Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lancaster, PA, PA...

Greetings from Amish country! Exploring will happen shortly, but first I needed to check the address of tonight's hotel, which translates to "I wanted to go to Panera." Someone please get me help. Their lattes aren't even that good, and yet I keep ordering them. I think it's because I can drink it out of a mug and pretend that I'm eating in my own breakfast nook.

Last night I had a college fair at Gettysburg College, which is our biggest overlap school. I love that campus. It's beautiful. And the rep at the table next to me was a grad who is now working in a Pittsburgh school, so she and I were talking about the area and I scared her with my dorky interest in the history. She was fun, but I find that the male college reps are way more willing to make fun of kids. The female reps just make me feel like a bad person. It was highly adorable at the halfway point at the fair: the high school counselors passed out apples to the college reps. If you'll excuse me for a minute, I need to take a minute to describe the religious experience that was this fruit. There were some huge apples in the box they brought around, and I couldn't help but select one even though I knew it would probably be less flavorful and juicy than the smaller ones. But it was the size of a softball! Maybe even bigger! How could I resist? So in the car on my way to the (sketchy) hotel, I got hungry and bit into it absentmindedly and then nearly keeled over with joy. It was so insanely delicious! There are no words. It was the single best piece of fruit I have every had in my life. So, a special shout out to the Adams County College Fair planners... you basically made my entire travel season.

Last night I stayed at a cheap hotel that was really close to my first visit of the day. It didn't have wireless. I don't understand how hotels like that can still be in business. But as I checked in, the manager looked at me and said, "Let me guess, you're a college recruiter? I can spot them from a mile away. They're always really happy." Granted, as he was saying this I noticed a slug crawling in front of the desk which significantly diminished my level of contentment, but it was strangely validating to fall into his schema of a college rep. (In case you were wondering, I passed on the continental breakfast.)

Today was a lot of driving. I had three school visits, and for the first time in the history of travel season to-date, I met with people at every visit! Two really small private schools and one public school that I wanted to enroll in. I'm finding it really hard to not be nosy with this job. Today I met with this really sweet girl who sounded like she was having a hectic time during her senior year. As we were talking about study abroad, she mentions that her sister is from China so she would love to go there. Later as we talked about extra curriculars, she mentioned that her sister had cancer and her entire family was really involved in a non-profit for cancer research. So obviously I'm on the edge of my seat wanting this girl to go into her entire life story because I can't ask but it's obviously had a huge impact on her. But she doesn't. So I left the school madly in love with this girl because she was insanely nice and down-to-earth, but dying to know more about her and really caring about what she winds up doing next year. Is there a job where you can just find out people's life stories and keep tabs on them without having to offer advice or be a stalker? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Crisp apple streudel and warm woolen mittens

Day 12 of high schools visits. Today's road music: Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin. Number of Panera visits: 2. All in all, a pretty standard day.

I'm in PA right now, bobbing back and forth between Gettysburg and Lancaster. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, which means the only schools I visited were Christian. (No, seriously.) I only met with one student all day. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, which was about 43 minutes longer than I would have liked. This girl is a junior in high school and told me she's been doing college research since she was eight. She wasn't using hyperbole. Plus, she kept calling me "ma'am," which I know is a term of respect, but it freaks me out when kids call me that. I'm six years older than you, give it a rest. But this girl naturally had a sheet of looseleaf paper filled with questions gleaned from years of reading ridiculous "How to Get Into College" websites. When she exhausted those, she said, "I feel like I'm getting a mental picture of campus, but I'm still not getting a reading on the students. What about them?" ...*facepalm*

Now, those of you who know me know that I don't have a typical "admissions" personality. I'm not outgoing. I'm shy and awkward as hell. All I really have going for me is a genuine love for my alma mater, and the ability to be kind of adorable sometimes. It's a cheap gimick, but it usually works. Except when you're talking to someone who sucks the soul out of anyone they encounter. I'm pretty sure this girl could kill a puppy with a well-aimed stare. I would tell her something about our school and get really excited about it (I can't help it, it just happens), and she would stare at me coolly like I was wasting her time. Sorry for telling you something that isn't a straight statistic... next time I'll stick to the average scores of pre-law students on the LSATs. (Obviously I didn't know that, but would anyone at the school actually have that information? Seriously?) I doubt she'll be an applicant. I hope not.

Fortunately I bounced back quickly from that episode with a trip to Gettysburg! I explored the museum and the battleground. I'm going to try not to get too gushy here, but it was absolutely gorgeous outside and the light on the field was spectacular. I wish I could capture it well on my camera, but I failed. (In case you haven't noticed this theme yet, I'm very big on sunlight. Perhaps the fascination comes from my utter inability to tan.) The fabulous part is that I left my normal-person shoes at my parents' house, which meant that instead of wandering around in sneakers or flipflops like a normal person, I stomped around Gettysburg in a pencil skirt and heels. And then I absentmindedly threw on a jacket when I got to the battlefield, which I realized after fifty or so strange looks was my suit jacket. I like to pretend that other tourists assumed I was there in some official capacity. Aside from the funny looks, it wasn't that bad... although there were some shots I wanted to get, but they would require me to flash half of Pennsylvania. Alas, we'll just never know how they turned out.

Today has been low-key thus far... I'm off to my last school visit in a few minutes, and then I have a college fair tonight.

***Disclaimer: Do not read this unless you want to be sad for the rest of the day***

My last visit was with a kid who had a skateboard accident at the end of last school year and is suffering from a traumatic brain injury. He's actually doing really well considering, but he's still adjusting to everything. He's starting his senior year next week, and on top of all his other issues is playing six weeks worth of catch-up. He used to be an athlete, captain of three different teams, but he can't do sports anymore, which I think is the biggest shock for him. He didn't do too much outside of athletics, so hopefully he'll find some other things to get involved in. His counselor doubts he will be an applicant, but we'll see how things progress over the next year or so. Fortunately he's at a small, nurturing school where they can give him the support he needs, and he has a positive attitude about everything. Maybe a gap year will be all he needs? I hope?

