Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHALLENGE (08/17/17)
TITLE: The Conversation
By Lucy Steel
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She had long brown hair, brown eyes and tanned legs. Her hem lines were just long enough to meet the acceptable workplace attire policy, but short enough to suggest she worked out regularly. And Tom admired a girl who exercised, having recently (two months ago) bought his own gym membership. He was yet to actually attend the gym, however had recently stocked up on Nike and Adidas work-out gear, ensuring he was ready to begin working out any day now.
Her name was Merran. Or Erin. Or something with an ‘en’. His knowledge about her was limited to little snippets of information he picked up in the kitchen, amongst the buzz of lunch-time goers as he made his toasted ham and cheese sandwiches each day. He hadn’t yet worked up the courage to speak to her, but that was about to change.
Over the weeks, he’d listened for clues about what she liked. Unfortunately, due to a stint of amateur drumming a few years back, his hearing was not the best. But he was confident he’d picked up enough to implement his next move - project ‘Conversation with Merran (or Erin)’.
The Conversation was to occur that afternoon. He’d made a list of topics to talk about, based on the information gathered in the kitchen. A team meeting was scheduled for 2pm and Tom planned to waylay Merran/Erin afterwards, ostensibly to ask her opinion on the customer satisfaction survey he’d drafted. If all went to plan, discussion about the merits of data analysis would turn into appreciation of his merits, thanks to some cleverly crafted conversation points.
At 1.55PM Tom hurried to take his seat in the meeting. Happily, Merran/Erin sat opposite him at the large boardroom table. His morale was buoyed by the smile she flashed in his direction as Richard, the tall new guy, sat next to him.
Tom’s mood continued to elevate as he successfully explained the urgency of implementing a new policy, using the motivational ‘corporate speak’ he’d been practicing – “Comrades, I know you feel you don’t have the bandwidth right now, but we can’t let the grass grow too long on this one – we need to run it up the flagpole.” He’d been pleased with the smiles he’d received for his efforts.
The meeting finished and the time had come!
Merran/Erin walked past him out the door. Tom followed. “Um, hi…Merran?” he faltered.
She turned and looked at him blankly.
“Can I show you my survey? …..”
“I think you have me confused with someone else,” she said. “My name’s Erin.”
“Ah-ha!” he said, “that was my second choice.”
Erin smiled awkwardly and looked around.
“My survey,” Tom pressed on, “have a look! It’s uh, quite good… I think”. Tom caught himself – Erin was supposed to say this to him, but he’d panicked.
“Tom – it is Tom, isn’t it?”
Tom relaxed slightly. She knew his name. This was a good sign.
“Tom, I don’t think I’m the right person to look at the survey – you
should ask Suzie from Data, she’s good at that kind of thing.”
This challenge was proving harder than he’d anticipated. He did a quick mental stocktake of the topics he’d listed but he found it hard to think under pressure. Then he remembered one –
“You like pigs. Me too”. This was partially true – he’d once spent a weekend at an uncle’s farm and fed pigs there. He guessed this could constitute liking them and he needed all the help he could get.
Erin looked completely confused. “I, ah…”
“You love pigs, and want at least three of them,” Tom clarified. “You told Margaret in the kitchen.”
Erin was silent for a second and then burst out laughing. “Kids. I said I love kids!”
Tom hadn’t prepared for a ‘kids’ topic – it wasn’t on his list. He didn’t know what to say.
Just then Richard (the new guy) walked past them and said, “Erin, we still on for dinner tonight?”
Erin smiled the smile Tom had seen in the meeting and it dawned on him that this would not turn out the way he’d planned. He had enough insight to realise he should bow out gracefully. So, he turned and ran… towards Suzie’s desk, for her opinion. Who actually was quite cute now he thought about it.
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