The Consultant

My appointment with the consultant was his first of the day, 8am, in the third floor conference room, the one with the overactive thermostat that was too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. It was July so I made sure to bring a cardigan sweater. I arrived early to the office, drank my coffee at my desk while reading my online horoscopes. At 7:57am, I walked up the three flights of stairs to the conference room.

I was not prepared to find an enormous cockroach seated uncomfortably at the table. I muffled an alarmed squeal and jumped back out of the doorway.

“Come in, come in,” said the cockroach. “I’m used to it. Take a seat. I don’t bite.” He sounded cheerful.

I stood with my back to the hallway wall, peered into the room and confirmed that a giant cockroach, indeed, sat at the table. Several hairy appendages, bent slightly at 45-degree angles, sifted through papers. He dipped one appendage at a time in his mouth to better separate the pages.

My boss had told us that he hired the consultant to analyze our development team and make recommendations to ensure our fund raising success. I was a major gift officer. Our campaign, “An Excellent Legacy,” was expected to raise $50 million dollars for the school, a prestigious preparatory program for girls.

The cockroach bowed his head toward the door. “Please, come in. We only have an hour and much to discuss.” I had no choice but to edge my way into the room and sit down at the opposite end of the table, clutching my notebook.

“First things first,” he said. “My name is Carlyle, not Gregor. Gregor is a character in Kafka’s Metamorphosis and most definitely not a cockroach. He was a big beetle. Ask Nabokov. Google it. I am a fund raising consultant with expertise in personality analysis for major gift officers. My job is to help you become a better you.”

“Excuse me?” No one mentioned anything about personality analysis.

“I specialize in reviewing skill sets, aligning them to campaigns. So, let’s talk about you. Do you enjoy your work?”

“I love my work.” Carlyle’s antennae whipped in different directions as I spoke, like a lie detector test analyzing my response. I nodded my head too enthusiastically. “I love my work.”

I couldn’t read his facial expressions but I suspected he was smirking. “In reviewing your reports, it appears that you brought in $2 million two years ago but then dropped to $1 million last year. Why is this?”

“I was taking care of my mother during the last few months of her life. I admit I was unfocused.” The past year had been difficult—I lost my mom to cancer and, after six months of little work and much grieving, my boss, the VP of development, told me to “snap out of it.”

“Ah, yes. Your VP indicated this death in the family. I had to care for my father for several years. Old age, really. I had to cook for him.”

I raised my eyebrows in surprise – a cooking, consulting cockroach.

Carlyle sensed my disbelief. “One shouldn’t make assumptions about what a cockroach can and can’t do. Do you make assumptions about your clients?”

“Of course not, no. I try not to. My apologies.”

“It’s all about warmth, don’t you think? If you are genuinely empathetic and care about your clients, they will trust you with their money.”

I tried to face Carlyle without flinching, focusing on his exposed dark, vested underside, hoping that this was not a faux pas. “Yes, this is true. The more frequently I visit with a prospect and get to know them, I find that it is easier to make ‘the ask’ and they are more likely to give.”

“Your Briggs Myers test suggests you are an INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging. You might be better suited doing research on prospects than actually meeting with them. Have you considered that?”

“Are you saying I should do something else?”

“Well,” Carlyle said, stroking the side of his head, “you wouldn’t have to leave the school. The fact of the matter is that soliciting donors isn’t part of your skill set.”

“OK, then. Perhaps I should go consider that.”

Carlyle nodded.

It was a Tuesday in July and the room was freezing and a giant cockroach just told me that I wasn’t suited for my job.


22 Comments The Consultant

  1. Beth June 24, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Ah yes, the so-called experts – they are often indeed cockroaches!:0))

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 24, 2015 at 3:20 am

      Exactly! Thanks for reading and commenting, as always, Beth. Much appreciated.

  2. wgr56 June 24, 2015 at 8:31 am

    That’s just sooo good!

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 24, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Awwww. Thank you! Really appreciate the read and comment.

  3. Jennifer G. Knoblock June 24, 2015 at 9:41 am

    Love this–the flicker of the absurd to underscore reality. :)

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 24, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      It is absurd! Had a little trouble sticking the landing. How does one leave a cockroach? It was fun to write and enabled some venting. ;) Thanks, Jennifer!

  4. shadowprancer June 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Haha, such a nice twist on taking a well-known character and giving a humorous clarification.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks! It was therapeutic.

  5. Stan Cornerstone June 25, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I love it but I feel less sorry for Gregor now, knowing there are other more synergistic cockroaches around.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Oh, I still feel sorry for Gregor. No one could understand him and he couldn’t speak. Poor guy. Thanks a bunch for reading and commenting, Stan. Please come back!

  6. innatejames June 25, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    hah! Cheerful cockroaches. But really what do cockroaches have to stress out about? They can eat on a granule of sugar for weeks and have little to no possibility of extinction.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      They would make perfect consultants. Thanks, Nate.

  7. Michael June 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Carlyle the Consulting Cockroach. I love this so much. I laughed aloud when he clarified the difference between him and Gregor from Kafka. I had mentally gone to Kafka at the start, and I loved that you dealt with that reference right off. Brilliant!

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Michael! I don’t know how to write humor so I’m glad it made you laugh. :)

  8. Natalie DeYoung June 25, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I am so in love with this story that I want to print it out and carry it around with me all day.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Awwww. This made me so happy. Thank you, sweetie.

  9. Kalpana solsi June 25, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Critical cockroach.

    Enjoyed your story.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. droidpat June 25, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    I felt as though the ending was frustrating in the character’s calm acceptance and departure. That is what left me loving this story! That is exactly how these kinds of things go for me. I walk away from critics–what else can I do?–and I spend hours revisiting the conversation in my head, wishing I had been witty enough to say this or that rebuttal that only just occurred to me hour too late. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      Yeah, that’s kinda how I imagined it. And also I couldn’t really figure out another way to end it! Thanks so much for commenting!

  11. Silverleaf June 25, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    This is the right attitude! I will have to start looking at those irritating, critical characters in my life as nothing but cranky cockroaches. What do they know anyway? Good fun, Meg!

    1. Avatar photoMeg June 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Yes, Silver! They are cockroaches. :)


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