By CHARLENE PAUL
A few of years ago, I had to listen to, and participate in, twenty-one separate mandatory training sessions in order to keep my job. It was a decent job with plenty of challenges and a healthy sprinkling of emotional rewards. To keep myself out of trouble, I won’t name the employer. Suffice to say, it is a gigantic conglomeration of social structures that boggles even the best of minds.
My first time through the first mandatory session, I did my best to listen, take notes, and get as much out of the information as possible in order to pass the quiz at the end. By the second mandatory session, I was less interested and had to fight the committee in my head in order to pay attention. And so it went for nineteen more mandatory sessions until I was finished and was able to print a nice certificate to hang on my bulletin board.
Imagine my surprise when I learned I needed to go through the exact same twenty-one mandatory training sessions the following year, and each year after that, for as long as I desired to work for this particular social system.
One of the trainings explained that aversive actions were never to be taken on others. But since I was figuratively strapped to my chair listening to an obnoxious voice read slide after slide after long, tedious slide, I speculated that use of aversive actions on employees was not out of the question.
As each presentation began, I was reminded to make sure the volume was up, to take notes, answer the questions on the quiz, and click “exit” when I finished. But it wasn’t as simple as simply clicking “exit,” because once “exit” was clicked, there was a drop-down menu offering “exit now” in case I really didn’t want to exit when I clicked the “exit” button in the first place. Talk about a safety net! And then the next presentation began with The Voice giving the same set of reminders about volume, notes, the quiz, and the “exit” button.
To help me understand the benefit of taking notes, The Voice said, “As you traverse each session, taking notes may be beneficial.” Traverse each session? Seriously? Should I pack a lunch, saddle up my camel, and slather myself with sunscreen? This wasn’t traversing; this was slogging through ice cold molasses in steel-toed boots that were three sizes too big!
The Voice continued to read each slide, and I began to wonder if my employer doubted its employees’ abilities to read. That recorded voice spoke like it was reading to a group of second graders at the public library. The Voice read so slowly and deliberately that I struggled to stay focused. Each session took approximately ninety minutes, but if I had been allowed to read the slides myself, I could probably have finished in under twenty minutes. However, if I tried to click ahead, the presentation stopped and The Voice said, “You can only view slides you have previously viewed.” What did that even mean? But it was all for the best. I mean, what would I have done with all that extra time if I finished early? Fix dinner? Go for a walk? Read a book? Clean a bathroom? Weed the garden? Maybe my employer knew better than I about time management and effective use of my time.
Every once in a while, just for kicks and giggles, The Voice changed to the Cecil B. DeMille voice of God from the Ten Commandments. Since the volume was turned up as instructed, that booming voice filled every crack and crevice in the room. The first time I heard it, I looked around to see if there was a burning bush somewhere.
To be fair, I learned a lot of things during my thirty-one and a half hours of training: After washing your hands with soap and warm water, the wet paper towels need to be properly disposed of in the garbage can and not tossed on the ceiling to see if they will stick. There is a specific protocol for removal of gloves that includes using one hand to remove the glove from the other hand. Who knew? If the “all of the above” option appeared on the quiz, it was always the correct answer. Each Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) has its own number and trying to memorize those numbers felt like cyphering Pi. Blood-borne pathogens are bad, bodily fluids should remain in their respective bodies, and all employees must abide by proper dress and grooming standards.
As a self-employed freelance writer and proofreader, it is no longer necessary to participate in those yearly mandatory molasses-slogging rituals. I don’t miss them. In fact, if someone told me I was once again obligated to turn up the volume, take notes, answer the questions on the quiz, and click “exit” when I finished, I would rather quickly be found traversing the highway in my steel-toed boots singing “We Shall Overcome” at the top of my lungs.
Charlene Paul and her husband Ken raised their family in Moapa Valley. She loves reading, writing, baking, crochet, and talking. She is the owner of Look on the WRITE Side, a freelance writing and proofreading company and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.