Monthly Archives: September 2013

I’m Trying to Think of A Sufficiently Awkward Title…

Hi everybody!  How are you today?

That’s how I begin every class session.  It’s not unique, but I really am curious.  The way my students respond gives me useful information about how I need to posture myself that day.  Some days I have a class full of this:

Other days my students make Lurch

look like Fraulein Maria frolicking merrily in the hills of Austria.

I can work with Buddy the Elf.  I can work with Lurch.  I mostly know how to tone it down or play it up to suit the majority mood of the class, but sometimes my students are impossible to read.

They are platypuses.  They are processed American food slices.  They are Juggalos.

In other words, they are mystifying to me, and I don’t know what to do with them.

Her belt buckle. I can’t even…

Wha. . .? Chicken? I don’t even . . .

This Juggalo tattooed his clown paint TO HIS FACE.

By the way, in case you forgot this song existed or have never been exposed to it before, you’re welcome (I’m sorry).  The first time I heard “Miracles” by Insane Clown Posse, I was convinced it was a brilliant piece of self-deprecating satire commenting on the lyrical inanity of popular music.  Alas, it was not.  Alas.

Anyway, this week my students were straight-up Juggalos and Juggalettes.  I could almost see the traces of face paint clinging to their shirt collars.  I could smell the Faygo on their breath.  It was confusing for all of us.

I could add a disclaimer here about how I’m not trying to denigrate Juggalos or Juggalettes or Juggatrans or Juggapuses (for any platypuses out there who might also listen to ICP).  I could expound upon the fact that they have the ‘merican right to express their inner clowns.  I could, but I will not.  I refuse to be politically correct when it comes to Juggalos.  I’m sure they don’t care about what I have to say anyway, but if they do, mercifully they will have plenty of Faygo, face paint and Hatchetman charms in which to drown their sorrows.

Anyway, in honor of the strange atmosphere in my classes this week, I bring to you – Five Awkward Moments with My Students, Past and Present:

5) I Like Your Eyebrows

A couple of years ago, after detailing the requirements for a new essay assignment, I asked if there were any questions.  Questions, mind you.  I did not make a request for off-topic statements.

Naturally, one student raised his hand and said, “I like your eyebrows!  You have really nice eyebrows.”

I wanted to tell him the following:

Sir, one simply doesn’t say such things to one’s teacher, out loud, in the middle of class.  That is the sort of thing one notices, observes, and then places in a quiet little mind-drawer labeled ‘Shit I Definitely Shouldn’t Ever Say Out Loud.”  Maybe, possibly, if one is on really close terms with a teacher, this could be mentioned in private after class, but really, let’s be honest, it’s bound to sound a little creepy regardless.  You’re talking about my eyebrows, friend.  That’s odd.  You might as well have said this:

“I like your eyebrows.  In fact, I’d like to shave the left one off your forehead, dip it in pâté and gently caress it with my tongue while I browse JPEGs of sexy Brony fan art

This exists. Somebody made this.

The right one I will preserve in a Riker mount so that I may treasure it for all eternity, a memento of how skeeved out I made you feel at this moment.  Also, I’m probably going to make sushi out of your  gallbladder meat at some point.”


(P.S. I kind of understand the Brony phenomenon.  I mean, what self-respecting human wouldn’t want to watch a TV show about fabulous ponies.  However, I will never ‘get’ nor will I ever support the people who draw or look at sexualized pictures of cartoon ponies in order to get aroused.  That. . .no. . .I shouldn’t even have to explain why).

4) Do You Own Pants?

I suppose students can’t help but notice my appearance.  After all, I’m pretty much the only thing they get to stare at for an entire hour, aside from my perplexing handwriting on the board and a few PowerPoint slides (with the occasional piece of bizarre clip art I throw on there, just because).  Do you remember clip art?  The animals are my favorite.  Here’s a sampling:

This bitchin’ cat.

These faaaabulous critters

These faaaabulous critters

This smug bastard.

This smug bastard.

These Jewish mice drilling a hole in this uncomfortable turtle's shell with a dreidel.

These Jewish mice drilling a hole in this frightened turtle’s shell with a dreidel.

So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when students comment on my face and clothing in the middle of class.  No, wait, I should.  It’s still weird.