Off to my next visit... Please offset the previous paragraph by thinking about puppies.

Also, sorry that you now have "My Favorite Things" stuck in your head. I thought it would help.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Free at last!

My profuse apologies to anyone who reads this every day and has noticed a gap in posts. However, the past two days have been mildly busy with college fairs and driving to Maryland and trying to stay awake past nine (last night it was a fail).

Thursday was the most awkward schedule ever because I had a consortium that ended at 1 and a college fair that didn't start until 6:00. Unfortunately, my hotel for the night was two and a half hours from the fair, which meant that I was homeless in a random town in New Jersey for a few hours. Naturally I checked out the local cultural sites... and by that I mean I wanted ice cream, so I had lunch at Friendly's and quickly remembered why you should only order ice cream at Friendly's. And then I randomly stumbled across a Panera in an awesome strip mall, so I had a less-than-amazing latte over some free wifi and then heartlessly tried on clothes I had no intention of buying. And that was Thursday. The fair was a bust, and I didn't get to the hotel until around eleven. Why, yes, that does mean that I missed "The Office" and "Project Runway." The only redeeming part of the night was getting a goody bag upon check-in for being in the club. Free Doritos? Heck, yes.

Yesterday was a different consortium with different people, which meant I didn't get to hang out with awkward Office guy or seasoned and cynical rep. I did, however, wind up next to a fun artsy rep who told me fun places to go in Philadelphia. (For the record, I'll need someone to go with me to a haunted house at an old prison so I'm not alone when I pee myself.) Yesterday's prospectives included a kid who pretended to know a whole lot about the "south" but obviously didn't... sadly I cannot share his story without revealing the name of my alma mater. However, he wasn't the most entertaining kid of the day, so I'm okay with skipping.

I've found that in a mere two weeks I've become a seasoned rep who gives college fair kids a hard time. I was almost mean to a girl yesterday. She grabbed an academic brochure that had a "TABLE COPY" sticker on it. She was clearly a grabber, nothing more.

Me: That one's actually a table copy. You're more than welcome to flip through it, but it's the only one I have, so it needs to stay here. (pointing at stack of info she could take) This one has the general info you're probably looking for.
Girl: .... (grabs the other brochure, but tries to walk away without replacing the table copy)
Me: Can I have that one back?
Girl: (stares at me)
Me: The one in your hand. With the giant sticker. The one that says "TABLE COPY." And stays on the table.
Girl: (replaces it and walks away)

The true excitement of yesterday: I finally had someone stealthy steal a pen! I was so impressed! This girl comes up to the table and starts asking me about education. She acts interested, but doesn't take any information at the end. As she turns away, I notice my pen (and five or six others) sticking out of her back pocket. Well done, random girl. Well done. She probably doesn't even want to study education: it's the perfect major to ask about since everyone has it. I'm almost sad that I had crappy, cap-less hotel pens out... with skills like that, you deserve a real promotional pen.

I also met a mom who told me it was "so sweet" that I was so excited about everything on campus. Clearly she was never forced to graduate from college and confront the "real world," or whatever it is people keep talking about. And clearly she has never eaten in a "dining pavilion."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Try to keep the madness low...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a recent college graduate in possession of a temporary position must be in want of something more permanent. Unfortunately, the exhaustion of said temporary position often overrides any motivation to continue an exhaustive job search. I know it might seem terribly glamorous to infiltrate high schools, chat with teenagers who don't actually care about your college, and argue with hotel bathtubs whose stoppers don't work, but it is actually insanely draining. (Ha. I just noticed the pun. Roughly ten minutes after writing that. Oh, dear...) The standing, the waiting for someone to come to your table, the ego depleting polite answers when someone asks you why they need to take biology to be a nurse... By the end of the day, I just don't have the stamina to face the job market. Fortunately this job is a huge résumé-booster, since any position where you plaster a smile on your face and avoid sobbing over your recent graduation long enough to talk about your school translates to "sales." Who knew?

I still haven't done too much exploring of NJ. I wonder if I'll regret this later in life... I'm currently staying in a ridiculously adorable small town, which I had every intention of exploring until I drove through it more and realized that small towns are almost always the same, so I really didn't want to wander aimlessly amongst cute shops that I've basically already been in. Honestly, my favorite part of the day is driving from school to school. My GPS is a huge fan of back roads (either that or this entire area is back roads... it's entirely possible), so I get to drive up and down hills and fear for my life while looking at farms and lamenting the housing developments in construction across the street. (I'm not going to rant about McMansions here, but how many families actually need that much room? Whatever happened to houses with character? And maybe only one bedroom per person?) The other day I was driving home just before sunset and the light on a cornfield looked like something out of an Edward Hopper painting. And then I noticed the red barn and nearly wept with Americana sentimentalism. And then I noticed--I kid you not-- a hot air balloon floating above the barn. I know. It was like Norman Rockwell and the Wizard of Oz and Teddy Roosevelt were all holding hands and singing Kumbaya and making wishes on dandelions. Well done, New Jersey. Well done.

What are the rules on photography while driving?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If I ever get some money for the wait/I'm going to take it all out and celebrate

Ah, yes, one more piece of excitement from today: after an unrewarding high school fair, I trekked the two blocks to my car (oh, yes, parking was that great) and along the way found $9! I'm considering it my commission for the day. And trying not to imagine a high school kid with a really crappy fast food job who needs gas money.

You don't even know what a forensic scientist does. Trust me.

Hotels that do not have functioning bath stops make me angry. I apologize for this outburst, but you see, I don't have a relaxing bubble bath to help counteract my frustration. Thus, I am trying to process these emotions through other means. (No pressure, blog, but I'd better be damned content by the time this entry is finished.)

