Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Peoples' Donuts

The large, multi-national corporation for which I work has instituted two-week orientation classes for new associates this year, with a real training manager and everything. Time and space permitting, existing staffers can audit the classes.

When I started with the company three and a half years ago it was settling down from a bigtime merger and things were chaotic. My training had been basically to shadow a co-worker who was supposed to go on maternity leave a couple of weeks later. She gave birth unexpectedly one night and left me to face a trial by fire, which I was afraid would turn into a Trial By Fired.

I survived and learned, but you know how it is when you get stuck in a rut at the job. If somebody were to ask me a question about an area outside my expertise, I'd be like the immigrant in the joke about "Apple pie and coffee."*

So I signed up for a few classes, the first one being yesterday afternoon after lunch. I slipped into the conference room, where about a dozen young management trainees sat like deer in auto headlights, waiting for their chance to be transformed into alpha elks. In the back of the room was a dessert tray from lunch, with some leftover donuts.

Should I take one? I deliberated. Are they just New Associate's Donuts, or could auditors take one? Would taking one mark me as "look at that pig, walking in and stuffing her face with donuts"?

I sat on the side and cast surreptitious glances at the donuts while the speaker was speaking. And then the trainer's assistant came in with a cart and took the donuts to the pantry, where they would become Everybody's Donuts, and would be gone by the time I got out of the class.

Oh well. I need to drop a few anyway.

*The joke:

There's this immigrant to the US who wants to go to a diner for breakfast and he doesn't know how to speak English. A friend tells him, "just say apple pie and coffee."

So every morning for a week he goes to the diner, "Apple pie and coffee." "Apple pie and coffee." "Apple pie and coffee."

After about a week of this, the immigrant wants to order something new. So his friend says, "Ask for eggs."

The next day, the immigrant goes to the diner, and asks the waitress for eggs.

The waitress says, "Scrambled or fried?"

[Pause pause pause]

"Apple pie and coffee."

That happened to me when I first came to this country. I was embarrassed to admit that I didn’t speak or understand English. I was getting sick and malnourished, and I was starting to lose my mind. Then one day a man came to me from out of the sky, dressed all in plaid, and wearing a fedora. He magically enabled me to speak and understand English, and I have been eating well ever since
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