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  • can you fix me up with a part-time job? -Anything in particular that appeals to you? -I was rather hoping to find something in a school. -Have you done that kind of thing before?
  • Yes, I was doing the same job last summer.

The third line. When the speaker says," I was rather hoping...," I feel puzzled. Why the past tense? To say "I'm rather hoping" sounds OK to me.

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I agree with Bella Swan that the thought occurred to the speaker in the past, so this is part of the reason why the past progressive tense is used. I also think that “I was hoping” sounds more polite than “I am hoping”. I’m not sure why that is; maybe the past tense makes it less direct. People often say “I was wondering” in a similar way

I was wondering if you knew of any open jobs.

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Because he had been thinking about this for a while. Like, for a while he had been wanting to find something in school, and the idea of this did not occur to him just recently.
The present tense would have been okay too, though.

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