"What was you favorite subject in high school?" said the gum-smacking admissions counselor with the smoker's rasp.
"Anything to do with writing," I offered, smiling at the fact that the form she was filling out was based on the assumption that the person on the opposite side of her desk would be recently graduated from high school or a GED recipient.
"What was your least favorite?"
"I could have told you that was what you were going to say. Happens all the time during these interviews. If someone liked English or writing, they are going to say they didn't like math. So, if it makes you feel better, you're predictable."
"That maybe the last time you say that during the entirety of this interview."
She laughed, coughed, and smacked some more as we made our way through the form she was adapting on the spot. At one point, she apologized for the long pauses, noting that her usual intake wasn't with people as forthcoming as me. Seems that where she frequently had to pull replies from her candidates, I answered one question with enough information to fill half the application.
For instance, as to why I wanted to receive certification in massage therapy, I responded, "I love working with non-profits but they can't afford to pay me. So I need a skill that will allow me to have the flexibility of working with them -- and thus feed my 'habit' -- while at the same time, help to pay the bills. Also, I believe my life is about rest, restoration, and refreshment for others. I can't think of a better way for me to accomplish that than through the gift of touch."
I think that must have covered questions 6-9 on the form.
She continued to apologize throughout the interview and tour of the facility. Once it was for checking her cell phone. Another time it was for the gum -- not the 'chomping' as she called it (and correctly I might add) but for not offering me a piece. Then it was for the speed at which she talked, the scattered approach, the fact that she had to comply with state rules and tell me everything about the school's offerings, the speed at which she walked. Initially, I replied with "I understand" and "No problem." But after a while, I just let the apologies go.
By the time the tour was half over and I had been introduced to my third bulletin board of students in health professions, I knew I needed to call it quits. But I continued. When she couldn't show me the mall-based storefront where interns offer cut-rate massages and underscored twice that they had increased security after five break-ins in the parking lot, I was fairly sure, I didn't really need to talk to the financial adviser. But I did. The price tag sealed it.
I won't be going to this school.
A short ride later, I walked into a posh spa with the required bubbling brook sounds and water installations around every corner. Everyone was in scrubs. The place smelled of eucalyptus and lavender. The lights were muted. The music and water sounds created the score for the tour. Hydrotherapy, a waterbed massage table, and the fact that by becoming a student I would be given free membership to the gym, pool, and exercises classes sealed the deal. Oh, and the fact that though no financial aid is available, the cost was half the previous place and I get a massage chair when I am finished.
I felt like a snob when I resolved that I was choosing the spa over the mall. But if relaxation is what I want to be about, the decision wasn't a difficult one.
Now I await word from the fulltime position I interviewed for. If that job is offered, then classes won't begin for me until spring 2011 when the next round of night options begin. If the job isn't mine, then I can start in a few weeks.
Either way, I've settled that my next step is not a either/or option. I'm all about the both/and. And this time, I'm getting both learning and position, both education and atmosphere.
And I'm one step closer to that woman I am becoming. (No gum chewing allowed.)