One day a student raised her hand in the middle of class.  When I called on her, instead of asking about thesis statements or paragraph unity or whatever scintillating composition topic we happened to be discussing at that moment, she asked, “Do you own pants?” (apparently noticing my confusion, she attempted to clarify) “No, I mean like, do you have any pants?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear a pair of pants, just dresses and skirts.  So do you even have any pants?”

This was the same student who wanted to write an essay expounding upon the merits of McDonald’s with the goal of persuading more American diners to eat there because, you know, with ‘Billions and Billions Served’ and a 35.7% adult obesity rate in America, McDonald’s clearly needs help attracting more American customers.  One of her supporting points was going to be “You don’t have to get all dressed up to eat at McDonald’s like if you go to a five star restaurant like TGI Fridays.”

Five Star Frozen Mac-N-Cheese Wedges

I can’t remember how I responded to her question, but I do remember that it was more awkward than that Michelle Obama/Ann Romney hug.

Those strained facial expressions

3) You Must Have 2 Legs to Ride 

A few days ago in my intro to lit. class, we were discussing the Chuck Palahniuk short story “Escort.”  The story is based on Palahniuk’s experience volunteering as an “escort” (non-sexual companion for hospice patients in this story).  One hospice patient, a one-legged gay man, directs the narrator, in the event of his death, to clean the sexual paraphernalia (leatherwear, dildos, etc.) out of his apartment so that his mother doesn’t have to see it.

At one point, a student who usually doesn’t participate in discussion raised his hand and asked, “I don’t get it, though.  I mean, how can a one-legged man even have sex?”

First of all, this was coming from an 18-year-old freshman, so perhaps he’s not the most . . . experienced.  Still.  My reaction was a combination of this

and this

but with this level of awkwardness as I attempted to stammer out an answer:

2)  TWSS

Once, after I explained the length requirements for an essay, a student groaned, “Man, there is no way I’m gonna be able to get it that long!”

My mature, knee-jerk thought was

But the problem is that I didn’t keep that thought inside my head where it belonged, folded neatly in my quiet little mind drawer.  Instead, I said it out loud before I could stop myself. Thank you Steve Carell.

The cloud of forced, red-faced laughter that followed is out there still, drifting awkwardly through space, making every meteorite and pile of space garbage it bumps into sweaty and uncomfortable.

1)      Turning Wine to Water(falls)

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a drinker.  I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with imbibing, but I’m a lightweight.  A cheap date.  An

I’m a square.  So I don’t drink that often because most of the time I don’t really want to be drunk.

When I first started teaching, I was 24.  Since I taught at a community college, most of my freshmen were not 18 – many were nontraditional students my age or older.  So it was that I ended up at a party with one of my students.  Turns out we had a mutual friend.  By the time I realized who he was, it was too late – my inhibitions were severely compromised.  Disastrous awkwardness was a certainty.  Again, I want to remind you that I wasn’t throwing back trays of jell-o shots or doing keg stands.  I was sipping mildly on a single glass of wine.  Still, the effect was the same.

At some point I mentioned to everyone that I still remembered all the words to TLC’s “Waterfalls”

and after a few rounds of motivational name-chanting, I was persuaded to perform.  Mind you, there was no karaoke machine.  This was acapella.  I sang loudly and off-key.  I danced wildly for all to see.  At the time, I’m sure I thought my dance moves looked just like this:

Instead, realistically, I probably looked more like a combination of this

and this

and this

and this



The next day when I reflected upon the experience with the perfect, 20/20 clarity of sober hindsight, I cringed at myself way harder than this guy probably cringed at himself as he walked away from the scene of his unforgivable awkwardness:

Poor guy. I know exactly how he feels.

Any awkward stories to share?


Balboa Constrictors. YOLO.

EDIT:  I apologize to anyone who read this entry before I had the chance to properly edit it.  In my sleep-intoxicated state I accidentally posted it instead of saving and, horror of horrors, I accidentally wrote ‘are’ where I meant to write ‘our.’  Collectively cringe with me.  Let’s just pretend I was trying to be ironic.  Or maybe we can pretend I was trying to give everyone a lesson on why editing and revising is important.  Let’s go with that.

Is it possible to feel burnt out already?

