Showing posts with label Tales of Being Sneaky and Getting Away With It. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tales of Being Sneaky and Getting Away With It. Show all posts

Second Friday of November

 Today is a day off work filled with of unpaid labor.

 Move furniture, go to the grocery, mop. 

Plant rows of patriotism, harvest bouquets of gratitude, plow roads to democracy.

Today’s food: chicken noodle soup with extra crispy crackers

Today’s exercise: Long hot shower

Today’s TV binge: B Positive

Claim Your Ancestor #53: There is a story here.

Dear Students,

I found this record on Caroline Burkee, who seems to have become a physician at the time that most medical schools and board examinations etc were closed to women.  

There is a story here. 

Either she wasn't a physician  (and there's a story there! was she a midwife? was her husband a physician and they practiced together? Did she learn about medicine at schools or from her mother or father? ), or she actually really was one, and if so then her story really needs to be told. 

Back it Up

I am driving Zoe to something important, something so important that she doesn't want to get there early.

Fine, we leave with JUST enough time and in a few miles find ourselves on a winding bumpy rocky
 dirt road as the last light of the day ends.

She reads a text from a friend who has already arrived at the event "there's a bridge" and then ahead of us we see a narrow wooden bridge and cross it.  

Another car comes towards us right after I cross the bridge and I panic a little because there is nowhere to pull over since the sides of the dirt road slide down to roots and moss.

There must be another way out, I say to Zoe.

There has to be another way out, she repeats to me.

A few hundred yards later another car comes towards me and we barely make it past each other.  

There must be another way out, I say to Zoe, more as a question this time

There has to be another way out, she repeats to me, knowing I'm about to freak out.

Another mile of winding bumps and we arrive at a house full of liveliness. 

Zoe ditches me and I look for another way out and can't find one.  

That's OK, I tell myself. Everyone who's coming is already here, it's OK.

So I turn my car around and head back, racing off to get Zack's pizza which was ready 30 minutes ago.  I'm sure I will be OK, I'm just sure. 

I fiddle with the radio and fall into peace for about one full glorious minute.

And then I see a truck coming towards me. 

I pull as far to the right as I can, but it is dark and I don't want to fall into the ditch. 

I move up an inch, over an inch.

She pulls far over and inches towards me.

We pull our driver's side windows in and she gets out of her  to guide me.  

 Her daughter stands on the side by the ditch lighting the path with her iPhone camera.

 I go up an inch. She says stop. I almost cry. 

I go over another inch. She says stop. I almost cry again.

Meanwhile another car lines up behind her truck facing me down.

Then another car and another and please dear Jesus I don't know what to do because there are seven cars facing me and I'm stuck on a dirt road in the dark. 

All I can think is that I want someone to rescue me. 

Please.  Please rescue me.


More than ANYTHING want someone to fall from the sky and appear in my car and rescue me right now. NOW. PLEASE.

I try to picture what someone would do to rescue me, and then I know.

I imagine some badass guy jumping in my car, taking the steering wheel, turning around and confidently backing the car up all the way back to that house.  

No badass guy arrives so I tell the woman who had been helping me that I would back up and follow her. 

She goes ahead and I back up ten yards, zig zagging over roots. 

She goes more and more  ahead on the narrow dirt road and then her headlights turn a corner and its so dim that I can't see more than a few feet behind me. 

I want to stop, I want to quit. 

I want to not have come this way today at all.

 But its too late. I'm in the dark, there is only one way through this. 

I take another deep breath and back it up slowly,  little to the left (but turn the wheel right) straight and then sharply to the right (but turn wheel left) my brain and stomach hurt but I keep going like the badass I hoped would rescue me. 

Our Last Trip to Cuba #11 Swimming to America

A chain of interior rooms link into each other separated by brittle doors. I don’t think there has been any new furniture bought for this place since before WW2, so even though I’m trying desperately to find a hiding spot I can’t help but stare at the woodwork on a fat antique armoire. 

Barbie calls my name again and again as I race shamelessly past groups of adults who seem quite pleased to not have to struggle through another conversation with my pained Spanish.  My real problem isn’t language, it’s culture; we are trying to get to know each other, trying to build bridges of family and friendship across a Cold War frontier, and it’s hard work. The topics are so narrow and broad and personal and specific and generic they exhaust me.  

