Short Stories · The Awkward College Student

The Awkward College Student and the Sinking Ship (aka Group Project)

The meeting for this group project was like standing on the deck of the Titanic as it sunk into the depths of the ocean. Not to be overly dramatic, but there it is. So why the dismal outlook?

#1 We were leaderless. The self-proclaimed leader of this project from day one had dropped the class due to personal issues. From the start she had appointed herself leader, decided on the idea and scope of our project, delegated, managed and micromanaged down to the last detail.

#2 We were supposed to conduct research and analyze the results for a company. But our fearless leader had naturally selected a small organization that no one had heard of. And to this day none of us quite understood what it did, despite her extremely vague explanations that they “managed customer relations” or something like that.

#3 Two of my classmates in this group did not get along. And by “not get along” I mean they completely ignored each other. Did not utter one syllable. Wouldn’t even answer a question point blank uttered by the other. Do I know why they were this way? No. Did I care? To be honest….no. I just wanted them to get this blasted project done. Unfortunately this was not all we faced.

“Listen. We only have one week to finish this. So I think that …”

“I don’t even know why we’re doing this project” Sharry interjects suddenly.

I stop and stare. Now I’m trying to think up the reason behind this project, but at the moment it’s eluded me. All I care about it pulling this group together into some semblance of aptitude.

“Sharry, did you start the presentation last night?”

“There’s a presentation?”

“Yeah, I thought I told you about it? Kelly gave me all her notes before she left and I emailed them out to you yesterday.”

“You did? I don’t remember seeing anything.” Sharry scans her email “yeah nothing.”

“Dang it.” I see the email, unsent in my inbox. “Well there’s a presentation. So I guess we should delegate sections and work on them.”

“Guys I have to go pick up my dog from the vet in 15 minutes, so can you just email me what you need later?” Jack is already zipping up his backpack preparing to leave. Not that I expected much help from him anyways. He looks a little….bleary, either too little sleep or something else.

I look to Katherine, who’s texting someone on her phone. “What do you think?”

“Um whatever’s fine.”

Jack stares at me expectantly. And for the life of me I don’t know what to tell him. I’m struggling to pull my thoughts together and can barely get a handle on what I need to complete myself, much less someone else. Now here we are with a project half done, due next week and a presentation we haven’t even started on. I don’t know the company’s name, much less what they do.

“Well…” I sigh and pull up my computer and scan the syllabus. “So the syllabus says we need to provide background information on the company. Could you start with that? Maybe, or that looks like a lot. You could do the survey analysis too….” I remember that only one person has access to the survey “Never mind, I”ll have to do that because it’s under my username. Umm I”m not sure what else Kelly was working on in this doc. She had an idea for the presentation I think but I don’t know what it was so we need to come up with our own idea.”

“Guys,” Sharry’s voice is alarmed. “Kelly never sent out the survey. And she didn’t give us the name of her business contact.”

Which means we have nothing to present on. Nothing to analyze. This project has officialy sunk. Time for the lifeboats.

“Alright, I”ll call her then, and if we can’t find someone within the company to interview we need a backup. Ideas?”

Their faces are blank, and worried. Sharry looks up at the ceiling. Jack is staring back worried, I can tell he doesn’t have anything. Someone has to do something.

“That’s okay.” I reassure them. “I’ll figure something out tonight” And thus began the worst job of delegating in my life. At the end I have agreed to complete the tasks Jack and Sharry turned down. Katherine is working on a section. Jack has agreed to pick up his dog from the vet. Sharry will format the slides. And I am overwhelmed.

I guess I’ll be pulling some all-nighters the next couple of days….if only I knew how to delegate.

Shouldering my burden, I stare at the ground pass beneath my feet, out onto the wet pavement. It’s started to pour. Across the street I see the headphone guy shoulder his own burden before turning and disappearing into the night.

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