Literate, Schmiterate

I have what my Writing and Literacy instructor is calling a “midterm project” due on Wednesday. I have actually done some preparation for it. Rather than my usual reading through the material quickly again, sitting down in front of the computer, and just pounding out five or seven pages, I’ve actually had to think about this one. And it hurts. This paper alone consists of about 20% of our final grade and I don’t want to screw it up by sounding like I’m totally bullshitting.

I was thinking about it all this morning at work and as soon as I got home I hunkered down with both textbooks, the outline of requirements for the paper, and a notebook. About two hours into things I decided to take a break. I have a habit of not taking breaks when I study or do homework and I decided I needed to focus my thoughts and come up with a general concept with which to frame the ideas in the paper. During my break I accidentally fell asleep on the couch while Charlie flipped back and forth between two big college football games.

What I woke up with surprised me. Essentially: being a highly functioning literate person is completely self-serving. While there may be a correlation between wealth and literacy, neither is necessary to have the other. (Look at the person in the White House.) All of the readings we have gone through focus on the positive aspects of literacy on a spectrum. Perhaps this community in Liberia has a 20% literacy rate, but no one really cares, and it doesn’t matter because they have more important things to do. Or perhaps this one in America is highly literate, so people get together in writing and reading workshops to praise one another. Or perhaps a third is functioning on a lower level of literacy (how alliterative of me!), but to read for fun or pleasure would be considered weird and knowing more than other people in your community would disable the structure of it.

I’m almost done with my fifth page now at which point I will take a major break – hours or until tomorrow, we’ll see – then revisit the paper to see where I really want to go with it. I certainly don’t want to sound like I’m saying “literacy is pointless,” and I don’t want to offend my professor or make him think that I don’t take the material seriously. But clearly we’re looking at a series of writings that contradict themselves. Reading is fundamental. But not everyone needs or wants to do it all over the world.

It seems to be me to be a mostly Western concept with undertones of superiority and self-importance. Of course, this is my concentration as an English major so I should probably try not to turn myself off to the idea too much . . .

Spoke too Soon

So today wasn’t such a great day. I woke up late. I wasn’t technically “late” to work – I got there at maybe 5:33 to 5:35. But I had that panicky feeling you get (or, at least, I get) when you’re running behind and you don’t know exactly what time it is or what day it is, you just know you’re late. Late!

The dogs were all under my feet as I was trying to get ready and let them out and then they refused to go back upstairs after they’d peed, whining like it was time to eat and go for a walk.

That sort of set the mood for the rest of my morning. I was out of sorts and almost set off the alarm at the store because I kept punching in the wrong code, so I got even more panicky, waiting for the nerve-shattering ringing to go off. And since I was out of sorts I did everything in a weird order and wasn’t finished opening when Audrey got there. As I was trying to unlock the patio furniture people started pulling up in packs, which further irritated me. We had about five minutes before we would open officially, but everyone just started walking their happy asses inside because the door was unlocked, completely ignoring me as I said “We don’t open till six . . .”

Then I got stuck on the bar first thing and everyone and their mother wanted a latte because it’s cold outside (it was, like, 65 degrees, not exactly freezing). I was going to punch someone if I heard “Will you turn on the fireplace?” I’m dreading that.

Maybe because it was a full moon, I don’t know. Maybe that’s an old wives’ tale and doesn’t mean much. But, geez, people were in a bad mood this morning, myself included. No one came to get their drinks when I called them out, even after two or three times. They’d saunter over and point at the single cup on the counter and go “Is this my drink?” And I wanted to ask “What the fuck do you think?”
Or I’d say “That’s your drink” and nod at it and they’d then ask if I got their drink “right,” you know – decaf or sugarfree vanilla or whatever special order they’d had on it.

Some people asked me several times. “This is decaf, right?”
“Yes.”
“And nonfat?”
“Yesssss,” I’d say, gritting my teeth.
“And it’s got an extra shot, right?”
So I would repeat the entire order to their satisfaction.