 After giving up and then starting again and then giving up and then starting again, Barbie finds me in my prime hiding behind the bathroom door. She’d walked by me five times and never looked, and only ONE of those time did I think to shriek and stomp and scare her but then I thought I might be representing “Americans” so maybe I should take it down a notch.

Follow me, I whispered, but she didn’t follow me so I repeated it in Spanish, tiptoeing away from some invisible predator.

 Barbie tiptoed with me past TiaLourdes and the circle of woman surrounding her, past the old black and white TV, all the way to  the living room.

Once we got there she looked at me like “now what?” and the best I could think of was to sit on the floor and look for things to play with.
I found a tiny boat and little tiny rabbits and a pair of wooden deer neatly living on the bottom of a side table. 

Its hard to tell if they are new or old, but they are perfect and delightful and I pick a tiny animal up and put it on a boat and motion for Barbie to swim with me across the floor. 

See the side tables??? With little thing on them, down low??

See the tiny figurines?

We swam and we swam until we delivered all the animals to safety in America. Just kidding. We moved them to another table and when we arrived at THAT table I found something.

On our first trip to Cuba (2012) everything was treasure, every moment was story worthy, and at the end it came together to make a fun book to write. The highlight of our second trip was being handed treasure straight from heaven, a gift from an angel. I didn’t know what the point of this trip was going to be yet, but I knew when I saw that sparkly something that it was waiting for me and I knew there would be a story.

I think that tiny doll in the middle is from one of those Russian dolls that have dolls inside of dolls, but she lost the rest of the Russian dolls, or maybe they went home in 1991 and left her here? 
 I pretended to feed the sparkly rock to the tiny hungry deer and rabbit. Barbie did the same, then I returned the treasure and we swam swam swam all the way back to safety.

Minutes later Barbie’s mother was calling her to put her shoes on and come say goodbye.

 Soon after all the hugs and that stuff they were gone and moments later Daniel arrived.  

Our Last Trip to Cuba 7:The Mafia-like Shakedown

As a historian I am predisposed to research everything, most especially things in Cuba, and so before our last trip I looked up the history of Hotel Jagua

  One google search and I have enough.

Here is your screenshot from

I love immigrants making good on the American dream, spreading capitalism and etc.

Boardwalk Empire's Meyer Lansky, soon to have a sequel to series set in Cuba where he and all his associates lose everything to Castro and then decide to kill Kennedy only to have James Franco stop the assassination, etc.

Anyway, the hotel is gorgeous and open and clean and empty and we walk straight to the desk where three women speak in quiet tones.

 One woman has  a clipboard and a list of names that she reads off one at a time. Another woman is sitting behind the desk saying names back and checking things off. The other woman sits behind the desk stares into her computer screen, typing slowly with long nails.

Mom and I drop our things by the desk and put our purses on the counter.

None of them acknowledge us, so Mom goes through her stuff and pulls out her paperwork and we stand there.

And we stand there.

And we stand there so long we are having trouble not giggling because they can't be serious.
It's like we are whatever comes after invisible. And also they can't hear us because we are asking each other (in perfect English lol) if this is actually happening, if really people can be like this in the 21st century.  She clears her throat some. I clear mine.  The good news is that I've been in this weird place in life where I really like plants and I really enjoy looking at (gawking at) the gorgeous plants cascading everywhere so I wasn't in the slightest bit annoyed.

Then my mom elbowed me and slightly whispered. Oh, you have another friend.
I follow where she is looking and saw a thin-ish man in normal Cuban civilian person clothes leaning over the counter a few feet away watching us. (see diagram below)

Watching us.
Not even trying to act like he was doing anything but watching us.
 Not helping. Not speaking. Just standing and looking.

After the better part of a half hour, the lady with the clip board stepped away from the desk and the two women at the desk turn towards each other and talk about this and that. Neither looks at us, despite the fact they are inches away.

My Mom proclaims, BUENOS DIAS and they both look up.

They apologize. They get our room information and the room card-key.  Mom explains that we are here because her aunt is gravely ill. One of them knows Tialourdes, she was her student, and sends her love.

Mom asks how to call home because she needs  to call my Dad and check on Abuelo. They tell her just come downstairs and have hotel staff call Florida and hand her the phone.  This isn't the answer we were expecting, but OK. Mom nods her understanding, and we get ready to go upstairs.

