November 2009


To Whom It May Concern:
cc: The Powers That Be

RE: Overcrowding, Domain, and other societal contradictions

Be it here observed and otherwise declared, in full view of witnesses and with all the force and authority of the signed, the following: People suck. For those who doubt the validity of this claim, a sampling.

Item 1 – The elderly (and ornery) Homeland shopper who, while laboriously re-reading her grocery list, ignored a very polite request to access the bundles of romaine lettuce that were partially blocked as she inspected each and every curled leaf of the neighboring Italian parsley. Upon hearing the request and turning to look the speaker in the eye, she rolled hers, returning to her task without surrendering even an inch.

Item 2 – The technology dependent youth who, earbuds firmly in place, thumbs twitching furiously on the keypad during dinner out with family, refused to disconnect his umbilical gadget. Though his family seemed not to mind (their own attentions focused elsewhere), the fatigued restaurant employee attempting to wait on them struggled to communicate the most basic of needs.

Item 3 (subparts A and B)- The overpaid checkout-girl who, after communicating a sales total and turning to enter data into the computer, paused to write the Anna Karenina of text messages, oblivious to the $20 bill the hurried customer held out in payment. Tolstoy’s manager, meanwhile, stood at the end of the conveyor discussing with a confused shopper the location and merits of raisins. He failed to notice the texting incident.

Item 4 – The pushy department of defense employee who, having already argued with the TSA officer at the airport checkpoint, shoved her fellow Americans (whose flight left in 10 minutes) out of her way with a body blow and an “I’m going, here!” Her efforts secured her the use of a *special* plastic tub and stymied the entire line’s progress in order that she might receive additional screening from disgruntled security officers.

Item 5 – The hat-wearing churchgoer who, after offering a bit too much cough syrup to her already excitable child, pulled aside a busy restaurant employee, demanding that she take a moment to sanitize the women’s restroom after said child projectile vomited all over the walls, sinks, and floors. The employee reminded the mother that paper towels were available for guest use and hinted that perhaps she might want to clean up after her child herself. Instead, the devout lady returned to her table to eat, having sent her food back to the kitchen no less than three times.

In response to these and other similar incidents, one might opt for unrepressed anger and/or cynicism. Unfortunately, this often serves only to promote the very episodes that launched such a vicious cycle. Another option is to “be the bigger person” and attempt on one’s own to “kill with kindness” the powerful forces of vanity. Realistically, this is not a viable option.

Alternatively, in the interest of peace and general goodwill toward everyone, may I propose a new holiday: National Navel-Gazing Day. For this one day, let us celebrate the narcissist within us all. Ignore those around you! Deny the existence of reality outside the boundaries of your own flesh! Embrace conceit! Promote egotism! You deserve it.

Then, for the remaining 364 rotations in our common journey around the sun, may I suggest the following: Get over yourself.

Faithfully witnessed and fully supported by,

(your name here)

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In case you were curious, teaching English Comp I and II in a community college does occasionally generate a sense of fulfillment. It’s nice, when the alarm goes off in the morning, to have something to look forward to other than delivering greasy, chicken fried steak (with extra gravy and a side of ranch dressing for the fried okra) to already overweight people. I mean, if my days must necessarily involve ironic cruelty, I’d much rather deliver homework assignments to kids who are already over extended being full time students, employees and, more often than not, single parents. In all seriousness though, I love teaching. The all too short walk across campus from the parking lot to the English department is one of the most enjoyable moments of my day. Watching my usually half-asleep 8am class grow engaged and energetic over a reading discussion invigorates me. I love getting (positive) feedback about particular lectures. One female student this semester claimed that my lecture on inclusive language was the most meaningful she had ever heard in an English class. Even the dreaded process of grading papers has its moments. (What great material for story-telling!) I think I could be happy doing this for a very long time.

In addition to all these, I believe I’ve discovered a new joy of teaching: the student excuse. If students were half as creative in their essays as they are in their excuse making, my job would be infinitely easier. Here are some of my email favorites from the past 4 semesters. Poor grammar/spelling/punctuation/logic have been preserved for humor’s sake:

My son’s open house is tonight at 6pm. I won’t be in class.

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I wont be attending class Tomorrow. I have an appointment. If I can turn my work next class that will be great. Also I know my assignment waskinda lame.. I’ve wrote better papers. It is just that I guess nothing good would pop in my mind that early.”

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I am letting you know that my heartburn is acting up in a baaaad way and i am not going to be able to make it tonight,”

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“I am very sorry for not being in class tuesday I fell in a ditch over the weekend and shatered my knee cap but I figured you wanted the esssay so here it is.”

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hi Mr. Brunet; i am a student in your 8am friday class. i havnt made it to class because i had not payed for my class yet. i had typed in the wrong credit card acount number and now i have gottin that cleared up with the bursar office.”

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Hello, I will like to apologize for missing class on Thursday, I know that it was important to be there. I had been feeling bad since the beginning of this week, I don’t know if you notice it in class. I got up to get ready for school was not reelly feeling any better. I spoke to my doctor and he instuctucted me to to take tylenol cold and flu and to notify him if I have a fever. I did not ever run a fever, but I did decide to get back into my bed.”

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MS. BRUNET – I’VE OVER SLEPT ….MY PEER REVIEW I]M COMING NOW….DAMN!”

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Mr. Brunet i have read the course syllabus, assignment overview, and the essay 1 instructions. I am going to work some more on it instead of coming to class today, i dont have it ready for peer editing. Could i come in sometime to have a minute of your time to glance at it for peer editing purposes?”

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My ride to school “had a flat tire” and i couldnt make it to class im really sorry.

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“im srry im so slow i didnt understand u rite. my cuzin had to tell me tha rite way to do this so all my papers will be comin soon nd once agin im so srry.”

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ur X Qsd

Recently, a friend of mine got to kick Gilligan in the balls for money.

Before I explain (though that’s already a pretty good story sans explanation), it needs to be said that this particular friend is intelligent, articulate, and generally prone to acts of kindness and generosity. Kicking random strangers in their personal areas was an errant, albeit highly enjoyable, exploit brought about by sheer luck and circumstance. I might be a little jealous.

It all started with a Jackass-inspired scavenger hunt. I don’t understand the Jackass phenomenon. I don’t quite know what it is that these men do, why they make so much money doing it, and how it is that they haven’t seriously hurt or killed themselves in the process. My confusion reminds me of something the philosopher Wittgenstein once wrote: If a lion could talk, we would not understand him. I recognize the actions (riding in shopping carts, crashing into walls, etc.) but I’m not quite able to make any meaning out of them (why the hell are they intentionally doing that?!). Still, it is hard to deny that Jackass is overwhelmingly popular, despite my lack of enthusiasm for it.

What I AM enthusiastic about is the holiday season. And this most recent holiday, Halloween, was enthusiastically embraced by my community, as well. People in costume began dining in the restaurant as early as Tuesday of “Halloween week”. By Friday night, our bar was teeming with characters, including the unfortunate Gilligan and a random assortment of his friends. As many of you are personally aware, alcohol and bravado seem to have a correlative relationship and the more Gilligan consumed, the gutsier he became. Eventually he drank up the courage to ask my friend, the bar server, for assistance. It seems he and his friends were on a Jackass-style dare scavenger hunt and he had not yet collected his final treasure: video proof of his being kicked in the balls by a stranger. Did he mention he was willing to pay the kicker for her services? Gleefully, she complied.

Wouldn’t you?