Today was a consortium, which translates to standing behind a table for an hour at three different high schools with varying results. Sadly, nothing fascinating happened today, so I would classify it as a fail. (I suppose in terms of recruitment it wasn't... but since when is my job about numbers? Oh...) I did rag on a girl for stealing a pen, which I have learned in the college fair circuit is a rite of passage. We all anticipate this minor theft, but it really annoys me when they're bad at it. I mean, this girl literally walked up to the table, picked up the pen, and then returned to her group of friends. She was the only one around. Did she think I couldn't see? I don't know how these kids expect to get anywhere in life if they can't even lift a pen from an admissions rep. It's times like this I wonder about the future of America. (Also when I see more than a dozen sixteen-year-old boys wearing skinny jeans.)

The only true excitement of today was finding a kid who somehow fused the worlds of Harry Potter and Twilight. (That's right, I'm going there.) Imagine Goyle from Harry Potter. Now imagine Jacob from Twilight. Now squint. That was this kid. I never would have thought it possible, but there you go. Sadly, I could not be a super stalker and sneak a photo, but I'm sure he would have mistaken the camera flash as wand light and automatically changed into wolf form to protect the pack. I don't think I could live with the guilt; after all, one of my priorities is to keep the little thieves safe so they can make tuition payments.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I tried the best to give to you all of the truest in the world.

Today I did two different college fairs at schools. I love events like this because I don't have to figure out a schedule at all. And they feed me. Rather than babbling on like I normally do, I'd like to share a series of conversations that I had today, in no particular order:

(Girl who clearly belongs at Lit House walks up to the table)
Me: Hi! Are you interested in anything in particular?
Girl: (quickly) I want to major in Environmental Science and minor in Education, Japanese, and U.S. History.
Me: Well, that's great that you have such a range of interests! We don't actually have a Japanese program, but we do have a few classes. Everything else--
Girl: (very seriously) It has to be a minor. (walks away)

You just know she's going to be an English major.

(I've been talking to this kid for a while, and he's adorable and really interested in the school)
Him: So what's your mascot?
Me: Well, technically we're the _____, but we don't really have anyone dress up at games or anything. We use a lot of different images for our sports teams. I guess that's our fun quirk.
Him: So if I wind up going to your school and I have ideas for a mascot, who can I talk to?

And at two different extremes:

Girl: Is this an Ivy League school?
Me: No, we're a small liberal arts school in ____.
Girl: Is it hard to get in?
Me: Well, for this year's freshman class, the middle 50% of students had a GPA between a 3.1 and a 3.6, just to give you an idea.
Girl: What about a 3.8?
Me: ...That would fall above the middle 50%.
Girl: Oh. I want to go to Princeton, but they're not here.

Seriously? If we were an Ivy League school, don't you think you would have heard of us? Let's think about this. And I don't think your GPA will help you if you can't figure out that a 3.8 is greater than a 3.6. At the second fair, I received the opposite:

Girl: (wandering aimlessly looking at all the tables) Ooh! (split second later) Never mind, it looks too smart. (walks away without stopping)

And, for those of you who are facebook challenged (obviously I'm not delusional to think anyone is reading this who I haven't known for several years):

Girl: (looks at my table) Ooh, you're in the south! I love you already! (looks at table next to me) Ooh, cool pens! (looks back and forth for a minute) I'll be back later. This is too difficult a decision for right now.

So those were the highlights. I also realized today that I am a huge snob when it comes to potential history majors. Our school is very historical, as is the town in which we're located; you can't help but be swept up in the past while you're there. Usually when a kid mentions an interest in history, I talk about a house we just bought that's 20 minutes away and used to be part of the Underground Railroad. I mean, how freaking cool is that?! Even if it's not the era or geographical area you're interested in, how can that be uninteresting? Thus, my history major litmus test. You are obviously not a historian if you find no joy or fascination in the freaking Underground Railroad. Losers.

P.S.-- If you are a potential English major and tell me your favorite book is Twilight, I do judge you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No, we don't offer speech pathology

The only reason I'm not writing from the comfort of my hotel room right now is because it will take me over an hour to get there and I need to pump enough caffeine into my body so I don't fall asleep at the wheel and die. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Panera? I think they should be the official sponsor for college admissions recruiting.

Today I dropped the boyfriend off at the train station (well, technically he dropped himself off since I still refuse to drive in Philadelphia) and headed to New Jersey for a college fair. Time usually flies at college fairs, but I still find myself constantly wanting it to be over so I can sit down and chug a gallon of water. This fair was huge. I ran out of supplies, not that it's particularly hard to do when people keep stealing your table copies. Seriously, guys? If there's only one brochure on a table, why would you assume you should grab it and walk away? And it's always the people who do walk-bys because they don't want to talk to anyone, so they just grab whatever information they can find. Especially for athletics brochures. It still boggles my mind that sports are the main motivator for a lot of prospective students. I especially loved one conversation today:

Girl: Do you have crew?
Me: Yes! Our crew team is really great, they got to NCAAs this year.
Girl: And you're D-I?
Me: No, D-III.
Girl: (walks away without saying anything)

Are you really going to be that picky about crew? Do you plan on rowing professionally? What are the odds of that happening? Besides, it's crew for god's sake. You don't need any experience to join the team so long as you're willing to abandon your social life and smooth hands.That's the beauty of the sport. That and the fact that small people get to yell at everyone.

I also had one of those dads who barked questions at me like a drill sergeant: "How many kids? Tuition? What division?" I practically responded, "Sir, 1300, $42,000 with room and board, D-III, sir!" I don't think I could handle that kind of pressure on a daily basis.

So basically college fair people fall into either of those two extremes: people who don't want to say anything to you, or people who want you to give them every fact and figure about your school in under a minute while juggling flaming batons. Although I also had one girl ask me whether she should go for a program associated with a med school or go to a normal school and study biology because she wants to be a doctor but isn't entirely sure and isn't that great at bio anyway and doesn't know if she'd be able to get into med school but also doesn't want to be stuck with the decision... She was very nice, but why would you expect a random admissions rep to tell you the best academic/career track for you? I also had one parent who is new to the process ask me what they should do for applying to college. As in, tell her everything for any school her kid might be looking at. I talked a bit about liberal arts versus non-liberal arts and the pre-med program that we have. But she didn't fill out a card because she, "wouldn't even know what to do with the information." *blink. blink.* I love my job.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A country girl (or boy) can't be made out of anybody here

Alas, rejected again. However, I have discovered my new favorite type of person: kind middle-aged receptionists who are terribly concerned for me when I don't have any kids.

