She really hated group work. “It will be invaluable experience when you enter the working world,” was the famous line quoted by many a professor. Still, she hated it. This class fell outside of her major. It was more of an elective for her. Something she thought would look good on a resume when it came time to write one up. But she knew no one sitting around her. At least, not very well. Familiar faces, but strangers, all of them.
Names were being called, students were standing up, shuffling around the room, trying to find the other members of their group. The guy sitting right behind her was in her group so they sat while the other two guys swivelled desks around to face each other. T, the one behind her, seemed pretty intelligent, but pretty quiet. G appeared to be half asleep most of the time. B, he seemed pretty reserved. Immediately, B began taking notes for the group. She was surprised by his insistence - normally people asked her to take the notes.
As the weeks wore on, the project presentation date approached. A meeting was scheduled for the four of them to begin the preliminary work on their case assignment. She looked around on the internet, frustrated by the lack of information she was able to find. But she printed out what she could and brought it with her. They met at a table near the front of the library. She brought her book, notes, case assignment and research. No one was surprised that G didn’t show up. The three of them read through the case assignment, lightly discussed the topic and how they might split up the work. She presented her findings on the internet with a precursory statement about how she was unsatisfied with the material but couldn’t find anything better. The two read her findings very quietly and then looked at her. One asked where she found all that and she told them the internet. She was surprised that they seemed impressed. Moreover, she was silently pleased that they knew she was going to bear her weight of the burden without complaint. She wasn’t a freeloader.
More meetings were held in the weeks to come. The night before the presentation, T’s girlfriend had some kind of health emergency. G was still a no show. She knew the majority of the prep work would fall on her and B’s shoulders. That evening they met in the computer lab and began assembling various things to use as visual aids. They discussed the presentation - assigning who would do what. They typed up labels for the required posters. They remarked how frustrating group work was because their individual grade rested on pretty shaky ground unless they did more than their fair share of the work. Grades were important to her. And apparently, to Be as well. Whatever it took to get an A, that’s what they were willing to do.
They went back to her apartment to put the finishing touches on the posters. As they glued pieces to the posterboard, B told her about his family. He was one of five children. She told him about hers and where she was from. He had noticed the ring on her finger and she told him about the guy she was going to marry. Her roommate sat at the table, watching them work and conversing pleasantly with them. It didn’t seem like work. It just seemed like something to do - something to take care of while they chatted.
And through it all, there was an unspoken appreciation. She was glad he was there to help. Because it was clear the other two wouldn’t. He was glad she was a hard worker. Because that was a quality he hadn’t expected. They wanted a good grade. He, because he hated doing anything less than perfect. She, because it wasn’t a required course but something she was genuinely interested in and wanted to reference someday.
The day came. He wore a shirt and tie. She wore a skirt and blouse. The other two members of the group managed to show up and not embarrass the group. The presentation went off without a hitch. They had met all the requirements and covered the case in detail. The final grade would show the work of two people, but it was a cost they were willing to pay. At least it was over.
They didn’t know - the two of them - that it really wasn’t over. No, in fact it was just the very beginning. The beginning of a story neither of them ever would have written, but one worth remembering.