Tag Archives: teaching

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Manevolent Horst

Well, last week was rough draft week.  I must say, my students took the rough draft very seriously this time around, and by that I mean they took the word ‘rough’ seriously and made sure to not even READ their essays before hitting print and slapping their dreck on my desk with so much disdain.   For your amusement, here are some of my favorite spelling/word usage errors from this week’s batch:


That’s right, amung, not among.  It actually took me more effort to keep the misspelled word in this sentence because when I typed ‘amung’ Word automatically changed it to ‘among’ for me.  I actually had to go back and make the extra effort to suck at spelling, which leads me to believe that either a) This student uses some kind of sketch-mode, black market word processor he bought from the car trunk of a guy named Mixtape in the parking lot of a Fas-Chek – or b)This student was especially committed to this particular misspelling – like he thought the word processor was out to get him by changing the word, and he said “Nuh-uh! Not today, motherf*cker.  I know what I’m about.  It’s among.  Damnit, Stop changing it!  Amung! Amung!”

I don’t even know how a person makes it through at least 12 years of school without knowing how to spell such basic words.



Not malevolence.

According to Urban Dictionary, the foremost authority on ‘shit you hear those youths talking about in their rapping songs and their Justin Biebers,’ a manevolent person is “a person who is apt to change from a good person to an evil person (combination of benevolent and malevolent).”

Trust me, I’m all for portmanteaus.  I can chillax with the best of ‘em.  I’m a fan of the “Jabberwocky.”  (I do, however, have an irrational dislike for the word skort.  It’s just – ew.  Skort.  Ugh.  I don’t know why.  I also hate the word ‘slacks’ in reference to pants, although that’s not a portmanteau, so I digress.)  Unfortunately, though, I don’t think this student was trying to be linguistically clever.

This Maleficent drag queen is my best approximation of ‘manevolence.’


Paul Bearer.

This one is understandable, but still amusing.  Apparently there was a professional wrestling manager who went by the stage name Paul Bearer, and he looked like this

So. . .

Strike and Pose/Case and Point.

I get these.  A simple slip of the tongue is enough to drop that d and phonetically misunderstand how to spell these common expressions.

However, since I grew up being bored out of my mind every Thursday night as I watched my dad throw a heavy ball at some pins along with the other members of his bowling league, the word ‘strike’ inevitably makes me think of bowling, so when I think of ‘strike’ and ‘pose’ together, I think of this:


Finally, le pièce de résistance. . .


Can you guess what this student was trying to spell?

Take a minute.

Think about.

Nope, it wasn’t horse or hoarse.  This wasn’t a simple keystroke error replacing an ‘e’ with a ‘t.’

It wasn’t hurts.

Here’s the sentence:

They loaded his coffin up into the back of the horst.

That’s right, the student was trying to spell hearse and bastardized it so magnificently that context was the only way to determine what he actually meant to spell.

My only way to rationalize this is that the student read about Patty Hearst somewhere (remember her?  1970’s Stockholm Syndrome bank robbing lady?) and somehow believed that her last name was the same word used to describe the vehicle in which coffins are transported, but the ‘ea’ was lost in translation and turned into an ‘o’ giving us ‘horst.’

Here’s a horse-drawn hearse for you.  A ‘horst’ if you will.

I also received my fair share of papers that were syntactically competent but disheartening nonetheless.  Here’s what a student had to say about homeless people:

“What can be said is that they have a choice to engage in the capitalist economy just like anyone else in this country. They have the freedom to clean up their act and become a welcomed member of society, or they can sit on the steps and inconvenience people who are trying hard to make their way through life.”

I can’t even get past the sheer myopia.  I have never been homeless, but I somehow felt personally offended by this.  Ugh.

Oh, also, I had a student who TOOK OUT HER TEETH to explain to my why she would be missing our next class.  She came up before class, held up a piece of paper and before I could protest, she yanked those suckers out to reveal brown nubs that I can only assume were eaten away by copious amounts of methamphetamine.

And oh dear lord, whatever you do, DON’T do a Google image search for ‘meth teeth.’  Just. Don’t.

The next time she returned to class after missing another class session, she came up to my podium and, breath reeking of the dankest weed ever, explained that she’d been absent because she had to get her son admitted to a psych ward for a psych evaluation after he stabbed some other kid with a pencil.

I imagine this is her kid:

Finally, I’m still dealing with a student from last semester who re-used old essays from a previous English class.  The first time he did it, I told him that he needed to produce original work for each class.  I warned him not to do it again.  I also gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him rewrite that paper – I mean, the rule isn’t necessarily self-evident, and the university policy on academic dishonesty doesn’t explicitly address it.  It’s his original work – he’s not plagiarizing someone else – so why shouldn’t he think he could use his essay as he saw fit?  I could see how he might have just made an honest mistake.  He assured me that this was the case – that he simply didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to do that and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Well it did, on his last essay, so I gave him a 0 for the essay and he failed the class (NOTE:  this is the second time he has failed English 101, since the essays he re-used were from the English class he took and failed in the Fall semester).

