Monthly Archives: August 2013

10 Things I Actively Worry About When Flying

I’m flying out in a few hours, so for this week’s post, I give you – 10 Things I Actively Worry About When Flying!

1) Terrorists

2) Being mistaken for a terrorist and getting a body-cavity search from a TSA agent named Gertrude

3) Crashing

4) Ending up on Lost island (but not with the fun group – with the tail section survivors where I have to listen to Ana-Lucia constantly reassert her Alpha status)

Ugh. Obnoxious.

5) Crashing

6) A Langoliers scenario. (“they’re going to chew your eyes right out of your head Craigy Weggy!”)  This clip is even more amazing if you imagine that everyone is actually horrified, not by monsters, but at the stunningly terrible quality of the mid-90’s television CGI.  (“What the hell are those?” They’re relics of low-budget computer animation, David Morse.  Just look away!)

Here’s the magic.

7) Crashing

8) Contracting MRSA from one of those disease-ridden airplane blankets the flight attendants distribute with plastered smiles.  It’s the same look I imagine on the British soldiers’ faces as they handed out smallpox blankets to the Delawares.

Sh-sh-sh. No tears now. Only MRSA.

9) Crashing

10) The pressure changes of flying causing my appendix to burst.  Apparently this isn’t a real thing, but it’s a thing I worry about nonetheless.  Once I took a trip to India and one of the girls I was traveling with got appendicitis shortly after our arrival.  She had to have her appendix removed in an Indian hospital and the doctor actually brought her appendix out to the waiting room to show the other girls who were waiting there for her.  Did you read that?  Let me repeat it.  HE BROUGHT HER MOTHER EFFING APPENDIX OUT TO THE WAITING ROOM! I wasn’t there, but I imagine it went like this, but with an appendix instead of a heart.  Anyway, for whatever reason, ever since then I worry that being on an airplane will make my appendix burst.

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“That’s Good”

It’s the end of the summer semester for me, which means that I’m so excited I could pretty much do anything, including this:

(At 0:45 – come on mustache, get it together already)

Jeffrey Vandiver, you majestic s.o.b.

Everyone starts a semester so optimistically with brand new pens that still have their caps and perfectly organized three-ring binders.  By the end of the semester I have the optimism of something half-dead dragged out of a storm drain.  Also, I have one pen to my name and I fashioned it out of  a sharp stick dipped in the tears of my students.  Those quirks that made my students unique and fun in the first week now make me cringe like the sound of a woman scratching her pantyhose (shiver).

I will also be grateful to stay off the bus for a week (some guy sneezed on my back yesterday and unfortunately I don’t have a cat o’ nine tails or any hydrochloric acid to slough the contaminated skin from my back).  I will not miss the nervous sweat that makes me smell like a hobo every time I teach.  In short, once I submit my final grades and get all my materials arranged for next semester, I’m going to try to think about my job as little as possible for the rest of the week.  I’m going to dip my brain in the warm fondu of bad television and marinate in juices of idleness.

It’s going to be glorious.

However, almost everything I post on here is negative (you guys have probably already written letters to Amnesty International on behalf of my students), so I thought I’d share something positive today.  In spite of a few degenerates who caused me to consider what it might feel like to stick my face in a blender, I was actually pretty luck to have some great students this semester.

One student in my 102 class was actually a former 101 student of mine who barely managed to scrape a passing D in that class.  She seemed like a very bright and capable writer – when she actually did her work (which wasn’t often) and showed up to class.  This semester, she came to almost every class, completed almost every assignment and finished up the semester with a B+ (borderline A-).  I assumed that, like many of my community college students, last semester had been filled with work difficulties or home-life issues that pulled her away from the classroom and that this semester those issues had been resolved.  I had almost forgotten about the e-mail I sent her, but she didn’t.  A few days ago she sent me an e-mail which said the following:

Last semester I was the epitome of a lazy student . . . I skipped class on multiple occasions to get sleep, I did poorly on my papers, I avoided peer revision and I honestly don’t recall doing any assignments. That all changed for me the night before the beginning of this semester.  You sent me an e-mail that said, “I know you are capable of much more than a D.  You are a strong writer, so I hope you will be able to push yourself to complete all your assignments (and on time) this coming semester.  I know you can do it!”  That was all the motivation I needed for this semester.

It didn’t seem like much to me when I sent that e-mail (although I did mean it), but it meant something to her – enough that she was able to completely turn her academic performance around this semester.  So I guess I’m pretty much Mother Teresa guys.

