newbie

“We really appreciate this, Mayor. Looking forward to Wednesday.”

It was all I could do not to clap and yell as Hannah shook the Mayor’s hand. A huge “Woohoo!!!” was in order! No, make that, a drum and bugle corps performance– yeah, most fitting right then and there, as she got another big guy to eat in her hands. My boss was a rock star.

“What did we learn from that one, Allen?”

Shit.

“Um, ma’am…” We were walking out of the Mayor’s office, and my notebook pages almost tore as I searched for what I took down over the last hour. She was striding briskly and I struggled to keep up with her.

“Obviously not how to think on our feet, I’m afraid?”

One sideways glance and those few words from her, and I felt the eyes of everyone in the hall on me as I shrunk into a pea.

“Uh, don’t back down. That’s one. You’re shouldn’t back down, like when he was skeptical of the project, and he was challenging you, but you showed him.”

“Showed him what?”

“Um, you know? That um, that you were…um, good and wouldn’t take no for an answer?”

I followed her into the elevator, conscious of other people who got to hear snippets of the lecture-slash-humiliation I was getting.

“What are you talking about? How many of these meetings have you been to, Allen? And how many orientation sessions have you attended? How can you still not get that this is not, never about me or any of us? We’re trying to communicate a message here, but it’s not our message. It’s all about the people who are not being heard. Our job is to make these powers-that-be listen, and see, and believe and buy into the fact that it’s everyone’s business, especially theirs, to facilitate development that benefits everyone and harnesses everyone’s potential to contribute to society and make a good life for himself and his family.”

She was delivering a speech. In an elevator full of people. I almost expected applause from the dozen strangers we were with, but it was dead silent in our little steel box.

I found myself nodding like an idiot. “Yup. Got it.”

As if on cue, the elevator door opened. Hannah threw me a look of…what, exasperation? Why? What did I say wrong again? Anyway she gave me a look, then she strode out into the City Hall lobby. I just followed her in silence, like some useless minion.

I stared at the back of her head as we walked. She beat me up like this all the time — mostly in public, like today — but I wouldn’t exchange this for some corporate job. I learned a lot from her everyday and her passion for this cause was just contagious. And wow, the places we went to, and the people we met! One day we’d be in some upland community, listening to the woes of an indigenous tribe; the next day we could be in a panel meeting with high-profile bureaucrats in some fancy hotel. What a life!

Nancy had started bugging me about this job, though, last week.

“We’ve been out of university three months and I hardly see you anymore, I can’t even keep track of where you are, you’re just away all the time!”

So whiny and needy. The way she’d been acting, I was happy to be away all the time.

“Hey Allen!”

Shit. I’d been letting my mind wander. You never let your mind wander when you’re with Hannah.

“Are you in this trip with me or what? Attention span of a shrimp. I said call Agnes. We have to regroup at one for updates. Make sure you have the latest briefs ready by then.”

“Yes ma’am!” I looked at my watch. It was 12:10. Yeah baby.

 

 

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