I consulted my department chair, and she advised me to report him to the dean.

Now the kid is e-mailing me with his daddy cc’d asking me why he failed, claiming he doesn’t understand.  It’s seriously stressing me out because I just don’t want to deal with it right now.  I just don’t.

What if this kid appeals his grade?  What if I have to endure some messy hearing in which my every action is scrutinized?  In situations like this, I always second guess myself:  “Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough.  Maybe he really didn’t understand and this is all my fault.  Maybe I’m a terrible teacher.  Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job.”

Mostly I know this is not true, although situations like this do make me dream wistfully of other jobs – I could be a carnie.  I mean, I was very direct with him the first time this happened, and I even reiterated my point to him during finals week when he came by my office to talk about his rewrite; I warned him that if he re-used old essays in his future classes, some professors might not even give him a second chance and would simply fail him automatically.  If he didn’t understand my stance on this practice, then he’s hopelessly dim and perhaps that’s why he can’t seem to pass this class.

But still, I hated having to fail him, and I almost didn’t do it because of the potential for a messy fallout.  Yes, I actually considered passing him as I stared at the originality report telling me that, despite my multiple warnings to him, he actually resubmitted another essay from the same former English class.  Again.

I actually considered passing him because, honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it (I know that sounds awful, and I obviously talked myself out of it).  It would have been so much easier to just give him a C and move on.

It also doesn’t help that he’s a likeable kid.  He always participated in class, always smiled, was always courteous and friendly.  I hate to say that it would have been easier to fail him if I didn’t like him, but it’s true.  Despite the fact that it would have been easier, despite the fact that I like this kid, I did what I felt was right and I failed him. . .and now I feel depressed.

It doesn’t add up.

Why am I letting this kid’s poor decision-making skills, his laziness, fill me with such dread for the potential repercussions of my rightful actions?

Has anyone else ever had to deal with this?  What’s your stance on re-using essays from former classes?  Any words of wisdom out there?  Right now I just want to avoid my inbox like the plague and become a temporary Luddite.


Future Leaders of the World


On the first day of each semester, I ask my students to go around the room and tell me their names and some other piece of information of my choosing.  This serves 2 purposes:  1)  If any of them have batshit names that in no way reflect the actual spelling on my attendance sheet, this is a great way to find that out (I’m looking at you Azalea, pronounced Ah-zhu-lay).  2)  With just a few words, I gain some insight into the empty, bored faces staring back at me as if I’m less interesting than a hangnail.  I get it.  I was that bored student once, I’m sure.  I don’t expect them to look at me as if I’m Miley Cyrus or a much too convincing male to female transgender who makes them question everything they thought they knew about their sexuality.  


(Because seriously, these gorgeous young ladies were once dudes).

Or a unicorn.  Or a Miley Cyrus drag queen impersonator, which is obviously a thing.


(because you’re not REALLY famous until a drag queen impersonates you, right?) 

Anyway, I know that I have to work to get them to talk to me, and I accept that.  If I’m not feeling creative, I might just ask for their major or what they like to do in their spare time, which will still typically yield some. . . illuminating. . . responses:

1. Well, I’m a Juggalo, so I like dressing up like an asshat and drinking copious amounts of Faygo while listening to ludicrous music.  No, not Ludacris, the rapper.  I’m using the word ludicrous as an adjective here.


Well, I enjoy long walks on the beach, reading Nicholas Sparks novels and sacrificing talk show hosts to the great god Xenu.


2. Well, AS A MOTHER, I have no identity outside of my children, so let me tell you a little bit about little Makayla’s pinworms and how Brody is in the gifted program!

(Disclaimer:  Most nontraditional students are not like this.  In fact, my nontraditional students are typically my favorites because, for the most part, they are respectful, do their work and actually want to be in class.  However, there’s one like this in every bunch.  You know the type. . .)


3. I like getting really pissed off about everything, so let me first demonstrate that by going into a five minute tirade about how the government doesn’t force my asshole-good-for-nothing-baby-daddy to pay enough child support because they’re all just a bunch of selfish penises who need to be castrated. What’s that?  Oh, yea, my major – I’m a counseling/psych major.

You know the type.  It looks like this:



or this:


4. I’m president of our campus anarchy club.

To which I respond, 



This semester, since I’m teaching a composition class centered upon making arguments about policy issues, I decided to open the class by asking each student to tell me about some policy, human rights violation, or social ill that they would change if they could.   Several of them mentioned raising minimum wage.  A few more mentioned limits on welfare benefits.  Others explained that they would institute rehab instead of jail time for nonviolent drug violations.  Some wanted more protection for the homeless population.  