I finally got off the espresso bar only to keep tripping over myself on the register. I couldn’t really focus on much. In fact, I’ve been off work over three hours now and I think I’m only operating at about 75%, mentally.

Once I left, I got home to find someone (I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t Charlie, Cavan, or one of the cats) had chewed up my bite guard that I have to wear at night to keep myself from grinding my teeth down to nubs.  I found pieces of it all over the bed.

If I didn’t have to be back at work at seven tomorrow morning I’d just take a nap.

Touchy-Feely

Several positive things happened today. I feel guilty feeling good about them because several people I know are going through some really rough times right now, but I also want to try and savor the small, positive things because something tells me I have some rough waters of my own ahead.

Bad news first.

My dad and my mom’s parents haven’t been doing too well lately. My dad doesn’t like to talk to people about what’s going, so I hear bits and pieces from my mom. They keep changing his medication around and haven’t been able to find one yet that successfully works for the latest in a series of issues he’s been dealing with the past few years. And since he doesn’t like to talk about it, I won’t air his dirty laundry and give any specifics. Suffice it to say his plate is full and while I’ve been worried for a while, I’m starting to feel quite a bit of anxiety about what his future holds.

Cavan is definitely moving out and his dad has negotiated a lower portion of his rent with us. He refused to pay the full 8 months for Cavan and, while we took off his security deposit and $100 for his bed, it sounds like his dad is just going to cut us a check, directly, rather than dealing with the landlord.  So we’ll have to budget and move the money around each month. Starting in June, we’ll be paying the full rent on our own. It shouldn’t be too bad until then since, realistically, it’s practically a year away, but it will be a significant raise in our monthly bills next year. I know I shouldn’t worry myself about it now, but I’m going to, whether I want to or not. There’s no way I could come up with the extra on my own, so we’re going to have to cut back on just about everything to make up the difference.

The good stuff is that I received a lot of compliments on my new tattoo today, and no one has had anything negative to say about it. I know there are some regulars who come in who probably absolutely hate it (tattoos definitely aren’t for everyone and I don’t hold anything against people that despise them), but I’m glad those people don’t bother to say anything. If you don’t like it, just be glad it’s not on your arm.

I also got a compliment from a girl who I know from school and coming in to the coffeeshop. She said every time she sees me I always look really cute. I thought that was funny, because I feel like I dress like a slob most of the time. I said thank you and laughed because the jeans I had on were the only ones I have clean and they’ve got paint all over them.  But she said that’s okay; people think you’re artsy-fartsy and you’re just taking a break from painting masterpieces all day. I thought that was a nice way to look at it.

I also got an invitation to join another fraternity. It would be my second at IUPUI, both of which are honors societies. This one has more requirements to join and I have to attend meetings to get my pin, certificate, and apply for scholarships.  The last one was just something I can put on my resume, but this one claims to offer a lot more.

I don’t know what this semester has in store for me. I’m doing my best – for the most part – but my classes are significantly more time consuming and I have to think. A lot. Critical analysis has never been one of my strongest suits so I really have the exercise the ol’ noggin.

I guess I’m just taking a break from worrying to recognize the nice little things in the day.

Nepotism

Definition: unfair practice in which people in power give positions in an organization to their relatives or friends, rather than to any individual who is well-qualified. This can lead to inefficiency in the functioning of the organization, since hiring is based on personal connections, rather than ability or merit. 

I wish we could hire (and effectively train) about three more people, if not more, and then just fire 70% of our other employees. I like everyone enough on a personal level, but my god am I tired of these clueless kids and their stoner friends who get hired.

Nepotism is bad enough in theory, but seeing it practiced, and with the result being at the expense of my job satisfaction, sucks.

Mission Accomplished

I was all set to go in and use all of your great remarks (I loved Sweaty B’s, by the way), when the customers suddenly found themselves distracted. Today it was “Did you get a new tattoo?”

No, this huge black drawing all over the entire upper half of my arm was on there when I woke up.

I don’t mind, though. No one asked me all morning about where my photo was.

