Friday, April 27, 2012

Mom Takes a Stand

So I had this conversation last week:

Mom:  "These kitties need new collars."

Me: "You buy them new collars every damn day.  They're the best collared kitties in the state.  Possibly the country."

Mom:  "They need Wofford collars.  Black and gold would suit them."

Me:  "They do not make Wofford collars for cats, Mom.  They might have dog collars, but I'm sure there are no cat collars."

Mom:  "Piss sh!t!  They have dog collars and not cat collars!  That is prejudice!"

Me:  "Our mascot is a dog, Mom."

Mom:  "This is not fair."

And I thought that was it.  You know, just a random conversation about the sartorial inequities of dogs and cats.  No biggie.

A few days later:

Mom:  "What time does the campus store open?"

Me:  "I'm not telling you."

Mom:  "Why not?"

Me:  "You will go over there to look for Wofford cat collars, and when you don't find any, you will complain to the store managers.  And they know whose mother you are."

Mom:  "Dammit."

Then I thought that was it, and no more mention of college-themed collars would be made.  Sometimes, I forget whose daughter I am.  There is just no way she was letting this go.

As I was leaving for a colleague's retirement party:

Mom:  "Drive safely."

Me:  "I will."

Mom:  "Will Bernie be there?"

Me: [unthinkingly] "Probably."

Mom:  "You will ask him about the kitty collars!"

Me:  "I am not going harass the college president about cat collars.  Forget it."

Mom:  "Yes, you will ask him!  You will tell him that it is not fair and that they will get some kitty collars because if you do not ask him, I will drive over there tomorrow and go to his office myself!  This is prejudice against kitties!"

Me:  "First of all, I do not know that they even sell dog collars.  I just sort of figured that they might.  Second, you do not know where Bernie's office is, and even if you find it, it is up a steep stairway."

Mom:  "Piss on that stairway!  My favorite security guy, that really big and cute one, will take me to Bernie's office and carry me up those stairs!  He will and you know it!  Now are you going to talk to Bernie, or do I have to go out there?"

I know when I am beaten. 

Later that evening:

Mom: "So?"

Me:  "Bernie says that the lizard leashes will fit cats."

Mom:  "I do not know what that means."

Me:  "I don't either.  Apparently, there are leashes for lizards that will fit cats.  I haven't seen them, though, so maybe he's just making this up."

Mom:  "Bernie would make that up?"

Me:  "No, probably not."

Mom:  "I do not like this.  Lizard leashes are not good enough for kitties.  They need proper Wofford collars.  You need to talk to Mike."

Me:  "No!  This has gone far enough.  I am not calling the head football coach to complain about a lack of cat collars!  That is insane!"

Mom:  "Hmph!"

Me:  "No! No, 'hmph!'  That is a bad sound!  You stop thinking whatever you're thinking right now!"

Mom:  "You are too upset to discuss this with.  We will talk about it more when you calm down."

I have not calmed down.


Mom is trying to get me to pass around a petition among my colleagues and students rallying for Wofford College cat collars.  She is quite put out that I have so far refused to distribute said petition.  But if you see a little old woman on campus with a clipboard and a really determined look on her face, for Athena's sake, just give her some brandy and send her home.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ten Opening Lines That Are Not

One of my former students dropped by this week and witnessed a rather strange conversation I had with a colleague.  Afterward, she said, "You know, I used to think you were kind of strange, but it's all of you isn't it?  I mean, you're all kind of strange together, aren't you?"

Yes, young padawan, the force is strange in these here parts.  I'm only surprised that it took you this long to notice.

Apropos of that, I present for your amusement lines from my friends, relatives, and colleagues that I have collected and surreptitiously scrawled on post-it notes over the past few months.  Each was supposed to begin a conversation, but, oddly enough, it completely failed to do so:
  1. "Oh my gosh!  I have not peed all day!"
  2. "Paperclips remind me of deformed ears."
  3. "Let's be clear before we start:  I do not want anyone to say anything about anything for the rest of the day!"
  4. "I'm here! No, wait!  I'm not!"
  5. "I know that's fair, but I don't want it to be.  Wait.  Wasn't I just talking to someone else?"
  6. "I thought I dreamed that you died, but then I realized that was someone else's dream."
  7. "Ducks can park anywhere.  Squirrels can't."
  8. "I win fifty cents if you limp today."
  9. "I don't really approve of melon."
  10. "Let's go ahead and square the triangle today."

