of two parents, a grandfather and a few sisters – before leaving as one, accompanied to an exit by one of the year nines that was helping out, and I was, happily, given seniority over.
What was sad about the first group was that they all seemed to engage with me as a person, remembering my name after I introduced myself, and genuinely caring about what I was doing for my A-levels, and how I felt this PPE guiding malarkey would help me in the long run which, admittedly, it did make me a better communicator, especially with large groups of people I don’t actually know.
Furthermore, the slow pace of the sodding-off meant that I was left with first three, then two, then just one, family, so my guiding of them became less like me gently directing them towards various subject teachers and answering questions as they were asked (as was the plan), and more like me telling them where to go, instructing them of what’s coming next, and saying how I really do enjoy A-level English; this was not out of a desire for revenge after my earlier rejections, but I had gone into the evening preparing to spread my energy across as group of twenty or so people – now, three poor folks were getting all of that attention.
But my second rejection was the more hurtful, especially as it wasn’t my fault (seriously); in an attempt to reduce crowds throughout the route of walking groups, the school decided to reverse the direction of the circuit through the school; once all of the anti-clockwise people had left the premises, new groups were shown clockwise. Sadly, the first route had two starting points, whereas the second, hastily-constructed, route had only one; therefore, in an attempt to reduce crowding across the school, we had bottlenecked all of the parents into one Geography classroom, with the line for entry stretching back as far as that for a One Direction concert.
This meant that one person from my group, who I was chatting to as we waited, left as soon as he poked his head into that classroom, perhaps fearing the inevitable congestion. However, he had a PhD from Oxbridge for Geography and so, to me, the most Geographically-qualified member of my group had taken one look at our Geography department, and buggered off; my personal responsibility for this apparent failure was compounded by the fact that I study Geography, and so I feared perhaps I had discredited the quality of Geography teaching with stupid points and ill-informed opinions. Regardless, I felt pretty crappy.
Things got worse, however, as all of the groups melded into one in this Geography classroom (which is, admittedly, the size of a small hall); I quickly lost my adults in the sea of identically-enthusiastic, child-clutching question-askers, and couldn’t find them again. In fact, neither could anyone – I talked to a friend of mine who had lost his group, and he reasoned that he would wait for all the parents to progress on the tour, before claiming any lost stragglers as ‘his’, and proceeding with a new group. The bastard had taken the one get-out-of-jail-free card available for such a scenario.
Having scraped some halfway familiar-looking adults together, I proceeded with the tour, again losing each family one by one as they had other matters to attend to. However, I retained one group of about five adults, led by a very friendly, education-enthusing bloke with a backpack, who I basically talked to for the remainder of the tour; whether he was faking his enthusiasm out of pity for my blog post-inspiring sadness, or he actually cared about me and the school, I don’t know (I suspect it’s the latter), but it helped me feel less sucky about myself.
Despite his warmth, and the fact that he bought me a Diet Coke at the end of the tour in thanks, I still feel that I was too distant with the people I did have for too long, and not engaging enough when opportunities arose; I let them do their own thing too much, to the extent that I lost them, and any interest or engagement with them was more of my attempt to manufacture conversational topics to compensate for my earlier distance, as opposed to more natural conversation.
I think my overall crappiness on that evening was summed up perfectly by my old French teacher, after I asked ‘Miss, I’ve lost all of my groups – I think it’s my fault.’
‘Well, of course it is.’