fred moten’s bad word

A few years ago I got the idea to work with Canadians who needed help with English. I assumed since I’m a fluent speaker and since earlier in life I had social service jobs, maybe I could be a capable volunteer. One day I noticed a place on Dufferin that seemed to be the kind of place that might want a volunteer like me and on their website I filled out the online application. Six months later got an email offering an interview.


Sitting there in their office, the woman who interviewed me had questions like why do you think you could do this, who do you think the people are that we work with, what sort of problems do you assume people have that require our assistance, how would you deal with conflict. I tried to answer honestly and convey an open mind about who their clients are but made it clear I wasn’t making any assumptions and as far as conflict, I would defer to their protocol about how to honour working in this environment. I thought my answers generally, were reassuring though I also noticed she never smiled or laughed with me. Then the interview concluded and she placed my application in one of two piles and said my pile was for applicants they are least interested in and she believed I had a problem with power and privilege, she looked on pityingly. I didn’t see any hidden cameras but I felt like a joke was being staged. Shortly, I understood she is telling me she believes I am an angry guy with an entitlement problem and if right now I complain that she’s nuts, it’ll only confirm her conclusion that I am a hostile dude who can’t handle not getting his way. I left extra politely, feeling like I just saw Andy Kauffman for the first time.


Later applied to volunteer doing ESL at Romero House which turned out pretty good but I never made sense out of that other experience. Since then I’ve met people who work in social services that told me part of the problem might have been my unfamiliarity with the lingo of that particular work culture. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. In one of the music courses I currently am studying, I sometimes see classmates triggered and rattled over words they don’t like. Not the actual content of the author’s ideas but their use of a certain word is what infuriates these students and fills them up with the confidence of someone who knocked back many shots at the bar and now declares how right they are by yelling about how wrong you are. Sometimes, it’s extra interesting when gender is discussed because the general consensus about binary limits placed upon sexuality plays out in people doubling down about who is right and who is wrong. And usually in the background one can hear might mouse singing here I come to save the day.

1 Comment

  1. That was Mighty Mouse? Thank you! I thought it was Superman or somesuch northern mountie. -Kate


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