A Shrinking World

mattingOnce I chose to pursue architecture as a profession, I began looking for any related job to get me started. Architecture firms weren’t interested in hiring high school students, but I did find a job listing for a local company that specialized in building scale models for architects. In spite of my young age, I figured that my experience with graphics and architectural drafting would give me an advantage over most people that would pursue this part-time, low-paying assembly job.

Sure enough, upon submitting my resume, I promptly received a request for an interview. I wasn’t particularly nervous about the process. I was quite confident in my skills. My conversation with the owner of the company went very well. Upon determining that I was a perfect fit to what they were looking for, he was anxious to show me the workroom.

It was a large space. On tables throughout the room, models in various stages of development were being assembled by attentive, mostly older workers. The people doing this work did not have the appearance of doing so out of a passion for their industry. For them, it was just a job.

For me, it would be more than a job. It would be the first step on an exciting path into architecture. I arrogantly assumed that I would be able to do the job better than most. This had been true of the other jobs I’d had so far.

Each table was lined with bins containing carefully organized supplies. There was a fascinating array of materials used to simulate soils, shrubs, trees, building materials, vehicles, and people. The soils bin contained dozens of textures and shades. I asked, “How do you know which one to use?”

He said, “See here, the drawing specifies the color and texture.”

I said, “Wow, that will take me awhile to come up to speed.”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m colorblind, so I’ll need to figure out some kind of cross referencing system.”

He pointed to a bin with compartments containing a variety of granules and asked me, “Which one of those would you choose for grass?”

I responded honestly, “I don’t know. They all look gray to me.”

In an instant, his enthusiasm shifted to grim resignation. He tried to sound sympathetic when he said, “Wayne, I’m sorry to say this, but there’s no way you’d be able to work here. Almost every task requires some degree of color matching. The trees, lawns, siding… well, they all require decisions based upon color.” He walked me to the door and wished me good luck.

I was in shock. In every job over my short career, I had been enthusiastic, efficient, and professional. Whether it was gardening, hauling, janitorial work, deliveries, or drawing, I had stood out. I considered no task as being below me. I performed all of them with pride and efficiency that went above and beyond that of most others.

Yet, there I was, standing outside the building, rejected for something beyond my control… wondering how many similarly invisible obstacles were in my future.

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