Damn it, I forgot to try crying.

It won't take long for me to tell you who I am

I write from a Starbucks 0.5 miles from my next school visit, which is not for another 45 minutes. I'm worried about adjusting to my travel schedule considering how low-key this week has been. This morning I met with one girl who was practically dragged into my information session (for lack of better term) and looked like she experienced a panic attack each time she asked me a question. She said she wanted to visit, but she may have been too afraid to say otherwise. Seriously, no pressure. If anything working for admissions has made me more chill about recruiting. I mean, selling the school is a huge part of my job, but obviously I'm not going to pressure anyone who wants giant lecture halls and a booming metropolis. Spreading collegiate misery is not in my job description. No students for my second visit, which the receptionist told me a little too sympathetically. However, she compensated by very enthusiastically asking for our packet of information. I should have cried... maybe she would have given me candy. Why do I always think of these things too late?

At this time, I'd like to thank the provider of much of my road music, Keri. I've listened to nothing but the Avett Brothers for the past two days, and my life is infinitely better for it. I got to the point where I thought, "Okay, you've listened to this CD about eight times now... maybe you can start skipping over the songs you don't like as much" (not changing the CD... oh, no... just listening to an abbreviated version). However, I have yet to find a song that is skippable. (Screw you, spell check, skippable is now a word. What else would I say?) So thanks to Keri for my insane new addiction to the Avett Brothers, and thanks to the Avett Brothers for allowing me to belt out "Talk On Indolence" at least ten times a day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


My fabulous girl from yesterday's visit emailed to thank me! Love her!

It is rainy and annoying in Philadelphia

I just got to my hotel after driving through Philadelphia during rush hour and searching forever to find the parking garage which, of course, was only two seconds from my hotel the entire time. FML. But we're moving on! No need to put a damper on my day! (Although I made a preemptive deal with my boyfriend that I will not be driving anywhere this weekend when he joins me in Philly lest he see me simultaneously burst into tears and punch pedestrians and cab drivers in the gonads.)

Except for the past hour or so, today was wonderful! One of my visits had six people! And I had my first fashion merchandising person, who has been on our mailing list for a while but has not visited because we're a tiny liberal arts college and know nothing about fashion. But it was nice of her to drop by. My final visit of the day was with two girls who had just begun to think about college a month into their senior year (seriously?) and were looking at huge schools in the middle of the city and had never heard of my school. I told them a bit about our small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, but we switched to talking about college in general after a while so I could help them get out of class. I'm so professional. AND! During that meeting, a man came in and introduced himself as a '62 alum! We wound up talking for a while about how much campus has changed (
he kept mentioning buildings that went up right after he graduated, and I kept saying, "Oh, yes, they just tore that down and have built this new facility..."), and after I talked to the girls he came back and we discussed the local bar that is, almost literally, older than dirt. (Apparently Team Tuesday is a more recent tradition.) And he student taught in the town where my dad grew up, long before they created one centralized high school in the area. And we talked about the wonders of beat biscuits. So he was the highlight of my day.

I finished around 12:30 today, so I decided to meander for a while before my hellish quest for the hotel. I passed a sign for the Brandywine battlefield, and decided that I could always stand to learn about a really big field. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls with the Stars Hallow museum? I basically visited it today, only the names were changed. I entered the visitors center and talked to a kid who could not have been older than seventeen and asked him (much like a seventeen-year-old would) what exactly I could do there because I "just dropped by and thought it would be fun." Apparently they don't get many visitors like that. He told me that all the buildings were closed until federal funding went to the state or something random, but for $2.50 I could watch a 20 minute movie and explore the one-room exhibit in the visitors center. $2.50 well spent. My favorite part of the movie was when a group of soldiers held a struggling, wounded man to the table and told him, "It's for the cause!" as the doctor brandished a knife to amputate his leg. You have no idea what a struggle it was not to giggle uncontrollably.

So what exactly happened at the Battle of Brandywine? I'm glad you asked! On September 11, 1777 Washington and his troops battled the British in between two Quakers' houses. They lost, but apparently they lost very well. So now you can see the site of the battle and, conveniently, take advantage of the picnic tables they set up to commemorate where people were bleeding 232 years ago. Don't worry, the picnic area is free to use.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I keep forgetting to title these until long after I post them

Today was a pretty relaxed introduction to school visits. The first school I went to was one of the fabled institutions that gives admissions reps bottled water and granola bars (it's only my first day and already granola has become a staple food group). Only one kid came, and he's visiting the school Saturday for a lax recruiting weekend and just wanted some more details before he came. The second visit had one girl, and it took all my strength not to fill out the application for her and accept it on the spot. I talked to her for 45 minutes. She was fabulous, and will hopefully be visiting soon.

My day ended around 1:00, which will not always happen but I will enjoy it for now. I'm lounging at the current hotel. Tonight's agenda involves organizing my luggage so I have a few days' worth of clothes in each of my three bags. Why I didn't do this before, I have no idea. It will be fun. (That wasn't sarcastic.) It's cloudy and gross here, so I'd much rather spend the evening relaxing at the hotel than exploring the area. Besides, I'll be back in a few weeks.

I'm worried that the Chevy Impala and I are not connecting. It feels huge, but I don't have the height advantage of my car. Although it's nice being in a vehicle that can accelerate. Hopefully we'll be BFFs within a few weeks, because I worry that until the Impala loves me it will judge my road music and my singing, and that's just not cool.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When possible, make a U-turn

Today marks the day that my blog is aptly named: I am officially roadrunning.

