Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Drama About the Seating Chart

Dragonbreath has created a whole bunch of drama for the entire class. He must have gone crying to the professor, because the whole course received this email (slightly edited to removed identifying features) this afternoon—five times. We think he must have had a seizure and gotten his finger stuck on “Enter” or something.

Several people who sit in the back have told me that they would like to move closer to the front and take seats that seem to be generally vacant. As a general proposition, that seems reasonable to me. Nevertheless, there could be logistical problems. So we need to have an established procedure. Here is the one I propose:(1) When a person is not in his or her assigned seat by 9 a.m., anyone is permitted to sit in that seat.(2) When a person does not sit in his or her assigned seat for 2 or more classes in succession (unless he or she informs me in advance that s/he has a valid reason for not being in class), s/he loses the right to that seat and it can be assigned to another person. (3) When a new person has been assigned to the seat, a change will be made to the seating chart; the person who lost the seat will have to find a new seat. An alternative approach would be to simply have a new seating chart. I hope that anyone who has an opinion as to the preferable alternative will let me know either by email or after class tomorrow. If I don't hear from anyone, we will start with the first procedure specified tomorrow.

I felt that familiar feeling of wrath. Dragonbreath didn’t get his way so now we all have to suffer? I don’t think so. I fired this response off to the Prof.

Dear Professor Feedback,

Frankly, I do not feel that any change to the seating chart or implementation of "procedures" should be necessary. We all had the same chance to pick our seats at the beginning of the semester. Most of us made sure to arrive early that day to get the seats we desired. Those who chose seats in the back should have to live with that decision unless there is a truly compelling reason to change. Furthermore, allowing anyone to sit in a seat if it is not taken at 9 am opens the course to far more disruption. Busses will be late, traffic will get tied up, people will have job interviews that run late-- a few people will be late on any given day. As it stands, they can slip in and go directly to their seats with little or no disruption to the rest of the class. Under the plan you have suggested, these students will have to find an empty seat, leading to more wandering and longer disruption of the class time. Not only that, but the people who arrive in the last few minutes before class starts would be more likely to find that their seats are taken before the 9 am "deadline", adding to the time that it takes for people to come in, sit down, and be ready for class to start, wasting even more class time. Finally, implementing these procedures creates the need for someone to police the seating chart in order to be sure that items 2. and 3. are fairly and uniformly implemented. I see no reason why even a minute of class time should be spent on this kind of unnecessary administrative task. If these changes are implemented, you may as well do away with the seating chart altogether. I can't see how it has a purpose if anyone can sit anywhere they please.

I propose that, instead of uprooting the entire class for the whims of a few, a list be passed one day next week where any student wishing to move closer to the front and any student in the front willing to move to the back can sign the list and exchanges could be facilitated that way. That way, only those students will be affected. If there are students on the seating chart who have since dropped the course, perhaps that would open some seats. This would involve only one day of disruption. The administrative side of this would also take only one day and could be taken care of in the minutes immediately following class. No one will need to police the seating chart every class for the rest of the semester. This would be far more efficient and fair than a constant flux of seating based on whose bus was late that morning or who is out with the flu for a few days.

I hope you will consider this as a possible solution.

Having thus answered the challenge, I felt somehow alive. Dragonbreath is going down. In the bus on my way home, it occurred to me that I could and should rally the troops. In the (slightly paraphrased) words of Arlo Guthrie, if the Prof. gets 3 emails on the same topic with the same suggestion, he might think it’s a movement. I mean, can you imagine, 3 people walk in, sing a chorus of Alice’s Resta... oh, sorry. Got off topic there. Anyway, I got to Finbar’s place, where I related the story thus far amid much laughter while I was mixing and setting the meatloaf and potatoes for dinner. While everything was in the oven browning nicely and smelling so good it made you want to gnaw your own arm off because you just could’t wait for dinner to be ready, I checked my email and found this response, emailed to the whole course (although only once this time -- an improvement!) , from Prof. Feedback:

Here is a proposed alternative to the procedure I suggested:I propose that, instead of uprooting the entire class for the whims of a few, a list be passed one day next week where any student wishing to move closer to the front and any student in the front willing to move to the back can sign the list and exchanges could be facilitated that way. That way, only those students will be affected. If there are students on the seating chart who have since dropped the course, perhaps that would open some seats. This would involve only one day of disruption. The administrative side of this would also take only one day and could be taken care of in the minutes immediately following class. No one will need to police the seating chart every class for the rest of the semester. This would be far more efficient and fair than a constant flux of seating based on whose bus was late that morning or who is out with the flu for a few days. In some ways, I like this procedure better than the one I proposed. I would like to propose an addition, however, that would allow students who want a seat nearer the front to take seats that have been vacant for some time. I will be glad to hear more comments. I will not try to decide [before the next class]. Actually, I have decided to use power-point again in that class. Hopefully, every seat will be about equally good for that purpose.

This cracked me up. Notice how it was edited to remove some of the snarkier elements of my original missive. I forwarded the original to Pei, Dami, and LaPresidente and asked if they’d be willing to email Prof. Feedback and lobby against the proposed changes.

This morning when class began, Prof. Feedback took a moment to say that he didn’t feel that we should spend any class time on the issue (Amen!) and that what he wanted to do was that any one who wanted to move forward should email him and anyone in the front who was willing to move to the back should do the same and he is “confident that he can find a solution” that way.

And that PowerPoint thing? Didn't happen. He couldn't get it to work.

So I’m sitting in the class right now, looking around and noting to myself that there are five seats in the very front of the class. They are actually in front of the front row. Two extra tables and five chairs were put there at the beginning of the semester because one of the courses was overfull and needed the extra seating. If Dragonbreath needs to sit up close so very badly, then why doesn’t he sit there? He is now at the very top of my List. It’s not good to be on my List to begin with. Dragonbreath is going down. In flames.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Have You Ever...

