As you know, I work in a cube now. It’s quite an adjustment. I’m aware that my neighbors can overhear my phone conversations. And the problem isn’t that I make a lot of personal calls while at work, maybe a couple a week (personal admin stuff), it’s that I’m afraid I’m going to say something wrong when I’m ordering something from a vendor (“Yeah, well….your prices SUCK!”) and one of my co-buyers will correct me. I fear being corrected.
And here’s why.
When I was 23, I was teaching ballroom dancing in Houston. How does one get into teaching ballroom dancing?
My then boyfriend Matt, my buddy Bob and I were hanging out at our local bar, the Vapor Room. Oh, I have so many stories from the Vapor Room. Anyway, one particular night, there were two or three dance instructors there, teaching swing dancing. This was at the height of the swing craze and the Ernie Savage Revival, a big band, was playing. I guess the manager of the Vapor Room thought having swing lessons would be a cool and profitable idea. And it was. Bob and I got up with group, boys on one side, girls on the other, and learned the basic rock step and turn. I say woohoo!
Well, Bob and I met while dancing at another club, so we were no newbies. We started improvising and Bob starting throwing a kick in there and one of the instructors eventually came over and asked if we’d ever thought about teaching dance. We were dumbfounded. Really? Teach?
We ended up going to the studio to talk with the manager and find out the details. Bob quickly declined when the manager told him he was going to have to cut his hair. Bob’s hair was down to his waist and very red. Dancing wasn’t worth it.
I, however, had nothing else going on. I was going to the University of Houston in the mornings, working at Coldwell Banker as a receptionist in the afternoons and drinking and partying at night. So, my schedule was open.
I continued to go to school in the morning (when I actually got up and went to school) and working in the afternoon (I’m very responsible. Never missed work. Even with the worst of hangovers) and then I’d go to the studio after work and take all of the classes and work with the other instructors to learn the dances and how to break them down and teach them.
And I’ll let a secret out of the bag.
Dance instructors have to start somewhere. Most of them have no idea how to foxtrot or tango when they start. So they take the classes and learn when they aren’t teaching. If you’ve ever taken dance lessons, chances are you’ve had a new teacher who learned that traveling box step mere minutes before you arrived for your lesson. It only takes a few months to get up to speed, but those first few weeks of teaching are stressful.
And here’s the example of why I hate people overhearing me.
I was in my third week of teaching dance. It was around 4pm so the studio was pretty empty as most students didn’t come in until after work. I was teaching my surgeon, who was brand spankin’ new, a foxtrot step. I forget what the step was, but I had just learned it the day before, when the manager was teaching all of us instructors some fancy moves. So, I was all pleased with myself, showing him this new step, talking very confidently because I had JUST learned it and I remembered every detail. And I taught it very well. The surgeon caught on quickly and by the end of his lesson, he had it down.
During his hour long lesson, the other instructors were practicing with each other over on the other side of the room. They were very good at congratulating the surgeon when he did well, but they never corrected me. They never threw in any tips or suggestions on how to perform this move. They just observed and gave praise.
After the surgeon had left, the other instructors erupted in laughter. I, being the newbie that I was, didn’t get the joke. I did good! The surgeon did good! Just what was so funny?
They told me I had taught the step very well, and they weren’t laughing at my ability. They were laughing because that step I had just taught my brand spankin’ new student was a Silver level step.
My surgeon was only at the Bronze level.
The first level.
The steps we had been learning with the manager of the studio the day before were advanced steps. For advanced students. And for teachers.
So now I had this student who know four steps in the foxtrot and one of them was a Silver step, which was going to bite him in the ass at the Friday night student dance party. He was going to pull this fancy move on another Bronze level student and she wasn’t going to know what the hell to do. Thus, making me look like I didn’t know what I was doing.
At the surgeon’s next lesson, I had to fess up and apologize. I told him that I had gotten carried away because he was doing so well, and had inadvertently taught him an advanced step. He didn’t know enough to think I was an idiot; he just thought I was THAT good. And he felt very special that I had taught him a Silver step.
Now, when I’m on the phone with a vendor, I always expect one of the other buyers to listen patiently while I completely break all of the buyer rules and then erupt into laughter when I get off the phone, and tell me, “Raechelle! You can’t promise to bake the vendor cookies! That’s a conflict of interest! Sheesh!!”
So far this hasn’t happened.
But the fear is still there.