Sunday, December 28, 2008

One more second...

According to the Times today, whoever is in control of the atomic clock is tacking on an extra second to 2009 to take up the slack of our time-measurement instruments, so that it can catch up to our solar rotation span. Or else it's the will of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, I forget which.

Sweet. I can totally use another second.

Lest it seem sort of pointless to make this particular vertical scratch on the wall, the article points out a few things that can be done in a second: "a cheetah can dash 34 yards, a telephone signal can travel 100,000 miles, a hummingbird can beat its wings 70 times, and eight million of your blood cells can die."

I can add to that list: In one second, I can bore a student to tears. I can find one fuckup of the Bush administration. I can remember that I forgot something. I can forget what I was doing. I can run 1/550th of a mile. I can make love to a beautiful woman. I can make a resolution. I can blow a resolution. I can absorb .35 ounces of carcinogens in a cigar. And I can cure world hunger.

Let's call this an upgrade: the year 2009.0001.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Enter: Two Stupid Dogs

It was a five-hour trip to Indianapolis, what with icy roads, idiot Chicago drivers and me stopping for five coffees to wake up. By the time I got there, I was dehydrated irritable, headachey and idly wondering how long it would take for me to reach Mexico and chuck the whole mess if I were to continue driving south.

Then, I swung into the prearranged Wendy's parking lot. Met a woman named Janet. And got my dogs.

Four hours back to home, and they were in like Flynn.

I used to hate dogs. Then I met my girlfriend's parents' dog. And their next one. And then my girlfriend got a couple of Chihuahuas that were the nicest couple of mutts you could ever meet. There are few enough creatures in this world who are so excited to see you when you come home, that they almost pee themselves.

Now, I've got two more of the little buggers. And while I'm on break, the time I usually spend reading, movie-hopping, binge drinking and vigorously massaging my scalp to prevent hair loss (futilely, I might add), is now spent going through the growing pains of being a dog owner.

It's pathetic. I'm saying and doing things the most schmaltzy, syrupy-sweet kindergarten teacher would throw up over.

For example: one of my dogs came with a Mickey Mouse harness. I took one look at it, rolled my eyes, and prepared to toss it in the trash. Then he growled. Apparently, he likes it. So I now walk my chihuahua in broad daylight in Disney regalia. I might as well be wearing a dress.

For another example, I'm trying to make damn sure they use pads when stuck indoors (it's been a typical ninth-circle-type winter so far here in the Midwest, with temperatures reaching twelve degrees below are-you-shitting-me?). Which means that, every time they use the pads correctly, I've got to carry on like they won the goddam Nobel Peace Prize or something. Sometimes, this interferes with my sleep. This morning, at 2 a.m., my dialogue with Dog #1 was like a James Joycean children's book:
"Good boy, buddy, now use the pad. Use the pad. Come on, ushe-da-pad! Who's a good boy? Huh? Who's a good boy? You are. You're the good boy. Yes you are, now use that pad. Good boy! You use that pad! You use it!"
I can sense my IQ, never all that high to begin with, plummeting as I strain to come up with euphemisms for "take a crap" so this damn dog will be able to dope out Doing My Business=Owner Very Pleased. It does seem to work, though. I may have a curriculum revision in mind next year:
"Who's going to do their paper? Oh whoshe-gonna-do-duh-paper? You are, Fernando. Yes, you."
Sad how a dog with a brain the size of a peanut can be taught better than Fernando, I think.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hey Dad, if you're reading this...

Happy birthday. Post something to honor the occasion.

PHOTO: My old man, circa 1974, when he was an accountant for a major food services corporation. For some reason, they required their employees to pose for company calendars, although I'm sure it was totally legit.
There are fewer drugs more intoxicating than a snow day off from school. Normal snow days are one thing: if you get a Wednesday off, or something in the middle of the week, you usually wind up throwing at least a few hours of it away grading papers to get "caught up" for the weekend. I cry poormouth here, I admit, but it's still sort of a bummer to have to wait until nine a.m. to get plastered, instead of beginning the day's binging right at 5:15, when you get the call from your chair.

Today, though, is overpowering. I was supposed to give two finals today, grade them, enter final grades, post them, file my gradebook, print out a first-day-back lesson, and hit the pub with James Pepper, a co-worker. Now, though, I find myself with a day off before my two-week break, which means my lesson plans for first-day-back consist of giving the finals I was supposed to give today. Sweet.

