Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Robbie vs Roberta!
Every once in a while we all revert back to our child-like selfishness. (Some more than others.) I was an especially self-centered little girl who turned into a self-centered teenager and then blossomed into a self-centered adult. For the past decade, I have consciously tried to “grow up” and put those childish ways behind me.
But every once in a while, SHE comes back. My family has called HER Roberta. When Roberta appears, it is usually unexpected. Like on Saturday.
Last year I took a job as a substitute lunch lady to make a few extra dollars to help fund a writing conference. This year I have decided to try to get a job as a census taker. It is a part-time flexible hours position. The first step to employment is a basic skills test.
Saturday morning I arrived at the library on time and ready to go. I entered a small room quickly filling up with an assortment of people. I filled out my forms and listened to the instructions for the test. No big deal. I felt completely at peace.
The teacher, a young African American woman with a bright smile and eager eyes, said, “You will have 30 minutes for the test. Please do not open it until I tell you.”
Roberta arrived full force.
The following is our conversation. Yes, it was all in my mind. I’m not that crazy. Well…
But I bet every single one of you have a Roberta, too.
Roberta: “I need to be the best. I will finish first. I will ace this test. Everyone here will be jealous of my intellect. Failure is not an option. I will be victorious!!”
Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a big deal. 28 questions are on this test and I only need to get 10 correct. This is a job to write down address numbers of homes, not to get accepted at Yale. Go away Roberta!”
The lady told us to begin and I opened my packet.
Roberta glanced around and canvassed her competition. Two older men in their sixties. A few women in their 40s dotted the room. Several younger folks sat here and there. One couple, obviously together and perky about life, sat in the back smiling.
Roberta: “Yes, I can take them. I can take all of them. Especially that young girl sitting in the front. She’s probably only 19 or 20. I bet she wore all that jewelry and make up to make up for her lack of brains.”
Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! This is not a competition. Go away! Just do your best, Robbie.”
I started the test, answering as accurately as I could, but trying to go quickly, too. I wanted to finish.
After I answered number 28, Roberta returned and looked around.
Roberta: “I am the first finished!! Now how do I announce this? Should I yell ‘DONE’ like elementary kids? That would show them!”
Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta, stop it!”
Roberta: “How about just slamming down my pencil so they know I am the fastest in the west?”
Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Just lay the pencil down and be quiet. Roberta, go away!”
I sat quietly for the next four minutes until time was up.
The nice lady told us she could grade our tests and tell us our scores individually, or we could leave and then call an 800 number and find out in a few days.
Roberta: “What? Who would want to leave now and NOT KNOW that I was the best?”
Several of my fellow testers got up to leave, including the smiley, happy couple.
Roberta: “Idiots! Poor schmucks know that I beat them. Of course they need to leave. Why stay and be humiliated!”
Robbie: “Whoa, Roberta! Maybe they have a lunch to go to. Or maybe they’re going to feed the poor or give blood to the indigent!”
Roberta: “Yeah, right.”
The nice lady began scoring the tests. When she finished the first one, she called the name of one of the men I sat near. He walked up and she discreetly showed him the score. He smiled, nodded and left.
Roberta: “What? Are you kidding me? You’re not going to announce it out loud! How will everyone know I won?”
Robbie: “She is doing the right thing. Go away Roberta!”
Roberta: “When she calls me, I will go up and ‘accidentally’ read the number out loud!!”
Robbie: “Go away, Roberta!”
The nice lady called everyone up one by one. As it turned out, I was the last one. No one around could hear my score.
Roberta: “You’ve got to be kidding me!!”
I walked up and the kind lady showed me my score. I received 27 out of 28.
Robbie: “Thank you.” I turned to leave.
Roberta: “Are you out of your living mind, Robbie? Ask her which one! Ask her which one! She is wrong! Argue the answer. She is wrong!!”
Robbie: “I am now going. It doesn’t matter which one.”
Roberta: “Of course it does!!! You are crazy, Robbie! Crazy!”
As soon as I left the library, Roberta disappeared.
Before you use the words schizophrenic, nuts, insane or whacked about me, look at the mirror. You have a Roberta, too.