The elevators have a lot of mirrors. Just let me say that. So if you go, don't be scared, they're just mirrors.

We get off on the top floor and before I can see how awesome the view is, I see this plaque. Castro stayed here. Awesomesauce.
 We don't actually get Castro's room (oh darn, but actually we needed two queen beds and I bet he isn't a two queen kind of hotel room guy) but the room next to the room next to it.  Grand.
Mom puts the card into the slot. A light goes on. The door doesn't open.
We try again. The light goes on. The door doesn't open.
We repeat this 10 more times, then go downstairs to ask for help.
This time one of the ladies from the desk came up with us. She put the card in. The light went on and then she lowered her shoulder and SHOVED the humidity-swollen door open.  Not the solution we expected, but OK.

The room was about as spartan as you'd expect a hotel that opened during the birth of the communist revolution might be. The floors were lined with clean white tile. No rugs, nothing soft. The beds were low and flat. The bathroom was completely lined with white tiles, and contained exactly two white towels.  The TV worked. Yay. There was a balcony that looked over the pool below and the bay.

By this point, we were beyond famished and headed downstairs to the place we've been before. We order wine, and unlike before, they don't sell it by the glass. Bottles only. And no, they don't tell us the price. But we get a bottle anyway because we are together and it is Cuba and wind is blowing.

My mom falls into a barrage of phone calls and so I step away to the sunset.

 Then Mom got in on a picture, family-tree style, standing by the Bella Carolina.
 Then I took one of Mom.
 And while I was doing all that I was incredibly distracted by this whole thing going on in the very empty pool. The girl looked thirteen, but was probably going on 15 and taking pictures for her big 15 party and was doing all sorts of prowling poses and sexy faces etc that kids her age generally Snapchat.

We are starving. The waiter brings us the menu. There are no prices but OK, we order anyway.  
They each order a meal. I order vegetable soup.

The food comes, then more wine, and much talking.

 I can't tell you about most of the rest of the night, not because I CAN'T but because private things were shared and they aren't all mine to discuss.

 I can abbreviate it for you, would you like that? OK.

Person: I have a great IDEA that will get me to AMERICA
Person: Great. idea. and. practically. done.
Me: WORST IDEA EVER and also, we have so much better makeup in America, wait until you visit sephora.
Person: I will be there soon.
Me: NOOOOOOOOOOOO people have to stay where they are they can't just go to other countries!
Person; (wine) I'm definitely coming
Person: That's a pretty bracelet (she says this with her eyes)
Me: This is a pretty bracelet. It was a prettier earring. (I say to my mom in English) (Gives her the bracelet/earring) (Opens purse, gives her makeup)(Gives her cash to make sure she has some).

The bill comes and my mom leaves us and was gone a bit, long enough that we fall into silence.

We say our goodbyes and head up the elevator to our white tiled room.

I ask where she went, and she says she had to get more money because dinner was over $200.

Well THAT felt like mafia shakedown, I mutter in the direction of our entire evening, and mom agrees.

