This conversation actually happened today!
I’m sitting in my office working on something and trying to finish it up before my 11am meeting in five minutes. In walks a person, for their own protection and my sanity, will be called grad student A.
Grad Student A: “Um, Suzanne. Can I talk to you?”
Me: “Sure Graduate Student A but I have a meeting in a few minutes so it will have to be quick.”
Grad Student A: “May I sit?” he points to the chair in front of my desk.
Me: “I guess.” I already know this is going to be a longer conversation than I want to have.
Grad Student A: “Oh, this is a long story and I don’t know where to start…”
He subsequently goes into a long description about how when he came into the country and filled out his GLACIER tax status form, he didn’t put in a SSN because he didn’t have one. Then the university issued him a TEMPORARY SSN and he got confused (big surprise!)
I know what you’re thinking…he’s an international student Suzanne. He doesn’t know. You should be more sympathetic. Here’s the thing. If it was the first time, I would’ve been more sympathetic. Hell, I was sympathetic the first three times this kid was in my office for this exact same reason. He’s in my office – on average – once a week about something.
Anyway, he then continues about how he got confused and without anyone telling him to, he puts in the TEMPORARY SSN from the University into a federal tax system and Low and Behold…it fucked some shit up. He manages call some people…not me – thank God…and get it all straightened out. Here’s where it gets interesting.
So he has the updated report in his hands and is sitting across from me with this expectant expression on his face.
Me: “So, Grad Student A, if you have all of this done, I don’t understand why you’re here?”
Grad Student A: “Well, the last time I printed one of these out, you sent it for me.”
Me: “Right, I sent it for you because you’d only been in this country for two days. You’ve been here for six months now.”
Grad Student A: “So, I can send it?”
Me: “Yes.” Turning to the last page of the report, I point to the very explicit and detailed directions on what to do with it and where to send it. “Send it here.” I said.
Grad Student A: “Do I need a stamp?”
Me: “No. It’s a campus address. Send it through campus mail.”
Grad Student A: “So I don’t need a stamp?”
Grad Student A: “How do I send it through campus mail?”
At this point, I can tell by the expression on his face that he is clueless. Evidently, more clueless than I thought. Campus mail is what everything goes through if you are moving from one office/department to another. It shouldn’t be a new concept for him. Anyway, I pull down a campus envelop and hand it to him.
He looks perplexed. He turns big confused eyes up to me. Are you kidding me? I hand him a pen and point to an empty space on the envelop.
Grad Student A: “Who is it from?”
Me: “You. It’s coming from you.”
Grad Student A: “Do I just write my name?”
He fills out his name and then manages to fill out the To: line all by himself. Then he looks up at me again.
Grad Student A: “Do I put our department address here?”
Me: “No, the report provides the address you need to send it to. If you put our department address, it will just come back to you.”
Grad Student A: “Oh, so where do I send it.”
It’s taking everything I have not to scream at the kid. Let’s be honest here, he’s not a kid anymore. He’s at least 23 years old…and yet. In the back of my mind, I’m astonished that this conversation is actually happening and that I’m a part of it. I merely point the the address listed directly under the name, he’s already addressed the envelop to. He then dutifully fills out the address.
Me: “Don’t forget to make a copy for yourself and sign in the appropriate places before you send it out.”
Grad Student A: “Oh, yes. I have to sign it. Where do I take it?”
Me: “Slip it in the campus mail slot in the mail room.”
Grad Student A: “Can you show me?”
At this point, I’ve lost my patience. His fucking mailbox is in there. The copier’s in there. He’s in there all the damned time. I stand up and walk around my desk.
Me: “Come with me!”
I lead him across the hall to the department mail room and point to the gigantic drawer with an envelop slot that says CAMPUS MAIL in big, black, bold letters.
Me: “Put it in there.”
Grad Student A: “Then what?”
Me: “Then what? Nothing. It’s like the regular mail only on campus.”
Grad Student A: “So the mailman comes and picks it up?”
Now, not only am I almost 15 minutes late for my meeting but I’m pissed off as well. Not a good combo. I don’t have the time or the inclination to explain how campus mail works and he doesn’t particularly need to know the behind the scenes anyway. More importantly, I don’t think he would understand.
He follows me back to my office and waits inside my door as I gather up my stuff for my meeting.
Me: “Grad Student A, was there something else?”
Grad Student A: “No, am I done?”
Me: “Well, I don’t really know since you came to see me.”
Grad Student A: “Oh, well, that was all I needed.”
Me: “Then we’re done.”
Grad Student A: “Great! Thanks Suzanne.”
Really? That’s almost 20 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.