Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Excuse me, but is that a crank in your pants?

I used to love to eat. Food made me happy. I loved to cook, and entertain, to share food and savour it.

Then I got knocked up.

Now everything I eat makes me ill. The thought of fruits and vegetables turns me green. The idea of anything healthy is now my kryptonite. I gagged this morning while eating a peach yogurt (formerly my favorite flavor.)

I have walked through the supermarket and given myself full permission to buy whatever suited my fancy since I have barely been eating lately. To no avail. The only thing I find appetizing is juice and sparkling water. Well, that's not true, I also regularly crave boneless buffalo wings, from Applebees.

Now, I don't know if it is because of this or for some other reason, but I am extremely cranky. I am just plain mad most of the time. I am so mean to Johnny, my co-workers, my customers, and just regular people on the street that it's almost scary. I just don't know how to stop.

That's all for now. This isn't as exciting a post as I planned it to be, but that's mostly because I've been writing it all day under great duress, as we're pretty busy.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Let me tell you a little story.

There once was a workplace. This workplace had a woman that worked there who was just a squirrel, trying to get a nut. Surrounding this woman/squirrel were several very odd people, who between their actions and personal hygiene habits earned themselves stature and character not unlike that of a major network television daytime soap opera. This is (the beginning of) their story.

PC-Meet Pubcrawler. She is a kind woman in her late 30's. She is kind, but absolutely averse to learning the specifics of her job. She has been at her job for about 9 months, and for about a year previous to that she worked in a similar department in another part of the company doing the same job. Despite this, she regularly makes the same mistakes hundreds of times over, and simply can not take criticism or entertain the fact that she may need additional training.

Over the months, it has become apparent that the barrier to her grasp on the function of her job may be her drug and alcohol problem. Though she sits next to me, I was oblivious to this possibility for several months. I heard whisperings of "whiskey-breath" and "three-martini-lunches", but I paid them no mind. I did, however, begin to notice that she is often afflicted with the verbal diarrhea and lack of filter (between thoughts and speech) that, in my experience, accompanies a profound hangover.

The source of her difficulties has become painfully obvious to me in the last three weeks. My increased olfactory senses and sensitivites have confirmed what others have speculated. She often arrives late in a state of disarray which makes it obvious that she must have fallen asleep on the floor of the pub the night before. There is simply no other explanation for it.

D. McGoo-Meet Drugs McGoo. She is crizzazee. Wait, scratch that. She's just plain crazy. She's also addicted to painkillers. When on one of her benders, she nods off regularly, drools, vomits, and urinates on herself. At work. About a month ago, she vomited all over her shirt and then proceeded to explain the stains to everyone. All day. At a farewell party for a co-worker leaving the company, she had several drinks and urinated on herself at a very fancy wine and cigar bar in the downtown area of our fair city. She regularly trolls the cubicles begging her coworkers for spare change and small bills ("just to get home," she'll say.) She can be heard in public areas several times a week berating the receptionist at her doctor's office in hopes of getting the doctor on the phone so she can beg for an early prescription refill. When unable to refill her meds, she goes through "dry spells" where her rage for humankind overflows and she screams obscenities at her co-workers for the smallest infractions.

None of this, apparently, is grounds for termination.

DV-Meet Dirty V. Dirty V is in her mid-thirties and very single. She lives in a rooming house with recovering drug addicts and various other n'er-do-wells. She regularly complains to her co-workers about theft, assault, and police intervention at her domicile. Dirty V would benefit greatly from a hose-down. She is the kind of dirty-stinky that curls one's nose hairs. She, like PC, seems vexed by various functions of her job. However, for DV, it's not that she CAN'T understand how to do it, it's that she chooses not to. Ask her for help and you'll be sure to receive such a heavy round of sighs and excuses that you'd rather do her job yourself to avoid her.

Dirty V is also very fond of attention. The slightest criticism will throw her into a frenzy of crying and clutching her stomach. Her stomach is apparently directly connected to her emotional core. If she becomes emotionally upset, she will often have to take several days off work due to stomach pain. Dirty V maintains a secret hatred for PC and quietly tries to discredit and destroy PC's reputation to their superiors. PC is sweet and kind and does not suspect Dirty V's intentions. If cornered, Dirty V will share PC's deepest, darkest secrets at the slightest provocation. Dirty V is sneaky and often lies. When she decided that she no longer felt like performing a major function of her employment, she went to her 3 acting supervisors and, in a heartfelt plea, shared that she had a major disability--she was partially deaf!! Out of concern for her, the acting supervisors contacted human resources on her behalf and proceeded to have Dirty V's job description amended to accomodate this major disability. The human resources department reluctantly agreed, but did ask for confirmation from DV's doctor. When asked for this confirmation, DV filed a complaint against the 3 acting supervisors, accusing them of lying about the disability, and claiming that she never said anything to them about it.

After seeing how easy it is to file a complaint, DV decided that she would like to meet weekly with HR to discuss her myriad concerns regarding her co-workers' attitudes.