My Last Trip to Cuba 5: Take Me to Your Leader

My Last Trip to Cuba
(My Mom read the last chapter and reminded me that the man did not have a uniform on, and I remembered that too and offer only that my memory has been clouded by what happens next, the part where I step out of line and follow him to his office).
His office is like ten feet away, and in that short journey we step between a rush of people entering the tiny airport. In all my life I only heard stories of people leaving Cuba, I never imagined such a push to go there, and now here I am, part of that push too, but denied easy entry.
  I wonder why I have been pulled out of line, identified as something other than everyone else, and the best I can think of is that I’m wearing a jacket and sneakers and other women are in tank tops and heels.
 It absolutely no matter what cannot be happening because the last time I came to Cuba I brought copies of a book I wrote about my first trip to Cuba, and then left copies of that book in bookstores.  I took pictures of this and put it on Facebook, showing my book between copies of books celebrating the Cuban Revolution and glorifying Che Guevara.
See my book, Four Days in Cienfuegos, First Edition, in the bookstore @ Hotel La Union in Cienfuegos, hanging out with communist literature and postcards of Che Guevara? Hola.
I pack my best Spanish and follow him into a tiny wood paneled office decorated with a computer and a huge Cuba tourism poster on the wall. My Mom followed me and stands in the cracked doorway defiant and ready to get in trouble for being helpful.
He is holding my ticket and passport and offers me a seat while he takes his seat. The office is so small that we are both on the same side of a desk that is lined up against a wall. He pulls out a pen and on a blank sheet of paper (not a form? I don’t warrant a phone?) then asks me if the address on my passport is correct.
It isn’t. Damn. I used my parent’s address as my passport address, but I live in Tallahassee, and I’m thinking I shouldn’t lie to foreign authorities in one of the remaining communist nations in the post-Cold War world.  
He holds his pen ready and asks for my address and I realize I cannot spell a single word in Spanish, and even if I could spell in Spanish, “Tallahassee” is not going to make much sense to this man who has probably never studied US state capitals.
I get the first letters right  ---  T.  A. L. L. A  --- and then I can’t remember the letter H for the life of me.
Ache? Hachete? Hachooo?
He looks at me like “oh my God she is crazy, what idiot doesn’t know her alphabet” and in a flash I think to myself “what would Tina Fey do?” and I think maybe Tina Fey would go with the stupid thing, play the crazy American who is so lost she doesn’t know her ABC’s.
Tina Fey and I decide to channel Phoebe from Friends, and the whole interview spirals from there.
Hachhooo. AAAAA.
I pause and then instead of saying the letter S I make the sound “Sssssssss” and  “sssssss” and at this point he is not longer writing and in fact I think it took all he had not to laugh at me. 
  I sit back in the chair a little and realize there is a uniformed woman who was in the office before we entered. I smile at her. She is almost laughing too.
I fumble in my purse to see if I have a business card that has Tallahassee  written on it, then I give up and pull out my phone and remember I’m on vacation, and I’m doing nothing wrong.
I ask the gentleman his name, he tells me, and we shake hands at which point I raise my phone up so we can take a picture together, best friends forever.
He stops me, and I beg please please I want to remember my vacation but he says no and inches closer to laughing than he was before.
He asks where I am staying and I say the name of the Hotel – the Jagua, in Punta Gorda, next to Palacio Valle – and he asks who I’m going to see while I’m here, and I know this question cold, in Spanish and in English.
I’m here to see my Tia Lourdes, Lourdes Fornias. She lives on the Prado.
He pulls his pen out. I am making enough sense to him that he’s ready to write down what I say again.  He asks for her address. I shrug. On the Prado in Cienfuegos is very specific to me, but he wants more, so I continue.
She lives near the Benny More statue, across from the pizza place.  It's a little bit down from the Obispado, and there’s a huge door. 
He writes nothing. My mom peeks in the door. He asks me who else I’m going to see and I say Olguita lives there too, do you know Olguita?
The uniformed lady recognizes my Tia as a respected teacher, and she knows Olguita as well.
She asks me, “Are you the leader of your group?”
The man nods. That is his question too.
I feel like a strong background in Liberal Arts is about to save me from answering a trick question.
 If I say “No” or  “Yes” then I admit I’m in a group and fall into some hole I might not be able to climb back out of.
I shake my head. No group. 
My mom repeats, no group, and I think she added something about Obama being our leader and the Cubans in the room lit up at the mention of his name.
He writes something and something else and then the nice uniformed lady takes my passport and leads me out of the office to my next interview.

A Test on History & Etc

This has been a rough year for Zack in school. The roughest part was when we just didn't know what was wrong; after we found out,  it didn't get easier, but it became more understandable and maybe the tiniest bit less overwhelming.

After a months of trying this and then that and taking this away and earning that thing back and cancelling that entirely while pushing a little this way and pulling that way, it is finally happening: He going to school, all day, several days in a row, bravely acing makeup work, taking exams, distributing candy, making plans and doing normal 6th grade things. Fantastic.

The next week is another animal entirely, and instead of building on success we start from zero. Nothing works, he can't go to school, he doesn't feel good, he hurts, the pain is real and no amount of pushing or pulling will get him out the door. The next day is minimally better, the day after that was not much better but it was something. Then I found out what the source of his torture was:  a history test.

A History test? This is awesome, we got this, I get his backpack,  pull out his study guide and say "let's do this, let's face this" but he can't, he can't and I let it go.

But then I don't really let it go, because I'm the mom. I'm not supposed to let it go. So I don't.

Again, even though I'm tired of all this,  I take away his this and limit use of that, push and pull using other bits and pieces in my mom arsenal, and create a situation where really his only option to get any single thing in life was to study for this history test.