It’s only been a month since the semester began, and I’m already parched, desperate for refreshment that can only come from a day off (a fleeting chimera, a mirage in the world of teachers where ‘days off’ are filled with leering stacks of tripe-riddled essays).

You know how sometimes you clean out the cabinet under your sink for the first time in a while and amidst the three half-filled Windex bottles and the obligatory empty canister of Pledge you find a half-moldy, half-bone-dry, crusty shred of what used to be a plush, new sponge?  That’s me right now.  I’m the sponge.

For this week’s post, I simply give you two events that baffled and amused me this week.

First, one of my students wrote the following in her essay: “We kept missing goals by the length of a long, balboa constrictor.”  That’s right – a balboa constrictor, not a boa constrictor.  Balboa Constrictor – noun – the freakish, bastard offspring of Sly Stallone and a snake.

I’m gonna call you Adrian. Now let’s make some mutant baby monsters, Adrian!

Or maybe Balboa Constrictor is the title of the next ‘so-astoundingly-terrible-it’s-mesmerizing’ B movie.  Move over Sharknado and Birdemic.  The film industry has a new flaming bag of dog doo to lob on the porches of homes across the nation!

This movie will be a cross between Rocky, Splice and Snakes on a Plane.  An aging boxing champion who owns a gym (where he teaches a scrappy smattering of ragtag youths how to mug old men and pregnant ladies), contracts testicular cancer after one-too-many shots to the jewels.  Having never found a willing participant with whom to reproduce, he longs to leave behind a legacy nonetheless.  Thus, he hires a sketchy geneticist (Steve Buscemi) to splice some of his DNA with the DNA of his beloved boa constrictor Adrian.  That’s not what a geneticist does, you say?  Doesn’t matter.  B movie.  Your argument is invalid.

Anyway, the Buscemi and friends set up shop in the basement of the gym, which they jury rig into a lab (duh) with a bunker.  When the experiment gets out of control (naturally), Samuel L. Jackson is brought in to contain the situation.  Why?  Because he’s Samuel L. Jackson.  He runs around killing these Sly-headed boas that have overtaken the gym while everyone else cowers in the bunker.  He says things like, “I’m tired of all these muthf*ckin snakes in this muthaf*ckin ring!” while “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the background.  Maybe Rocky will punch his own face on the body of a snake at the end.  Wayne Knight will be in there at some point, getting attacked on his way to the vending machine.

Balboa Constrictors – released straight to DVD in a Wal-Mart bargain bin near you.

Next, I give you this week’s Poetic Bus Conversation.

I was sitting on the bus, minding my own business, reading a book, trying to be as invisible as possible (story of my life).  Dude sat down next to me.  That was fine.  He was dressed all in bright, garish, school-bus yellow from head-to-toe.  I’m not being hyperbolic – his shoes and hat were yellow.  Aside from the fact that I was suffering mild ocular distress (it was like looking directly at the sun), I was cool with it.  I’m not one for matchy-matchy outfits, but I figured perhaps he was trying to Livestrong (which is apparently the name of a doomed, yellow ship – sinking due to perforations from thousands of doping syringes).  Or maybe he just really likes lemon puddin’ like Stinky from Hey Arnold.  

Anyway, plenty of other important men throughout history have made yellow their staple wardrobe color:

Why not swear off all the other colors in the rainbow?  Yellow is the new black.

I also observed that he had multiple crosses tattooed on his neck.  Neck tattoos are fine, I suppose, except that these tattoos looked like the lazy, haphazard sketches a seventh-grade boy draws in the margins of his science notebook while trying to stay awake in class (like this thing)

Perhaps he deeply regrets these sketchy, Jesus neck tats and wears all yellow to draw attention away from them.  It didn’t work.  He should consider wearing this instead:

Here’s how our conversation went:

Neck Tattoos:  What are you reading?

Me (thinking, sighing):

(I seriously considered prying open the window and leaping into oncoming traffic, but I needed to get home to feed my cat, so I engaged with him.)

Me: A short story textbook.

Neck Tattoos:  Ohhhh.  Who’s the author?

Me:  There are stories by a lot of different authors in it.

Neck Tattoos:  (Slapping his lap and motioning to the woman standing in the aisle next to his seat) Hey honey, I got a seat right here for ya! Hahaha!