I started my adventures by getting horribly lost for over an hour, thus developing a slight aversion to Camden, NJ. Although the directions were simple in theory, my GPS and I practically had a screaming match (as in, it would have happened if my GPS could scream back). It continuously told me I was at my destination, which I would have been if my destination were a hotel or business park. In all fairness, I was practically at the high school about seventeen times, I just didn't know it because this school is harder to locate than Hogwarts.

All in all, this fair was a great start to roadrunning. I had an entertaining neighbor who was bitchy enough to be entertaining for a few hours (any longer and he probably would have annoyed me, but it worked well), and a dad who tried to stare me down until I admitted that we gave "leadership scholarships" for athletes since we're D3 (Ummm.... no?). I also enjoyed playing a game of, "How many of your table copies will disappear during the course of the night?" No one stole humanities, which is ironic since we're all about creative writing. Plus, this school served the most amazing dinner. I had roast beef, potatoes, actual vegetables, and cheesecake. I don't eat that well at home. So now I know why this fair is an annual event for us.

Tomorrow are my first official school visits. I'm hoping I get a fashion design question. It would be an amazing first day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some School

In a thrilling Charlotte's Web meets Arachnophobia week, my car has been invaded. When I attempted to drive to work earlier this week, a spider had made a web inside my car on the passenger side of the windshield. WTF. Ordinarily, I have a very "live and let live" philosophy about arachnids, insects, and any sort of mutant hybrids, but this thing was huge. I'm not kidding. And all I could see were two scenarios:

1. It was going to lay eggs in my car. Pros: It would die. Cons: I would then be Wilbur, taking on the responsibility of raising generations of Charlotte's babies. Not that this spider was cute enough to be a Charlotte, but still.

2. It was one of these, and I was going to die.

I chose door number three, which was to destroy the web but apparently give the spider just enough time to escape into the recesses of my car where I could not find him/her/it/thing. A few days later, there was another web, but no spider to be found. I destroyed another web. At this point, I was feeling rather guilty.

Yesterday morning I got in the car to drive to our fabulous open house, and there it was. A new web, more spectacular than any other. And it was sitting in it. I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a boy around to destroy it, I was running late, and all I could picture was me with gangrenous skin and a highly unfabulous death. No way. Not happening. I left it. When I returned, I once again freaked out and drove to the hotel. Then I planned my attack. Obviously Charlotte the Killer was aware of my presence at this point, with his/her/its/thing's freakish assortment of eyes and crazy little hairs that feel things and destroy entire planets. I slowly removed my shoes and positioned them, one on either side of the net. Charlotte knew what was coming, but she didn't dare escape. Then, I struck. I still feel guilty thinking about her potentially verbose offspring, but in the end it was me or her. The true loser in this scenario is my right shoe, which I am still removing spider guts and web from.

The open house itself went well. I attended sessions for departments I don't know much about, i.e. the engineering program we have that isn't huge at all. It was exciting seeing kids I've taken on tour or met in school (although some of them I wanted to hide from... i.e. the family we've dubbed as "pku people" who expected the dining hall to make special meals for their kid... and the kid who wanted to study music but still made me take them into every lab in the science building and then ranted about how cruel it was that we used mice in our experiments... and the kid who was angry that I showed her the fitness center because she tried out for high school volleyball and didn't make the team and didn't understand why... oh, wait, those were all the same person!). I was also stationed outside the brand new dining hall so people could check out the first floor and realize that someday, somehow, they'll actually finish the construction and we'll be able to use it. On one hand, my school totally wins for making an insanely beautiful building that I want to spend every waking moment in. On the other hand, my school totally fails for forcing me to graduate before I could actually use said building. I also had the pleasure of eating lunch with a really nice family who asked lots of questions and then said, "Okay, well thanks for your time" like I was supposed to stop eating and leave because they had all their answers. I took a stand and finished my spaghetti first. But then I wimped out and left before I finished my broccoli. Fail.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Six degrees of interrogation

Today, I scared shitless a prospective student. I am so proud.

My third interview of the day (all of whom were fabulous, which was a wonderful treat for a rainy disgusting Friday where I clearly do not want to be in the office) wrote down "Mr. Markowski" as her guidance counselor. Years ago, when I was a tiny high school freshman, I took U.S. Government with a Mr. Markowski. As a medium high school senior, I took AP Psychology with a Mr. Markowski. As a large-ish college graduate, my bachelor's is in psychology. Props to Mr. Markowski for getting me hooked on psychology.

So when I read this girl's interview sheet, I actually squealed. I knew that Markowski left my high school shortly after I graduated to be a guidance counselor, so obviously it had to be him. I mean, how many Markowskis are there in the world? When we brought her back for her interview, I may have failed at masking my enthusiasm. Especially when she said that she's working as a guidance aide this year.

Me: Do you know Mr. Markowski's first name?
Her: Um... I think Mark?
Me: Is it Matt? We always used to call him Mark Markowski as a joke, but his name was really Matt.
Her: I... don't know?
Me: Do you know if he has a son named Evan?
Her: ...
Me: He was one of my favorite teachers!
Her: ...

I know at the beginning of the interview we were her top choice... odds are, I changed that somewhere during the course of my interrogation.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I will plant my seed in you

When I first found out I was tagging along on counselor visits, I immediately envisioned:

Let's face it, you would, too.

