I had a pretty normal morning. With a couple of quirks. Usually I get up and have enough time to let Dog out, make coffee in my much-beloved Chemex pour-over, and stare at my e-mail as if that’s going to help something for maybe half-an-hour before I make the nine-mile drive to school. On Wednesdays I don’t have class until 2 pm, but I usually have “stuff” to do that often involves fixing tech problems I myself created, by being overly ambitious and overconfident in the ability of Microsoft to play nicely with the college’s infrastructure, and/or answering texts from students whose lives seem so much more complicated than mine did thirty years ago. I shoot for getting in by 9:30.
But this morning I had to pick somebody up a few miles out of my way, and the tank was on E, and so I found myself out on the NJ state highways among the regular people who have longish commutes and expectations of a 9 am arrival. I felt like an imposter. For one thing, I went to Dunkin Donuts. That’s not unprecedented, but you know how much I love my Chemex and how much my wallet hates being opened and reminded of its sad state; but in I went. The drive-through was packed with regular people, so I parked. There were three regular people running the place – doing a hell of a job, I might add, given the lines both inside and out. Given the varying quality of customers’ ordering. Are they explicit? Articulate? Of course this is New Jersey; we’re used to fast-talking mumblers who have not yet had coffee. Unlike the famous Krispy Kreme South Carolina experience, when I jogged in at 8 am with two refillable extra-large travel cups, thrust them at the young woman and requested black two Splendas and four glazed, please, to which she replied, “Honey, you’re gonna have to say that a whole lot slower.”
I know; it’s time to get a new story; that was 2003, and both of those traveling companions are dead now. That fellow-traveler and that Dog.
But these women were sharp. They translated mumbles into French Vanilla and pointing fingers into bagels, not toasted, extra cream cheese. (Oh, don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t the French Vanilla. I insist upon coffee that’s flavored like, well, coffee.) I was actually in and out before the car who joined the drive-in line just as I parked. A notable vehicle. A lime-green four-door Jeep. Shiny even in the winter (Fall? Spring? Hurricane?) weather.
When I got to the gas station, there was the lime-green jeep. I caught a glance of the woman driving. Probably a bit younger than me; forties; dark wavy hair, clearly attended to (one cannot say the same for my reddish frizz in its pony tail; it clearly exists without attention) nice black-and-white check blazer. No glasses. Everybody at school wears glasses, but apparently lots of regular people (under 50) don’t.
I decided that her name was Mary. As I turned onto Route 57 and she stayed straight for Schooley’s Mountain Road, I realized that our days, up to this point so in-tune with one another, were also going to diverge, probably radically. She was probably on-target to get to the office by 9. Slip her bag into the bottom desk drawer. She would be greeted, “Good morning, Mary.” How are the kids? What did you do last night? Oh, and when you get a chance can you take a look at the email I sent you? She will glide softly across the corporate carpet in her nice black shoes, over to the printer. The printer is in the same room as Mary’s desk.
Cut to me. My black boots are wet and the waxed floors squeak under them. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing but yesterday a couple of the students were complaining how annoying it was to sit in the hallway and listen to people’s boots squeak. So I’m annoying, already. Everybody’s happy to see Mary but I’m annoying people who have a 9:30 am Biology lab. I slide into the classroom I’m using. It’s not really my classroom but I’m the only one with activities in the room so it’s kind of my classroom, and I have the number code even though it doesn’t always work on the first try. I will need to access my student files today, so I will have to go to the room where I have a locking filing drawer. I have a locking filing cabinet in this room too, but nobody can find the key. Three separate people have written the key code number on the backs of their hands over the last two weeks, but I think they forget if that’s the room number or the key number and anyway I have a locked cabinet and all of my non-confidential files are in a pile on top of the locked file cabinet and my locking file drawer is in the other building. My feet are going to get wet again. Don’t forget to hit the button that locks the door. No, not the right one, the left one. Left as you’re facing the door. Left as you’re facing the door from the INSIDE of the door.
Hey, JoJo. My kids’ school is closed so I can’t come to class today.
Hey JoJo, were we supposed to write that report today?
Yesterday, actually. It’s OK get it to me as soon as you can.
Hey JoJo, my English prof didn’t show up and it says we should just read the chapter. Should I read the chapter?
Yes, why don’t you read the chapter.
JoJo: We are out of 3 x 5 index cards.
Wait, index cards? I thought this generation was supposed to consist of plugged in, wireless, digital natives. Who uses index cards? Isn’t there an IndexCardApp?
Probably, but if you try to download it the school’s WiFi will give a tremendous hiccup and quit for the day, and anyway the professor wants to see what we wrote on the card and we can’t take our phones out in class. Oh and I need to borrow white-out. And your stapler.
Mary’s thinking about lunch right about now. I’m thinking if I lock the door, close out the shared files on the server, lock my laptop, and hide the confidential folders underneath my laptop bag that’s lying on the squeaky waxed floor I can possibly sneak out long enough to pee.
Tonight I’ll have two, maybe three, wayward college students sleeping somewhere in the futons of my dwelling (that’s going to be the title of Part 2 of my memoir I’m never going to write, The Futons of My Dwelling-Place, or maybe that will be the title for “autobiographical poems”). I think I left my phone in the car. That’s OK, no bars today anyway. Write me a note on the whiteboard.