However, here are my three favorites.

One came from a kid named Clyde Tater (That’s not his real name, which I can’t disclose – however, it is pretty close to the spirit of his real name).  He looks and sounds exactly as I would expect someone named Clyde Tater to look and sound.  (P.S. A Google image search for ‘Clyde Tater’ yielded this. . .


this. . .


and, inexplicably, this. . .


NOTE:  This is not what Clyde Tater looks like, I can assure you.  His severed pig’s head was MUCH larger.)

He’s slumped down in his desk wearing a Carhart jacket, camouflage ball cap and work boots.  When he realizes it’s his turn to speak, the sound of throat clearing erupts from somewhere inside his untamed beard and he says in a mellifluous country drawl (and I’m crying inside with joy because he sounds like home, and I already love him), “I’d change the lowering of speed limits.  They lowered it to 60 out where I live and I usually go about 90.  I can’t afford no more points on my license.”  

I can so vividly picture his vehicle:


It runs on freedom.

Or, who knows, maybe I’m just stereotyping this kid.  People surprise me all the time.  Maybe Clyde really drives something like this.


It’s possible.  Unlikely, but possible 

Anyway, people driving too slow and the government making them do it – that is the nefarious social ill that Clyde would like to solve. He truly is a visionary.

Another guy with a pretty standard name like James Neal or Josh Barnes or Jared Brown or something equally nondescript chimes in next.  He has close-cropped brown hair, some groomed facial hair and he is wearing the most generic jeans and t-shirt combo.  Seriously, his clothes could belong to anybody, anybody at all, and this is why I sometimes have a harder time remembering my male students’ names. Unlike in the animal world where men preen their colorful plumage to attract dun-colored females,Image


(Hey, gurl!  You like what you see?  Bitches love feathers.)

in the human world girls have weaves and hair dye and day-glo dresses and skirts and sequins and any possible arrangement of clothing colors and patterns imaginable.  Men mostly wear jeans and t-shirts.  


Not all men, mind you (again, see Clyde Tater above) but many of them.  This invariably makes it more difficult to remember their names.  None of them particularly stands out to me in quite the same way as the girl with blue hair or the one whose see-through lace top is so skin-tight that I can’t help but remember in ironic horror that her name is Chastity. 

Why can’t the guys in my classes wear something more like this?


or this


or whatever is going on here. . .


I would definitely remember the names of these gents.

Anyway Jake Clark or John Smith or whatever this kid’s name is, chimes in, “What is up with men’s shoe sizing?” (and for a moment I’m expecting a stand-up routine, and I get a little excited, but alas).  “I mean, I ordered a pair of size 13 rain boots off the internet the other day, and when I got them they were tiny!  I mean, what’s up with that?  I was pissed!  I think men’s shoe sizes need to be standardized so I know what I’m getting when I order online!”  I don’t know if I’m more amused or saddened by the fact that this kid doesn’t realize he ordered children’s shoes – that he doesn’t realize that children’s shoes also come in size 13 and this is most likely what he ordered without reading the item description thoroughly enough to realize it.  I imagine these are the boots he received:


No, not human trafficking or sweatshop labor or climate change policies – this kid wants to standardize all shoe sizing for men, making the world a better place one pair of galoshes at a time, not by placing them on the feet of a person in need, but by making sure they are large enough to fit him.

Finally, remember the girl I mentioned above going into a five minute tirade about her baby daddy and child support?  Yes, she was real, and that was the issue she’d like to change about society – that the government should make her baby daddy pay her more child support. Her name is something like Amber or Krystal and she has thick black highlights in her platinum blonde hair. 

If a pack of cigarettes could speak, it would sound exactly like this girl.

She’s the type of woman who enters the room with a fanfare – harried and out of breath, she feels the need to explain what held her up on her way to class (Lost my keys, but I found them at the last minute right in my purse where I left them!  My life is SO cu-razy!)

From her long and breathless spiel, I can already tell that she’s going to irritate me on multiple occasions this semester.  As I work through explaining my class policies, she interrupts several times without raising her hand to ask pointless questions.  Now, I’m not necessarily a hand-raising Nazi.  This is college, after all, and these are adults.  But she is talking CONSTANTLY, holding up the class, asking questions like – “Now this textbook is listed as a ‘recommended text’ not a ‘required text’ so that means it’s recommended, not required, right?” 



When I get to the section of my syllabus about classroom respect, I make sure to make special eye contact with her as I mention that students should raise their hands with comments or questions when anybody else is speaking – myself and other students included. 

I can already see her classmates inching away from her on peer revision day, praying to the god Xenu that I don’t stick them in a group with her. 

Overall, though, it seems like it will be a pretty fun class, and I’m happy to wrap up my classes at the four-year school where I teach.

