I’ve always been the kind of girl who follows the rules. I always did my homework. I always listened in class. I always came home on time. I rarely gave my parents any grief. Of course there were a few screaming fits with my mother in my early teens that ended with me getting my ponytail yanked and getting some privileges taken away. But, for the most part, I never strayed far from the path. I remember being in high school, taking an exam in my French class. I was so innocently involved in the exam that I didn’t notice that the entire room was actually involved in a huge cheating chain. Imagine my surprise when everyone got an A on that exam but me. Clueless.
But, I can’t say that it didn’t benefit me to follow the rules. I cut class only once in my high school career, towards the end of my senior year. I didn’t even do anything scandalous with my time. I think I just sat in the lunch room for an additional period. I received a detention and when I walked into the room with my detention slip, the Assistant Principal laughed and said, “Melissa Sarno? I’ve never seen you in here before. Go home.” One other time, I had some brat in my gym class begin harassing me. I might be innocent, but I don’t take lightly to people getting in my face. I believe my exact words were: “F&%k off you little b^&ch” Of course, this got me sent straight to the Assistant Principal’s office where she laughed and said, “Melissa Sarno? What did that girl say to set you off? You go back to gym class and send that one back to me!” So, being a goody-two-shoes can have it’s perks.
When I applied for an internship in college, I remember getting an interview and being told to respond to a specific e-mail with a writing sample or information of some kind. I responded directly to the e-mail I received (not the one specified). I was told that I couldn’t follow instructions and that they weren’t interested in interviewing me. And that this was a ‘lesson’ perhaps more valuable than the internship itself.
Maybe it was. I tend to do fairly well in my professional and personal life. And, ya know, I stay out of jail. It also means I’m an excellent query-sender, quadruple checking guidelines and following instructions like it’s my job. So, you can imagine my surprise when I made a pretty big omission in my latest submission (An omission in the submission. Conjunction junction, what’s your function? )
I did not take well to this. I remembered that honorable C on my French exam. Not one, but two, free passes from the assistant principal. The fatal error that kicked me out of the running for the internship. No! I prided myself on being the one to do it right. That’s my shtick. That’s my gig. Not following the rules? Not reading the instructions? I actually began to cry. Head buried in the bed and everything. (Oh, Tyler, you’re a saint.) Yes, I’m that crazy. But I didn’t know where to go, what to do? What are the rules when you forget to follow the rules? I frantically admitted to my mistake, sending a kind of sickeningly-professional e-mail to an unsuspecting literary agent’s assistant (oh this poor dear child). And the response?
“No worries. Happens all the time.”
If you need me, I’ll be in therapy for the next 5 years.