I Am Feeling Fairly Smug

Today we had the sort of weather for which Minnesota is not famous: sunny, breezy and warm-yet-not-too-warm. I took advantage of it by slipping into my new stripy cardigan and strolling across campus to Onestop. On the way I saw university police officers rolling past on their bicycles and thought to myself that maybe I would just be arrested once I set foot in Frasier Hall.

I called my mom to arrange backup. I went so far as to tell her the room number in the building and where she could park. If I had to call in an airstrike I might be too upset to coordinate those details. She understood her assignment.

I had receipts and paperwork in my bag alongside my laptop so I could get on the internet in case of last minute research needs, but I entered Frasier Hall as though operating my body by remote control. I fell to my new visualization strategy: Ocean Beach, with the cold waves rolling up in endless succession. My mind’s eye wobbled and the whooshing seemed distant, but I could still feel the warm sun on my core.

“I’m here to see Randy,” I said to the first person whose attention I caught. The long counter was lightly staffed and no one was waiting. A few people sat filling out paperwork in random chairs, but they made no sound. I imagined which ones would hear raised voices if such an outcome were to arise. I remembered that I had all the correct paperwork and then pictured the deep blue of water thousands of miles from where my feet were walking.

“He’s in there,” the man replied, gesturing towards a cluster of high-walled, free-standing cubicles. The sign said “Veterans,” but I ignored that. Public servants (including myself) work wherever they are dumped. I entered the labyrinth, unwinding twine as I went, but it took only two turns before I encountered the Minotaur.

“MMMMmrmrrMRRRRRRGHHHGGGGHHHHHAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!” he bellowed, stamping his foot and tossing his horns. He gripped his halberd and narrowed his eyes.

“Hi, I’m here to see Randy,” I said. He recognized me immediately — probably from my photo on the University directory. We shook hands and he seated me across his slightly scrambled desk.

“If you want your money, you have to beat me in the game of my choice,” he said. He pulled an ancient chess set out of a drawer and began setting up strange pieces carved from ebony and ivory into the shapes of unspeakable monsters and demons. “We play for your VERY SOUL!

Actually, he told me that the paperwork that I had brought was not necessary, and that everything had been miraculously worked out without further intervention from me.



How did that happen? Suddenly, a week and a half later, they figure out that they can take care of me as though I were valuable. I would more readily believe the minotaur thing, except that I have new paperwork in my bag signing me up for more of something. Relief, I guess, and none too soon, because my final was only yesterday. Oh! It was yesterday. I think that I did all right, but again, it would have been nice to have had this whole aid thing settled last week.

“We’re all college graduates here,” said Randy at one point, which led me to believe that he was trying to defend himself and his coworkers from my blogged accusation that they are either incompetents or conspiring against me. If we take his word to overturn the former, I’m afraid that we are left with the latter, and I’d hate to think that of anyone. I’d rather assume that they failed to understand that when an error occurs that affects three students out of the student body, those three students deserve careful, specific attention. I asked about the other two students — apparently they’re both fine, so really it was just me.

As I was walked out, I told Randy that today he had exceeded my expectations. We already had a partial solution and plan of action (which we only came to on Tuesday, right before my final), but he tracked people down and found a different answer that should keep me out of danger altogether.

“Every day until today, you had not met my expectations,” I continued. “…but that’s water under the bridge now.”

I didn’t shake his hand when we parted. He finally did the job of his department.

What would I like to see in the future? If you are a front line staffer for Onestop and you just don’t know, please escalate the issue to someone who does know. If you encounter a question or problem that you haven’t seen before, check your work, either while performing it or afterwards. That first person would have said “that very late adjustment is quite unusual, and I do not know why they would be adjusting your Fall awards nine months after you received them — let me find the right people to answer your question, or maybe you should come in. Can you come in?”

The person with whom I discussed the penalties for late payment and when the deadline was for paying back the new amount of money, did not clearly explain the problem, saying that I would be “dropped from my classes” when the bill became overdue. She then gave me the wrong due date (June 4th), because that was the next billing cycle. I received a physical letter a day or two later saying that my account was already overdue and that I had to pay immediately or face unspoken consequences. The person who sent me that letter did not return my phone call (placed minutes after I received the letter).

If you’re going to demand my attention, I want yours, too, collections department. If you’re going to tell me that I can be dropped from my classes, you’d better be right, Onestop.

After that letter I was trying very hard not to panic, but I was a mess for days. At this point I was really despairing, and the nonchalant attitude of Onestop wasn’t helping. Sarcasm buffered my stress tolerance, but I was nearly shaking after talking to Randy the first time. I told him that it was an emergency and stressed that I was stressed.

I already berated him for not calling back sooner than he did, and I stand by that. It doesn’t matter if you can give accurate estimates or not — if you don’t have the information, give me a new estimate before the old one is past. That’s customer service.

Yes, everything is sorted out now, and for that I am grateful, but up to that point my case was consistently mishandled, and for that everyone associated should be ashamed of themselves. What I really want is an apology from a provost on paper.

“Dear Jesse Mullan,

We are deeply saddened that your account was mishandled and you received misinformation. Please accept our apologies. We value your attendance at the University of Minnesota and hope that you continue to do business with us.

Sincerely Yours,

Rubber Stamped Signature Person”

I would frame that and hang it over my toilet.

4 Responses to “I Am Feeling Fairly Smug ”

  1. Hear hear!! John says, “Bravo, well written!”

    By the way, my AC-130 gunship was on orange alert, locked and loaded. I’ll stand down now.

  2. Stan and I were on pins and needles as soon as I knew you were in that damned meeting. I am personally very sorry that you had to go through that. Life is hard enough without OneStop’s random kicks in the head.

  3. But did you get him to sign in BLOOD? Hell, I figure if it can work for Rob Ruinits, it’ll work for you, too.

    Glad everything is okay. You didn’t deserve any of this stress, and I hope you can breathe a little more easily now. Now you can look forward to after your graduation, when the University will send you alumni-fund letters BEGGING for your money, rather than demanding it.

  4. Yes… send them an alumni donor check, and then 9 months later call and tell them you’re gonna need that money back.

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