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A Briefcase Full of Monkeys

I’m working in my office during the holiday break when a department head catches me.  “I saw your car,” she says, “and I thought this might be a good time to talk to you.”

This is most definitely NOT a good time to talk to me.  The reason I’m here during school break is to tackle some of the paperwork that accumulated during school time when I WAS talking to people. 

But whatever.  So she comes in, sits down, and opens her briefcase.  Out leap about a dozen monkeys, who scamper around my office, scattering papers, upending the furniture, and leaving fingerprints on my computer screen.  Monkeys  Each monkey is a problem in her department or in the school.  She describes them in detail:  There is the budget monkey, the lazy students monkey, the overworked monkey, the incompetent colleague monkey, the state test monkey, and several others. I listen and watch as the monkeys dance across my desk.

When she finishes, she snaps her  briefcase shut.  “Well,” she says, “I feel a lot better. Thanks for listening and taking care these issues.”  She heads out with an empty briefcase, leaving the monkeys behind.

I will spend the rest of the afternoon trying to catch and tame the monkeys.  An hour later I haven’t caught any of them.  I glance out the window and the department head is playing catch with her kids.

This is my own fault, I realize with chagrin.  Why didn’t I say, “Wait a minute.  The lazy students monkey belongs to you.  The overworked monkey is only your imagination.  I’ll take the budget monkey (I’ve seen him before), but the state test monkey is your responsibility”?  Next time, I think.  Next time she’ll have to take those monkeys with her when she leaves.


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