Sunglasses and Iced Coffee

Last night I “taught” the last class of the year. I put “taught” in quotation marks because the class consisted of an enormous African dance and drumming troupe coming in and forcing all 150 of my students to dance and sing. It was so fun and I loved it; even the rude handsome jocks who used their phones all semester long right in front of my face got up on stage and danced around. There were a bunch of strangers there too, people who had just popped in when they heard the wild and incredibly loud drumming party going on in my classroom, and some of them brought small children, who also got up onstage and ran around and shook tamborines and sat down on the ground and took off their shoes and cried. I felt like I was dreaming. One little girl stood onstage plugging her ears and crying for what seemed to me like a really long time before her mother dealt with it; I thought that was cool as hell. Welcome to life, kid!

Class ended around 7:30 at night but I had to wait for several more hours before going home because my old man was at some weird film screening. I had the fantasy that I would go into town and get a full order of nachos at this bar I like, but when I walked up I saw that seemingly every grad student I have ever taught was there. I thought “where can I go where there is no way I will see a single student?” The answer was obvious: the swanky expensive bar for grownup rich people and visiting dignitaries, which is named after the man who first had the idea to give smallpox blankets to the Native Americans. That was the place for an aging professor just looking to have a quiet nightcap without the pressure of knowing all her students were surreptitiously watching her consume an order of nachos intended for at least four people to share! I walked over there–hobbled really, my hips sure aren’t getting any better–slung my enormous backpack underneath the bar, took off my novelty fake-fur-lined raincoat, and heaved myself up on a barstool. After perusing the menu I chose a $12 cocktail made with green tea and cucumber. The bartender looked at my ID and then laughed in surprise and said “God, I didn’t think you were THAT old! Jeez.”

Today I had to come back to campus for a goddamn meeting. I was complaining to my old man as we lay in bed. He also had to go to campus today, and was complaining. Then he said “I JUST WANT TO SIT ON MY ASS ALL SUMMER AND COLLECT MY CHECKS” which pretty much sums it up. So, properly shamed, we got up and dealt with our bodies and our dog and slogged our way through the glorious weather into the two different towns where we teach. After this meeting I will go pick him up and buy bread and wine.

It was surreal to be teaching (“teaching”) the last class I will teach until LATE JANUARY. My research leave has officially begun! Already I have become as jealous as Smaug, clinging sensually to the mound of liberated time I have been allotted. Anyone who tries to suggest a “working retreat” in “July or something” to “generate a report for the new chair” is met by me with a horror akin to that I would manifest had they suggested we run a marathon or commit an act of international terrorism. “I HAVE TO WRITE A BOOK” I say to all these people, who look at me agog, as though everyone around here is not also trying to write a book. “I HAVE TO WRITE A BOOK, I HAVE TO WRITE A BOOK.” I said this to the guy who cuts my hair; to the bus driver; to the lady at the coffee shop. But honestly I am excited to write a book. I like writing and I like my book topic and I want to see if I can actually do it.

I went to a seminar that was supposed to give helpful advice to junior faculty. The only thing anyone would say, though, was PROTECT YOUR TIME. They all looked wild-eyed and scared while saying it. YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOUR TIME!!! Somebody would raise their hand and ask a question about TA management or the etiquette of writing recommendation letters and the ladies running the seminar would just say PROTECT YOUR TIME!!!! As junior faculty, and specifically as women, you will be asked to do more service than anybody else, and you won’t be able to prove this is happening! But you have to protect your time! We were all scared shitless!

How you actually do that, however, wasn’t really a skill that was taught, at least not at this seminar. If your chair asks you to do something, you say yes, I know that for a fact. People with children annoyingly get out of so much shit, but I don’t have that excuse and am not so brazen as to make up a fictional child in order to get out of committee service. Can you imagine? “I can’t. Hester has pneumonia.” “What? Who’s Hester?” “Oh, my baby I had! I must not have told you.”

On the plus side, I am glad I don’t have a baby, so I guess we can call it even. Poor Hester, never even getting a chance to be born! What might she have accomplished?? Getting me out of a whole mess of meetings, that’s for sure. Children are our greatest blessing after all

I wonder if the man who is on the other end of this phone conversation this other man is having on speakerphone in this coffee shop would be happy to know that a bunch of strangers are listening to him talk about his marital problems. This motherfucker also got his coffee in a to-go cup even though he is apparently staying inside to drink it, while talking on speakerphone to his friend about his friend’s marital problems. Is this the worst human being who has ever lived on the earth? Have I finally encountered this elusive character?? I keep looking over at him judgmentally but as a middle aged white man he is blessedly unaware of what the body language of other people might indicate about his own behavior. I doff my hat to you, good sir!

In other news, shit is popping off in my garden. The radishes are like WHATS UP DUDES and even my perennials are peeking out of the dirt. The apple blossoms are just about to explode; any day now I’ll arrive home and the whole yard will be awash in pink.

We’ve had yet another great experience with a big strong honest New England man who comes to our house to do some work for us. It’s regarding this apple tree. When we moved in, our realtor and the home inspector were both really worried about the tree. It’s about 30 feet tall, which is VERY tall for an apple tree, and they kept saying it was out of control, it hadn’t been pruned in 75 years, it was a disaster, and we’d have to hire an arborist to come design a three year plan for slowly bringing the height of the tree down without destroying its productivity. We’ve been getting more and more stressed out about it. Finally I called a highly-rated local arborist and he came over right away. His name was Kevin. He arrived three minutes late and was deeply apologetic. We walked out into the yard and I was like “well, here’s the tree, as you can see it’s crazy and horrifying” and Kevin was like “oh, beautiful! What a beautiful tree! There’s nothing wrong with this tree.” We were really surprised. “Doesn’t it need to be pruned? It hasn’t been pruned in 75 years!” Kevin goes “Yes it has! Look at all those cuts, see? There, and there, and there–no, this tree has been very well cared for. It’s got a great shape.” We said “isn’t it too tall?” He said “No, the only issue is it’s too tall to pick the apples, but there’s nothing you can do about that.” We said “our realtor said we needed to lower it.” He scoffed! “You couldn’t lower this tree without BUTCHERING it,” he said with real emotion. He said the tree could stand a very mild pruning but that we could just do it ourselves–he showed us how! Then he said to wait a year before even doing that: “This tree is just about to blossom–it’d be a CRIME to prune this tree right now.” I said I still wanted to hire him to come prune the higher branches and he goes “yeah….I really don’t think that needs to happen for at least another couple of years.” He worked hard to talk me out of paying him money!

God it was amazing. It was AMAZING. I love Kevin!!!!!!!!! I will never call another tree guy as I live on this earth. Within a few years we are going to have to spend THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS getting these dying hemlocks removed from our property, before they fall on our house or, worse, a neighbor’s house (one already did, on the fence anyway) and you can bet I’m calling the shit out of Kevin. “KEVIN I NEED YOU”

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One Response to Sunglasses and Iced Coffee

  1. ericka says:

    You don’t need to invent a baby Hester. I have found, before I became a parent, that vaguely but consistently referring to a (vague but consistent) illness on the part of my rarely-seen spouse always did the trick to get me out of any number of extracurricular activities that I kept being “encouraged” to do by a job that paid me okay in terms of money but miserably in terms of respect and dignity; no way was I going to give those jerks one extra second of my time!

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