Finals week is over for them and I’m ready to bid that class a solid adieu!  Why?  Here’s a sampling of the types of students in that class:

One girl submitted her rough draft as her final draft without changing any of the content and with my original, meticulous Microsoft Word comments still in the margins.  One boy submitted an essay from a previous English class that he took and failed last semester.  Did I mention that he already did this once this semester and that I caught him, gave him a 0 on that essay and warned him not to do it again?  Because that happened.


Hurray for Generation Y and credentialism!


Grade Grubbers

I hate grade grubbers more than I hate pedophiles.  Grade grubbers are the pedophiles of the academic world. Is that too extreme? Offensive? (Guess what? I don’t care)

For the blessedly unfamiliar, grade grubbers are self-congratulating, special snowflakes who can’t seem to accept reality at the end of a semester.  As such, they attempt to force their delusions upon me.

They do this at the end of a semester.

After final grades have been submitted.

When I just want to curl up in my heated blanket and pretend they never existed.

They are the lemon juice in a paper cut I forgot I had.  They are the dank, rotten cilantro odor tainting the air after a stink bug has been slain.  They are the e-mails clogging my spam folder (the ones I never get around to deleting), trying to sell me Viagra for the penis I don’t have.

They come to me, obsequious and contrite at first, begging for unwarranted clemency.

I’m a special snowflake. I deserve an A. Please give me an A.

Their e-mails are always subtle and passive aggressive in their attempts to place the blame for their failure squarely upon my shoulders.  Let me give you a sampling:

Dear Professor, (respectful – so far, so good)

I was surprised to see that I ended up with a B in your class.

(Oh really?  Were you surprised?  Because, guess what, reading your final essay was like stubbing my toe a million times and then immediately falling into a pool of lava.  Did Paris Hilton write it for you, or did you just dangle a fish in front of your your cat while it walked across your keyboard for a few minutes?)

After all, I got A’s in all my other classes, and I’ve always been an A student. (Oh fantastic!  I didn’t realize I was consorting with an ***A Student*** here. Wow.   I’ll just go change that grade immediately since, after all, your grade in my class is entirely determined by the grades you receive in your other classes and your ability to demonstrate such robust megalomania.  In fact – why just an A?  Let’s make it an A + + +!)

I even had my mom, who is also a professor here, read over all my papers before I turned them in, and she always said they were good.  (Well since your professor mother [who most certainly must exist because you say she does] thinks you deserve an A, I will certainly change that grade for you.  After all, she’s the professor of this class, right?  Oh she’s not?  Well then I guess she can go fly a kite with all the other moms I don’t care about.)

I’m sure such students are the radioactive fallout leftover from this nuclear shift in parental ideology.


I feel like I earned an A in your class, and since I was only 1 percentage point away, I would be so grateful if you could change my grade to an A.  (Do I even need to comment on this?  Yes, you were only one percentage point away.  Do you know what that means?  IT MEANS YOU WERE A FULL 1 PERCENTAGE POINT AWAY FROM EARNING AN A.   But you know what?  Forget that.  Let’s come up with a new system of evaluation based upon what you feel you deserve.)

If I don’t get an A in your class, I won’t be able to [insert sob story here – make the dean’s list, keep my scholarship, play basketball, be an RA, achieve self-actualization, wipe my own ass,  and on and on and on, ad infinitum].  If there’s any extra credit I can do to raise my grade, please let me know. (Oh, your performance in my class might jeopardize your ability to have something you want?  Well then I will definitely change your grade lest you suffer some kind of disappointment in life.  We can’t have that.  It’s probably my fault that you didn’t take advantage of the TWO extra credit opportunities I offered earlier in the semester, but now that the semester is OVER, I would love to go out of my way to assign and grade more work for you.)

I really enjoyed this class this semester, and I thought you were a really good professor! (Oh flattery!  Now we’re resorting to flattery!  Ingenious.  I’ll never see through that. . .)

Sincerely (Really?)

The Worst Person Ever – no really, I’m THE WORST person ever

I even had a student once try to force her final essay into my hand even though she had disappeared from class for about a month without a word, far exceeding the attendance policy and automatically failing her for the course (which I informed her about in an e-mail I sent, also encouraging her to withdraw from the class so her failing grade wouldn’t damage her GPA).

I should have known this girl was a soul-sucking black hole of a bitch the first day of class when I innocently pronounced her name, Sajah, like this –> Say-juh (like Asia, but with an S).  She snotted back, “Um, hello? It’s pronounced Suh-jay-uh.”  I wanted to snot back, “No. It’s not.  You’re missing some letters.  Were they stolen?  Perhaps you could borrow some from Emmaleeighh over there, since she’s not even using half the letters in her name.”