DV also writes bad poetry and regularly presses her co-workers to read it. This is a dangerous game, since (as I've mentioned) her writing is bad, and she can not accept criticism without filing a complaint to human resources.

BBD-Meet Big Bad Daddy. Big Bad Daddy finds it amusing to haze interns and temporary employees assigned to open the mail by ordering unmarked packages filled with niche pornography DVDs. Imagine your surprise to open a package such as this on your first day and then try to figure out who it belongs to! What a hoot!

Well, now you've met the major players. Their antics never cease to amaze and truly do keep our workplace jumpin'! Now that you've got the background, stay tuned for more episodes of As The Dysfunctional Workplace Burns.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I'm blind

The last time I went to visit the eye doctor was when my cat Mystery scratched my eye.

Mystery quite un-ironically disappeared from the house when I was about 10. Others have suggested that this might be one of those instances where my parents "sent the kitty to live with a nice family on their farm", but my parents were much too blunt for that. In fact, when my childhood doberman Spike got too sick to walk, my parents invited the vet over to the house to administer the fatal cocktail right in front of us. The vet was kind, and Spike, at 14, seemed to know that it was his time. We threw hand-drawn farewell cards into his grave at the pet cemetary (aka the sideyard of my parents house), and I spent a few weeks sitting on the freshly turned earth crying.

After Spike came Quigley, a pitbull/collie/boxer mix with a head like an anvil. My mother heard from her informant at the dog pound that he was going to the chambers and decided to pick him up on her way home from work one night. He was a very intelligent puppy who found himself the object of multiple attentions, not the least of which came from my father, who had been deeply shaken by Spike's death. Quigley was fearless and sweet, and when the woman who ran him down in the middle of the street sued my parents for the damage that Quigley's lifeless body had done to her fender, my father told her he'd meet her in hell. Much like our Quiggles, my father is docile until provoked.

My father won't admit that he is going blind. He is the kind of man that has always taken good care of himself. He is probably the healthiest person in our family. He runs or plays soccer daily, and rarely overeats. He has never been overweight or careless in his habits. When he was diagnosed with diabetes, he begged the doctor to tell him why. Apparently having little to no risk factors is fairly common now.

When my father called me to tell me that I'd better lose some weight and start working out in order to avoid the diabetes that was almost inevitably in my fate, I heard some fear in his voice. He had always encouraged us to face up to the strange and sometimes difficult realities that life presented us with. He taught us to fight when we had to fight. This news was unavoidable, and very hard to face. He had met challenges before with logic and chutzpah, but I could tell how hard it was for him to feel that he had passed impending defeat along to his children.

When I learned that my new job's health plan covered a yearly opthamology exam and had a substantial allowance for eyeglasses, I decided to go just for fun. Once there, the kind doctor gently told me that I had inherited a degenerative astigmatism in my left eye that would gradually render my vision more and more ineffective. He described the symptoms that I had been feeling all of my life and explained that I had severe eye fatigue due to my constant attempts to refocus what I'm seeing. He wrote me a prescription and helped me pick out a pair of stylish frames.

I picked up my glasses a few days ago. "Wow," I thought, as I put them on for the first time, "I'm blind!"

Friday, January 07, 2005

Mama's got the magic

We haven't cleaned the apartment for weeks. Sadly, I'm not kidding. Between the end of the semester for both of us and getting ready for the holidays, it just all went to shit. I've taken the whole day off today to do two things: get blood drawn for my yearly physical (I already did this, and after waiting for almost 1 hour to see the phlebotomist, I can tell you, it was worth it. Usually they have trouble locating my veins, which have gone into hiding after my short stint as a heroin addict, but this lady was on point. It took her about 2.1 seconds to find it, stick it, fill up several little tubies, give me a happy face band-aid, and send me on my way. Can you tell I'm impressed? I'm thinking of sending a thank-you note.), and clean the house.

I vowed not to go into the kitchen. We've lost two plants in the past week: Omar, our Ming Aralias, became inhabited by a large, ornery rodent named Juan Carlos while we were away for the holidays, and Estella, a beautiful hybrid succulent who fell to her death from the kitchen windowsill last night due to the ambulant winds of sunny Brighton. Estella's remains are still scattered in the corner, and I am afraid to approach Omar as he seems to have grown hostile since his tenant moved in (one of his stalks has died completely, while the other displays sad looking leaves with tiny bite marks all over them!!!).

That leaves me with five rooms: the love nest (aka our bedroom), which is a virtual explosion of dirty laundry; the living room, with its newspaper/library book/unread mail flotsam; the entrance room, where our newly acquired Chanuka/Christmas presents sit, yearning for their new respective homes; the bathroom, which, let's face it, is just plain filthy; and Dylan's room, which is the tamest in the house but still needs vacuuming and dusting. So far I have done 4 loads of laundry, and the pile is still as wide as the couch and as tall as a 10 year old child.

Guests will arrive at 9 tonight (my mother, aunt, and sister are coming to help me bang out some necessary wedding arragements) with their white gloves gleaming and their noses upturned. Naturally, I'm sitting at the computer while my entire home sits around me, neglected.