(I continue reading with the quiet, desperate, futile hope that he’s moved on to new prey)

Neck Tattoos:   “Did. You. Get. The. Shoes? asks. Henri” (Let me explain.  Dude is reading OUT LOUD over my shoulder.  Did you catch that?  Dude is straight up reading, haltingly, inarticulately, LOUDLY over my painfully socially-anxious shoulder!  I would have felt badly for him and his pitiful reading skills if I had not been so miserably annoyed.  Why would he ever think this was an acceptable thing to do?  Ever? Boundaries, land-o-lakes, boundaries.)

Me:  (How I wanted to react)

Me:  (Trying to sound as gently annoyed as possible to avoid some kind of psychotic bus flip-out, I hold the book out) Do you want to read it?

Neck Tattoos:  (Continues reading aloud)    “My God, man. I. am. finished.” See I don’t get that.  Why is he finished?


Well, he’s in a concentration camp.

Neck Tattoos:  Oh!  Like nazis and stuff! Cool!  I love that stuff.



Neck Tattoos:  Hey, are you a Christian.

Me:  Sure. . . (Listen, dude has crosses tattooed ALL OVER his neck – there was really only one way I was ever going to answer that question, regardless of my beliefs or the fact that they are really not the business of random bus worms.  My main goal was to minimize the amount of time I actually had to spend flapping my lips at this clown.  An answer of ‘no’ or ‘nunya’ was likely to induce a full-on conversion scenario that would end with me placing my head outside of the bus doors and dragging it along the asphalt.)

Dude:  Good, Me too.  I believe in Paul and all that stuff.  You ever watch the 700 club?

Me: (Thinking)

Me:  No.

Dude:  You should watch it.  It’s all about people like us.

Me:  (yes, kindred spirits like me and the captain of the yellow submarine.)

For what he did next, I mostly forgave this guy of all of his previous offenses.  Also, I started to feel like a giant tool.

He offered his seat to a mother and her little girl who boarded the bus and didn’t have anywhere to sit.  Well, first he offered his lap.  Then he offered his seat.

Nobody else offered.  Just him.  That was nice of him.

In his yellow garb and graffiti-festooned neck, he was the hero that commuter needed.  I even (mostly) forgave him for watching 700 Club, a veritable religious port-a-john, and reading out loud over my shoulder.

Neck tattoos is probably a better person than I, with my emotional hang-ups and general aversion to most of mankind, will ever be.

By the way, this mother and little girl were the sweetest little family ever.  The little girl had a voice like a tiny chipmunk, two puffy pigtails on top of her head and huge, dark eyes.  The mother spoke to her daughter with nothing but love in her voice, which is the exception to the bus rule (It’s usually more of a face-glued-to-an-iphone-while-screaming “Sit yo ass down and stop tryna look out the damn window!  Shut yo mouf too!” type of scenario.)  She only had to reprimand her daughter once, and she did so calmly but firmly and effectively.  Magic. So even though this mother wore a hat with ‘YOLO’ printed on it

I couldn’t make this stuff up folks.

she made my day and remedied what started out as a dreadful bus ride from conversational purgatory.

It was as if her life’s motto was, “You only live once, so you might as well use that time to be a good mother and raise productive members of society,” unlike the usual “You only live once so you might as well get syphilis from a hooker behind a dumpster.”

“Rudy Wins the Sportsball Game” by Chad McFrat

I graded 40 rough drafts in one day.  Do you know how much grading that is?  It takes me roughly 15 – 20 minutes to grade a rough draft, so my day clocked in at around 12 hours of grading.  Just grading.  That doesn’t count the planning and class prep I threw in for good measure.  Fellow English teachers/professors out there, I’m sure you feel my pain.  Remember the ‘This is your brain on drugs’ commercials from the 80’s?

(So are they saying that if I do drugs, my brain will become delicious?  That’s my question.)

By the end of the day, my brain felt, not like the fried egg in the commercial, but like an egg that had been whipped into oblivion by a carving fork and then cooked for a few hours into a shriveled, rubbery, burnt oblivion.

Any questions?