Anyway, after I stood my ground and refused to take this girl’s final essay she left it, along with a note, in my mailbox.  The note read “Teachers like you are the reason students like me don’t succeed.”

Am I?  Um, thanks, I guess.


I Did Nothing

After a grading bender on Saturday and Sunday, I managed to finish all my work before Thanksgiving Break even began.  So, when Monday morning rolled around and my husband prepared for work while I sat in my pajamas under my heated blanket like an elderly invalid, I quavered out this feeble question: “What should I do today?”

He replied, “Do nothing.  Do absolutely nothing.  Don’t clean. Don’t cook. Watch TV and read books all day.  Seriously, if that empty bowl of yogurt residue is not sitting on the table when I get home, I’m going to find it and throw it against the wall to watch it shatter into a billion yogurty pieces, a symbol of your broken serenity.”  (I might have made that last part up).

So I girded my loins and prepared for the daunting battle against my own sense of guilt.  You see, I don’t quite know how to do lazy.  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  When I try to relax, guilty, wormy thoughts squeeze through the cracks in my brain and whisper obligations to me (guilt worms can whisper, btw, and they look like this):

“Lazy cow,” they whisper, “there are so many things you should be doing right now.  Cleeeean something.  Wriiiite something.  Plaaaaan something, dummy!  Harvest someone’s organs!  Do something!  If you don’t, your humanity will be revoked, and you will become one of usssss! Blaaaaargaaaagarrr!”

It’s usually just easier to acquiesce to their demands, but on Monday, I decided to make a concerted effort to not put forth any effort.

I succeeded.

I watched movies.  I read books.  I stayed in my pajamas, curled up in my heated blanket burrito, drinking tea (dream big, people, dream big) and breathing.  Most of the time I feel like I’m holding my breath, swimming upstream against a steady deluge of work.  Monday I was finally able to take some slow, deep breaths into the brown paper bag of my first real day off in a long time.

Every now and then, another guilt worm would whisper in my ear, but I managed to stuff a sock in its terrifying maw long enough to enjoy my day.

In short,

Highlights of last week?  Listening to a teenage girl on the bus tell her friend, “White people and light-skin people look nasty, like they sick.  Look like somethin’ wrong with they skin.  Ugh.  I could never date outside my race.”

I get it.  I’m pale.  My skin is roughly the color of copier paper. Beetle-cleaned bones. Basmati.  But, come on, it’s not like I look like Lord Voldemort:


My lily-white skin does react poorly to sunlight, though.  On my honeymoon, despite emptying the entire contents of a family-sized bottle of sunscreen onto my body, I still managed to get sun poisoning.  My whole face swelled up.  I looked approximately like this:

Hey you guys!

Also, when I was working at a daycare, a little boy asked me, “Why you draw all over yourself with markers?”  It took me a minute to realize he was pointing to the bright blue veins shining through my translucent skin.

I’m pale.  Still, I like my skin.  It keeps out pathogens and cat hair like most skin.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m not trying to chat that girl up and get her number, though; she might just vomit all over me, and then who knows what color I would be?

Highlight #2:  While having a discussion with my students about the purpose of higher education (whether it is simply to prepare them for careers, or whether it is also about shaping their character), one student raised his hand and said, “I think high school is when we shape our character and figure out who we’re going to be.  I think when we get to college, we should pretty much know that stuff already, so college should just be streamlined and focused on our careers.  We pretty much did all our growing up in high school.”

My response:

Did you think like that when you were a freshman?  I don’t remember thinking that, and a cursory/embarrassing visit to my old journal confirms that I pretty much felt like a fetus when I was 18 (and wrote like a fetus, too – a depressed, angsty, hormonal fetus).  Is this a common thought amongst college freshmen now?

If so,

I asked him, “Think about who you were when you were 13.  Were you pretty much the same as you are now, or different?” (Obviously he replied ‘Pretty different’) “OK then, imagine yourself when you are 23.  Does turning 18, legally becoming an adult, really put a stop to your ability or need to grow any more than becoming a teenager caused you to completely put away your childhood and suddenly become mature?”

Cue crickets and blank stares.

Anyway, I’m on break now, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I hope you enjoy it with people you love (or at least tolerate).  Go find some leaves and roll in them for me.  All mine are covered in snow spat out by the encroaching winter demon who longs only to torment me with his jagged, icicle fingers.  Oh warm fingers and toes!  Would that I knew you still!  Pray you return swiftly and reattach yourselves to my icy stumps.


As a Mother. . .

Nontraditional students are polarizing.  Some professors love them.  After all, nontraditional students are older; thus, they are typically more mature and responsible.  They’ve got the crows feet to prove they’ve spent countless hours frowning at the mailbox, a true mark of adulthood.  They’ve got kids to feed; thus, they pay attention in class and do their work because they don’t want to fail and end up moving their spawn into a van down by the river. They managed to survive their twenties and now look at their binge-drinking, beat-boxing, clown-ass classmates with derision as they dream of warm milk and NCIS.  They live by the motto,

and they are.  And so am I.

