Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ball of Confusion

“A bicycle does get you there and more.... And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal.”

-Bill Emerson, "On Bicycling," Saturday Evening Post, 29 July 1967

This morning was the coldest bike ride I’ve done since getting my bicycle in the spring. I doubt that I’ll have the fortitude to ride in the winter, like my husband. He’s heroic* - especially riding when snow and ice blanketed the streets and sidewalks. Even if I can endure the cold, I know I can’t navigate by bike through snow.

The sun was to my back as I made my way down Broadway, which cast shadows of me, as well as all of the vehicles that came up to me on my left side. Due to the sun’s low point on the horizon, this was disconcerting because it made the vehicles appear like monstrosities hovering next to me. I was sure a Mack Truck was about to pass me, but it wound up being a minivan, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Soon after, another shadow loomed large, but I didn’t worry this time. Imagine my surprise when it was a flatbed truck, hauling a portable toilet. As I was squeezed between the parked car to my right and the truck to my left, I didn’t know whether to fear for my life or be mortified if, in the crash raw sewage inadvertently poured over my corpse.

While all of these silhouettes messed with my mind, I also dodged the typical potholes, and a not so typical squished bird. I also caught every light on every street: Windsor, Columbia, Prospect, Inman, and Fayette, adding the stress of being late to my commute.

I made it in one piece, on time, and rushed up to my favorite “Community”, glad to be teaching History instead of Science (Though I’m even happier to teach Science over many other options). The sub call came the previous evening, which was the first time in a long time that I had the job the night before. I feel like I’ve aged a number of years for how many times I’ve recently woken up exhausted at 5:25AM, carrying the phone with me like some unfashionable accessory, while I make coffee, do sit-ups and push-ups, use the computer, shower, and prepare the children’s breakfast and lunches.

This next part is embarrassing – so much so that I shouldn’t share it. But I am. I was given my attendance sheets from the secretary, and then checked the teacher’s mailbox, which had an empty sub folder and two DVDs. The attendance indicated that I’d have two 11th-grade AP American History classes and one 10th-grade Honors American History class. Even if the teacher didn’t leave plans, I figured/hoped the students would know which DVD they were supposed to watch. And since the teacher had called the sub line the day before, I also figured that there were plans in the room.

Then I noted that the classroom was on the fifth-floor, but the homeroom after first period would be on the second-floor. It looked like this teacher had three different rooms, and I imagined I’d be pushing a cart around if I needed to transport textbooks. Where was the elevator? I decided to worry about that later.

I went from the office on the second floor, up the stairwell, but the stairs ended on the fourth-floor. I made my way into the hallway, and scouted another stairwell, which also didn’t go any higher. Then I asked a couple of students, who steered me in the right direction. Finding the fifth-floor, with its twists and turns, made me feel like I was in the turrets of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books, if that castle had been built in the 1970s. From the window, I could see the Boston skyline, and hoped my room would have that view. Of course, I couldn't find the room. I asked students, who were unfamiliar with the room number. Then I asked a teacher, who asked another teacher, when I realized that I had looked at the class number – not the classroom number. I had to tell them this before I hastily raced down the steps, grateful I didn’t have a first period class, which I would’ve been late for.

It turned out the room I was supposed to be in was the same as the homeroom, which was on the second floor right across from the office. When I entered the classroom, another teacher was in the room, teaching first period. When I inquired whether plans were left, he said, “No.” Regarding the teacher, he said, “You just missed her.” Oh no! Did she have a meeting I made her late for? Just then, she walked in the room. I began by, “I’m, embarrassed to admit this…” and gave her the abbreviated story about my “mix-up”** I even showed her that the class number is written in the same place as the room number on the homeroom attendance sheet, as if that made it look like anyone could’ve made this mistake.

The teacher took the DVDs from me, which were not being used, and handed me two others. Then we went into the office, where she spent thirty-minutes telling me about the classes and typing up the plans. She was a bit scatter-brained, but in her defense, she was going to a funeral. First she had planned to take a half-day, but said it was, “too confusing.” She spent several minutes deciding whether or not to give me her login and password, so I could show the movie on her computer. She was actually trying to get a guidance counselor to come in for the two periods to put in his information. I assured her that I would hide her password, and promptly destroy the paper at the end of the day.

While the teacher took her time, the secretary whispered to me that she thought it was unfair that my prep time was being taken like this, and offered me coffee. Glad that was viewed as a hero instead of a screw-up to someone, I didn’t mention that prep time is for prepping. It’s just a perk that subs don’t need the whole time to do so since they normally don’t need to plan anything. I just sat through it all, hoping I looked professional, with my blazer atop my preppy outfit, and sleek hair.

On a bright note, she was an older teacher, perhaps near retirement, so if I haven’t damaged my reputation (if I have one) beyond repair, maybe her job will be available soon. Normally I sub for young teachers, so unless they go on maternity leave (which is unlikely when they’re men, but possible when they’re women), the job opportunities are scant. Instead of asking for her job, I mentioned that I'm certified to teach History. Hint hint.

While waiting to begin my day, I had my third cup of coffee. Yes, I didn’t have to wake up until 5:50AM, had two cups of coffee before arriving at the school, and I still managed to misread an attendance sheet, and waste fifteen minutes meandering around the building like a lost puppy. At least the classes ran smoothly and I left clear notes for the teacher, which I'm hoping makes up for acting like a ball of confusion this morning.

And I didn't get scooped up by the front loader riding next to me while I rode my bike home.

*At this point, if I were like The Bloggess, I’d write “crazy” and cross it out, and put “heroic” next to it. I think that’s a neat feature that WordPress has, but Blogspot doesn’t. Unless it does, but I’m too computer illiterate to figure it out.

** Here would be a great place to write “incompetence”, cross it out, and write “mix-up” next to it. I think this is less funny as a footnote.


  1. I tell myself that plenty of people do it, but I've also witnessed a number of people get hit, and know two people who have (Including my husband).

  2. surround a word in "tags"...
    which i can't draw here...
    consisting typically of a letter
    ("I" for italics, "B" for bold)
    to *begin* an effect and a
    slash-letter ("/I" or "/B")
    to *end* the effect.

    thus "(I)this(/I)" would produce
    this if the parens were
    angle-brackets (shift-, and shift-,).

    basic html is *much* easier than
    most people think. a shame.

    love the blog.

  3. oh, ps.
    (s) and (/s) are...
    or would be
    mutatis mutandis...
    the "strike" tags
    that give the "strikeout" effect.

    (they used the typewriter
    equivalent of this in the
    elder days of blogging:
    science fiction zinedom.)

    the comment program won't let
    me use "strikeouts" here;
    that's why i did italics.

  4. r.r. vlorbik, thank you very much. Now I'll be a more savvy poster, and my blogs will be even better.