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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jesus Christ, SuperStar

You know how it is. Things go along nicely; you’re not really concentrating and then “Splat, life is so awkward!

Last week I went along to my economics night class as usual; looking forward to another stimulating session of demand, supply and indifference curves. The usual lecture room was dark and on the door was a notice which said “Class moved to Lower Ground 115, New Building". The college site is fairly well spread out and I had no idea where the New Building was; but a map at the reception showed me. So I trundled along. The lesson started at 6:30 pm and it was 6:05 pm so I thought I had plenty of time. Except I couldn’t find the building – after consulting 3 maps I finally made it to be greeted by a bemused security guard. “You Birkbeck? You sure you want LG 115? O.K.” I stormed through the security gate muttering and hurried down the stairs. To find Rm 115 in darkness and a huge modern auditorium. Since our previous lecture room resembled something out of Tom Brown’s School days I was pretty certain that this wasn’t my class’s new home.

When I got back to the original building I had the bright idea of looking on the notice board. There it was - my class – “Economic Principles" had been moved to Rm Z229. What! Where! – in desperation I went to the enquiry desk at the entrance of the building. “Building Z – that’s what you’ll want,” the semi comatosed attendant explained. And with that she stuck out a figure pointing to a map. “What’s the building called?” I asked, “Z” she replied. I turned on my heels and with an accurate image of the map in my head headed to where I thought “Z” was. I get lost crossing the road and within 5 minutes I had no idea where I was. It was now well after 6:30 pm and I’d be missing the stunning secrets of marginal and average costs and firm structures.

I found “Y” building as well as “X” building, but could I find “Z” building? Could I heck. I could have sworn an ancient London “pea souper” was about to descend as I stumbled up steps of the St John Philips Building – North “Z” to its friends and ran up the two flights of stairs before bursting into lecture room with a muffled “sorry I’m late, got lost” dripping off my lips.

As I sat down I said, “I went to the other room but no one was there.” “Ah”, my fellow proto economist replied “You weren’t there when they announced the change of venue.” It took a while for that to sink in.

I had missed the previous two weeks lectures because my mother in law had died. I e-mailed the course administrator explaining why I’d be off and asking that she’d pass my message to our tutor, and to say I’d be back after two weeks. So I was pretty miffed that they hadn’t shown me a similar courtesy and let me know the change of venue. Which might explain why I told the lecturer that I preferred doing essays to listening to his lectures. I was hacked off.

This Monday I was just about to enter building “Z” when the lecturer saw me. “I’ve been thinking about what you said last week. What can I do to help? You are, in the modern parlance, the “customer”. It took me a while to tune in. “Oh it was nothing to do with your teaching, it’s just the way I find lessons. Not having studied for 40 years it’s hard to get back into the swing. And anyway...” I told him about my experience the previous week and my annoyance at not being told about the room change. That seemed to put his mind at rest – and he showed me where I could get a cup of coffee for 60p!

To be honest I had been disappointed with the classes. They were rather down beat and although some of the course marks were given for in class participation I saw little evidence of that. So my barbed comments were just that - my disappointment with the class. My expectations weren’t met. However, having had the chat with the tutor that’s cleared up now. Thanks to him.

On Tuesday I went to my local police station -I’d signed up to be a Metropolitan Police Volunteer (MPV) – and the organiser wanted to talk to me. When I got there I was told that they wanted to talk about the feed back from a recent induction course I’d attended. “Fine”, I thought, “they’re asking those who attended what they thought about it.”

It wasn’t the best course I’ve been on. It was held on a Saturday, in a building in a town centre where you couldn’t park unless you used the municipal car park. Since the course was from 10 am to 3:30 pm – that was quite expensive. Since the maximum parking period was 5 hrs it meant either leaving the course early or feeding the meter. The course was held on the 8th floor and 2 of the 4 lifts weren’t working.

I wasn’t in the best of moods when I arrived, having driven around the town centre at least 3 times before finding a car park and the building. We had an ice breaker exercise – questions about the police that sort of thing and it got us talking in small groups. We had a welcome talk from a senior officer – and I asked a couple of questions. There were talks on Diversity and Children. After lunch we had a talk on heath and safety and manual handling – picking up heavy objects.

I felt cheated. I wanted to learn about the police, their traditions, views, current concerns. Not bloody Health and Safety and how to pick up a case full of books! My course feed back form was not very complimentary.

“We were concerned about your attitude to disability.” It took a while to register that they weren’t asking for my feed back on the course- they were saying what the trainers thought about me! “All the trainers were concerned about your attitude.” As I recall during the Diversity session it was stressed that a disability was no reason not to employ someone. I said that there were some cases where, no matter what provisions you put in place, for some people with some disabilities certain jobs are not possible. I’m not sure if I gave any examples.

I explained what I had said, and expressed disappointment and concern that rather than explore or challenge what I said; the trainers went away with the view that I had a bad attitude towards disability. Also, I was told that when I arrived in the morning, I swore in front of all the other volunteers – and that was not acceptable behaviour. I am afraid I also swore at my interview on Tuesday. I used the word “bollocked”.

So it appears I’m not the sort of person that would make a good MPV. I’m tempted to say “Bollocks”, but that would be childish and unnecessary, so I won’t.

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