On the other hand, some professors hate them.  After all, many nontraditional students balk at the mention of using computers.  Some seem downright resistant to stepping outside of their comfort zones to learn new technologies and use this fear as an excuse to not even try:  “I’m just not good with computers!” they cry as they try to force a handwritten essay into my hands.  Also, they’ve got kids to feed; thus, almost every time they speak in class, they do so ‘As a parent,’ a guaranteed way to elicit eye rolls and mutinous glares from their classmates.

I usually fall into the former camp.  I like nontraditional students.  I, too, am ‘too old for this shit.’  Also, I’d rather deal with the problem of trying to get a baby boomer to use a word processor than the problem of trying to get an 18-year-old to stop putting smiley faces in his/her paper and to stop using the letter ‘u’ in place of the word ‘you.’

I’d also rather hear a middle-aged soccer mom drone on about Makayla’s participation trophy than hear some scraggly, stoned kid with a soul patch try to claim, for the billionth time, that pot cures cancer.

However, I had one nontraditional student who still provokes damp armpit feelings of anxiety and loathing in me when I think about her.  I think she must have been in her forties, and she also walked with a cane.  That was all cool, of course.

What wasn’t cool was the way she would follow me.

I can’t prove it, but I think she must have lingered outside of our classroom, waiting for me to leave, because sometimes I’d be quietly minding my own business in a bathroom stall, spending some precious between-class moments trying to pee and regain some shred of sanity, and I’d hear it.  Shuffle, stump. Suffle, stump. Shuffle, stump.  She’d come stumping into the bathroom.  I’d hear her heavy breathing and the sound of her rubber-tipped cane striking the tile.  She’d spot my feet under the stall door and, before I could think to hide or try to escape, she would start talking to me THROUGH THE STALL DOOR, standing inches away from me, asking me question after question, as I hovered awkwardly over a toilet seat with my skirt hiked up.  You might think, “Maybe she just had a similar route to her next class and also needed to use the bathroom on the way.”

You would be wrong.  I know this because once I came out of the stall after trying to deflect her conversation through the door only to find that we were the only two in the bathroom and all the other stalls were empty.  She did not use the bathroom.  She hunted me as if she were an entire pack of Jurassic Park velociraptors.

Then she would devour my few precious moments of alone time.  Our conversations would go approximately like this.

Lady:  Oh, Hi professor!  That you in there?

Me: (In my mind)

Me: (Out loud) Uuuuh.  Yea.

Lady:  Oh, ok, I thought those were your shoes.  I’m really concerned about this research essay.  We never wrote any essays like this in my last English class, and I’m just not good with computers.

Me: (Silence, as I stand like some kind of panicked, slowly-leaking ostrich). . . ok.

Lady:  You said in class we’re supposed to find eight sources, right.

Me: . . . .yep.

Lady:  Does it say that on the essay assignment sheet too?

Me: . . . Uh, yep.

Lady:  Oh, ok.  Because that’s a lot of research.  What if I can’t find eight sources.

Me:  . . . Well as I said in class. . .

And so it would continue.  She would ask me things I already answered in class, and I would try to disengage while I urinated.  Usually I would drop strong hints that it would be more appropriate to discuss this via e-mail or during office hours, but she either didn’t get it or didn’t care, so we would share these daily converurinations with each other.

Thank the sweet baby Jesus in the manger she didn’t actually try to follow me into my next class.

In addition to stalking me, she also brought (AND CONSUMED) an entire 2-liter of cola to class every day.  This was disgusting enough on its own.  I mean, there are approximately 1.25 cups of sugar in a 2 liter bottle of cola.  Just imagine shotgunning an entire cup of sugar in less than an hour and then going back for a little more.  That’s basically what she was doing.  Who does that?

Then, she would spend the remainder of class loudly clearing mucus from her throat, and I would spend the rest of class trying not to stop teaching and yell,

I can still hear her in my nightmares – breathing and stumping and asking and clearing.  She is mingled in my memory with the pressing need to urinate and the smell of public restrooms.  Ugh.

Ah well.  This week I found out two of the classes I was planning to teach next semester have been canceled due to low enrollment.  Such is the life of an adjunct.

Crazy Eyes/Crying Eyes

This Week’s Poetic Bus Conversation:

Me: (Noticing a man approaching the bench and realizing I am sitting slightly toward the center, I scoot over to make room)

Man:  (mumbling incoherently)

Me:  (Thinking perhaps he has greeted me or attempted to make polite conversation or simply standard, unwelcome human contact of some kind, I do my social duty, look over and make my face smile.  Wrong move.  Dude has legit crazy eyes, and now I have engaged him.  He is holding an empty cup, shaking his legs frantically and staring me down with his crazy, crazy eyes – like Suzanne from OITNB, which you should watch right this very second if you haven’t already.  Seriously, stop reading my blog and go watch it):

I love her so much.