(OK, so I'm editing this because my introductory and explanatory paragraph disappeared. Here's what it said:)

This is a list of 200 questions that are making the blog rounds. Usually when I see stuff like this, I file in the the same category as those silly "What Obscure 1980 John Hughes Movie Character Are You?" quizzes. But the more I read, the more fun that this one is. Here's the key:
- Anything that's in bold is something that I have done
- Anything that has a * after is something that I will never do
- Anything that has a + is something that I hope I will be able to do one day
- Blue italicized stuff is my personal commentary (you probably figured that one out on your own)

Bought everyone in the pub a drink
Swam with wild dolphins [the idea of this kind of creeps me out. Who knows what other, less friendly, animals would be swimming near you at the same time? And besides that, I can't really swim]
Climbed a mountain [
I hope that one day I will be in the physical condition necessary for something like this]
Taken a Ferrari for a test drive +
Been inside the Great Pyramid +
Held a tarantula *********
Taken a candlelit bath with someone
Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
[Pretty much every day]
Hugged a tree
Done a striptease
Bungee jumped ***
Visited Paris +
Watched a lightning storm at sea
Stayed up all night long, and watch the sun rise
Seen the Northern Lights +

Gone to a huge sports game
Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa +
Grown and eaten your own vegetables [When I was a kid, we had a small garden with stuff in it like tomatoes and green peppers. I haven't lived anywhere as an adult where that was possible--yet.]
Touched an iceberg +
Slept under the stars
Changed a baby’s diaper
Taken a trip in a hot air balloon [I'm not sure that I would want to do this, really, but at the same time it just sounds so cool to be like, yeah, I went up in a hot air balloon...]
Watched a meteor shower
Gotten drunk on champagne
Given more than you can afford to charity
Looked up at the night sky through a telescope

Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment [And was sent to the principal's office for it more than once]
Had a food fight
Bet on a winning horse [Not at a track, though. It was in the Kentucky Derby pool at work once. I picked a name at random and it was the horse that won that year!]
Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
Asked out a stranger
Had a snowball fight
Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier * [That's just gross. Do you know how many people have to touch that copier in the course of a day??]
Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
Held a lamb
Enacted a favourite fantasy
Taken a midnight skinny dip +
Taken an ice cold bath
Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
Seen a total eclipse
Ridden a roller coaster
Hit a home run
Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
Adopted an accent for an entire day
[My esteemed high school classmates already thought I was from Swaziland (a small, landlocked country between Japan and Hawaii, whose national bird is the penguin and whose population gathers to watch the Northern Lights in July), so one day when we had a sub, I obliged them... poor sub. He never did figure out that my name wasn't really Oksana.]
Visited the birthplace of your ancestors [Difficult to do when you can't specify what that country might *be*.]
Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
Had two hard drives for your computer
Visited all 50 states +
Loved your job for all accounts + [The fact that the answer to this is "no" is one of the most depressing things about my life]
Taken care of someone who was shit faced
Had enough money to be truly satisfied +
Had amazing friends {If I could make this super, duper bold, I would. Amazing doesn't even come close to describing them.]
Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
Watched wild whales
Stolen a sign
Backpacked in Europe [Well.... I had a backpack. I was in Europe. I rode the trains around to different places. Just because I stayed in people's homes and bathed on a regular basis doesn't mean it doesn't count!]

Taken a road-trip...for six days -
lived in the car... [Yes to the first two... and frankly, the car would have been preferable to the Days Inn on Orange Blossom Drive in Orlando]
Rock climbing [Again, just plain too weak for this. Maybe one day.]
Lied to foreign government’s official in that country to avoid notice [I was going to answer "no", but then I remembered pretending not to speak German to avoid getting a ticket for not buying a fare for the Berlin subway. Does that count?]
Sky diving****
Visited Ireland +
Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them [Yes, if by "restaurant" you mean one of the large Bierzelte at Oktoberfest in Munich. Those guys from England were so stoked to discover young cuties that spoke English! Who needs a reservation??]
Visited Japan +
Benchpressed your own weight +
Milked a cow
Alphabetised your records [Well, CDs. And you can see the results on my shelves right now.]
Pretended to be a superhero
Sung karaoke +
Lounged around in bed all day
Posed nude in front of strangers
Scuba diving
Got it on to “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye [I'm really more of a Chet Baker kind of gal, myself]
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Played in the rain
Gone to a drive-in theater
Visited the Great Wall of China + [Pei? When are we going?]
Discovered that someone who’s not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog [Woo hoo!]
Dropped Windows in favor of something better
Started a business +
Fallen in love and not had your heart broken [I don't belive that this is even possible. The best and most loving relationships have their down points and we all have our moments when we unintentionally hurt the ones we love. The question is, what do you do after the heartbreak happens?]
Toured ancient sites [Well, define the term "ancient", please. Then I'll tell you what my answer is.]
Taken a martial arts class +
Swordfought for the honor of a woman [Spare me.]
Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight *
Gotten married +
Been in a movie [Although I AM only three degrees from Kevin Bacon. Or is it two?]
Crashed a party
Loved someone you shouldn’t have
Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
Gotten divorced *****
Had sex at the office [Um, ew? Seriously, I don't want to think about the surface contamination and grodiness of this idea. Unless you work at home, in which case, go for it.]
Gone without food for 5 days
Made cookies from scratch

Won first prize in a costume contest
Ridden a gondola in Venice +
Gotten a tattoo *
Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
Rafted the Snake River
Been on television news programs as an “expert"
Got flowers for no reason [Nearly every day when I lived in Munich]
Gotten hot and steamy in a public place [Well, SEMI-public-- in the front seat of a car]
Got so drunk you don’t remember anything *
Been addicted to some form of illegal drug *

Performed on stage
Been to Las Vegas [You know, it's funny. If I had the chance to go to Vegas, I would, but if I never made it there, I could be just as happy]

Recorded music
Eaten shark
Seen Siouxsie and the Banshees live
Bought a house +
Been in a combat zone *
Buried one/both of your parents
Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off [Oh, God, what a mistake. Never, ever, ever again.]
Been on a cruise ship [Lee, what do you think? Does the Viking Line count?]
Spoken more than one language fluently
Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
Bounced a cheque
[Once, just a few months after I opened my first account. I felt like a total idiot.]
Performed in Rocky Horror *
Read - and understood - your credit report
Raised children *
Recently bought and played with a favourite childhood toy
Followed your favorite band/singer on tour [Well, I've seen Patty Griffen 11 times in three different cities (four if you count Cincinnati and Newport as different cities). Does that count?]
Created and named your own constellation of stars

Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country +
Found out something significant that your ancestors did [Again, difficult to do when you don't know who they are.]
Called or written your Congress person Member of Parliament
Picked up and moved to another city to just start over to be with the one you love
...more than once? - More than thrice? [But I would, if I had to.]
Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking [All the time, my friend. All the time.]
Had an abortion or your female partner did
Had plastic surgery
Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
Wrote articles for a large publication +
Lost over 100 pounds
Held someone while they were having a flashback
Piloted an airplane
Petted a stingray
Broken someone’s heart
Helped an animal give birth
Been fired or laid off from a job [Twice from the same job. Once for taking a previously scheduled and approved vacation when the supervisor decided less than a week before that I wasn't "allowed" to go. And then again when I failed to show up for work after I was terminated. That was from Avon Products, Inc, ladies and gentlemen. Let's give Avon a big round of applause!]
Won money on a T.V. game show +
Broken a bone
Killed a human being *
Gone on an African photo safari +
Ridden a motorcycle
Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph *
Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced *
Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild +
Ridden a horse
Had major surgery
Had sex on a moving train
Had a snake as a pet
Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon +
Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
Visited all 7 continents +

Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days +
Eaten kangaroo meat + [But I have eaten reindeer. Mmmmmmm...]
Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
Been a sperm or egg donor
Eaten sushi [That was in my pre-rice allergy days. I miss rice.]
Had your picture in the newspaper [More times than you can shake a stick at, mostly in Germany. Once I was even on the front page-- that was in a very small town. And once I was on page 2 of the Hamburger Abendblatt. I actually had someone recognize me on the bus after that.]