Why is it so hard to keep your house clean? On TV it seems so easy. Women are presented as neurotic houseminders who can't sit still until their homes sparkle and smell piney-fresh. Cleaning products don't just work well, they're FUN! No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to make a pleasant game out of "swiffering" (even with the "Wet-Jet"). To me, the only fun part about cleaning are the cigarette breaks and the loads of chocolate and treats I allow myself as a reward afterward (today I went to Athens Bakery in Washington Square and bought baklava for my guests for this evening's dessert, of which I've already allowed myself two pieces as reward for a job well [one quarter of the way] done.)

I would love to make this longer, but, unfortunately, the Clorox wipes and giddy-up 409 beckon, and, as a woman, I can not help but heed their call.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004



That is the number of hours until I'm free (relatively) from the heavy chains that have tied me to the 300 students I have been grading exams for this semester.

(I qualify because I must...I just received an email from a student who is taking his final exam THIS AFTERNOON at 3pm who wondered if, "I had a moment to chat with him before 3 (he sent the email at about 11am) about his second exam in the class", which he took over a month ago....Another email states, "I just received my final grade in the class [B+], and I must tell you how very unhappy I am with it. By my calculations, I must have received a C+ on the final exam [she got a B-], which is not consistent with my earlier performance in the class. I will be available to meet on Thursday, the 24th. I hope you will be holding office hours so that I can come discuss this matter with you.")


Actually, why don't you both just plan on coming to my house over the holidays. We can share a glass of eggnog and coze by the rustic fire while you blame me because you underperformed on your respective exams.


There was no need to make use of the 3 hours per week that I have spending in my office all semester for your convenience to address such matters. Asking someone to totally rearrange their entire schedule because you were too lazy to come and meet with them when they were available is reasonable.

Last week I made a special appointment for a student who was desperate to discuss his exam. While chatting, he jovially let me know that the reason he hadn't been to my office hours for the past month is that he "Just couldn't get up that early." I'm not joking. I'm being totally serious. Well, I suppose it may not seem like a joke until I tell you that my office hours are on Wednesdays from ten to noon and Thursdays from eleven to noon.

I try to remember back when I was an undergrad. I try to make sense of all of this. My favorite Professor, who has a daughter a few years younger than me who used to love to watch the movie Clueless says that that movie marked the advent of grade grubbing in earnest. I haven't seen the movie for years, but the Professor notes a scene where the character played by Alicia Silverstone is asked by her father where her report card is. She tells him, "It's still in negotiation." He replies, "Good. A grade well negotiated is better than a grade well earned."

This is the society in which we live.

A teacher isn't someone to learn from, or someone whose job it is to evaluate you. They are just the person you turn to when it's time to complain.

One last thought...

My mother, who has been a teacher for almost 30 years, began as a nursery school teacher. Growing up, when we would see her students in the supermarket or at the dentist, they would always be so surprised that she was allowed out of the school. These children were 3 or 4, and they truly believed that my mother's whole life was the school. It seemed absurd to them that she would have a family of her own, and have to cook dinner that didn't involve sprinkles, and have to get her teeth cleaned by Dr. Kahn. I always thought it was so cute.

Looking back, it doesn't seem like much has changed. My students also seem to think that I roll out a sleeping bag at 232 Bay State Road and cook in the kitchenette. How could I have my own life? Doesn't it make sense for me to send out individual spreadsheets to my 300 students so that they can see "how I calculated their score"? (4 requests so far, and the day is young...) I suppose if I put the amount of effort in that they requested of me, I would not have time for my own life. I guess I'm just not dedicated enough....

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What I'm reading now...

"No example demonstrates better than France, on the one hand, the independence of economic policies and specialialized opinion, interpreted as mercantilist, from the general social orientation in the economic sphere and, on the other, the tight connection between the emergence of the modern economy of growth and the change in this orientation under the impact of nationalism." (page 114)


As testament to the fact that students remember all of the silly things that teachers share with them in order to make themselves seem more human (which, in this case is specifically warranted, as the Professor is a demagogue of this particular discipline--widely read by those of emergent transitional economies [read-the Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Chinnawat hands her books out to the people to try to foster proper nationalist sentiments]), an anecdote:

When the author was preparing for the book, she got so excited at the prospect of including the Netherlands in her pan-nationalist review of economy, she crashed her car in a head-on collision, breaking several bones.

What does this tell us?

Oh, I don't know...

I think it rather asks some questions of me:

Will I ever be this excited about anything? Will I ever be thus inspired? Am I crazy enough to be a genius?


Oh, bother.

By the way, the book is The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth, by Liah Greenfeld (also my Professor). It is brilliant--perhaps the most important political economy book written since Weber's The Protestant Ethic (and inspired by it, if you can't tell from the title). But as a scholar, it is disheartening just the same.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

I'm sick

I think I have a sinus infection. Now I don't want to do anything. This is why I'm creating a blog. This isn't very exciting. But watch out!!! Because once I get my personality back, I'm going to knock your effing socks off!