Another student, an ESL student from Korea, also e-mailed me:

I still can’t believe that English class could be my favorite class, because I hated English class since 9th grade, first time I came to United States. I learned about the ‘Beowulf’ in my first year, of course, I didn’t understand single word from it. And my first assignment came back with lots of red marks and big F on the top, so you can imagine how awful I felt and how much I hated English class. . . But in your class, I felt more comfortable because you tried to understand the meaning behind the words, try to encourage foreign student like me.

Poor chump, reading Beowulf as a non-native English speaker in his first English class ever – no wonder he hated it!  So at least I was able to help him hate English class a little less.

I had another student who wrote her first essay draft without forming a single grammatically correct sentence (all fragments and run-ons), and ended the semester getting an A- on an essay that contained no run-on sentences.

I still remain shocked that was able to motivate or help these students so much.  Most of the time, I feel completely lost in front of the classroom.

Like this guy.

Yet somehow, despite my scatter-brained, sweaty, anxiety-ridden efforts, I was able to help some people this semester, and that assuages some of the doubts that frequently creep into my mind about whether or not I should even be a teacher.

I had so many students who were good, decent, honest, driven people I’d like to take out for a beer sometime.  I was able to help some of them.

Sometimes my job sucks.  Truly (madly, deeply).

Other times it doesn’t.

Still, I’m going on vacation in a few days, and I will try to forget about all the crazies, d-bags and Chad McFrats for a while.  Instead, I will spend my time worrying that this is the captain of my plane,

that I’m going to end up on Lost island with crazy Claire’s creepy animal-bone baby and her mangled tarantula hair, 

and digging my fingernails several inches into the arm of the person sitting next to me.

Valentines to My Students

I know it’s not Valentine’s Day (a holiday I usually skip altogether anyway), but as my summer classes wind down and I prepare for fall, I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish I could say to my students past and present.  Also, I’m tired, so I’m going to give you shiny things to look at.  So here they are.  Love letters to my students.

To the students who say “I don’t understand why you gave me a bad grade.  I mean, I always got B’s in my last English class” and then refuse to help themselves improve on the premise that am the reason they are not succeeding:

To the arrogant, know-it-all students who let everyone know that they are ‘too good for this class’ by repeatedly questioning any piece of information I provide and, once in a blue moon, actually manage be right about something:

To the students who e-mail me. Constantly.  On my days off.  To ask me questions.  About things that aren’t important or that they should already know.

To the students whose essays are so terrifyingly bad that they are almost unreadable:

To the students who never shut up during class:

To the students who try to undermine my status as the classroom’s foremost authority on English:

Also,

This.

To the students who interrupt my precious between-class moments (where I try to shovel some food in my face, do some deep-breathing exercises and massage my twitching eye) to interact with me:

To the students who insist on telling me WAY too much about their personal lives (baby daddies, explosive diarrhea, weird rashes, drug relapses):

To that one snake-nosed, evil she-demon who was openly insubordinate and antagonistic toward me one semester, who gave me panic attacks, who caused me to feel actual hatred for another human being:

Don’t forget I’m a bad muthaf*cka.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I wish I could be a teaching combo of Ron Swanson, April Ludgate, Enid Coleslaw and Samuel L. Jackson.

Sincerely.

Turtle Envy

I’m jealous of turtles and hermit crabs.

I think I’ve already established that teaching turns me into a veritable Sonic-the-hedgehog spinning ball of anxiety.  Whenever hermit crabs and turtles feel stressed out, they can retreat into their shells and nobody says boo (except, of course, for that one douche kid that has to jam a stick in there or shake the poor critter until it dies, like this mutant…

However, I think if I turtled up in the middle of my classroom floor, my students might draw some unfair conclusions about my life choices and mental health.

Still, sometimes life gives me turtle envy.

For example, I had to make like a Liz Lemon and run away from the Redbox kiosk yesterday because there were youths standing in line behind me and it stressed my shit out.

Like this.

My husband replied, “Just imagine what your life would be like if you had real problems.”  Then, he had a real problem when I pulled out my toothbrush shiv (which I carry for just such occasions) and jammed it into his eye socket.

Anyway, because I’m a teacher, I’m poor, and because I’m poor, I often use the bus to get to work, and because I use the bus, I often arrive at work sweaty and exhausted and shell-shocked (heh) because, as we all know, if there is any situation that will soothe social anxiety it is cramming a nutjob into an enclosed space with fifty other nutjobs who smell of beer and sadness.

This post isn’t strictly about teaching, but it is about why, when I finally get to work on some days, I am already 5,000% over it.

Let me just explain to you some of the exciting opportunities public transportation offers:

1)      The chance to meet exciting new people!