Seriously, she is my hero.


On the other hand, those aren’t really the eyes I want to see staring at me from the face of a bus stop stranger.

Dude also has the most methy teeth of all time.

Mr. Meth:  You sittin’ on that side?

Me:  Yes, I’m sitting on this side.

Mr. Meth:  Oh. You gonna sit on that side?

Me:  Yes, I’m going to sit on this side.

Mr. Meth:  Oh. Can I sit on that side?


Me:  Um, sure, you can sit on this side. (I moved to switch places with him)

Mr. Meth:  (Noticing the bus fare clutched in my moist, nervous, ‘please don’t force your interaction or anything more tangible on me’ hands) You goin’ somewhere with that money?

Me (thinking) – nooo, I’m just sitting at this bus stop holding this money because I’m waiting for a friendly helper to make it rain Washingtons all up on me!  I will now hand you my money so you may assist me in this venture.

Me:  Yes, I’m going home with my money.

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ buy some drinks with that money?

Me:  No, I’m just going home.

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ buy some coffee?

Me:  No…

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ buy some juice?

Me:  No…

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ buy some pop?

Seriously, it was like having a conversation with this character but with 85% more meth and crazy:

Me:  No, I’m just going to buy bus fare and go home.

Mr. Meth:  How much bus fare?

I was becoming gradually angry.  I just wanted to sit in my cone of social anxiety and pretend that everyone else was dead.

Me:  (What I wanted to say…)

Me (What I actually said):  $2.25

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ spend all that money on bus fare?

Me:  Yes.

Mr. Meth:  You gon’ spend all that five dollars on bus fare?

Me:  I don’t have five dollars.  I just have $2.25 and I’m going to go home with it.

Mr. Meth:  Where you live?

Me (Thinking):  Oh, you want me to tell you where I live?  Do you?

Me (what I said):  Um, I live over on the west side of town.

That was the end of our conversation, but for the next 5ish minutes as I waited for my bus to arrive, Mr. Meth proceeded to mumble incoherently to himself.  Occasionally he would break up these strings of nonsense by laughing loudly and maniacally, as only a crazy bus stop friend can laugh.  It sounded like a mixture between Dracula’s laugh

and Jeff Goldblum’s Jurassic Park laugh, which is the most glorious sound in all of creaion:

In other news, I’m still swimming in papers, but I should be caught up by this weekend and maybe get to enjoy that elusive phantom known as a day off!

Also, a student cried in my class last week.  Remember when I mentioned self-professed “emotional problems” girl?  Yea.

Apparently she didn’t finish her draft on time and this upset her verily.

As I stared at her trembling lips and her moist eyes, I considered a few approaches to the situation.

First I thought about doing this:




or maybe this:


Then I considered some light mockery:


but I figured I might possibly be sued for public humiliation (this is America, land of the free, home of the people in Rascal scooters who sue McDonalds for putting them there).  So instead I took my usual, gentler, infinitely-more-awkward approach to dealing with any outpouring of sadness in my presence:

And do you know what happened?  As I tried to console this unwelcome hot mess, she straight up said “Ugh!  I’m not in a counselor’s office!”

I wanted to say, “Seriously?  You made it a counselor’s office when you strolled in here with your pale, wet face and dropped your emotional baggage all over my comfort zone!”

I wanted to slap her.  I wanted to slap her more than anything in the world.  Is that a healthy feeling?



I’m Not Dead Yet

For anyone who follows my blog (a.k.a that one guy who lives in his second cousin’s basement and dreams of owning a cat Glamour Shots company), don’t worry, I’m not dead yet.

I disappeared for a while.  Things got a little hairy.

I should have known this week was going to be total shit when I returned from a trip to visit my family only to be greeted by my cat with a dead snake hanging out of her mouth.  Apparently she managed to catch and murder it in my basement.  My cat is basically a serial killer – spiders, centipedes, mice, human babies – you name it, she’ll eviscerate it.

Courtesy of The Oatmeal (link below)


The Oatmeal

Usually I just ignore her, but a dead snake on my rug requires a minimum amount of attention and squealing.  Anyway, this dead snake was clearly a harbinger of the week to come.

This week was the gnashing teeth of my cat and I was the limp, dead, gnawed-on garter snake covered in its saliva and malice.

Why? Grading.  It’s always grading.

On Wednesday I graded a mere, manageable 15 essays.  Chump change.  Candyland.    Thursday I graded 40 essays.  Yesterday I graded 46.

Every day I felt like I was being drowned in a toilet filled with student waste.  All my mental energy was dedicated to NOT collapsing into a puddle of tears, self-pity, drool and incoherent babbling as I slogged through one essay after another.

