“Erm, so hi.”... nervous laugh... “I’ve decided to teach you how to, um, use a binding machine”... blank faces all round, nervous laugh... “the reason for this is because most of my life for the last two years has, um, revolved around using one of these bloody - erm - these things huhuhurr...”
God, she sounded bitter. And what was this weird laugh that was coming out of her mouth? She sounded like an ancient smoky-voiced jazz singer warming up. What had possessed her to choose the bloody binding machine from her old job as the thing to teach her fellow trainees? It had seemed like an amusing idea last night - she’d even practised a rough sketch that she was going to do on the board, complete with arrows and directions. But now she could feel the sweat prickling under her arm-pits, the familiar glow rising in her face and the nonplussed stare of her audience burning into the back of her neck as she drew a shaky picture of what looked like an industrial-crane-gone-wrong on the whiteboard.
“…huhurrr... so you put the paper in here to punch it and then you press the foot pedal here and, then, if you’re lucky... huhuhurrr..... it works and you can erm then put the paper on the binding ring, which oh I forgot to say, you put here” oh god oh god please make this be over “and then you pull this thing down here to close the binding ring and then, er, that’s it.”
Everyone heaved a collective sigh of relief.
“That was… interesting, Emma, not quite ten minutes, but yes - interesting,” Juliet, the female tutor who’d been assigned to their group, glanced at the clock on the wall.
Emma looked up and realised her presentation had taken a grand total of two minutes. Her face reached its maximum shade of burgundy as she sloped back to her chair. Well, good to know that she hadn’t lost the valuable skill for summarizing whatever her presentation topic was in as brief a way as possible.
“Right, who’s next?” Juliet asked, looking from one trainee to the next. “Yes, Pete, is it?”
Pete nodded his tousley-haired head and lolloped to the front of the classroom.
“So, yeah, hi - I’m going to teach you how to find a fantastic beach and surf those waves!” He adopted a comedy surfing-stance and grinned. Everyone laughed.
An hour and four presentations later and Emma was sitting in the communal lesson preparation area nursing a coffee in a plastic cup, with a sense of gloom and a perceptible black cloud above her head. The other presentations had been brilliant. They were informative, they were fun, everyone seemed confident and no-one seemed to be suffering from the nerves she could still feel jangling around her body. Her presentation had seemed, by comparison, rubbish. Babbling, drivelly, self-involved rubbish. The only useful point to come out of it was the realisation that she’d reached such a point of self-obsession that she had honestly thought that standing in front of a classroom full of people and wittering on about something which had become such a symbolic focal point for all that had depressed her in her London job had actually seemed not only a good and interesting idea but a potential source of humour. What she had failed to realise was that her fellow-trainees simply wouldn’t get it because it simply wasn’t interesting to the people who inhabited life outside bitter EmmaWorld. She needed to claw her way out of that mud bubble of self-absorption and actually pay attention to what was going on around her.
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