I am both pleased and disappointed to tell you that it was nothing like "The Office," which I'm finding to be a big problem with work in general. But that's an entirely different post.Today is all about my adventures shadowing a counselor. Allow me to break it down for you: (editor's note: times are extremely approximate)

4:40 a.m.-- Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.
4:45 a.m.-- Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.
4:50 a.m.-- Alarm goes off. I hit snooze. I begin getting ready.
5:15 a.m.-- Counselor picks me up at the hotel.
5:30 a.m.-- Finally find NPR station.
5:40 a.m.-- Stop at Dunkin Donuts for my usual (vanilla iced coffee).
7:00 a.m.-- We see a rainbow. A full rainbow. A legit half-circle rainbow. I have never seen one before and am amazed. There was even a secondary rainbow. Holy crap. Today will be amazing.
7:30 a.m.-- We get lost.
8:15 a.m.-- We arrive at first school to meet with counselor. She tells us that it is a class of 70 seniors. Their class sizes are still around 30 kids. That's not good. Not likely to get applications from them.
8:45 a.m.-- We get lost on our way to second school. Pass a billboard for the Marines that says, "We don't accept applications. We accept commitments." We decide to use it as our new slogan for the day.
9:00 a.m.-- We realize we actually passed the second school but thought it was an abandoned factory.
9:30 a.m.-- Second meeting with guidance counselor. Counselor describes crazy parents for us. Not likely to get applications from them, but one kid from either of the first two schools will get a free ride because of scholarship program.
9:59 a.m.-- Leave second meeting.
10:00 a.m.-- Use antibacterial handwipes.
10:37 a.m.-- Get lost.
10:54 a.m.-- Arrive at third school. Meet up with two new counselors who will be joining us.
11:15 a.m.-- Meet with ten kids and guidance counselor at small prep school. Basically the best visit ever. Realize the counselor went to the same high school as me (many years apart). Random.
12:09 p.m.-- Kids leave. Counselor stays to answer our questions about high school visits/what to expect.
12:38 p.m.-- Counselor and I discuss teachers we had in common. There actually are some.
1:00 p.m.-- Final visit of the day. It's torrential downpour, so we're soaking by the time we get inside.
1:05 p.m.-- Fifteen students arrive. Not many questions. Lots of staring. One girl asks about marine biology, and we practically tell her to try a different school because we can't give her the chance to hang out with dolphins. One girl brings her résumé . Adorable.
2:00 p.m.-- Leave final visit. Decide to go to Panera.
2:14 p.m.-- It starts raining way more. Panera parking lot is flooded. We eat soup. They have free samples of pumpkin lattes. Mmm.
5:17 p.m.-- Finally get home. Want to collapse. Twelve hour day.
11:10 p.m.-- Finally going to collapse. Friday. Score.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Press 1 for more options

Is it uncouth to begin a blog post by saying, "Holy shit, I go on the road in less than a week!"? Because that's basically all that's been running through my head for the past two days. I've been busier than usual trying to get in touch with counselors, organizing my schedule, and trying not to focus on the panic of not knowing what to say during these school visits. (Apparently you're supposed to expand on, "Our school is really awesome!") I am enjoying this glimpse into high schools, though, considering I haven't visited one in several years. I like to think that I'm becoming something of an expert on the high school website/phone menu methods of communication. If I may, I would like to offer up a few suggestions:
  1. If I am on your website, I should not have to click on anything to find your phone number or address.
  2. When your phone menu lists "crisis intervention" before "guidance office," you're sending up red flags
  3. It's great to list the names of everyone in the guidance office, but I have no idea who I'm supposed to be talking to, and it sucks when you force me to select an option rather than just directing me automatically to a fabulous receptionist who knows what she's doing
  4. Seriously, your website should tell me who I'm supposed to be talking to. Why doesn't it?
  5. When you make me email you a copy of the letter I sent (two months ago) so you can "have something in front of [you]," I am making a mental note that you are high-maintenance and I am resisting the urge to tell you to tape the damn paper to the computer if you want it on there (I realize that isn't website or phone menu related, but hopefully it will be helpful)
  6. When you finally respond to my seventh voicemail by telling me you only do lunch visits, I want to scream
  7. When you only do lunch visits that take up half of my day, I feel guilty telling you no, but I am also shocked you manage to get anyone to visit because they are so pointless
  8. When you finally respond to my seventh voicemail by telling me you put me in the schedule a long time ago, I want to go to your office, find the form I mailed you in July, check the box saying "The requested time for your visit is confirmed," and shove it in the BRE we mailed it with just to show you how easy it really it is
So there you are. Welcome to my desk job. The rest of the day I spend jotting down blog ideas and talking to one of my coworkers about Harry Potter.

Tomorrow will be a fun road trip day; I'm going with previously-mentioned favorite counselor (not that I have favorites) to do four high school visits so I will actually know what to say. And the best part is, I don't have to be ready to go until... wait for it... 5:15 a.m.! Woo! *cough* Um, yeah. It will be a rough day. In fact, I should probably be getting ready for bed... it's almost 7.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I'm Looking for Baggage That Goes With Mine

The most difficult part of writing this blog is avoiding Suite Life references in the titles of my posts. I guarantee you it will happen eventually, but I'm trying to hold out as long as possible.

I'm back in the hotel, ready for my final week in the office. Well, technically I'll be there for a day and a half next week, but you get the idea. I'm staying here for eight nights, which means I've basically moved into my room. The tricky part is that I won't return to my parents' house for at least three weeks, so I had to pack enough to survive until then. I should probably mention that I am terrible at packing. I want to be prepared for everything, so I don't edit myself when throwing things into the suitcase; furthermore, I'm utterly incapable of folding things to take up minimal space. So let's count how many pieces of luggage I will be taking with me for the next three weeks:
  • One wheelie suitcase containing most of my clothes
  • A duffel bag containing pajamas, tank tops, and shoes
  • A backpack containing my computer, power cords, and various electronic needs, as well as the four books I brought with me
  • A tote bag containing toiletries (obviously I can't use travel-sized items for this job)
  • Two grocery bags: one containing more toiletries, one containing a box of granola bars and a one-pound container of chocolate sprinkles my dad purchased for me... to be honest, I'm not really sure when I'll use them, but it makes me feel like I'm playing Oregon Trail to have various sundries with me, thus sprinkles = win
Four pieces of luggage, plus two makeshift storage containers that are unlikely to survive this leg of the trip. (I'm guessing they'll be taken down by cholera. Or maybe trampled by a wayward ox.) Fortunately I can use this phase of the trip to distribute items better for later... hopefully less clothing will make its way into subsequent hotels. (I realize how that sounds... whatever.)

