Friday, November 18, 2016

Taste the Fall Harvest. Taste it.

My job can be catalogued by its wealth of tiny, mundane hells.

One of which is cooking.

When I cook with the students, when I supervise the slow, ragged chopping of onions for crock pot chili, or the sloppy skewering of mini wieners to be laid out in raw dough caskets, my soul strains against its bony cage and yearns to be free.

So I was not pleased when my coworkers ordered me to supervise a group of kids making applesauce.

They were going to some staff-only "Taste the Fall Harvest" potluck, and they'd forgotten to bring a dish.

I told them I wanted nothing to do with any of it, but my fellow paraprofessionals have recently decided they are in charge of me, and can make me do whatever they want. 

This has opened the door to all kinds of passive-aggressive wackiness.

Two hours later, they came back to check on us and were horrified when I presented them with a large bowl of hot lumpy cider.

"How could this have happened?" they wailed. 

Here is the recipe: 


"I mean, it's applesauce, but it's really loose applesauce. It just falls right through the strainer," one of them observed, barely concealing the rising panic in her voice.

I thought of the German durchfall, literally "to fall through", but also their word for diarrhea.

"We can't bring this to Taste the Fall Harvest. It's embarrassing. It's got like chunks or something in it."

They served it to the students instead. Everyone sat around drinking applesauce from cups.

"Mmm....nice and warm," someone commented.


People asked for seconds.

I glanced down at my mugful of the stuff, cooling and untouched, and smiled.

There was no way in hell I was going to drink it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Memory Yields

There was a girl on the bus yesterday with no pants on.

I didn't want to stare, because that would be creepy:

but it certainly seemed like the near occasion of nakedness, anyways.

I was concerned my student A.J., sitting right by her, would say or do something tacky or inappropriate. 

He is a great lover of women, and not subtle. 

As we walk down the city streets, he wolf whistles, does extremely exaggerated double and triple takes, and stops just short of blowing an "AHWOOOGAH!" at every girl we pass. 

He grimaces as he does it, or looks furious, as if his lust is painful and pisses him off.   

I noticed him behaving this way on the very first day of school, and when I asked him to stop, he shrugged.

"You know how I am."

"Not really. I just met you two hours ago."

"Basically, I like the hotties." 

A.J. starts almost every sentence with either 'basically' or 'apparently', which he pronounces 'apparaclee'.

He is also a terrible liar. 

When he misses a day of school, he gives the most ridiculous excuses.

He said that he single-handedly bankrupted his former school district by convincing the superintendent to switch all the cafeterias over to Mexican restaurants.

"So the coroner really said that he did not know how to use his own tools?" I asked.

"Yep. Apparaclee, no one had showed him how to use his evidence tools. So I showed him."

I studied his face for a long time. 

There was no hint of guile in it. It was a scraggly, acned up country boy face, but it did not seem to know that it was telling really silly lies.

When the pantsless girl got off the bus without incident, I relaxed. 

Though I've noticed, as I've aged, I can never really relax all the way. If I do, I dribble a bit of urine into my underpants.

So part of me, somewhere, is always tensed. 

That's not really relevant to my story.

A.J.'s general tactlessness extends beyond his reactions to the opposite sex and into the workplace.

Tactless people scare me.

I had a tactless friend in high school, and he never hesitated to say very loudly that my breath smelled bad, or to point out my dandruff.

Social rules don't apply to the tactless; they can say and do whatever they want, like Nietzschean supermen, and no one stops them because no one wants secret farts outed or angry pimples highlighted by pointing fingers.

I made a rule that, while we are at work, A.J. cannot speak unless it's an emergency.

One of the few joys of my job is the freedom to make up as many rules as I want. I get to be the bossy older sister I never was.

While he cleans the toilets, I study the wall of Personas.

These are composites of real people types used for product development.

Each one features a photo, a name, a few facts about their personality, and then a quote from the Persona, which is supposed to sum up who they are in one simple statement.

There's "Vinnie", who for some reason has an enormous 18th century style pipe in his mouth. He says he's not up on technology.

"Gary" works hard and plays hard at the local VFW.

One of the facts about "Toby" is that his nickname is "The Tool". He uses the keyboard with two fingers.

My favorite one is "Desmond". The only thing the Persona card says about him is "good with his hands." Desmond's personal quote echoes that belief.

Desmond is a total dreamboat and one day I will make him my bride.

A.J. is all right with the 'no talking' rule, but the second we leave the job site, it's like all the things he wanted to tell me have built to a boiling point, and once we're out on the sidewalk, the kettle shrieks. 

The time he invented iPhones (as we pass an Apple store). The time he had a breakthrough in his search for a cure for diabetes (as I test one of our diabetic student's blood sugar). 

The time he and his friends were digging a hole on the playground and they found a weird plant.

"Smell it," his friend commanded.

"Ok." He sniffed the plant. It was garlic.

They dug deeper and found a baggie of white powder. 

"Smell it," his friend said again.

"Ok." He sniffed. It was cocaine.

"What did you guys do?" I asked.

