Watching “The Office” is often a cringe-inducing experience, but I think last night’s episode caused me more pain than any other I’ve seen.
Turns out that 10 years ago Michael promised a class of elementary school kids that if they graduated from high school, he would pay their college tuition. Now the kids are preparing to graduate and he has to tell them that he doesn’t even have the money to send one of them to college. After seven cancellations, Michael finally has to face the music and tell the kids that they’re out of luck.
He is greeted like a hero when he gets to the school, and as he makes his way to the kids’ classroom, he passes a door with a plaque outside that reads “The Michael Gary Scott Reading Room.”
When he reaches the class the kids have a song and dance prepared for him. In a nod to “Cops” the refrain is “Hey, Mr. Scott, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do? Make our dreams come true!”
Then a teacher gets up and talks about the empty promises of politicians and how Mr. Scott has really done something to help kids. “You have taught these kid that, with hard work, anything is possible,” she exclaims.
Michael knows all of the kids’ names and it becomes clear that he has been visiting them over the past 10 years. Yet at no point did he think to try and tell someone that he was highly unlikely to ever come up with the money necessary to fulfill his promise.
Finally, it’s Michael’s turn to take the podium. “Who here has done something stupid in their lives?” he asks, after saying how much the kids mean to him.
All of the kids raise their hands.
“Well, me too. I’ve done something stupid, which I would like to share. …” The bell rings, but Michael isn’t saved because it’s a double period. Then, after more blubbering, he finally spits it out: “I will not be able to pay for anybody’s tuition.”
The room goes silent.
“I’m so so sorry,” he says. As if that would make things OK.
Is that not one of the worst things you’ve ever heard?
Of course, Michael didn’t mean to disappoint the kids and let them down in such a grand and horrific manner. He thought that he’d be a millionaire by the time he was 30. When that didn’t work out he thought 35, and then 40. But at 40 he had less money than at 30.
I hope you’ve never met someone who over-promised in such a massive way, especially not to a bunch of children. But I bet you’ve met some chronic over-promisers in your life. When you encounter those people in the workplace, how does it impact you? Do they ever get punished for their shortcomings? Tell us about it here.
If you missed last night’s episode and are interested in inflicting some psychic pain on yourself, you can watch it online.
Image credit, NBC