A 6:15 am phone call jolts me out of a sound sleep. On the line a recording offers me the assignment. No need to jot down details. I simply need to accept or reject it.
I never know who I will become, which skills to draw from my repertoire, or how long an assignment lasts.
I can decline, but they need me. If I accept, I'm committed for the duration.
Sometimes I need to bring snowshoes.
Remembering the voice, my mind runs a checklist:
- Proper clothes;
- First aid kit;
There's more: laptop, cell phone, pencils, pens, tablet, food and drink. Most of these items are already in my canvas backpack.
Sometimes my adventures require something additional. At times, I need my skis or snowshoes. Today I need my GPS locator.
I need to know current events and I often speak French. I have to use an interpreter when speaking with individuals from Ghana, El Salvador and Vietnam.
Occasionally my work sends me into situations that are downright dangerous.
Some say I have a thankless job. Though no one in the business would say it. I never completed an assignment without at least one person thanking me.
Someone knows I'm here!
I pull into a parking lot near today's target. The sight of another car in the lot tells me that someone else is already there. Ally, or adversary?
The building's back door is open. I sneak in early enough to avoid the throngs of people that will be here soon.
I attach an ID badge to my collar—my alias today. Then I sprint the stairs two-at-a-time to find the room detailed in the instructions.
The phone rings. Someone knows I'm here!
It's a field worker on my team. She lets me know she's here to help. We synchronize our watches and agree to meet at an appointed time so I can report my details.
This one's holding back!
By 10 am I question 25 people individually. One of them three times. I expect more from her. She hasn't really answered me. She's holding something back.
On my fourth attempt, I ask a question that can't be answered with a simple "yes," "no," or shake of her head.
Before she can answer, a friend of hers grabs my arm, and says, "Excuse me, but you must know by now, Miranda doesn't speak."
That's okay. It's clear she understands me. I'm confident I can elicit responses from her today. I observe how well she compensates.
I'm impressed! It never occurred to me that she's nonverbal.
I should've noticed earlier. I must be losing my edge.
At 11:30 am, I switch locations. I make progress with a new group. One person proves vital to the mission at hand. I let him know I respect what he's offered.
By 3:30 pm I've been lied to, tricked by twins swapping identities, warned my car may have been tampered with, and subjected to a bomb threat.
I'm drained. But I learned more than I thought I would and I managed to do some good today.
Just another day at the office
As I leave the building, I stop at the principal's office to ask if they need me to substitute again tomorrow. He thanks me for coming, and tells me the regular teacher is returning.
Better get some good sleep tonight. I'll probably be in kindergarten tomorrow!
by Nancy Hoene