"Basically, we took it to the principal. He said thanks. He said he knew about the garlic on the playground already, but not the cocaine."

We usually walk from work back to the classroom. It's about two miles, past all the university buildings and streets clogged with hurrying college kids.

On the day of the girl without pants, I decided we should take a detour through the grounds of the Law School. Stonework walls and stained glass surround a beautiful courtyard covered in the dark orange leaves of late fall.

"Yep," A.J. said.

No one was talking, but some people like to fill silence with random things like that.

I wish I could leave silence alone, or let myself off with just a lazy yep.

But I scramble frantically for things to say, panic rises, and the silence becomes as loud as a drunk and crowded room.

Sometimes I think that's why I do better with nonverbal students. Talk if you want to, or don't, they seem to say. I don't give a shit.

"This reminds me of Transformers 2."

"What does? The weather?"

Instead of answering me, A.J. summarized every Transformers movie in a ten minute soliloquy.

There was a soothing quality to his talk of Dark Moons and All Sparks; it was a wall of sound that asked little of me in return.

I watched the dry leaves chased in circles by the breeze and pretended to listen.

Monday, October 31, 2016

When he pours, he reigns

I'm sitting across from one of our speech therapists as she teaches a student how to use an Ipad.

This therapist is a very nice woman.

I won't say anything critical of her.

However, I will say, if you are bothered by people who talk to disabled adults using squeaky baby voices and enormous facial expressions, you might find it difficult to be around her for any length of time.

If she gets frustrated (and I am not sure that she does), the therapist only expresses it as an intensifying of her enthusiasm, a tightening of her happy screws.

How is it possible to sustain such enthusiasm in the face of repetitious defeat?

I couldn't do it. I' be a lousy speech therapist.

Not really. They are nice people. Good, dependable people you can set your watch by.

Though I don't like it how her mom gets upset if we have not removed her daughter's jacket the instant she has arrived at school.

 I wish I was a holy fool of something.

Over the summer, I was almost a holy fool of butt wiping.

It had been awhile. During the year, my class is almost all girls, so most of the butts I see are by accident and very embarrassing.

The discipline of the senses required to effectively clean another person's shit plastered backside had grown flabby on me; I was all over the place, seeing and smelling everything.  

But as the long summer wore on, a kind of bathroom confidence blossomed in me.


Saturday, October 22, 2016


A downside to living in a college town: I am surrounded by college students.

Young transients; their big muscles and their big phones are going places.

While my world is a straight shot into the glum forever, it seems like theirs breaks open with a thousand possibilities.

I listen to them on the bus:

Or feel an ache as I watch a young couple speed off on a scooter:

It's early autumn, and they are beautiful college students in love. 

Maybe they're headed to the sea, or to a picnic on a mountaintop overlooking a vineyard in Spain.

All the restlessness underpinning my life rises up; the kick in the heart telling me there is a better party than the one I'm at.

But they stop a few blocks down and go into Burrito Joint. She farts as she dismounts and he pretends not to hear. They could've walked, the lazy bastards.

Tim is my constant companion.

In a classroom of fourteen girls and two boys, it is inevitable that I get paired up with "the guys" for frequent bouts of "man time".

I figured out that I have spent about 2,353 hours with Tim.

He's so omnipresent, I often forget he's not a part of me; an extra limb, one that wears camouflage and collects Tom Cruise movies.

Tim was the test audience for my disastrous stand up comedy routine.

"Ewww, diapers?! diapers? diapers?" was the only response I got from him. He kept whispering 'diapers' long after I'd moved on to my next joke.

Tim repeatedly whispers the last word of all his sentences; it's a component of his overall speech impediment.

Most of the time, it's not a big deal.

But there've been a few times when it was problematic.

After a few of Tim's whispered racist outbursts, we had to have a meeting.

Special education meetings are generally painful. 

Experts take turns exspurting bad ideas, parents often cry, and someone writes it all down in a notebook that's tossed on top of other notebooks no one will ever look at again.

Some of the team thought we should update Tim's IEP with a goal saying something like, "Timothy will not say 'nigger' 90% of the time, with minimal prompting."

Others didn't agree.

There's someone at every special ed meeting whose switch is permanently set on 'outrage.' 

They love to exclaim things such as 

Which is true. To get the Ipad to pronounce the names of our more ethnically diverse students, you have to do some phonetic gymnastics. 

Her solution went over well with everyone who was still awake.

I currently get a pass on falling asleep in meetings, because I have a baby at home. People pat my slumbering head knowingly and lay newspapers over me for warmth.

It raises the total uses for babies I can think of to seven.

Anyways, now Tim carries an Ipad with him on all of our trips around the community.

In fact, he doesn't pay much attention to anything.


The song played while our bus pulled out of the terminal.

I felt the bigness of Tim's racism, and the smallness of my own concerns.

Sure, I'm stuck. But what does it matter? 

We all know that people are the same, wherever we go, o-o-o.

This includes ourselves. 

If I'm a whiny dumbass in Michigan, I'll be a whiny dumbass anywhere in the world.