A few weeks ago, I heard a man behind me having a phone conversation.  It sounded something like this:  “Carol, you’ve had a bad year Carol.  I’m sorry Carol.  You’ve had a bad year Carol.  You’ve had a bad year Carol.  Carol, you’re not well Carol.  I’m sorry Carol.”  I thought it was a pretty strange and redundant conversation.  Carol seemed to need a lot of reminders that she’d had a bad year, and I began to think she might be a little crazy.  I started to feel a little annoyed and wished he would call Carol back later rather than forcing everyone on the bus to hear his loud and repetitive conversation – until I stood up to exit the bus and realized the man was not talking into a phone at all.  He was talking to nobody.  Dude was having a Jon Nash (as interpreted by Russell Crowe) level meltdown.

Nothing to see here folks.

He’s got it all figured out.

Then I felt very sad.  I hope he’s ok.  I hope he’s not digging invisible implants out of his arm, or kidnapping some lady who resembles the invisible (or perhaps deceased) Carol.

On a lighter note, one day as I waited for the bus, a young lady was screaming obscenities into her phone, most of which I do not wish to repeat here.  I believe her baby-daddy had cheated on her, and she was letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that she was upset by saying, “Snort the s**t off my a**   ni**a!” over and over, along with “I’m fin-a make you [perform a sex act on me] b***!” (I provided my own version of her words inside the brackets because typing out what she really said made me blush).

I mightn’t have been so bothered by her colorful tirade (after all, I learned some terrific new insults and threats to use in my next altercation – I might not even need to break out the shiv) had there not been a young girl, no older than ten, standing close by.

This might have bothered me even less had the little girl not been her daughter.

Another time, I heard a young lady tell her friend, “I mean, I know I ain’t no bottom bitch but I ain’t no dumb bitch!”  And, according to my extensive research on prostitution from an episode of South Park I watched one time in which Butters inadvertently becomes  a pimp, a bottom bitch is a pimp’s best prostitute.

Do you know what I am saying?

Do you know what I am saying?

Oh, another time a nice senior citizen felt the need to tell me about her colposcopy.  She seemed lonely, so I smiled, nodded and asked general questions in all the right places.  I felt bad for her and nauseated all at the same time (a mixture of pity and nausea peppered with annoyance is pretty much standard operating procedure on the bust most of the time).

Sometimes, I’d really like to get these words tattooed across my face:   “Please, for the love of Shiva, the last thing on Earth I want right now is for you to talk to me, so please, let’s both pretend I’m not even here.”  However, I think that might hurt and would limit my employment opportunities.

2)       The opportunity to savor the exotic fragrances of your city.

Have you ever wondered what it smells like when a man has consumed so much alcohol before noon that he begins to excrete it from his pores?  If you ride the bus, you won’t wonder anymore.

Urine.

Vomit.

Dank bud.

Cologne.

Body odor.

Mickey D’s.

Halitosis.

The subtle blending of all these scents will curl delicately around your nose-hairs and induce feelings you’ve never dreamed of (because if you did, you would wake up in a puddle of vomit).

3)      The opportunity to experience unsolicited live entertainment.

One time, a man stood near the entrance to the bus and periodically burst out into loud renditions of this song – but only the chorus.  I was doubly impressed that A) He actually remembered mid-90’s tweeny R&B gem and B) That he was kind enough to serenade the rest of us with it.

He was actually kind of my hero.

Nobody said a word about it.

One day, even though there were two completely vacant benches on either side of me at the bus stop, two young girls, approximately 16 – 17, with babies strapped to their chests, sat down right next to me.  The gentleman accompanying them stood beside the bench and joked around with them.  My thought process:  “Oh man, they’re really close to me.  Too close.  This is making me uncomfortable.   They’re being loud too.  I want to move to that other bench, but if I do that, they might think I’m rude.  I’d better just sit here and pretend to be a mannequin or a corpse.”  When one of the girls laughed at the gentleman for doing something (I have no idea what he did – I was trying way too hard to mentally escape with Gene Wilder into a land of pure imagination – why were they so close to me?) he accused them of disrespecting him.  Then he sang this song, loudly, through a mouth stuffed full with the cheese conies he was eating out of a styrofoam box:

He wasn’t worried about nothing, and he let me know, over and over, for about ten minutes until the bus arrived.

4)      The opportunity to be touched by people.

People will touch you, probably (hopefully) not on purpose, but they will touch you.

Like this:

So, I suppose what I’m saying is – unless you have to, don’t ride the bus.

Well, unless, of course, you can hook up with Ms. Frizzle and take an educational LSD trip on the Magic School Bus.

In an octopus's garden in the shade.  Totally lucid.

Totally lucid.

Because this, unfortunately, is accurate:

I need to invest in an invisibility cloak.