“Time,” our room’s monitor says, indicating our ten preparatory minutes have elapsed. I drop my pencil like I did my New Year’s Resolution to stop unintentionally eavesdropping, except not as promptly. As she beckons for the three of us to leave the room, I reflect on the fact that it is 10:30 AM on a Saturday, and I am in a classroom.
But I’m not here for school—I’m here for DECA, a business competition. I’m competing in a roleplay event, in which participants are first given ten minutes to preview a scenario before they assume the identity of a candidate interviewing for some business position. (My entire event lasts 20 minutes. I end up staying for ten hours.)
We follow the room monitor out into the hallway. The other two in my group file into one room, and I am sent into the other, alone.
There are three judges seated in each of the three corners of the room. They’re all dressed professionally and look so uncomfortable squeezed into their tiny student desks that I want to laugh, until I remember that I’m also dressed professionally.
The first judge, numbered 5, occupies the top left desk in a group of four tables pushed together. We make eye contact awkwardly, and I am brought back to the first day of English, when I was the earliest student to arrive and had to watch at least ten people decide not to sit with me. This memory, I assume, short-circuits my brain, because I immediately try to slide into the seat diagonally across from her.
Reasons, just off the top of my head, why this is a terrible mistake
- I’m not even trying to sit down, as we haven’t shaken hands yet. Yet I hook one leg into the group of tables, probably assuming I’m agile enough to slip between the desk and chair without falling on my butt. (Admittedly, this doesn’t happen, but only because something much worse happens first.)
- No one conducts interviews sitting diagonally from her interviewer.
- I have overlooked the METAL BAR connecting the desk to the chair on the right side.
I proceed to trip over the desk. And nearly topple it.
My brain vaporizes on the spot.
The judge, impressively, manages to keep a straight face. The adjacent desks, on the other hand, are still wobbling from the impact and seem like they’re shaking from laughter. I sheepishly yank my knee out from under the bar and, for some unfathomable reason, try to slide in again, only slower. Like I thought doing so more discreetly would render me incorporeal and able to easily pass through the bar.
Clearly, I’ve left my mental capacities in the other room.
On my way out of the roleplay room, someone calls my name. “Nicole!”
Surprised, my heel comes right out of my shoe and I stumble again. (In this past hour, I’ve tripped about the same amount of times I did last year: twice. Essentially, my life has become a trashy romance novel, but with less love triangles and more unnecessary stupidity.) I turn to face my friend.
“How’d it go?” She asks.
“Tripped over a desk.”
She waves it off. “Who cares? How was it?”
“You mean, besides the tripping part?” Because I mean, I vaguely recall myself talking after the incident, but mostly I just remember the tripping part. I may as well have tripped throughout my entire interview.
Even after I give her a play-by-play and explain that I’d not just barreled over, but also into, the desk, she tells me I’m going to be fine.
I nod, continue on to the cafeteria, and stuff my face with a chicken sandwich that tastes like humiliation.
By some miracle, my friend is right. (As in, I get to advance to the State competition. Not that she’s rarely right.) I slip out of the gym bleachers in pleasant bewilderment… and proceed to snag my heel on the last step.
So I guess the real lesson here isn’t that you should believe in yourself, but that if you trip over a desk once, you’ll be tripping for the rest of your life.