If I have to read one more narrative about sports, I’m going to decapitate myself and dribble my own head down a basketball court.  Confession: I hate sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand the merit of sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand how people could like sports.  I just can’t like sports.  I’ve tried.  I was born into a family of sports junkies.  I married into a family of sports addicts.  Trust me, for the sake of my own sanity, I have tried.  I. Just. Can’t.  It’s like trying to force myself to enjoy mayonnaise or ranch dressing.  I understand that people like these condiments (“It’s cool!” “It’s creamy!” “It makes my sandwich moist and delicious!” they cry), but in my opinion, mayonnaise is the repulsive, hellfire mucus of Satan himself

No. No. Nooooonono. Never.  Blargh.  Blech. Ew. Ugh.

and ranch dressing is the pus secreting from his festering wounds .

I watched this SNL skit about a ranch-dressing focus group once.  Once.  As amusing as I find Melissa McCarthy, I would rather change 300 blown-out baby diapers than ever watch it again.   It just confirmed my suspicions.  Ranch dressing is vile.

Here it is. Watch if you dare. It’s your funeral.

It’s as if someone dug through medical waste to find garbage bags filled with the fat sucked out during a liposuction procedure and stuck it in a jar.  Spread THAT on your sandwich.

For me, sports are the entertainment version of this – creamy, liposuction, fatty condiment on a screen that makes my stomach want to crawl out of my throat and run away. There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than accidentally eating a bite of mayonnaise or ranch dressing except for sports sounds in the background of my life.

Ugh.  What kind of monster made this video?  I could only get through 20 seconds of it.

So, when 75% of the narrative drafts I had to grade were about sports trials and tribulations, I thought I actually might start having a House level seizure (that turns out NOT to be lupus).  It was like reading really poorly-written Rudy fan-fiction.  Do you remember Rudy?

No, not the adorable, precocious Cosby kid who always knew just how to put Kenny in his place.

THIS Rudy.

Remember baby Sean Astin overcoming the odds to become a football hero?  At the end of the movie, everyone chants, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” and he’s hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates, victorious.

I remember Rudy quite vividly because, for some reason, every health class I took from jr. high to high school was taught by some sportsball coach who hung up posters bearing “inspirational” slogans like, “Pain is weakness leaving your body!” and forced us to watch Rudy  and Hoosiers on a constant loop.

Anyway, most of my students’ essays were along the same lines – “How I overcame the odds to move from JV to Varsity” “How I won the big game” “How I made the team” “How I ate a bucket of mayonnaise.”

You might be thinking, “If you don’t want to read papers about sports, why not just tell them they can’t write about sports or create assignments that choose a topic for them, like a literacy narrative”?  I have done this in the past, but what I find is that most of my students are much more willing to write (and are much better at writing) the first essay if I allow them to choose a topic they like.   My hope is that they will somewhat enjoy writing the first paper so that I can begin, ever so slowly,  to chip away at their prejudices toward writing (which are sundry).     “See?  That wasn’t so bad!  Now let’s do a rhetorical analysis of this speech by Alexander the Great!”  It’s sort of like the college-writing version of this:

Yessss. Yesss. Eat the delicious candy. Haha! It’s strained peas!

So for one paper only, I force myself to metaphorically eat an entire bottle of ranch dressing, cringing and heaving all the way.

Here’s a quote from one student’s essay:       “To quote the great Andy Dick, I was in beast mode.”

First of all,

THIS is Andy Dick.

You know, C-List “comedian” whose ability to annoy is second only to a first-place tie between Carrot Top and Gilbert Gottfried.  He’s best known for mastering the art of sexual harrassment and public urination.  So either my student has a completely mangled definition of “great” or he was thinking of somebody else.  I really hope he was thinking of somebody else.  Also, I’m pretty sure Andy Dick never talked about going into ‘beast mode.’  Please correct me if I’m wrong so that I can adequately judge my student for his choice in role models.

Marshawn Lynch definitely goes into that beast mode.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t like sports.  Every multi-million dollar sportsball hero I’ve ever seen interviewed sounds like Mr. Lynch and, when asked, “How’d you manage to pull out a win tonight?” says things like “Well, you know, the other team gave it 100%, so I just went out there and gave it my 110%”  a phrase that tops my list of pet peeves as a complete impossibility.

Another student wrote, “I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete ass well” which created some very interesting images in my head as I tried to figure out what a ‘professional athlete ass well’ could be.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do a Google search for ‘ass well.’

