Monday, 16 September 2013

Overheard - I wonder who this woman was.

I don't know who she was talking to.  I do know it was a woman I could occasionally hear on the other end of the phone call.  The young woman sitting on the tram was apologising and acknowledging her mistakes repeatedly - in a really loud voice.

There was a story about a Serbian woman whose husband had died. His car was now to be transferred into the daughter's name. The girl on the phone had incorrectly advised that they needed to have a roadworthy inspection completed. She'd given this advice in a letter she had written. She admitted that when she looked over the letter again, the key paragraph was unintelligible - she didn't even know what it meant.

This young woman had owned her mistake to anyone who would listen.  (And everyone else in the train carriage - she had a very loud voice.)  Someone called Rob was going to be really angry and she wasn't sure what else she could have done.

She told the woman on the other end of the phone: "I make mistakes.  I do.  I do make mistakes.  I know that I do.  Everyone needs to know this."

Then:  "I don't know who to ask for help.  I've been teaching myself.  I have been.  But clearly I don't know everything that I need to teach myself."

And: "Maybe I shouldn't just write letters and send them out.  Maybe I need to write it and then read it again before I send them.  Maybe I should even wait until the next day to read them before I send them out.  I keep making these mistakes."

The young woman had her back to me so I couldn't see her facial expression.  She sounded sincere, but she also sounded like she was signing her execution warrant.  I couldn't tell how old she was either.

"Clearly the problem hasn't just gone away because now the son is coming in with his mother on Friday!"  She sounded alarmed.

I wondered where this woman worked - a law firm? a government department?  She is either not very smart, but very sincere, or very inexperienced and unsupported in her work place.  The fact that she's prepared to say "I made a mistake" is in her favour, but I wondered at her ability to correct mistakes and avoid making the same ones again.  Has she perhaps mistakenly decided that honesty is all that's needed and application to avoid mistakes in the first place is secondary.

I wondered about the Serbian family being put through unnecessary bureaucratic processes and expense.

I wondered about the need to discuss all of this at the top of her lungs on a busy train.

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