So he does.

And while I'm putting away dishes   he comes out and decides to start quizzing me.

I'm like, bring it, and he's like "no joke, this is the hardest test ever, this stuff is nonsense."

But I'm not scared, it's just a 6th grade history test.  I remind him I have a PhD in this.

He doubts me anyway and asks questions. I get them right. It goes like this:

  • Orinoco
  • Cuzco
  • Toltec
  • Inuit
Mom! How do you KNOW all this???

Me: I literally teach this in college. You know this and yet you don't, which is very confusing. Keep going. More questions, please, this is heaven.

He nods his head, like "wow" then continues with the questions. I continue to get every freaking one right without hesitating.
  • descended from gods
  • the wheel
  • burial  mounds
  • Bering
  • shells
  • trade
  • Maya
  • Tenochilan
  • Teotihuacan
  • Olmec
  • Apache
  • 10%
  • horses
  • Iroquois League
  • Sierra Nevada

His esteem of me appears to increase by a bazillion points --  I'm now maybe almost as smart as his sister in his world.

He puts his study guide away and asks, sincerely flabbergasted,  MOM How did you LEARN all this?

Me: Books.

Him: BOOKS????

Me: Yes, books. (I point at the books above his head, the books on the bookcase, the books over there and there and there). This is the stuff that is in all those books.

Him: Books. Wow......  (....and then walks away, off to his room because now he has earned this and that back, at least until 9pm).

The next day he makes it through school without a bump and earns an A on his history exam, probably never considering that maybe just maybe I looked over every single answer on his study guide before he even started studying it, just to make sure they were all correct because I'm his mom and that's what moms do. 

No Island is an Island: Chapter 30: My Hole

(From 2012)

The plane ride was quiet and uneventful. I tried to read my new Marian Keyes book. I tried to play solitaire. I thought even to pick up a pen and write something, anything, but my brain was still stuck in "record" mode.

 The crew spoke English amongst themselves and spots of Spanish to passengers here and there.  They brought cups of soda, not in a cart, not with bags decorated by dancing nuts, then collected them back up.

 I shouldn't tell you that a lot of us started pulling out our electronic devices and checking email and voice mail. I shouldn't tell you that I saw texting and emailing going on from up in the sky, because you might then think of these post-Cold War warriors as not obeying the rules.  Forgive us, forgive them, the pull of a first world nation, of connectedness on Facebook and Twitter and gmail and iMessage after such deprivation was too much.

When the plane lands and the pilot announces we are in Miami, the plane bursts out into a Superbowl celebration. We did it. Together. Alone. All of us. Up and over the Mount Everest Berlin Wall Cold War Hologram that separates Florida and Cuba, and back to tell the tales, or free to keep it secret.

Being in the back of the plane, Mom and I are among the last to disembark, leaving the ones who are waiting for wheelchairs and attendants and all the things they need to get into and through the megalopolis Miami Airport.  We catch a train to another area where too many people are funneled into a small space, like on Haunted Mansion at Disney.  Mom says she wonders what Ellis Island was like, and I don't even answer, leaving that off for another day.

  After passing through that narrow area we are fed into lines. Everyone goes into the longest lines, those must be the right lines.

Again, our Disney training comes through; we seek the shortest line, go to the right, all the way over there, and step into a spot with no line.  An unremarkable pass of our documents, a smile and wave, we are through to baggage claim, which is so big and bright after Cuba that I almost need to shade my eyes. We have no luggage and go on further, out the gate, out to meet Dad.

I recognize this gate from years ago. One day I was at my Abuelo's house when he got a call that a relative had landed in Miami. He was practically 90, and in no place to navigate that airport by himself, not with me around to help.  Where do we pick her up, I asked, and he didn't know. He really didn't know.  I needed to know where to park, what part of that megalith to aim at, but he couldn't tell me.

So I called the information number to the Miami International Airport. I didn't think anyone would answer, I thought I would push 9 and then 6 and then whatever whatever.   A man answered. I wasn't ready.  May I help you, he asked in English and Spanish.

I, um, I just got a call and um, I need to pick up... a Cuban? I can't believe my English is suddenly as bad as my Spanish.

Silence on his end.

Gate E.  

Gate E. Thank you so much.   Abuelo is ready, we go, we pick up a cousin that miraculously arrived here from there.