First, let me explain that it takes me on average 15 minutes to grade an essay.  So, yesterday I spent 11.5 hours on grading alone.  Do you know how much bad television I could have watched with that time?  That’s like 8 episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras 

Go with the octopus kid. Photographer = line cook with an overpriced camera and a portfolio that nobody cares about. At least if you’re an octopus you can spray ink all over anyone who pisses you off. Also, tentacles.

and 7 episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo

(Sweet baby, I could have totally used some special juice while I was grading, and by special juice I mean whiskey – lots of whiskey.)

Anyway, in short, this week was nightmarish.  Hellish.  All I wanted to do was watch bad television while I channeled my inner Liz Lemon and worked on some night cheese:

Instead, I graded and I graded and I wept and I graded and I slept a little and I graded and I almost died.  For real.  About halfway through, as I stared at the endless stack of essays, gazed around at my dirty apartment, as I smelled the death juices of a week-old bag of apples (from my sweet grandmother’s backyard) liquescing on my kitchen table with no hope of ever being baked into a pie, I felt like Artax in the Swamps of Despair:

(Ugh. Right in the childhood.  Damnit Artax, move your giant, depressed, horse ass!)

Eventually, though, I became delirious  and I could have graded all night.  Lord help the students whose essays I graded during that period of sleep-drunken insanity.  Here’s the comments I imagine I made on their papers:

“You get an F because there are WAY too many tiny dragons crawling all over your paper.  Next time, I require that you submit your work sans dragons!”

“You get an A because I like you and your paper tastes like vanilla bean and cuddles.  Oh God!  Why did your paper turn into lava?!?  It burns!”

“Aardvark.  Butthole.  Poststructuralism. Goethe.  Here C+”

Me, post-grading marathon.

To let off some steam mid-grading, I decided to go for a walk, but here’s the thing – I live in the hood.  Prostitutes perch so regularly outside my friendly neighborhood Kroghetto that a neighboring business owner made a sign out of poster-board and a half-dried-out sharpie that said, “If you don’t pay, they won’t stay! Say no to prostitution!”  He also drew a very subtle, RIP tombstone on the side.  I guess it was the headstone for a dead prostitute?  I don’t know.  Dude means business, apparently.

What I mean is that I live in the kind of neighborhood where walking is sometimes relaxing and sometimes it is sexual harassment.  Here are some of the phrases that have been shouted at me while out running/walking in my neighborhood:

1) (From a gentleman wearing an A-shirt and Hello Kitty pajama pants) “Mmmm!  Hey girl!  I’d loooove to catch up witchu sometime!”

2)  (From a pack of degenerate, loitering youths who are probably now in prison for lighting kittens on fire) “Sup shawty?  I’d hit it!”

3)  (From a man in one of those windowless vans I Iike to call rape’n wagons) “I’mma smack dat ass!  You look good in dem pants!”

4)  (From a man driving his car slowly beside me as I walked down the street) “Mm.  Mmm.  Mmmmm.  Mmmmmm” – he just kept saying that.  I think he was hoping I would acknowledge him.  Maybe he’d accidentally glued his lips shut while huffing a bottle of wood-grade Elmer’s and was just trying to solicit help from me.  Too bad.

Here’s my response to each scenario:

So my walk didn’t quite relax me, although I did get to walk past an entire busload of schoolchildren singing “I Believe I Can Fly” at the top of their lungs.  My first reaction to this:

Second reaction:  Space Jam was a modern masterpiece.  I must acquire and watch it right this minute.

Third reaction:  If I were that bus driver, I would swerve that bus over a cliff.

When I got home, no magical, naked elves had graded my remaining essays for me (Maybe I should take out a Craig’s List ad – “Seeking magical elves.  You grade my papers, I’ll sew some really shitty elf clothes for you.  Nothing sexual.  Some light nibbling from my cat might occur.)

I started to get viscerally angry at the stack of essays that never seemed to shrink.  Rather than stacking them neatly as I finished, I would fling them into a haphazard pile on the floor that my cat soon claimed in the name of snake-murderers everywhere.  Sidenote:  Next to murdering and eating olive oil, my cat loves lying on paper the most.  Even if there is a tiny post-it stuck to my desk, she will curl up on it and purr orgasmically for hours.  I think she might actually be this guy from Waterworld:

I let her do her thing and secretly hoped that some of my students had cat allergies.

Then, when a stink bug landed next to me, I dug out the essay of my least favorite student and used it to scoop the little bastard up while laughing maniacally.

I thought about squishing him on the paper just a little, just a little, but I managed to contain my crazy.

The moral of the story is that there is not one, but just know that I had 0 free minutes or brain cells for blogging.  So I’m back now, and I’m not dead yet.