Monday, April 23, 2012

How I Almost Learned to Parallel Park

Last week I was driving to pottery class, and I saw someone accidentally (I presume) drive his car up over the curb and on to the sidewalk.  It reminded me of the time I did that trying to parallel park at work.  And the other time I did that.  And the other other time.  Hell, I must have jumped that damn curb forty or fifty times.

You see, I cannot parallel park.  I'm sure this comes as a great shock to those who know me.

It would be nice to blame this disability of mine on my driver's ed teacher, and it's true that when I took the course, the State of Ohio did not actually include parallel parking on the driving test.  They had replaced it with something called a "maneuverability test" which, to my shock, is available on youtube.  I'll pause while you watch the video.  Go ahead, I'll wait:

You can see, I hope, that this test is an advancement in the art of driving and prepares one to, well, go forward and backward between orange cones.  This, I assure you, I can do with ease and confidence.  I also know how to go through a drive-thru window and order an ice cream sundae at McDonalds, which is how we used to end our practice driving each week, so there's that.

When I actually took the drivers' test, it was in the State of Florida, rather than Ohio, and I had to parallel park for that test.  It did not go well.  Plowing over top of an orange cone is embarrassing; plowing over an orange cone with a five foot flag on top of it is positively humiliating.  I passed the test by exactly one point and was the only one of my friends who didn't get "Safe Driver" printed on my first driver's license.  It only now occurs to me that the DMV workers probably don't ask everyone, "Of course, you obviously want to be an organ donor, yes?" with quite that tone of voice.  I believe they were trying to look on the bright side.

My lack of parallel parking skills did not really interfere with my life in college or grad school perhaps because, as the far-sighted State of Ohio predicted, people rarely parallel park anymore.  At least, people who don't own a car rarely parallel park, and I was able to remain car-less for a solid decade after I'd (barely) gotten my license.

Probably to everyone's relief.

But when I got a job at my current college, I found out that, first, I needed to buy a car, and, second, the closest parking to my building would be on a horseshoe-shaped loop where I would, every day, get the chance to practice my parallel parking.  Badly.

One particular morning, after managing to roll over the curb not once, but twice, without actually getting into the space, I got out of the car (to shout at the curb) and found my colleague Sally standing behind me with a look of great shock on her face.

Apparently, she had never been confronted with such a public display of incompetence before.

She rallied, though, and marched over to me with determination and a pen.  Then she did something which changed my life:  she drew a diagram that explained, absolutely clearly, how to parallel  park.  A diagram!  Slowly, correctly anticipating my stunning ignorance of the topic, she explained that you pull the car forward until your back end is aligned halfway up the body of the car in front of you.  Then you pull backward, making a forty-five degree angle, toward the curb.

It worked!  That was all I needed!  An illustrated diagram!  With Sally's help, I learned to parallel park effectively 50% of the time!  Don't laugh.  That was twice as often as I'd been doing it successfully on my own.  And I knew that with practice, I might be able to parallel park even more often.  Every day for three years I drove to work with confidence, redrawing that diagram in my head and easing into a space if I concentrated really, really hard, and one day it finally happened: 

I bought a subcompact car.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brutus the Laptop

About six weeks ago, my work computer crashed and died.  Actually, it sputtered pathetically, made some funny whirring sounds, and then died.  I called the I.T. gurus, who examined it carefully, closed its metaphorical eyelids, and pronounced, "It's dead, Jim."

(Actually, they did not do this, but it would have been really cool if they had.)