Professor Feedback-- Redux

My sources on the ground tell me that Professor Feedback suffered a relapse in the three minutes before I got to class yesterday. Apparently, he just happened to flip the switch on the wireless mic at the exact same moment as one of my moron classmates who doesn't know how to mute the sound on their computer booted up the ol' laptop, unleashing the unholy chimes of Microsoft. Prof. Feedback immediately started to fumble around with the mic, muttering to himself "Why's it doing that?". Numerous people sitting in the front rows piped up to say that it wasn't the mic, it was a computer, but the message simply didn't get across. Instead, he announced that he would just turn the mic off if we were going to have trouble with it.

Sigh. And here I was so proud of myself for lending that man a clue.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More Phone Etiquette

One of my esteemed classmates-- who sits in the first row, directly in front of the professor-- just whipped out her cell phone in the middle of class, checked her messages, then jumped up and left the room, cell phone in hand.

About five minutes later, I got up to go to the bathroom. On my way there, I passed her sitting on one of the cushy lobby chairs, chatting merrily away on her cell phone. Something about going to a bar or club-- obviously not the kind of emergency message that one might find justifies leaving class to return the call.

When I Said To Sit Down, I Didn't Mean There

Dragonbreath sat in my seat today. I walked in three minutes late, and there he was. I sidled on over, plopped my stuff down in front of him and announced in a stage whisper “That’s MY seat”. He got up and slid over into Dami’s seat. Petty? A little, I’ll admit. But it’s the principle of the thing. We just had this discussion yesterday. We’ll have words after class. Oh, yes. We will have words.


Epic Journey-- The Conclusion

The desk clerk at the hotel wanted a deposit from me. I started to cry. Why would you want a deposit? Here’s my room voucher. I can’t possibly skip out on paying your bill—because I’m not *paying* your bill. Oh, for Pay-Per-View. Well, turn it off in my room! Finally I got the key to a room on the 7th floor. Up in the tiny elevator (I barely fit with all of my luggage) and down the hall to the room. Mind you, there’s no luggage cart to help me out here, so I’m balancing all four pieces of luggage. And did I mention that I was tired? I struggled through the door, dropping the luggage just inside the room, and headed for the telephone to try and call Finbar before he left for the airport to pick me up from the flight that I hadn’t made. I picked up the receiver—no dial tone. Dialed 9 – no dial tone. Screw this, I’m going to call the front desk for help. Nothing happens. Awwww, crap. The phone must be broken. Awwwwwwwwww crap! That means I have to go back downstairs.

The front desk clerk was great. She was so patient with me, even though I practically in tears again. So close to bed and yet so very far away! I would need to move to another room (otherwise I couldn’t just not call out, I also couldn’t get a wake up call in the morning). Now, in the light of day and weeks later after an uninterrupted streak of not staying awake for 4o some-odd hours, I realize that this is perfectly reasonable. At the time, I remember being happy about the fact that she had a way to fix the problem but at the same time feeling like there was no possible way that I was going to be able to move all that stuff again. Heaven help me, I was so completely wrung out that I seriously couldn’t imagine how I would manage to drag my suitcases down the hallway to a different room. I guess the (wonderful, amazing) desk clerk must have read that thought in my face because she very kindly said, “You know what, let me just come up and help you get settled”. Which she did—absolutely above and beyond the call of duty for a desk clerk at a Sleep Inn.

Finally ensconced in my room-with-a-working-phone, I was able to call Finbar and let him know about the change of plans. I must not have been very coherent because he eventually interrupted me to say “Why don’t you tell me about it when I pick you up at the Buffalo Airport tomorrow? Get some sleep so that you won’t miss your flight. I’ll be waiting for you out front.” Wonderful man, he is.

Having taken care of that urgent situation, it was time to look to the care and feeding of my poor exhausted body. Hmmmmmm, $25 meal voucher for the hotel restaurant... let’s see what’s what. Turns out the restaurant isn’t actually part of the hotel, it’s next-door. And there’s no footpath. So I had to walk down the long, dark hotel driveway and then back up the driveway to the restaurant. Fun, fun, fun. The place turns out to be one of those “been there forever” restaurants that haven’t changed since the 1960’s. Heavy wood paneling, lots of gilded mirrors, older women waitressing, and a menu full of things like “Open Faced Roast Beef Sandwich (served with Mashed Potatoes)” and “Tuna Melt (served with potato salad”). By now, I suppose it was 11:15 or so. I had seen a sign on the hotel lobby wall that noted the restaurant hours as “Until 1 am”, so I wasn’t worried about getting served. So I was a little disappointed to find that “Night Menu” was the only food being served. And the night menu was nothing but lunch meat sandwiches on white bread for the most part. I ended up ordering something like a chef salad and a roast beef sandwich and a bottle of water. Not a thrilling meal, but at least it was something. And you shouldn’t look a gift (voucher) horse in the mouth, I suppose. The bartender invited me to wait at the bar while my food was being prepared.

I sat on a stool and leaned against the bar. I’m sure I looked like the worst kind of drunk with my dirty, wrinkled clothes, glazed eyes, and disheveled hair. The bar was full of Navy guys and the macho was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Consequently, the bar was also full of Those Women. On the stools next to me were a prime example of this coupling. The guy was tall and tattooed, wearing a super tight black T-shirt and jeans with ostentatious cowboy boots. He was aggressive and chugging Bud Light like it was going out of style. Leaning in toward him and attempting to make cow eyes was That Woman—frizzed out spiral perm, loooots of black eyeliner, a tiny little tight white dress with a gold lamé belt and strappy, pointy sandals with spike heels at least three inches high (how can she possibly walk? And how did she get up on the barstool without giving us all a glance of her underwear (presuming that she was wearing any—a dangerous presumption, as far as I can tell)). And the second the guy glanced over in my direction (and it truly was nothing more than a glance. I’m not trying to puff up my own power of attraction here.), she immediately gave me The World’s Dirtiest Look and placed her hand possessively on his arm. I was amused—macho military is not exactly my type and I wouldn’t pick up a guy in this sleazy little restaurant for all the tea in China. Thankfully, my food came fairly quickly. I paid and slid off the barstool, which prompted Macho Navy Guy to yell (too drunk to regulate his voice) “You’re not leaving, are you?”. Which royally pissed That Woman off. “Stay here and drink with us”. I gave a false little laugh and told him that I was too tired for drinking tonight. He tried to block my way, but I ducked around a waitress with a cocktail tray full of drinks and booked it out the door.