The Local Flavor Part VII

Every month, as is traditional for most coffeeshops, an artist of some sort or another puts up his or her work. It’s usually very boring, modern contemporary art with inoffensively colored squares and blocks painted on a canvas for six hundred dollars. Or black and white photographs of a pregnant woman with her husband’s too-large, billowy white button-down shirt opened to her bulging, exposed belly. Huddled around her, caressing said-belly are her brood and, occasionally, husband, the virile bearer of all this seed.

This month we had a fashion photographer who signed up to show his work. For some reason, he put up only one of his original photos and the rest are pictures he took of our employees. One is a girl from our other store and there’s a photo each of Audrey, Sarah, and Katie. They’re all really good, glossy fashion photos and I secretly wish I’d been there the day he came in. I’d like to see a flattering picture of myself, but mostly I would like to stop people from asking me, over and over again, every single morning “And where’s your picture?!” as they giggle. As if they aren’t the eight hundredth person to point out that I’m not featured on the wall.

At first I told them the truth – that I wasn’t there and he only took pictures this one Tuesday. Then I joked that I wouldn’t have wanted him to; I wouldn’t want to stare at a photo of myself every day. Then I told them that the guy had started to, but told me his camera is really expensive and he didn’t want to break the lens. Then I told them that he said he didn’t have a powerful enough version of Photoshop to edit my photo to be presentable to the public.

If you have any other ideas of what to say, let me know. I’m running out of jokes. Seriously.

Ego Bruiser #1: Trip Through Juniors’ Department

I, like many women in the U.S., suffer occasionally from Does This Make Me Look Fat Syndrome. In my case, it’s entirely possible that, yes, these jeans do make my butt look big. It’s much more likely that my ghetto booty makes the jeans look big.

If I had to make a choice between Pancake Butt and Ghetto Booty, though, I would choose the latter. I don’t mind being a woman, and as such don’t mind being shaped like one. And I don’t get the trend of girls looking like 12 year-old boys. It’s the potential for muffin top in incredibly low-rise jeans that bothers me. Since super tall and super skinny is super popular, t-shirts are now about a foot too long for me to wear without looking ridiculous, and need about six extra inches of width for me to avoid that potential muffin top.

I have found one brand of jeans that is both affordable and comes in sizes I can wear (that is, they’re called “short” and they actually are short). Unfortunately, they’re made to appeal to the aforementioned 12-year-old-boy/girls and, if you click on the link to their site, you’ll notice that by the 80 pound weaklings featured on the front page.

Since I hit about 24, my metabolism has slowed down to a crawl. In the summers in Indiana I never want to eat. This slows things down even more, but my appetite disappears when temperatures hit about 85. I also spend as much time as possible immobile, in air conditioning. In the winter, however, I start to lose weight again because I begin eating more frequently throughout the day. Generally speaking, though, I’ve been a hair over to the chubby side of things for a few years. And because I don’t want to wear grandma pants that come up under my boobs, where I would normally buy a pair in, say, a size 9, in the juniors’ department I cross over into double digit sizes in the low-to-mid teens.

We got a gift card with a 2-year contract renewal of our cell phone service the other day. Since I’d paid for it, Charlie said I could have the fifty bucks. I decided to go to Macy’s and use it on two pair of jeans “for fall.” Also, because I only have two pair that fit well, one of which I got at a thrift store and have paint all over them.

I tried on the size I usually wear at first. And by “tried on” I mean got one leg in and started sweating as I attempted to squeeze the rest of myself in. I went back and got a size larger and had a similar experience. I finally settled on a size referred to on the tag as “13/14.”

I know I shouldn’t let this bother me. I’m practically twice the age of the average girl that should be wearing juniors’ jeans. But I’m not a good enough seamstress to adequately hem up the four-plus extra inches a dwarf such as myself has at the bottom of regular pants and I’m entirely too lazy to take a $24 pair of pants to a tailor and have them hemmed up professionally.

I paid for the jeans and briefly considered cutting out the tag so I wouldn’t have to be reminded of the size. But I didn’t because, ultimately, I don’t care that much. I’ve had every size in my closet from a six to a twelve, all at one time. If I did care, I’d be at the gym more frequently than once in the past eight years. I’ve never had a doctor tell me I’m overweight, and I know there are a lot more people out there who have it a lot worse than I do. But there is some truth, I think, to the idea that media and popular culture affect our body image and self esteem. No woman I know is six feet tall and 112 pounds.