One wrote about how the big game was very “nerve raking” which I actually like better than “nerve-racking” I think.  Just imagine a rake scraping across exposed nerve-endings.  That seems much more unpleasant

I think I’ll start using that phrase.  For example – “Reading essays about sports is nerve-raking.”

The end.

Overly Attached Students

Nothing major to report this week.  Not too much bus nonsense.  I think the cooler temperatures have helped to curb the psychotic impulses of my fellow commuters immensely.  Despite riding a bus yesterday that looked like it belonged in an Indian slum with a donkey strapped to the back

Like this (although not in a slum and the donkey is missing)

the most exciting incident to occur was a pack of teenage girls (my absolute least favorite segment of the human population) talking about some girl at their school whose hair, allegedly, smells of corn chips.

A Google search for ‘corn chip hair’ revealed this image:

so apparently this is an epidemic in the weave community.

P.S. I kind of hope the government is spying on my Internet search history.  ‘Corn chip hair’ and ‘what does meth smell like?’ (thanks Breaking Bad) and ‘cats in sweaters’ are among my most recent searches.

One of my classes still dons a collective and unflinching bitchy-resting-face every day, warm weather or not.  Seriously.  I think I could strip naked and dance the Charleston while using a gay, Jewish ventriloquist dummy to sing “Throw Some D’s” and they would still look at me like this:


Such is life.  Luckily my other classes are pretty fun.

I do have one student, though, who is already beginning to make me sweat in that socially awkward way that only a certain type of student can.  I call these my Misplaced Friendship students.  My wanna-be BFF’s.  My overly-attached students.  They make me cringe with a fierceness that rivals the time I tried to watch Eraserhead.

Oh sweet baby in the manger! Her cheeks! Please make it stop!

I’m pretty petite.  I’m nice (trust me, knowing that I can save all my diatribe for my blog allows me to store it safely in little lead bottles until I can unleash it safely – they will never know my true form!), and I look pretty young (I almost always get mistaken for a student on the first day of class).  Because of this, fortunately, I think students find me pretty approachable.  They don’t seem to feel uncomfortable asking me questions about their essays or stopping by my office.  I like this.  UN (big emphasis on the un here)fortunately, some of them also feel the need to approach me in ways that I find less desirable.  Maybe they’re like sociopathic dogs who can smell my social anxiety and use it for evil.

I had a student a couple of years ago – we’ll call her Molly.  Molly had the most adorable daughter ever.  I know this, because Molly showed me several pictures of her.

Molly’s kid petting a goat.

Molly’s kid staring vacantly.

Molly’s kid singing karaoke on the bar at Applebee’s.

That’s cool.  I like kids.  Molly came to class, did her work and didn’t cause me any additional stress.  She was the best kind of student, so I was happy to feed her motherly ego by doting on her spawn (she really was an adorable kid).  But one day Molly stopped showing up to class as often and when she did, she appeared to be on the verge of tears.  I didn’t ask questions.  I didn’t want to pry.  I’m private, and I certainly wouldn’t have liked my teachers butting into my personal business when I was in school.  And, let’s face it, I really don’t know how to clean up my student’s emotional diarrhea.  I’m ill-equipped.

However, Molly sent me an e-mail and asked if we could meet to discuss her setbacks in class.  I agreed.  Here’s how that conversation played out:

Molly:  I’m really sorry I’ve been missing class lately.  I’ve just been having some (holding back tears) personal issues lately that I’ve been having to deal with.

My Brain’s Reaction:

Me:  (Thinking – quick, neutralize this – don’t mention the tears, whatever you do) That’s OK!  You have to take care of yourself first, and then worry about class.  You’re not too far behind, so I think we can get you caught up pretty easily.  I’ll give you an extension on this past essay.  If you can turn it in by Friday, I won’t deduct any late points.

Molly:  (Full blown tears streaming down her face now) Thank you so much.  That really means a lot.  You’ve really been a great teacher this semester. (Full blown sobbing/rocking/mucus explosion)


Molly:  It’s just my boyfriend kicked me and my daughter out and changed the locks.  We’ve been sleeping in our car.