Now I'm coming here from there, and even at Gate E. Mom and I walk over and around and we can't find Dad. I start to text him. Then I realize I'm standing next to him.  Hugs, hugs, he gets us right out the door and two steps to the best parking. The parking fairy loves my Dad.  As he packs our bags I ask please are we really going to Versailles? Or was he just teasing?

Yes, he was really taking us there. It wasn't that far, but I can't tell you how long it took because I just stared at all the lights. All the cars. All the bright electric everything on and going that was buzzing around us on our way to Versailles. No horses, no meandering bikers, almost no pedestrians.

We park and pass the spot, the famous spot where Abuela threw her fit many years ago, way back when we used to be able tell secrets out loud in Spanish in South Florida except in a few pockets here and there.  Here, outside the restaurant, we pull up. Dad, Mom, my brother, myself, Abuela. Maybe we were in Miami for a concert. Maybe we were visiting Tiafi. I can only tell you that whatever the occasion was, it drove Abuela to wear pantyhose with her pretty skirt.

Pantyhose that ripped as she slid indelicately out of the car.

My Dad was standing there, holding the door, offering a hand to Abuela to help her out of the backseat. She refused and screamed, AYYYYYYY, My HOLE,  in English, followed by a stream of Spanish expletives I wouldn't dare to translate to any language, peppered with LOOK AT MY HOLE in English.A man walking by with his son covered his son's ears and crossed the street to get away from whatever was going on.  I stood there and laughed and laughed and laughed until Abuela figured out how to rip off her pantyhose instead of wearing them.

This tale comes with us every time we come to Versailles, reminds us of Abuela, of how she was here and now she isn't.

 I see this restaurant with new eyes. I understand why Cubans from Cienfuegos would have a restaurant based on a French palace. Now it makes sense. Before I thought maybe the place just happened to have a lot of mirrors.

pepsi, a grilled sandwich with turkey, jelly and cream cheese.  The drink is so good I want another and another but I stop after one.

The people at the table next to us appear to be from China. Two businessmen across from me speak English (loudly) and keep checking their phones for something that still hasn't arrived.

Quickly enough we are back in the car and heading for Abuelo's house. I stare at the maze of lights, I see the food, the stores, the car dealerships like flowers now, flowers that weave on a long vine twisting us all together here. It doesn't even seem fair Cuba is left out of all this fried chicken.

My timing isn't perfect. I arrive while Abuelo is watching his favorite show, so he stays in his chair a minute and I drop my bags and pour myself a normal, American size glass of red wine then join him.

Have you seen this before, he asks, pointing at the screen.

Yes, it's a pawn shop in Detroit, I tell him.

Gosh, these people, Abuelo says, fixated at the goings on of bargaining and haggling and loaning and buying, spectator sports in America.

I think to tell him about Cuba about everything now - his father's grave, his sister's wisdom, the views, the people. But it's too much, not now, I can't even do it justice now.

I love this show too, I tell him, and we spend the rest of the evening completely happy in each other's company.

This is College Football. Get Used to It.

(From September 2011... the last time I went to a football game)

Doak Campbell stadium was packed. 

The first quarter was slow and loud, and to be completely honest I spent most of it trying to figure out how to get bars on my iPhone and check into Doak Campbell on Facebook.

By the time I checked in, I had something to say. 

“Watching drunk girls fight at Doak.”

What I didn’t see until the next day was all the snide comments betting these were “sorority girls.”

Yes, yes it was.

They didn’t have Greek letters on their clothes but sorority was woven into their outfits – all wearing similar short dresses, long hair pulled back with matching bows and (sigh) cowgirl boots.

It went down like this.

Excited crowds often stand up at Doak Campbell; once one row stands, the people behind them stand, and a wave of standing behind them ensues. 

My row was 2 from the top – high enough to watch the Miami Game on the TVs in the SkyBoxes. There was no choice, this high, about whether to stand.

The problem was whether to stand on the seat part of the stadium or the floor part.

Apparently, a very petite bow-sporting student (I’m naming her Britney; that’s what I’d call her if she was in my class) – did what people for 20 rows ahead of her were doing; she stood on her seat, blocking the view of the woman behind her (who I’d call Delores).

Britney was in a row of people standing shoulder to shoulder, chanting loudly.

Delores could not see.
Delores’ husband could not see.
This was a big loud game and being there but not able to see must have been frustrating.