Back upstairs, I spread out the “feast” on the bed (and I’m not trying to be derogatory here—to be honest, typing this is making me hungry) and flipped on the local news. After nearly two months, it was the first time I had the chance to listen to an English newscast. Then I decided that I was just too dirty to sleep, so I dug out the little hotel soaps and took a quick (but very hot) shower. Then I collapsed into bed. And couldn’t fall asleep. It was just ridiculous. All this time, I’d been looking forward to this very moment. I had been awake for 46 hours or so. I needed to be up in about 6 hours to catch the shuttle back to the airport. Why, my treacherous body, do you betray me like this?

I suppose I must have dropped off at some point because the wake-up call did exactly that. Now, there is nothing interesting about my preparations in the morning, so I’ll spare you that. I totally ravaged the free breakfast buffet and then caught the shuttle to the airport—thankfully a different shuttle with a functioning door that didn’t flop open on the highway. I made it through the check-in at the AirTran counter with no problems (and I’d like to take a moment to reiterate how pleased I was with AirTran—their customer service was great) , was relieved of my heavy luggage (with no guff from the desk clerk about paying any extra fees) and even had enough time to track down a coffee bar in the airport. I was feeling pretty good... until I got to security.

It wasn’t so much that I was worried about time. I had more than two hours until departure. The set up of the security area was a little confusing and I paused to get my bearings. The security worker in that area immediately started screeching at me to “Go to the end of the line! No cutting in line!” Jeez Louise, Lady! That’s what I’m trying to do! But I CAN’T SEE ANY STUPID END OF ANY LINE! I guess I didn’t move fast enough because she ran over to me and screeched some more about the end of the line—which turned out to be down a long hallway and around the corner. I’ve never seen a security line this long in all the flying I’ve done. Whatever, I’ve got time and you can’t change it anyway. I sipped my coffee and inched along toward the security lanes. Just before reaching the front of the line, it occurred to me that I might have a plastic knife (from the breakfast buffet at the hotel) in my bag somewhere. I took it to spread cream cheese on my bagel while I was waiting outside the hotel for the shuttle pick-up and wasn’t entirely certain that I’d thrown it away. Cue a frantic search of my carry-on bags, fueled by the mental image of me calling Finbar to let him know that I had been arrested for terrorism and the follow-up image of my poor parents seeing me on the evening news (“An incident at Baltimore International Airport closed the terminal this morning...). Can you imagine? And in a couple of years when I try to be admitted to the bar, I’ll be faced with the task of explaining to the character committee why I tried to hijack a plane. Good Lord, where the heck is that knife? Finally, I found it—in my back pocket (even better! Now it really looks like I’m trying to smuggle on a weapon!). Now the security worker refused to let me out of line. I wasn’t sure if I should tell her why I was trying to leave the line (would I get arrested for “Threatening a Security Agent”? This woman certainly seemed loony enough to construe it that way) or if I should just hand the knife to the guy at the checkpoint or what. The guy next to me called his wife over and she laughed, but agreed to throw the knife out for me.

I passed through the metal detector with no particular problems. Then it was on to the x-ray belts, where everyone was required to take off their shoes and jackets. That was the first time I was required to remove my shoes for security. I wasn’t particularly happy about it, since I was wearing Birks with no socks and it meant putting my bare feet on the nasty airport floor, ewwwwwww. While my bags and accoutrement were being scanned in the machine, I was directed to one of eight or so folding tables lined up around the walls. Each table had a series of plastic bins on it, a plastic chair sitting to the side of it, and a small mat in front of it, similar in nature to a doormat, except that it had a pair of footprints printed on it. A very young looking TSA agent with crazy cool short dreads was at “my” table. He had me sit on the chair while he retrieved my bags from the machines and then identify each bag. Once everything had been reclaimed and placed in one of the plastic bins, he put on latex gloves and started going through the contents of the bags. This is the first time since 9-11 that I’ve been chosen for one of these “random” searches (although, as I looked around, I saw that everyone was being searched in a similar manner, so that wasn’t very random) and I have to say that I had dreaded this very thing, not because I was trying to smuggle some sort of contraband in my carry-on baggage, but because it just seems so incredibly invasive. But the young man searching my luggage was very polite to me, and very careful and respectful in his handling of my belongings. He made some small jokes with me about the weather and the hassles of traveling—it was altogether a pleasant experience, which is kind of surreal, considering the invasion of privacy involved.

Anyway, as I’m sure Lune (and Dani) can testify, my bags were packed tightly. I am the master of packing—I can get more stuff in a suitcase than anyone I know, and it all gets there in one piece. I’ve traveled with everything from bottles of wine to hand-blown stained glass balls and never yet had anything break in transit. My carry-ons are no exception. The poor TSA agent had disturbed the careful arrangement, despite his gentle handling of the contents of the bags, and now he couldn’t get it all back in. Finally, I asked him if I could be permitted to repack the bags. He radioed a supervisor, who came over and agreed to let me repack after a scan and a pat down. So, I stood on the footprint mat, held my arms out “like you’re flying”, and let a female supervisor pat me down like the badguy on Law and Order. Then I carefully realigned everything in the carry-on and easily closed the lid on the rolly bag, much to the amazed amusement of the TSA agent and his supervisor watching the process. Maybe I should send a letter to David Letterman and see if he wants to broadcast this Stupid Human Trick?

The AirTran flights were good. They boarded on time, the flight crew was friendly, and the flights didn’t involve any narcotic overdoses, so that’s an improvement right there. I was proselytized to by one of the people sitting in my row, not to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but to convert to some new-agey philosophy involving visualization mixed with a healthy dose of “Christianity”. I think my favorite part of the guy’s “testimony” was when he told me that he couldn’t believe what a “godd*mned” difference Jesus Christ and visualization had made in his life. Later, he grabbed my copy of Der Spiegel out of my hands and pointed to a picture of a beautiful young girl, announcing that he simply could not believe the resemblance between the woman sitting between the two of us and this girl in the magazine. The woman, who must have been in her forties, looked at me and rolled her eyes. He simply could not let it go and started showing the magazine to the people in the rows around us. I wished with all of my heart that I’d never let on that I could speak English at all.

