the language God is testing my faith

Bronze Door: Abraham and Isaac

I am *supposed* to be eligible for free language classes at work, provided that my contract runs through the end of the term. It doesn’t. However, the [always copious] rules stipulate that if I submit a letter from HR indicating that I am expected to be extended for the duration of the course, I can still enroll. So that’s what I set out to do. Hahahahaha.

Two months and seventeen steps later, I am still trying to enroll in this course.

I can’t even begin to explain those seventeen steps, because they themselves are like a foreign language that is untranslatable to anyone unfamiliar with where I work. But I’ll give you a small snapshot of just one portion of the insanity:

Last week, after trying unsuccessfully to wend my way out of the latest Catch-22 on my own, over the phone, and through email correspondence, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and make an in-person visit to the “language learning center” (in quotes because I now realize such a thing does not exist).

On the website it appeared that I could find this mythic center a few blocks away from the main building where I work. I went there. My ID card did not work, even though it is supposed to be good system-wide. They had to take a new picture of me. The webcam was broken. Ten minutes later, I got into the elevator and realized there were no buttons. I was informed by another rider that you have to make your selection before getting in. Of course you do. The elevator was already in motion, so I rode up to the high floor the other people had selected, got out, pressed the correct floor number on the keypad in the elevator bank, and then waited for another elevator to take me back down. (Unimportant, but telling. I have never seen an elevator like this before in my life. And yet, there was no indication. No instruction. Just the expectation that I would eventually figure it out, painfully, slowly, like an awkward tadpole.)

I got out on the second floor and was met with an eerie silence. The entire floor was empty. Cleared out. I opened every door and there was not a thing in any of the rooms – it even looked like the carpet had been stripped. So, little matter that I couldn’t find the room number, 201, because there was only 201A and 201B. Being John Malkovitch came unhappily to mind.

I went back downstairs and was told, “Oh yes, they moved months ago.” But to where, they couldn’t say. “Go to that phone in the corner and dial X33333. They’ll know.” They didn’t. They instead gave me a number that I had called before, which, when I tried it again, again went to voicemail. I left a message. (Like the last one, it was never returned.) I texted my colleague and asked for her help. She consulted the intranet, the directory, colleagues. Nothing.

You should know that this happened after I had already logged about three hours in five separate instances following various instructions and help-sheets for enrolling in this class, to no avail. And also after losing my temper on the phone with someone from the language department who led me around in circles and could not – for all my numerous attempts at breaking it down – understand my problem, in a way that ironically echoed the lost-in-translation experience. So I was just about as close as you can get to a meltdown, without being anywhere closer to giving up on taking the class.

Eventually, I did some deep breathing, returned to my sleuthing, and found the language people, who instructed me on the correct way to take the next (incremental) steps that will eventually, one day, fingers crossed, lead to a Spanish class. That is, if the language God is convinced that I have made enough sacrifices to merit such a reward.

Thankfully I don’t yet have a first-born, because I am willing to kill time but definitely not my kids for the love of Spanish.

[Photo: Holly Hayes]

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