My Brain’s Reaction:

Me:  Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.  I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for you.  (Pausing.  Thinking – what do I do? What do I do? I’m not trained for this!  This is the opposite of the type of situation I find acceptable!) Do you have anywhere you can go?

(We ended up talking for a little while.  I gave her as much awkward advice as I could manage.  I feel incredibly unqualified to give life advice to anyone.  Evidence:

I just threw away a bottle of cough syrup that had a 2010 expiration date on it.

I used a lint roller to dust my television.  Then I rolled my cat with it.

I once dumped out an entire cup of coffee by trying to hold it and twist a door knob at the same time.

Once I put a casserole dish in the oven with a plastic lid on it and convinced myself I was dying for hours afterward due to inhaling the toxic fumes of melted plastic.

Anyway, I tried.  I really did feel so terrible for her.  I wished that I were so many other people at that moment so I could have at least said something useful or comforting.  I did direct her to the school counselor.  However, my reward for was this):

Molly:  I – thank you so much – You are such a sweet person (my students are such poor judges of my character).  Can I just – Can I give you a hug?

What was I going to say to this poor, damp-faced, homeless single-mom with her car baby?  “No, I’m sorry, that would be inappropriate.”   I couldn’t do that.  I’m a human with a real heart, even if it is encased in the carbon-black shell of my general antipathy for most humans.

Me:    OK

Now let me just preface this by saying I am the word class champion of disliking hugs.  Seriously.  Even from my favorite family members.  Even from my best friends.  I find this kind of physical contact regrettably and incredibly uncomfortable.  My friends have slowly inoculated me to their touch by forcing hugs on me without regard for my hives and cold sweats.  For that, I thank them.  But still, from most people, especially people I don’t know, hugs are about as welcome to me as a gentle pepper spraying in my face or the light slicing of my Achilles tendon.  Rewarding me in hugs is like paying me in AskJeeves stock.  So here’s how this hug played out.

Replace the game show and laughter with a conference room and tears and this is a pretty accurate depiction of the hug:

Some students aren’t quite sure about boundaries and I suppose I’m not standoffish enough to make that outline more rigidly black and white.

So this semester I have a student who told me on the first day that she has ‘emotional problems’ (her words).  My immediate reaction was dread, of course.  I’m just envisioning all the possible uncomfortable scenarios these ‘emotional problems’ might create for me.  I imagine her crying, asking for hugs or throwing one of her many lanyards at another student.  I imagine outbursts, books thrown through windows or, worst of all, more forced hugs.  None of it sounds pleasant.  It’s not that I don’t think this student has a right to an education.  Of course she does.  But dealing with someone with ‘emotional problems’ doesn’t really feel like it should be part of my job.  “But it’s fine,” I’ve been telling myself, “I’ll deal with it,” I told myself.  “She’s a nice human,” I keep saying.

But every day before class as I’m preparing my materials, she’s sitting right in the front row talking to me.  About nothing and everything.  About the outfits her family buys for their cat (who, I’m assuming, finds this about as appealing as I do)

About her commute to class that morning and how she stepped on gum.  About the toothpaste she uses for her sensitive teeth.

She offered to bring me some of her old essays so I could read them (because, you know, my favorite way to take a break from reading student essays is to read more student essays).

Yesterday, this conversation happened:

Her:  Do you like pink and purple?

Me:  Sure, they’re alright I guess.  Why do you ask?

Her: (Handing me two CD’s in pink and purple cases) These are CD’s of my piano music.  Well, not like piano music I like to listen to, but like me playing the piano.

Me:  Oh…that’s –

Her:  This one’s the piece I auditioned with to get a scholarship here. (whispering) I got $8,000!  I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging.  I know you’re not really supposed to talk about money.

Me:  No, that’s…it’s…that’s fine.

I think the conversation continued a little more after this.  I don’t quite remember.  I was too busy wishing I could do this:

I want to be nice and compassionate and helpful, but these types of students truly challenge my patience.

I’ll round out this entry by asking this:  Is anyone else irrationally annoyed when people type ‘Ahhhh’ when what they clearly mean is ‘Awwwww’?  For example, I post this picture:

AKA – a picture so cute it will break your face!

And someone responds, ‘Ahhhhh, he’s too cute!  My face is thoroughly broken!’

Let me explain.  The appropriate response is ‘Awwww.’