And then the plane touched down in Buffalo, I met Finbar in the check-in area, we claimed my luggage (and I was furious to discover that the handle on my brand new red suitcase had been ripped off) and that’s the end of my epic journey. I was sad to leave Germany and Dani, but it was good to be home.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Phone Etiquette

Now I have seen *everything*:

My professor just answered his cell phone in class. The mind boggles. As far as I’m concerned, he owes me $1.34 for that one minute of my time that he just wasted.

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Health Care Hypo

Let me tell you, a “self-funded health insurance plan” that consists of an employer contribution of $2,400 per employee is going to collapse the first time someone in the company requires a quadruple bypass or a liver transplant. Maybe even as soon as a bad flu epidemic hits the company. The whole reason that health insurance “works” (inasmuch as one can say that our system of health care “works”) is because it draws on such a large pool of premium payers.

Which leads me to this idle inquiry: What private company employs the most people?

Professor Marian

Let me introduce you to Prof. Marian. She is supposedly one of the foremost experts in her field, which happens to be a field in which I am quite interested. Therefore, I was extremely excited that I garnered a spot in her class this fall.

The first day of class I stubbornly clung to that enthusiasm in the face of all reason to feel otherwise.

I’ve chosen to call her Prof. Marian because she looks like the stereotypical spinster librarian. She wears her hair in a headband and usually a cardigan sweater over a dress. Her horn-rimmed glasses might look funky on a woman 40 years younger, but on her they just make her eyes seem constantly glazed. Her expression never varies from a semi-vacant smile that is made all the more surreal by her high, breathy voice.

Our texts for the course include a casebook that we never actually read (but that cost me $90 to buy) and a slim paperback full of excerpts from her published works. We’ve read most of that book over the last five weeks. She makes sure to drop the names of at least one French and numerous German philosophers per hour—and always carefully pronounces the names with an exaggerated and carefully enunciated French/ German accent. Judging by her written work and some comments that she has made in class, I am fairly certain that she speaks fluent German (maybe French, too). Normally this would make me automatically sympathetic to her. But she mishandles the language. In the slim paperback, her writing is peppered with instances where she randomly hyphenates or splits the long compound nouns so common in German. One or two such mistakes could be filed under missed editing. But there are so many that I find myself nearly overcome with the urge to take a red pen and mark up the book and return it to her.

All of this would be nitpicking, and I would file it in the dark corner of my mind where you put the thoughts that you know are unreasonable or crazy and never let them see the light of day, except for the fact that her lectures are *exactly* like that. She randomly harps on this point or that, glosses over other points, gets wrapped up in a rhapsodic elucidation of some obscure French legal scholar’s theories that (by the way) have nothing to do with the topic at hand, and generally enjoys herself thoroughly while leaving the class in a catatonic state. It’s pure torture. One of my friends was smart and dropped it after the first day. Me, I kept telling myself that it would get better once we got out of the pure theoretical section. But now it looks as though the theory will NEVER END.

I would love to think that things will improve. I keep hoping that things will improve. But we’re five weeks in and there’s no sign that anything will ever change. I’m not sure that I’ve actually taken any notes in her class in the last two weeks. If I have, it’s been purely accidental and will likely be of no real use in taking the exam. This subject is not one that I’m likely to find a hornbook or outline for, so I’m sunk. Dear Lord, why must law school be so useless?


Sit Down and Shut Up

You know, I am very sorry for you that you don’t like the seat that you chose in this class. I know that Prof. Feedback can be difficult to hear at times. But here’s the thing: he announced on the first day of class that he would pass a seating chart on the third day of class and that those seats would be the final seats for the semester. If you couldn’t be bothered to find a seat that worked for you, that’s not my problem. We showed up early so that we could get these seats. Maybe you should have done the same.

So, no, you can’t sit in Pei’s seat. Even if she isn’t here five minutes before class starts. Either go to your own assigned seat (that you chose yourself!) or ask permission of someone in a more preferable seat to officially trade places with you. It’s not my fault that you couldn’t be bothered to take are of this problem before now. Furthermore, I don’t want to sit next to you because you smell bad. Your breath could melt steel. Save your whiny guilt trip for someone who cares.

ETA: He finally sat in the row in front of me. Every time he opens his mouth—and he’s convinced that he’s a genius of criminal law, so he opens his mouth constantly—I get a blast of his nasty breath. If your breath is that bad, you need to see a dentist and keep a mouthful of mints at all times.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Shameless Plugging

Here’s a plug for a friend’s blog.

She’s spending a year at the London School of Economics and this is her record of the ups and downs of the year. She’s funny and bright and bitingly sarcastic. I love her and I’m sure you will, too.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Eight Days a Week

Apparently, some one at the Department of Transportation has invented a new day of the week. On the way into the city just now I passed a sign saying that a certain stretch of highway would be closed from "Friday thru Saterday". Saterday.

Good Deed

I’ve done my part to make Our Law School a better place. Professor Feedback took my advice to move the receiver to a location further away from the mike—no feedback, the best clarity yet, a victory for all students in the course. And he has his shirt tucked in all the way around. Prof. Feedback is on a roll today!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

One More Useless Than The Next

Here, completely unedited, are the “notes” that I took during the presentation on “Careers In International Law”:

You don’t look *that* young and I don’t give a rodent’s gluteus maximus if or how many children you have. I hate you already.90 seconds, I think it's a new record.

No? Did he really ask you that? And then he told you that the answer is “There’s no such thing as international law”? But you don’t agree with him. Of course not.

My God.

Callous much?

That might be a good idea. Can you do IP if you don’t know anything about science. Sure would be ironic if I ended up as an IP atty instead of Finbar. (Mental note—ask Marbury)

More than 20 minutes of the hour about yourself...

Is that even ethical? If one of your clients hires you “away”, isn’t there some conflict of interest there somewhere?

Children? Five minutes ago, it was one child.

So your number one big tip is: work on a tropical island? What about those of us who can’t just up and move to the tropics?

Well, apparently because you’re a complete jackass. *false laugh* “I don’t know if he’s going to be a good attorney, but he can play on the company baseball team.” Are you a baseball manager or a hiring attorney? Oh, and if you don’t want to read the resumes that cross your desk, MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THAT JOB! I hate you.

And once again, I ask you: what about those of us who can’t afford to finance a week in the tropics on the off chance that someone will offer us a job over coffee? And besides that, now you’re contradicting yourself. First you claim that there are all kiiiiiiinds of opportunities on the island; now you’re saying that all of the firms there receive so many resumes that the only way to get a job is to spend a week there to meet people for coffee?

