Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bigger Everything

My Everything got bigger recently when I decided to finish my book, find a job, AND finish my degree at night in the fall.

I admire my kids for their respectful patience when I tell them things that are not particularly interesting to them. But l love my kids +++ for the way they reacted when I told them I was going back to school. There was a genuine pause while they recovered from the surprise, then:

Courtney: “Wow. Wow. That is awesome. Really, I am so proud of you…”

Drew: “I just stopped walking. Are you kidding? I am so proud of you…”

Jacqueline: “Are you serious? That is so cool. I am so proud of you…”

Sam: “Awesome. Are you going to post pictures of yourself getting hammered at parties on Facebook now?”

And, I like people from the start if they remind me of my kids.

I met one yesterday, a Courtney-esque young woman - about that age, smart, nice, and especially nice to me because she was my academic counselor and I was, well, probably like her mom.

I wanted a Psychology course that required three pre-requisites and I had only two. She hopped on the computer and said, “I’ll e-mail the professor right now and let’s see if we can get his permission!”
She pulled up the courses I took ten years ago.
“Wow,” she said, looking into the screen, “Your grades were awesome.”
“Thank you,” I said, sounding mature-awesome.

There are only six courses involved, it will be over in a blink. I’ll do well because I’m Serious. I’ll befriend people because I’ll never be one of those “older” students who come into the classroom and instantly befriend the professor. But I may be the oldest one and it does give me butterflies, so today I called my Jacqueline Flower who is a sophomore at B.U. to give her a chance to boost my confidence.

“Are you kidding? I see students like you all the time, nobody even thinks about it anymore. ” It was all I needed, but she went on… “Seriously Mommy, when you go in, it will be so easy…” and, "It's no big deal, you'll see. It won't make any difference..." until I changed the subject.

I was a little intimidated by the prospect of being surrounded by so many younger, traditional students. But they have been the most supportive and awesome-est of all.

Thank you Dollface, Flower, CocoPop, and Sam Man.

I love you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A present from Internet Hell

As promised, a present. Compared to the opening of the last post, I have an uplifting attitude story. (I would have rewritten the last post but I had a character ready to run someone over in a crosswalk and they were waiting for me).

I stopped on the way back from What’s Next land to use the rest room in Internet Hell and got lost for a week.

“Internet Explorer cannot find the website...”

Nothing makes a morning wilt faster than those six words on your screen when you have job boards to search, and “what are the contents of a high school science lab” to google for your next chapter. You sip your coffee and try again, thinking it didn’t hear you the first time. The message pops back up. It is very similar to the feeling you get when you turn the key in your car and hear a couple of feeble clicks before the battery dies. You know you’re not going anywhere.

Most satellite providers have an abundance of numbers for people in internet crisis to call and at the other end, in Bombay I believe, is an insufferably polite person who speaks to you as though someone is looking at them with a clipboard. But polite as they are, if you’re a C- in the technology department like I am, everything you say to explain your problem with the internet makes it sound like it just won't come when you call it.

You start with “Hi, my internet isn’t working” and the Bombay person asks you a beginner question like the name on your account and you answer that with confidence and ask if he knows why the internet isn’t working. He says “I would be very delighted to help you solve this problem today Missus Bone-ee-fant and I am sorry for your trouble,” and you say “Oh, it’s not your fault,” and you’re thinking this is going kind of well so that when he asks something about your modem you ask him what does it probably look like and where does he think it might probably be in your house? He pauses because he thinks you’re talking to yourself and then he realizes you’re really asking him so he tells you it may be a little box in the garage. So out you go in your pajamas and soon you say, “I found the fuse box, is it probably near that?” and this actually seems okay because you’re talking to an internet wizard who is so much smarter than you are right now, he probably has magic powers and can see right into your garage all the way from India to help you out.

Sooner or later he says, “If I may trouble you to stay on the line for a very short period, I will research this matter,” and you say “Sure, that’s okay,” and while he goes across the room in Bombay to get “Internet for Dummies” so he can speak your language, you find a CD that you thought you lost between the seats in your car and also your glasses on the floor in the back which means you won’t have to call all the restaurants you’ve been in for two weeks. By the time he’s back, you’re playing your CD and wearing your glasses and feeling kind of happy again and then he breaks up with you and tells you he can’t do for you what a “tech visit,” will.

Your spirits sink because you know from experience that whoever shows up won’t be a Bombay type but a swaggering, gum chewing, eye contact avoiding, insolent type who behaves as though someone called them in on their day off. And you know you won’t even see the tech for a week or more because in ThisEconomy everyone’s cutting back and fewer techs are taking on the same number of calls.

You don’t tell your Bombay person you wish he would try again - you’re only internet-stoopit, not stoopit-stoopit – but you want to say, “Oh, don’t go.”

Our tech turned out to be a cartoon compared to the surly type of yesterEconomy. Our tech seemed grateful to see us and delighted to show us where our problem originated and what we could do about it, and how we could prevent it in the future. He didn’t check his watch or blink too hard when he was asked a question, he even made an internet-joke or two. He gave me a thumbs-up and a wink when I asked how it was going, and was nice to the dog when she got in the way.

We’re zipping along again, not that I have any idea why, because my internet lesson went the way of my ninth grade Early American History, but I can google again. All is well. Until I see those six little words appear on my screen again, all is well. To those of you who have asked me if I’m “done with the blog,” I’m not.

And Jordan, the answer to your question is: There’s no such thing. There’s only one. And it might change it’s furniture around but once it moves in, it never leaves. Do not be fooled by imitations. More on that later.

Love, Case Number 331185TGRT

8.5% is a big, big number.

I haven’t lost interest in blogging, I’ve been visiting the land of What’s Next again. I brought a present that is still being wrapped, in the meantime here is a melancholy, depressing opening because the news these days is just too damn cheerful.

Yesterday, I listened to two people having a conversation in a supermarket (where else?). They knew each other from someplace long ago. Maybe college, maybe a bar, I couldn’t make it out. They established in the first two minutes that ThisEconomy sucks. One’s spouse was laid off. The other lost his job in November. For the next four or five minutes, and I know this because I had reason to be in earshot (I did, Courtney, I did) it was an ailment contest: “I had the hip finally done in January…” “I know, I had my second knee replacement in three years…” and so on until they went one way to the deli and I went the other to Soft Drinks and Seasonal Decorations. Behind me I heard, "So who did your hand?"

I went out of my way to smile at one of the people when I saw him later until he shrugged and smiled back. I wanted to say, “Don’t pick up,” because we crossed each other in the wine aisle, but I didn’t.
8.5% unemployment will make a lot of people idle who don’t wish to be. It will draw a wandering eye to things that usually go unnoticed; the way the house has settled, the way the sky looks at four o’clock, the dog. It will create hypochondriacs who work at small problems until they are big enough to capture the stress that has no place else to go.

It will do other things. It will change outlooks as self-elevated, intolerant people lose a job and understand how they intersect with others. Except for a certain sulky, spoiled someone who works at a certain sports store near me and needs to be pushed off her chair by my brother Tom, it will make grateful, appreciative workers out of the disinterested, unmotivated ones.

8.5% unemployment will change attitudes. Some of them will be worth passing on.