Well, the time has come for me to mentally prepare for the end of the three-day weekend. Tomorrow's agenda includes harassing schools while barely concealing my jealousy and resentment at their late start date. And maybe some ice cream during lunch.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

There is absolutely no beauty whatsoever in the breakdown. Trust me.

I think somehow my ancient car developed human intelligence and a scary mechanical desire to take over the world. I'm not sure why, but I think a combination of these factors inspired my car to access the internet, read my blog, and notice that I compared it unfavorably to my roadrunner car.

Seriously, Allison's Minivan, we can work this out, don't be like this. I can give you an oil change. Maybe even a name. Please?

As I've mentioned in previous posts (do you like how I just smugly assumed I have loyal readers?), my office is freezing. I wish I could think of a more poetic way to describe it, but my brain has yet to thaw out even 18 hours after leaving the building. Most days for lunch I sit outside in the sunshine and read a book (with perhaps a tiny bit of people watching thrown in) and warm up, which is the most blissful hour of my day. Not yesterday. Oh, no. Yesterday I decided to eat lunch on my lunch break. I drove to Rofo, grabbed a salad, made awkward smalltalk with relatives who happened to be in the same establishment, and went to my car to drive back to my preferred reading spot.

Have you ever heard a mechanical fart? Because that's basically the only thing my car did, besides weakly displaying a few lights. That's right, my battery was dead. So I did the only thing I could do: I called my dad and left him a pleading voicemail asking him what to do. He was in the process of giving me the number for our insurance company's roadside assistance, but then a giant truck pulled up next to me and two men were offering to help... but they didn't have jumper cables. We started soliciting people for the cables, when finally a pick-up pulls in on the other side and a man emerges wearing a Pennzoil shirt. Oh, thank god. They got my car started for me, and I made it back to work with about two minutes left to eat my lunch. Fortunately standing around the Rofo parking lot warmed me up as much as any intentional basking in sunshine.

But wait, there's more! Last night I babysat until 9:30. My car wouldn't start again. It was alone in a faculty parking lot. The only people around were college students celebrating their first weekend on campus (read: in no condition to help me at all) and campus security, who do not own jumper cables as we have learned from previous experience. Thus, roadside assistance was called. I told them where I was, they told me to expect an automated call telling me the ETA, and then I was really tired so I'm pretty sure I drifted off a couple of times. After over half an hour of waiting for this call, a tow truck randomly shows up and tells me that the insurance company gave them the wrong location and cancelled my call. *blink. blink.* Fortunately the towing people thought to check the parking lots and found me. So I had to call the insurance company again to get a new ticket so the tow truck could get paid. I didn't make it home until midnight. So now my car is sitting in the driveway at my parents' house, demanding a new battery. And a name. In the meantime, I think I'll write a sonnet to the beloved green giant. Maybe that will do some good.

Friday, September 4, 2009

What happened to Arty?

A funny thing happened today. I started reading another short story on The New Yorker website, but I didn't get a chance to finish. I sat in on four interviews instead!

Interview #1:
I found out before the kid arrived that he attends St. Andrew's School in Delaware, which is where they filmed... wait for it... Dead Poet's Society!(!!!) So automatically this kid gets in because he must be best friends with Robin Williams, right? Then the counselor starts telling me about this school and giving me their catalog to read. The students are basically taking college-level courses in a castle, and occasionally breaking for meals in a Great Hall that rivals Hogwarts. And. The BEST part: they have their own pony! So automatically I'm going to best friends with this kid because he and Robin Williams and I can ride around the castle on the pony, right? I'm fairly certain that everything that is wrong with my adult life can be traced back to the fact that I did not attend a school that gave me access to a pony. And to be honest, after meeting this kid, I think I totally deserve the pony more.

Interview #2:
A really nice local kid who asked questions and was interested in the college, but was a little lacking academically. Hopefully we'll be able to work with him; I think he could benefit a lot from the school.

Interview #3:
I sat in with a different counselor for this one. He's a little chattier than the other counselors. This girl was very nice, very chill, but didn't seem entirely sure of what she wanted yet. Fair enough.

Interview #4:
Get ready for some gushing. I almost went out and bought stickers and put gold stars all over her interview sheet. She needs to come to this school. This girl is interested in something science-related and wants to be a nutritionist. Her grandfather died of cancer, so she organized a marathon event in his honor. When she was training, she realized that she was having issues and started researching about dieting and food allergies and all this other stuff and started adapting it into her life. That's when she knew. When she told us that story, we were both completely sold. I'm visiting her high school during my travels, so hopefully I'll get to chat with her again.

Thus, a complete range of interview experiences today. But I have yet to discover what happened to Arty, the ancient widower who is celebrating his birthday alone and, starved for human contact, is telling anyone who calls him all about his various ailments. I hope he doesn't die at the end. That would suck. But, as Arty likes to say, they don't give you a manual. Or a pony.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Whatcha doin'?

It has officially happened. Today, I stopped pretending to do work. I read short stories on The New Yorker website. I logged onto facebook (conveniently, this was as the Big Boss entered the room). I sat and stared out the window. It was during the staring that my immediate supervisor noticed I was without a project and offered me several suggestions, including calling the schools I called two days ago and making sure that the binder I have been poring over for two weeks to make it look like I had an actual task did in fact have all the papers in it that I'll need. Then she patted me on the head and said "we'll think of something." That's right. Reread that sentence. And again. No, not that part. Ah, yes, the patting me on the head like a small child. I would comment... but really, is it necessary?

The fabulous part is that we only had one interview today, and I wasn't allowed to sit in on it. Why? That's a valid question, considering how I just described my seven hour work day. Because I had to sit in with one more interviewer before I could sit in with this particular counselor. They want me to sit with more experienced people first. Fine. So I sat in with the two counselors who have been around for more than five years. Twice. Each. Then I sat in once with a counselor who has been around for a year. But before I can sit in with the counselor who has been around for three months, I need to sit with the second counselor who has been around for a year. Because otherwise who knows what I'll be learning about interviewing.