And my soul just died a little more—why am I even thinking about corresponding with someone whose behavior I find so repulsive? Because I’m desperate for a good job, that’s why.

Why did I even think that this would be different than every other Career Services waste of time—I mean, presentation?

Easy? Study abroad is *easy*?

Do you think it’s true that attorneys living in foreign countries are so desperate for contact to other americans that they’ll be soooooo generous with their time? They’re total losers if it is, and they should come back to the States and give their job to me. Especially if it’s in Munich.

Why doesn’t he notice that he’s out of time?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Saddama Bin Laden

Perhaps Mr. Rumsfeld is stressed from overwork and needs a reeeeeeal long break from work. Like a minimum of the next four years.

Seriously, though, this is the cornerstone of Bush's campaign to be re-elected and his crack team (that's supposed to be the reason why we voted for him despite the fact that he didn't know the name of India's prime minister and can't pronounce "nuclear" and... oh, Lord, I'm just going to stop before I get worked up) can't even keep the names of the MAIN PLAYERS straight? Why one EARTH would you want to give this man or his cronies any power?

Professor Feedback

I really wonder about certain members of the faculty. I’m told that the insanity and strangeness is par for the course in most universities (hello, tenure!), but I must have been very lucky as an undergraduate because I did not have any professors in my major who were anything less than brilliant. Some were better teachers than others, but they were all incredibly intelligent and well-versed in their field. I can’t really say much about other departments, since I didn’t really have many professors in the gen ed classes—mostly TAs and adjuncts. But even there, most of them (with a few notable exceptions) were very capable. And thinking about it now, I must say that the few times I took real courses outside my major, the professors who taught them were great. The only times I ever had any really negative experiences was with TAs. So, to sum up that confusing paragraph: Profs in undergrad good, TAs sometimes good, sometimes bad.

But really, I just don’t understand how some of these people at Law School manage to find their way out the front door and into school. The man whose class I am in right now is walking around with his left front shirttail untucked and his tie is crooked. I wish that I could say that this is the exception, but with this guy, it’s more the rule. And the fact that the tie more or less matches the shirt means that it’s a good day for him.

Wardrobe issues aside, he struggles with the simplest technology. For example, the wireless mike that is supposed to make him audible for the students in the back rows of this full lecture room. There are 123 students in the class, we can’t all sit in the front row. In fact, I sit in the fourth row, and I can’t always hear him. I can’t imagine what the people in rows 9-11 hear (or more accurately, don’t hear). It’s one of those clip on mikes like people wear on TV talk shows. It’s not too hard: you flick the “on” switch, stick the receiver in your back pocket (or clipped on the back waistband of your pants—you’ve seen people on TV do it) and clip the mike part to your shirt. He’s got the mike clipped to his tie, which is an acceptable variation, except that he’s also got the receiver in his shirt pocket. Which means that any time he moves in such a way that the tie swings to the left, the room is treated to the squeal of feedback. He can’t figure out why it happens (and this happens every. single. day. ), so he just turns the mike off. And in order to turn the mike off, he pulls the receiver out of his pocket (to flip the switch on the back) and in doing so, practically holds it on top of the mike, bringing the squealing feedback to a fevered pitch. You’d think that he’d make the connection.
And the best part of all is that it costs me $67 for each wasted class hour listening to his blather and the feedback of the microphone.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Epic Journey, Part 3

The rest of the flight passed uneventfully. I didn’t sleep of course, partially because the mid-afternoon take-off meant that the skies stayed perfectly light the entire time, partially because I have trouble sleeping on a plane anyway, and in large part because of the upset caused by the medical emergency happening two rows behind me. We landed in Baltimore about 30 minutes behind schedule. I thought I might still make it, as long as I had very good luck getting my baggage and clearing customs. My passport and green customs form was at the ready. My carry-on was re-packed and under the seat to allow the quickest possible exit from the plane (although the fact that I was at the back of the plane somewhat negated that advantage).

But the plane taxied to the end of the runway and just... stopped. We waited at the end of the runway and at first I thought that we were just waiting for our turn to go to the gate. Then I saw the flashing lights of a string of ambulances and police cars. They pulled up to the plane and numerous EMS workers came on. They took the man off the plane and the emergency vehicles all sped away. Once they were cleared, we were able to mosey on over to the gate and deplane.

In the meantime, I had started chatting with the people sitting around me. It turned out that the person sitting directly in front of me lives just outside of Rushville, IN (hi, Suzanne!) and their daughter is applying to Our University for medical school. Die Welt ist ein Dorf... And of course, I shared my dilemma of the short time frame to clear customs and get to my next flight. There was much sympathetic clucking and jokes about bribing customs officials and elbowing senior citizens out of the way. I was torn between a philosophical resignation to overnighting there in Baltimore and the urge to cry hysterically at the idea of overnighting there in Baltimore.

Once we got out of the plane and into the terminal, I took off as fast as my little paws would carry me, dragging the rolly bag behind me. I came skidding up to the customs lanes, ready to whip out Ol’ Blue, slap the green customs form across the desk, assure the agent that I was not smuggling anything untoward in my luggage, get my entry stamp, and run. But noooooo. The lines were already quite long (how did those people get there ahead of me? I was really booking it!) and I figured that just waiting my turn was going to take all the time I had (about 40 or 45 minutes). But yet again, an angel intervened: the man who had been sitting in front of me jogged up to the front of the line and came back with the message that I could go to the head of the line. Wow!

So I slid on up to the counter, whipped out Ol’ Blue, slapped down my green customs form and smiled my best smile, ready to answer the usual questions: any cigarettes? No. Alcohol? Yes, exactly 1 liter of schnapps. Agricultural products? Nope. Currency over $10,000. Heh, I wish, but no. And Pete behind the desk slooooooowly flipped open Ol’ Blue and looked over the numerous stamps I had accumulated this summer. He scrutinized the page as though I might have spent hours perfecting the state seal of Estonia to make it look like I’d spent 6 hours there when really I was hanging out in Pakistan with Osama. Then he carefully examined my green customs form. The smile on my face grew a little stiff. Then he lazily asked me where I’d been (Dude, you just read the entry and exit visas in the passport AND the question on the green customs form that asked for the same information!), how long I’d been there (again... YOU JUST READ IT), why I was there (OK, that you couldn’t have read. But really, if I was off training with Al Qaeda, do you really think I’d tell you that? It’s like those old questions about who packed your suitcase and whether you’re carrying any explosives!), what I was bringing back with me (books, books, books, some schnapps, a bunch of magazines from Frankfurt Airport, and a vague distaste for Swedes, plus a lot of dirty laundry), how much of it I was bringing (READ THE CUSTOMS FORM! READ IT!)... He finally handed me my passport back and dismissed me with a wave. No thank you or have a nice day. Just a dismissive little waive, as though he was the King of U.S. Customs dismissing a peasant wench.