Besides, if I lost a bunch of weight, the first place it’d come from would be my chest. I’d rather be a little chunky with boobs than skinny and flat-chested.

Frustration #357

I got a letter from one of the eight million different companies that holds some portion of my student loans today, stating that Ivy Tech has listed me as officially “withdrawn” from school. Any school. Period.

I requested that they transfer all my credits to IUPUI. I was in the transfer program. They transferred my credits. And I was planning on taking one or two more gen-ed courses through them. And it’s not like I called them, screaming that I was never going to return to another college campus again. And even if it I had, they would have never paid attention to me. I just didn’t register for courses this semester. So I guess that must mean I’m no longer in college at all, right? Right.

So, thanks to them (and Jennifer, don’t let this deter you from taking classes if you read this. Seriously.), I now have to go to the Financial Aid office (at which school, I don’t know) and fill out some form, then I have to find and make an adviser sign it, then mail it in to the student loan company. Because if I don’t, they expect me to pay back, like, five grand, by November.

Nice.

I’ll just add this to my list of complaints and, eventually, I’ll get around to writing the dean or the chancellor, or whoever the hell is in charge there, and give ’em hell.

I Likes What I Likes

I have to create two Web sites for my online class. Nothing fancy; it’s not a course in design, it’s English so I went ahead and tried to download FrontPage from IU’s software site, only to find out, despite its claims to be for a Mac, the first of four parts was an executable file. Oka-aaay. I don’t want to run Windows on my computer, even though it can. And I shouldn’t have to. So I considered using HTML in a text editor then I began to make a mental list of all the reading I have to do for all my classes and I said screw it, downloaded the PC version on the laptop upstairs and said I don’t care if it’s cheating.

I don’t mean it’s cheating in the class, it just seems lazy to use a program like that when you know how to do it otherwise. Call me lazy, then.

Also, you can call me lazy because I tried to access the FTP stuff available for students to utilize their free site and it seemed so convoluted that I gave up on that, too, and just re-registered my old Web site. I know it looks like total hell right now. Who cares? I said I would only put it back up if I had a reason to use it and now I do: creating two sites for class, one of which is like a student portfolio that we can use for grad school or future job applications. That fits into my original plan when I took it down.

I started working out the architecture: what I want to go up and where I want to put it. While I was designing it the thought crossed my mind that I definitely like what I like. It was practically the exact same format as I used to have. An image across the top of the page, another across the bottom, and a corresponding, smaller version of that same image throughout each subcategory and secondary page to create consistency. On the home page, there would be a list of links running in between each graphic, and across the bottom of it on the latter pages. In other words, if I really wanted to I could just use the exact same HTML I have saved from my old Web site. But we’ll see if FrontPage does anything better, first. I think it should be against the law for anyone to scroll down on a home page, but I also hate front pages that “introduce” the visitor into the site. Like when you used to go The Vogue’s site, it was an image that you had to click on the get “into” the site. Ugh.

I am most definitely not as technologically gifted as some people I know. Today we went over to Scott & Jay’s new place to help set up the wireless router. After about thirty minutes of poking around on Scott’s laptop I could not figure out why it wasn’t connecting. His computer recognized a wireless Internet and claimed to be connected but I couldn’t pull anything up. I promised them the router, and I’m pretty sure I promised a wireless connection. The only thing I didn’t think I could pull off was troubleshooting any subsequent WEP encryption-y type stuff. And here all I could do was go “There’s the router. Sorry.”

I’d also wanted to take over Scott’s birthday gifts. They didn’t show up when I expected them, but they were at the house when we pulled up. Great. I need to get some wrapping paper and/or a bag to stuff them in, then figure out when to give them to him. I’ve got class all day tomorrow, I open Thursday, and I work first thing Friday and Saturday mornings, as well. God, I’m going to be tired.