So, to celebrate, I've drank two pots of Irish coffee, texted everyone I know who has to go to work today in order to sever any remaining friendships I might have ("I have a day off and you don't! Revenge is mine! Mwa-hah-hah!"), watched The Godfather, and am now contemplating some serious binge reading. No papers to grade. No assignments to plan. Just wallowing in my own crapulence.

This day is mine.

PHOTO: A snowy street in Chicago, filled with people who have to go to work, and therefore are having a suckier day than I am.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This is why they shouldn't start school earlier than 8 a.m.

Not enough coffee this morning. Groggy. Bleary-eyed. Slushy streets. Red light. Had to brake suddenly. Crash.

Car in shop. Driving a shitty rental.

Still not awake. Still not enough coffee.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I am now Trained in Sexual Harassment...

Wait...that didn't come out right. Please don't sue

Every damn year, we educators, we of the coffee breath and glazed up-since-5 a.m. eyes, have to go through online training in communicable diseases and sexual harassment.

The disease training, I really have no problem with. Every now and then, I come into the bathroom to view a kid holding a tissue to his spouting nose (the air is extremely dry in our building), at which point I'm not certain whether I should
a) get him another tissue
b) report the situation to the nurse, to prevent the spread of whatever diseases the little bastard might have
c) ask him if it's a coke problem, and if so, where can I score some
Thankfully, after viewing the Communicable Diseases and You! video, I now know: Drop all belongings and run like hell. But seriously, the Dos and Don'ts of dealing with potentially fatal situations are always helpful, especially when you spend most of your time isolated in the classroom. It's easy to forget this kind of stuff.

But the sexual harassment takes the taco.

The program is on the Internet. A series of slides. Each has a lesson in sexual harassment, accompanied with cartoon people acting out the scenarios and panning words at the bottom, explaining what is and is not acceptable between coworkers. The lessons have audio, too. So that, if you're illiterate, you can't claim you didn't know. You click "Next" when you've absorbed the lesson, move on to the next, and at the end, you take a short quiz you can either pass or fail. And then you're certified.

That easy.

And yet...I struggle with the idea that, if you're seriously perverted enough to need lessons on "When is referring to your own penis socially acceptable," you'll be obedient and compliant enough to sit through a 40-minute visual aid showing how inappropriate touching can be a form of friction ("and we don't mean the good kind!") in the workplace.

No, I'm not kidding. Or exaggerating.

(Well, maybe a little. But damn sure not much.)

Here are some of the snippets I managed to copy down from my extensive forty-minute training, which, presumably, I needed, given the fact that they don't screen teachers enough to weed out oversexed dodos from working in a closed room with the taxpayers' children all day:
"Hector keeps asking Sally out for a date. But Hector needs to learn that Sally is an independent woman, who probably has a life of her own. Even if she doesn't, she still might not want to go out with Hector. Realize that Hector is Putting Himself in a Position." (I presume, not the good kind, right, Seminar Dialogue-Writers? Right? You're fucking-A.)

"If Linda asks her boss for a promotion in exchange for sex, is that sexual harassment?"

"Two co-workers regularly enjoy sharing ribald jokes. Neither is offended. And yet, if Tracy, in the next cubicle, overhears them, they've just crossed the line into Sexual Harassment...and they didn't even know it." (Bum-bum-bummmm!)

"You might be wondering if touching your own genitals is harassment. The answer is yes...if the other party doesn't want to see it." (Other party? Have people been spying on me in the men's room? Because seriously, sometimes a guy's got an itch, you know?)
Of course, being that we've had five months to complete the training, and being that I blew it off until today, the deadline approaching at 3 p.m. and my health supervisor glaring angrily at me from down the hall, I figured I'd doubleteam. Gave my seventh hour a video clip to watch. Then booted up the program. Not realizing that the audio they were using would soon be replaced with my training:
"How can you tell when you've been sexually mishandled by a co-worker?"
The words boomed across the room. Instant hysteria. Achin' pointing and laughing. A chorus of catcalls: "Oh Teacher, you been misbehavin'?" "Sir! Sir! I'm being mishandled right now! Come see!"

I guess I deserved it.

I'm working on my own sexual harassment comic book. When I'm on break, that's when I'll have time for the truly pointless.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Books I Plan to Write