Whatever, there wasn’t time to worry about it. I fixed my sight on “Baggage Claim (International)” and started down the hall. But I only got about 20 or 30 yards before I was stopped by another customs agent who wanted to see my passport and green form and ask all the stupid questions again. YOU PEOPLE ARE WASTING MY TIME! I made it to the end of the hallway and was stopped again to show my passport, my green customs form, and to answer the stupid questions. Then I was finally allowed to enter the baggage claim area.

No baggage in the carousels. Greeeeeeeat. I was one of the first five people there. Other people had let me cut to the front of the line to speed me on my way. I ran all the way down the hall. And it was all for nothing because THERE WAS NO BAGGAGE ON THE CAROUSEL. I positioned myself directly in front of the chute so that I could grab the luggage at the first possible second. I could still make it! Eye of the Tiger! And the other people from my flight came trickling into the luggage area. But still no luggage. We waited and waited and finally, finally! the belt started. Luggage started to come in dribs and drabs, but not mine. I kept glancing down at my watch, my stomach growing tighter and tighter as the minutes ticked by. An airline employee wandered by and I grabbed her to ask that she check to see if my flight might be delayed (after all, no sense in worrying if that’s the case), but she refused. That kind of took me aback. Would it really have been difficult to radio to the desk or the gate and ask what the status of the flight is? They do it all the time on Airline. The baggage claim was starting to empty of passengers and there was still no sign of my bags. Greeeeeeat. Not only am I going to miss my flight, I am also going to end up with no luggage. RRRRRRRR! Another woman with an employee ID wandered by and I asked her to check on my flight. She didn’t radio anyone, but said “Oh, honey, that flight left 10 minutes ago”. What? That’s early! She must be kidding. Well, maybe I can get rebooked on another airline or something. If my luggage ever comes. Suddenly I wanted to lay down and start blubbering “I just want to go hoooooooome!”.

And then, finally, after more than 45 minutes of waiting, the first of the two bags tumbled down the ramp. And then, the last piece of luggage on my flight turned out to be mine. Looks like my streak of luck had run out. Well, OK. Off to Icelandair to get rebooked. At the far side of the room, there was a large arrow pointing to the exit. And under that arrow, I was asked for my passport and green customs form again. Seriously people! Does Homeland Security have too much budget and not enough real work? Then I rounded the corner and found another line for customs. Luckily for my sanity, that was the last one. They actually collected the green customs forms and let us out into the terminal with all the other people who were not stupid enough to travel internationally post-September 11th. Now, don’t get me wrong. I agree that ingress into the U.S. should proceed under the restrictions of our law and that the enforcement of those laws is an important job. But how on earth did five different people asking me for my passport and customs forms and wanting to know where I’d been and what I was bringing with me make this country any safer? Only one of those people actually entered my information into a computer. The other ones just looked at the papers. And how on earth are you going to know if I’m lying about why I was in Finland? And why on Earth did I have to fill out the green customs form???? In the instructions, they tell you that it’s to expedite the customs process. But I can’t see how it expedites anything except the destruction of virgin forests to supply the paper for the stupid things. If you’re going to require me to write it down, why have the agent ask me the same questions? The common sense way of doing it would be for the agent to read the answers and ask any necessary follow-up questions based on those answers.

Anyway, I shoved the very heavy luggage cart up the ramps to the third floor and the Icelandair ticket counter where I was now second in line. Icelandair would pay to put us up in hotels that night and give us meal vouchers, since it was now long past 9 pm and no other flights were leaving. I was called up to the desk and the girl started filling out the paperwork. While we were waiting for the meal vouchers to be brought up from the office, she started chatting with me.

“I’d be so mad about this if I were you.”

“Well, I would much rather be on my way home right now, but if someone’s that sick, what are you going to do?” (Obviously my philosophical side had returned.)

“Oh, but he wasn’t sick. He overdosed.”

WHAT?? It turned out that our “poor” heart attack victim had taken an entire bottle of Valium somewhere over Greenland. My sympathy vanished immediately. It also turned out that he was travelling with two women who couldn’t speak English, or for that matter, Icelandic. So they had no idea what was happening to him and couldn’t even communicate with the people around them. How inconsiderate! My sympathy level slipped even further into negative numbers.

Icelandair was phenomenal about this. There was no arguing that this was a circumstance beyond their control, no chintziness about meal vouchers, no one made us feel like we were ungrateful wretches imposing upon the good nature of the airline. Instead, they apologized to us, put all of us up in hotel rooms (I could hear the supervisor in the office trying to drum up more spots), and gave us $25 meal vouchers. Then they called the hotels and asked if they could send the shuttle drivers a little more often for the immediate future because there were so many of us that would need a pick up.

Then I had to go to AirTran to rebook my flight to Our Fair City. There was some confusion as to what I was talking about when I first got to the counter and I was, quite frankly, so tired that I could hardly even think, let alone try to straighten someone else’s confusion out. Luckily, another employee noticed the problem and came over to help. Unluckily, there were no flights to Our Fair City with open seats. Not that night, not the next day, not even the day after that. The next available flight was Monday morning. I did not know what to do. Could they even do this? Aren’t they required to put me on the next available flight? They wanted to send me back to Icelandair. I didn’t want to go. By this point, it is 9:30 on Friday night. I have been awake since about 2 a.m. Thursday (as in overnight from Wednesday). That means that I’ve been awake for about 43 ½ hours straight. I cannot make decisions or do anything that requires more thought than my brain stem can handle on its own. Please just help me! I kept babbling about needing to arrive in Our Fair City early enough to drive to Buffalo (no wonder they were confused, right?) and finally it hit me: why not fly to Buffalo? Oh, Lord, yes, AirTran does, in fact, fly to Buffalo. Woo hoo! And there’s a flight tomorrow morning. Woo hoo! And, glory be, there’s a seat available! WOO HOO! Money!