Ah (one h) could = a sudden revelation, such as Raquel Rodriguez of Destinos fame explicating the mystery of la carta:

Nostalgia, former español students!

Ahhhh (multiple h’s) could = one’s reaction to drinking a cold beverage, as heard at the end of this 90’s Pepsi commercial:

Or perhaps, when extra a’s are added as well,  a terrified scream, like that indicated in the cartoon ‘Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’:

It never means that something is cute.  So when someone writes ‘Ahhhh!  That’s so cute’ I picture them drinking the blood of the cute creature, smacking their lips in delight and sighing ‘Ahhhh!’ or screaming in horror because cute things are somehow terrifying.  These are the types of things I can’t ever really mention without sounding like a total and complete shrew or crazy person.  But alas, I want to see if I’m alone in this or if others are bothered as well, so there you have it.

74 Steps to Tibet

The first week of the Fall semester has been, in a word, somuthereffingexhaustingiwanttobeinasleepcomaforever.  I’m teaching four classes right in a row (small break for lunch between class 2 and 3).  Also, since they are doing renovations on campus and demolishing the building where I usually teach (you know, the one conveniently located twenty feet away from my office building), I have to hike to Tibet to teach my classes.

Down 63 steps.  Across a busy, four-lane road.  Past a baseball field.  Past a soccer field.  Up 74 steps.  Around the corner.  That is where my building is located.  It is old, weird and one million miles away.  By the time I get there after lugging a twenty pound bag of books in the ninety-degree heat, my dress is soaked and my ballet flats feel like sandpaper shackles.  My students all look super happy to have endured a similar journey.  Let me tell you how thrilling it is to teach an entire class of students who all appear to be suffering from bitchy resting face:

It’s not.  Heat makes people crazy.  Like Squints Palledorous jumping into the deep end scary.

I can’t take it anymore!

Since I’m so exhausted, I give you today’s installment of what I will call ‘Poetic Bus Conversations.’  The woman in question had a voice that reminded me of Wheezy, the penguin from Toy Story

Broken squeaker

Bette Midler as Winnie in Hocus Pocus



and Norma White, wife of Jesco White (you know, the Dancing Outlaw).


She was also sitting right across the aisle from me while all of this was being said.  One foot away from me.

Disclaimer:  I’m going to specify race in the following conversation only because it is relevant to almost everything Crazy White Homeless Lady says.

Crazy White Homeless Lady:  I don’t fuck wit white people no more.  Any fuckin’ cracker try to talk to me, they gonna get a fuckin’ terlet (toilet) in their mouth.

(Polite Elderly Black Gentleman Approaches.  Crazy White Homeless Lady moves to offer her seat)

Lady:  I was gonna give you my seat.

Gentleman:  That’s alright.  I found one.  Thank you.

Lady:  Well I was gonna give it to you cause you sexy.

Gent:  (nervous laughter) Well thank you.

Lady:  Yea, you sexy.  Wanna fuck?


Gent:  No ma’am.  I’m married.

Lady:  Oh that don’t mean nothin’!

Gent:  To me it does!

Lady:  Oh alright, ok, I feel ya.  I don’t mean no disrespect.  For real though.

Gent:  That’s alright.

Lady:  (To another elderly black gentleman)  You sexy too.

Other Gent:  (No response)

Lady:  Oh now you gonna act like you don’t know me?  You knew me this morning when I had my little cootie cat all up on your face!

(Coarse/awkward/nervous laughter from all around)


Lady:  Hey, you got any change?  I gotta get me somethin’ to eat.

Gentleman:  No ma’am, I’m sorry.  I don’t have any money.

Lady:  I feel ya, I feel ya.

White Man Exiting Bus:  I’d give you some change, but I’m a cracker and you don’t fuck with crackers.

Lady: (Really, really loud) That’s right bitch! I don’t want your change!  Keep walking.  I’ll fuckin’ kick your ass into your teeth!  Fuckin’ cracker.

The whole time, I tried to remain as invisible as possible.  It was just one of the many moments in my life that I have wished invisibility cloaks were real.  Also, it was as if my brain was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee and this conversation was Tonya Harding’s hired henchman’s police baton.

Why?  Why?  Why?

Happy September everybody!