It's comforting to know that folly prevails. Even in higher education.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why do you want to come here?

For me, the average day in the office consists of a few phone calls, some hotel research, and roughly fifteen random emails to my friend Keri, who (thankfully) is just as bored as I am. Sure I'll write to random people throughout the day, but it's nice getting an immediate response sometimes. And apparently I'm fairly quick to reply considering the following message, sent to my inbox at 1:33 p.m.:

i haven't heard from you in 4 minutes. are you okay?

For the record, I was okay. I think she might have caught me on one of my two or three trips to the bathroom (read: excuses to stand up and walk around rather than gluing myself to the less-than-blissful desk chair) between 1 and 4.

I was fortunate enough to break up my day with two interviews. When I return to the office after my roadrunning, I'll be assisting the counselors by interviewing prospective students. For now I'm sitting in on interviews with experienced counselors and occasionally chiming in. The first interview of the day was... memorable.

For the sake of discretion, let's call this girl Megan. After reviewing the questionnaire that Megan filled out in our waiting room, we learn that she is interested in English, creative writing, and anthropology, and was extremely involved with her school's theater program. Megan quickly made an impression on our receptionist when she struggled with one of the questions on the form. We ask all students the following questions, in this order:

High school:
Counselor's name:
College (if applicable):

Most people don't have too many issues with this. We want to know where you go to high school, the name of your guidance counselor, and, if you are a transfer student, where you attend(ed) college. Megan, however, approaches our reception area and asks, "Do you want to know where my counselor attended college?" And that, my friends, was the first clue.

When the counselor and I took Megan back, the counselor explained that I was going to sit in to learn the ropes of the interview. As Megan sat down and the counselor started to ask her a question, Megan turned to me and boomed, "And, Allison, if you have any questions or comments or anything feel free to ask! I love talking to new people!" Needless to say, this was an interview who came in with a list of questions written out in her notebook. Questions about our senior thesis requirement which, to be honest, I barely thought about before spring of my junior year. It was a difficult interview to evaluate because it seemed to us that Megan had something Asperger-esque going on. Academically, she was a good candidate who shouldn't have problems getting in, but there were some concerns about her social adjustment. We recently graduated a student with Asperger's whose story did not end very well, but her personality was completely different than Megan's. Megan was friendly and cheerful and clearly wanted to be social
, we just couldn't be sure how she would be received. To be honest, I think she would be welcome among the creative writing kids on campus. They are... how do I phrase this? They are willing to take in strays. But Megan was talking about sororities and things that might be less accepting. We'll see. In the end she got a decent grade and, like I said, she really shouldn't have problems getting in.

Second interview of the day was far more nondescript. This time I shadowed with my favorite counselor in the office. (I don't know if I should have favorites... but if I did, it would be her and it wouldn't even be a contest.) The kid wasn't ridiculously responsive during the interview and really wanted to walk around and get a feel for the campus. You would think we were strapping him to the chair and forcing him to confess his deep, dark, secrets.

So, yeah. Hopefully you've enjoyed this intimate look into my day. Join me tomorrow as I attempt to make eight phone calls last the entire morning! I think there should be an Olympic event based on pretending to be busy at the office. I'll have to think of a name for this new sport...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Read the fine print...

I am sad to report that after days of doing nothing but reading hotel descriptions, I got confused. My hotel does not, in fact, have a workout room. Which means that I was left to my own devices with wine and bubble bath and bad tv with nothing to counterbalance these sedentary vices. Tomorrow I will concern myself with being healthy... for tonight, I'm going to enjoy The Office.

"I can't say whether Dunder Mifflin paper is less flammable, sir, but I can certainly assure you that it is not more flammable."
--My beloved future husband, John Krasinski

My Friends All Have Porsches

All sorts of excitement today! Admissions bought all of us cars! Well, technically they leased us cars that can only be used for college-related travel, but really it's the same thing. I am the proud new driver of a 2008 Chevy Impala. Apparently I drew the short straw and was only given this car after all the other counselors rejected it, but let's think about this situation, shall we?

Allison's Current Car:
  • 1996 Mercury Villager (read: mini-van from my childhood)
  • A/C has seen better days and constantly needs to be recharged with freon
  • Driver side window will only go down when it feels like it ( makes drive-thrus fun)
  • Is so dirty that someone wrote "We miss you Ajones!" on it today... which was rather touching except that it made me realize how dirty my car is
  • Sound system consists of a tape player (remember those?)

Allison's Leased Car:
  • 2008 Chevy Impala (read: has no idea who N*SYNC, Monica Lewinsky, or Johnathan Taylor Thomas are)
  • Has a CD player! (I'm accepting suggestions for good road music!)
  • Automatic windows
  • Will unlock even when my key isn't touching it!
  • Can be parallel parked
Although I've grown quite attached to my mini-van, I'm pretty psyched to be driving a car that a recent college graduate might conceivably purchase. Besides, my poor van can use a break after schlepping me across the bridge every day for my hour-plus commute.

Speaking of hour-long commutes! (I hope you enjoyed that masterful segway.) Admissions is also putting me up in a hotel so I no longer have to spend 2.5 hours a day in the car! (That is, until I go on the road and spend roughly a billion hours a day in the car.) I was driving myself crazy
commuting (if I admit that was an intentional pun, will I lose all respectability?), and this way I have a nice, quiet room with a giant bed. Tonight's agenda includes:

6:00-- Work out in free fitness room
6:45-- Bubble bath, complete with wine chilled in hotel mini-fridge
7:15-- Lounging in giant bed, perhaps paired with mindless tv-watching

The fabulous part? I'm earning at least two free hotel nights before my roadrunning even starts, which means when my three months of employment are over I will always have résumé-worthy experience, fabulous travel stories, and a really cheap vacation whenever (and whereever) I want.

Anyway, time to commence my rigorous evening schedule. Wish me luck...