Delores could have stood on her seat so that she could see over the sea of sorority bows and camo hats and garnet-gold pompoms instead of having butts waving in her face.

But Delores made a different choice.

She tapped Britney and her to step down.

Britney looked around, surprised and annoyed.

I can imagine what she was thinking – why should I step down? Then I won’t see either?

She wasn’t wearing her peacemaker hat. She was, however, clutching an FSU license plate, which didn’t really go with her bow and dress.

Britney was a rowdy student at a BIG game and we were LOSING. She unleashed on Delores.


After that, a series of F-bombs ensued, but FSU got a third down so I didn’t watch too carefully.

Then I saw hands flashing in faces and finger pointing. Delores’ husband put his hand between them and then there was a first down and everyone turned. 

Britney’s friend-sister-bow-twin moved her three rows down. The solid line of sorority girls scattered and Delores could see the game.

An exceptionally happy girl from Britney’s matching bow  sisterhood moved to the spot in front of me  where I had been standing.

She introduced herself as E* and asked if I minded her being there.

When I said no, she hugged me (hard), giggled and proclaimed, “I like you!”

In a pause for a TV time out, the girl next to me (Jessica who goes by Brooke) and her friend (who never told me her name but she partied like a Lauren or an Alexis) ask what happened.

So I re-enact it, standing up to shout into the air, “This is COLLEGE FOOTBALL!! GET USED TO IT!!!”

Britney somehow sees with her magic behind the head sight because she turns towards me and gives me her best evil drunk girl look.  Her bow-twin sister friend turns her back around.

E* hugs me again, giggles and jumps and proclaims again, “I REALLY like you!”

After every FSU tackle we chant “This is COLLEGE FOOTBALL!! GET USED TO IT!!!” and Britney turns again and again to look at us until she disappeared into the crowd sometime in the 4th quarter.

10 Step Program

 Having taught college for over 20 years I know exactly how to complete semester grading and submit grades in a timely manner while also giving myself  a mani/pedi before graduation.

Step 1: make piles.

This is very important. The piles can be anything, but they should be neat.

The goal of this step is to find pens. Pens are a crucial part of step 2.

Step 2: find pens.

Grading requires pens. Red pens, blue pens, green pens and maybe a big fat black Sharpie.

Continue to look for pens until it is time for step 3.

Step 3: make coffee.

Or go out and buy coffee, but come right back.

And if you do go out to buy coffee, also buy pens (thankfully final exams always coincide with payday*) and nail polish and lipgloss for graduation. And maybe wine, maybe not.

 Remember to buy mints for graduation and a large Red Bull.

Also buy printer ink.

Grading requires printing. Probably.

Step 4: turn off all social media.

Blame the world for keeping you from grading. Check Twitter. Check email.

Get an email asking "are you OK?" and hit reply "of course! your email has been full all week!" but then the email bounces back so then the person asks again "hey, what's up?" and you answer AGAIN something witty but it bounces back again. Continue the non-conversation until it is time for step 5.

Step 5: make spreadsheets.

This is crucial.

Before any grading can be done, pretty gradebooks must be made.

Different items get bolded, a few get highlighted. This is much nicer than anything that could be done inside Blackboard and is a vital part of really connecting to channeling and manifesting and wasting the precious time and energy that is required to successfully grade.

 Fix margins, play with fonts, and make all the grades fit on two pages.  Continue until step 6.

Step 6: brag about the spreadsheets.

Take pictures of the spreadsheets and send them to your friends who are also grading as a form of solidarity.

Email that picture to that other friend and it bounces back, again. Of course. Continue texting and emailing until it is time for step 7.

Step 7: realize graduation is in a few hours.

Hair! Makeup! Gown! Hat! Finish mani/pedi! Use all these as justifications to not grade.

Take pictures of graduation preparation and shoe choices. Send them to friends. Send them to the friend with the full email. Laugh as it bounces back.  Curse. Continue until it is time for step 8.

Step 8: sit in front of the computer.

Log into Blackboard and look at all the things that are waiting to be graded inside the computer. Compare that number to how many exams are waiting to be graded outside the computer.

 If the answer is a whole number and also could be the diameter of a circle whose radius is pink and fuzzy, continue to step 9.

Step 9: write about how to grade while toenails dry. 

Step 10: go to graduation. Grades aren't due until Monday anyway.