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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Little boys’ room

I had spent our first months in Canada sending out resuumés. So many, that I lost count. They either vanished into a black hole, or I got the standard, polite response: I was over-qualified for the position I was applying for.

In the beginning, it was an ego boost. I was over-qualified! Meaning there were bigger and better opportunities just waiting for me. I reworked my resumé and sent out more, with renewed enthusiasm. Same result. Soon, the reality sank in. With no ‘Canadian experience’ I was not qualified for any job.

It was a dark period and I was questioning my sanity for having uprooted the family to move to Canada when I got the first positive response. An insurance company was looking for sales people and the manager invited me to meet him at his office.

Anxious not to be late, I arrived far too early and spent close to an hour at a nearby coffee shop before walking up to the office.

A receptionist asked me to wait while she called the manager.

“He’ll be out in a few minutes,” she told me with a smile, and asked me to help myself to coffee set out on a table.

I waited. And then waited some more, beginning to worry. Had the manager changed his mind? Was this how it worked in Canada? They made you wait until you got the message that they didn’t want you? It sounds really silly now, but when one is insecure, all kinds of thoughts come to mind.

In what seemed like an eternity, but was in reality only a few minutes, a very genial man came out and greeted me by name.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” he said. “My last meeting ran a little longer than expected and then I ran into the little boys’ room before we began our meeting.”

Little boys’ room? In the office? Were people allowed to bring kids to work? Was a baby-sitter available on the premises?

He was walking ahead and I followed, eager to make polite small talk.
“How many kids do you have?” I ventured.

He looked surprised.

“None. Not married! Why do you ask?”

Now I was more confused than ever. No kids. So what was he doing in the little boys’ room?

“Oh. Because you said something about little boys...” I blurted out.
He looked completely blank for a moment.

“The little boys’ room? That’s a euphemism for the washroom, toilet,” he explained.

Seeing my embarrassment, he said, “Not to worry. It’s a new expression for you. It’s good to learn something new, eh!”

That faux pas worked as an icebreaker and I relaxed. The interview went well and I was told my experience at a major pharmaceutical company in India was something that would come in handy in this line.

I got the job!

But even today, Matt will sometimes pass me in the corridor, give me a friendly punch on the shoulder and ask, “Hey Anand, headed to the little boys’ room?”
– Anand Rao

Posted: Apr 2, 2012

May 2020

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