Saturday, August 03, 2002

I swear I needed a shoehorn to fit into seat 27D on this Northwest Airlines flight from Hades. I’m up thousands of feet above the ground near Lake Something or other, clouds drift lazily below me, and I’m hunched forward trying to type. I can’t open my laptop fully unless I insert the front part of the keyboard somewhere near my lumbar vertebrae, slicing gently through intestines and other digestive bits. Speaking of digestion, the nice flight attendant gave me two granola bars instead of the normal compliment of one. That should keep me alive long enough to see the annoying child shrieking in front of me smothered. As far as I can tell, today is also open season for ugly smelly people at the airports. The child shrieking in front of me is definitely an auditory confirmation that yes, ugly people are allowed to reproduce. His ugly parents keep regurgitating calming noises from their ugly necks, but this kid knows that he’s doomed to be ugly.

I’m simply in a black mood, ready for the flights to end and have a real meal, maybe some chicken fried steak in Lubbock. I’m tense from travel, from the expectation of what it will be like back in Lubbock, from the mental exhaustion of completing the Teaching Fellows’ summer program. They rewarded us with a keychain about teaching currently on the floor near my bed, and a stipend check. The stipend check is a welcome addition to my bank account, but like all things from the Board of Education, it comes with requirements and hoops to jump through. They wanted to reward us on our last day by getting us free tickets to the Bronx Zoo. Rather than giving this as an option, it was required in order to pick up the stipend check. Now, it takes me nearly two hours to get there from my home, plus the same trip back. I have wanted to go to the Bronx Zoo, but not the day before I am trapped in a plane for five hours. It was incredibly muggy, all the animals with sense stayed in their caves, and idiots like myself had to buy water for three dollars a bottle. Also, they included a sheet in with the stipend that said I had passed the horrifyingly complex Math CST test. When I told Caroline, one of the staff, how happy I was, she told me that it might be incorrect, she couldn’t be certain. They had screwed up and canceled my test, and I had to take it a week later than everyone else. This means they probably included me in the group in error, but they don’t know, as they might have received my scores. Or the might not have. She said she will try to check next week. I would want to scream if I didn’t know how hard they work for all of us.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

The overly smarmy meteorologist stopped me dead in my TV-watching tracks yesterday. Steamy? What exactly does this perfectly coifed bubblehead mean? Yes, yes, the temperatures for yesterday would surpass my sweatiest moments ever, but I’ve never encountered that adjective with weather. I’ve encountered some hot weather. In Phoenix, there was the flammability factor, where you would step outside of an air conditioned office, take two steps, and burst into flames. In Phoenix, you knew to always be polite in the summer to the cars with their windows down, as the people traveling in four wheeled convection ovens always have had their sanity baked out. It was always described as a dry heat, even though my instantly evaporating sweat contributed what it could to humidify the city. I lived in Uzbekistan, where it was ochen zharkaya, which means “really hot”. We were told to always drink at least three liters of water a day, because you would sweat that much. During the day, I would kill for a cold orange fanta, totally willing to beat children with sticks if they blocked my way, even though the bottles were usually simply cooled down in a canal. The drinks were a few degrees cooler than me.

However, I have never lived in a place where the heat could be described as steamy. Does that mean I can leave out a pot of rice in the morning and come home to light and fluffy sustenance? Will my clothes mysteriously unwrinkled when I step outside? Do people step into a sauna to cool down? I’ve read books, Peace Corps diaries, and travel books about steamy jungles, but I have only been to jungles in Mexico and Cozumel, but I don’t think they count. Is New York City really as hot and humid as a jungle?

So I stepped outside. It was hot. Damn hot. When I read how Daisy Buchanan flutters languidly at the beginning of The Great Gatsby, I never really believed that heat was an issue this far north. Now I realize that the summers here are why New Yorkers raise their noses at Californians and their clement weather. That distinctive garbage/dog pee/smog smell invigorates me every day on my way to work, making me stronger, more alive than I ever could have imagined. What could be better? Maybe some air conditioning.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Mister. Mister! MISTER! (ALL teenage student commentary, being of the UTMOST vital existence-ending importance, ends in an exclamation point)
-What?
Mister! I need to use the internet! I have a social studies project!
-What is it on?
Moo crackers!
-What?
MOO CRACKERS! (apparently I’m deaf, shouting logically will help him get his point across)
-Can you tell me what are moo crackers? Are they things? A group? A movement? Food items?
NO!!!! Moo crackers! MOO CRACKERS! (He’s practically doing the potty dance)
-Can you write it for me? Mr. Bunger is a little deaf, I guess…
M-u-c-k-r-a-k-e-r-s

Some days, I feel like one of the movie teachers, inspiring kids to grasp something that five years of teachers couldn’t get across to them. I jump around the class, the kids laugh at my terrible jokes, they finally grasp what multiplying two negative numbers really means, my lesson plan is a well oiled machine. When this student is president of the US, he’ll have me present at the swearing-in ceremony, proclaiming a Mr. B day. Some days, this really happens. Some days.

Then there are the other days. My co-teacher is absent, it’s her turn for a lesson plan, I don’t have any info, and I’m not even legally allowed to be alone in the class with them until September. Yet I’m still teaching them, as my slacker supervisor can’t find anyone else to teach them. I tell him I’m forbidden to teach alone, I could get fired. He just shrugs, tells me there is no other option. I suggest that I combine my class with another co-teaching pair, he refuses because they can’t legally crowd that many kids in one class. But it’s okay for a non-licensed person to teach alone in a class! First group, I wing it pretty successfully. The kids are all really weak on fractions, and I’m able to show them how to combine them logically. Heads are nodding in agreement, eyes are showing the glimmer of comprehension. Next class, same lesson, absolute disaster. By the end of class, two kids are throwing chairs, one girl is pressing her chest up to the window, broken pretzels and skittles litter the floor. I am the worst teacher in the world.

I have no idea about tomorrow.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

I hate when work and school interfere with a perfectly good weekend. I really, really needed to do homework. Instead of doing the work like a responsible person, I giggled blankly through the days, imbibing alcohol, learning the definition of 'callipygian', and eating sinfully huge amounts of restaurant food. I had a wonderful time, and I am now doing the 10pm panic dance.

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Scott at the Gandhi restaurant. First, the Gandhi restaurant serves meat dishes, which I find highly amusing. Second, we each went for a combo plate of unidentifiable foods, as I love trying new stuff. I find olives and pickles gross, but I've even begun trying dishes containing them. I still find them icky on their own, but olives are okay as ingredients. Occasionally. Third, Scott told me that some study showed that people that are willing to stick anything into their mouths are usually experimental sexually. If so, that means I will try anything sexually, except for two things. No comment on the two things.