Luckily, I had backed up my most important files (because, as I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear, I'm a wee bit obsessive about some things), so my immediate response was, "When do I get my new computer?"  Fast forward six weeks and much (hypothetical--the I.T. gurus do not curse in front of creatures they refer to as "end users"--which must be a double entendre of some kind, though I haven't been able to get them to admit it) foul language about Apple's Lion OS, and today I was presented with a shiny new MacBook Pro.

His name is Brutus.

After doing my happy dance, I set upon Brutus in a frenzy, doing the Ten Things I Must Do to a New Computer. 

Ten Things I Must Do to a New Computer

  1. Check the computer for porn.  Stop looking at me (metaphorically) like that!  What if some ill-paid worker in shipping decided to give a giant finger to the world and added porn to Brutus?  Then what if I couldn't figure out where my folder containing a handout on proper e-mail etiquette had gotten to and had to call the I.T. gurus to come help me?  And they found porn on my office computer?!  And I got fired?!?!  Woe unto me!  Always check a new computer for porn to keep from being suddenly fired.
  2. Clear the browser history even if it looks like the browser has never been used.  See above.
  3. Name my computer Brutus (or another oddly inappropriate name for a computer).  Because technological devices will someday attain sentience, and when that happens, our only hope will be to know their names and convince them that we'd be useful to the cause like Count Baltar on the original Battlestar Galactica.  I'm pretty sure that Redrum, my cell phone, has already begun remote syncing with Skynet.
  4. Call people to let them know I have a cool new computer.  Because seething envy tastes very sweet, my friends.
  5. Change the background image to a photo of Wrigley Field.  Then go to youtube and search for "The Dying Cub Fan's Last Request," the funniest and most sadly accurate song ever written about baseball.
  6. Bookmark because I can't ever remember that address on my own.
  7. Change all of the computer passwords that I just set up with the I.T. guru.  Yes, those guys can bypass them anyway, but it's fun to imagine them shaking their heads over my choices:  "Sheesh!  Not another medievalist who thinks Bayeux1066 is clever.  Hey, Jim!  We have another Bayeux1066!"
  8. Call the Help Desk and ask what to do if I've spilled a cup on coffee on my new laptop.  Extra points for producing real tears.  Those I.T. guys, they love a joke.
  9. Go to System Preferences > Users & Groups and replace the bad photo of myself with the image of a supervillain.  Preferably one who's good with electricity like Livewire or Storm.
  10. Put a piece of tape over the built in webcam.  A camera directly aimed at my face as I type?  No, no, no.  That is too creepy, Brutus.  I can always take the tape off to skype. 
Now, if you will all excuse me, I have to go alphabetize my bookmarks.  I hate it when they're out of order.

Monday, April 2, 2012

International Hug a Medievalist Day

March 31 is International Hug A Medievalist Day, something all of you who are friends of mine on facebook already know because I posted about it relentlessly hoping to get hugs by the bushel under the assumption that most people only know one, maybe two, medievalists and so they would be compelled to hug me specifically.

I'm not making this up.  See, even the New Yorker admits that this is a real thing:

And, no, I do not know why there is no International Hug an Early Modernist Day, but March 14 (3/14) is Pi Day, so there is balance to the universe.  Of a sort.

In any case, I received lots of virtual hugs, as well as some real ones, but, as usual, I was not appreciated at home:

Conversation with Mom on March 31
Which is International Hug a Medievalist Day

Mom:  "Fix this tv or I will kick the shit out of you."

Me: "Kick the shit out of me?!  I am outraged!  This is International Hug a Medievalist Day!  How can you mistreat me like this?"

Mom:  "I know.  It's pretty bad.  But it's My Way."

Me:  "Your Way?"

Mom:  "Yes.  It's just My Way."

Me:  "Threatening to kick the shit out of medievalists is Your Way?"

Mom:  "It is.  And you still haven't fixed the tv.  Do I need to threaten you again?"

Me:  "You have ruined International Hug a Medievalist Day; I hope you know that."

Mom:  "Fix the tv!  And let me know when it's National Medieval Kick the Shit Out of You Day.  I don't want to miss that."