I headed for the front of the airport to catch a shuttle and collapsed gratefully on a bench under the sign that said “Hotel Shuttles”. And waited. And after more than 30 minutes in the dark (lighting is not BWI’s strong point), I was starting to get worried. I went inside to the courtesy phones and called the hotel. The desk attendant assured me that the driver would be there any minute. So I trudged back about and sat at the curb for another 20 minutes. And I called again. At 10:30 p.m., the driver finally drove up to the curb. He helped me on board with my baggage (all 130 pounds of it). I plopped down in the first seat on the passenger side of the bus. A few other passengers got on board, then the driver slipped behind the wheel and we took off into the rainy Baltimore night. I thought I was crazy at first. But there was a definite draft in the bus. All the windows were shut, though. Wonder where it’s coming from? At the red light, the driver put the bus into park and stood up, reached across the dash and pulled the door shut. We’ve been riding with the door partially open. How could he forget to close the door? The light turned and we headed onward—and it became abundantly clear that he hadn’t forgotten. The door was apparently broken. It slid open almost as soon as we took off again. The driver pulled over three more times before he finally gave up and just let it flap open. I wished with all of my heart that I had not chosed to sit in that front seat and tightened my grip on the straps of my backpack and the rolly bag.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Gubbe Noak

I'm pretty sure that I will start to see animals going down the street two by two any minute now. Hurricane Ivan-- well, what's left of it anyway-- is moving through. We weren't exactly in a drought to begin with and the remnants of Frances saturated the ground pretty well, so the new rainfall wasn't exactly welcome to begin with. It started sometime overnight and the driving rain hasn't let up for even a minute since then.

This lead to a rather unfortunate discovery: there's a crack in the foundation of the house. And the storm drain is clogged. I've managed to prop the cover on the drain open enough that the water can go down that way, but there's nothing to be done about the water squirting in (and it's not dripping or oozing, it's actually got some force behind it) except wait for the rain to stop. And keep the cats out of it. *That's* easier said than done. Mau isn't a problem, since a) she doesn't like the basement and b) she HATES water. But Pink Nose is fascinated by the rush of water and has been sitting beside the storm drain for hours. That's fine, but I think we all know that sooner or later it's going to lead to a little sip from the river (I mean, he's a cat. He'll get curious about it eventually) and next thing you know, we've got kitty cholera on our hands.

The other unfortunate thing is that many of the roads are closed due to standing water and that means I'm stuck here for the evening. I was really looking forward to the lamb koftas Finbar and I planned for our Friday night. Instead, I guess I'll warm up some egg rolls or something from my own freezer. And sit at home with the cats. I feel like the scary lady that the kids all dare each other to talk to.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Epic Journey, Part 2

The flight to Reykjavík was uneventful and the crew announced at the beginning of the flight that our flight to Baltimore would be held for us. Things were looking up. Then the plane flew in over the interior of Iceland, a forbidding place that my non-rugged self will otherwise never get a chance to see, which afforded me some spectacular views of a raging snowstorm (in JULY!) and huge fissures in the lava fields with great boiling clouds of steam spewing out. I was thrilled beyond belief.

Now, when I flew over back in June, there was no passport control between Iceland and Sweden. So I didn’t expect to have to go through passport control between Germany and Iceland, either, since Germany is also an EU country. That was a wrong assumption. We were herded though the passport control (where I witnessed a woman in a violent screaming fit in Icelandic with one of the passport control officers, who seemed unconcerned with her rage. No one else—except the other passengers—seemed concerned either. Can you imagine the police reaction to a similar scene in an American airport?) and into a different part of the airport just in time to board. No fuss about any of it, except for the little voice in my head going, “You’re still 2 ½ hours behind schedule. You won’t even get to Baltimore until a half-hour after your flight takes off. You’re going to miss that flight to Pittsburgh...”

I was seated in the window seat about 10 rows from the back of the plane, next to an elderly married couple from Canada. They were both dressed up: he was wearing a tie, she had on a suit with a skirt, pantyhose, and high heels. It was like something from another era, when flying was still so special that you got dressed up for the occasion. They were very nice and we chatted a bit about this and that before take-off. They’d been in Paris visiting the wife’s family. She had a lovely accent and occasionally slipped into French when she addressed me.

Not long after take-off, the crew made an announcement that favorable conditions might allow them to make up a large amount of the time that we’d been delayed and that they would try their best to get us to Baltimore as close to the scheduled time as possible. Woo Hoo! I’m gonna make that flight after all, as long as I get a little luck at baggage claim and customs! Meals were served, and let me digress for a moment to praise Icelandair for their food service.

On the flight over, the meal was a chicken breast and veggies with some sauce on a bed of wild rice. It looked great, but I didn’t want to die from dinner, so I was going to make a meal from the cheese crackers, beef jerky, bagels, and pop tarts I’d packed for just this contingency. I handed my meal back to the flight attendant so that I wouldn’t accidentally get rice in my other food, and she was very concerned that there was something wrong with the meal. I explained that it was fine, but that I was allergic to it. She took it away and I figured that was the end of it. Two or three minutes later, she reappeared, smiling from ear to ear and presented me with a special tray of lasagna that normally comes in the kiddie meals. I was so shocked and impressed that she’d gone out of her way to dig out a meal for me that I could eat. Compare that to my last Trans-Atlantic flight with Air Canada, when the meal was chicken and wild rice served with rye bread rolls and a walnut brownie. I asked for a different meal if possible or at least a couple extra snacks and the flight attendant jumped down my throat about how I shouldn’t ask for special accommodation unless I made prior arrangements. (Which is a whole separate rant. Not only will the airlines not provide nutritional information about the meals served or allow you to order a meal that doesn’t include certain allergens, but even if you choose “Diabetic Meal” or “Kosher Meal” or “Vegan Meal” or whatever, they won’t guarantee that your special meal will be there. Many of them also won’t warm up something that you bring along on the plane “for safety reasons”. And there’s nowhere for you to keep cold food cold on a flight And it’s not like you can go to a different shop in the food court and get something if you can’t eat the meal that they’re serving. WE DON’T ALL HAVE A CHOICE IN OUR DIETARY RESTRICTIONS!!) Anyway, I cowered in my seat and ate the candy bars I brought along for a treat, figuring I’d hold out for the breakfast and then get something on my arrival in Frankfurt (where I had a two or three hour layover before flying on to Munich. God, I miss Munich). Imagine the sinking sensation in my heart when Air Canada served me a breakfast tray with three rye bread rolls, butter, jam, and coffee. No, there wasn’t anything available besides that (I asked again, despite my fear of getting yelled at by the same stewardess). And Frankfurt Airport didn’t have *any* restaurants or shops in the gate area (at least back then). And then I didn’t get a chance to buy something in Munich since I only had about 10 minutes to catch my train to Kempten. By the time I got there, I was so hungry that I felt like I was going to pass out. How did I get on this subject??

Anyway, they served our meals and drinks and the in-flight movie started, so the cabin lights dimmed. I wanted to sleep, but it was just not happening. So I watched Along Came Polly (cute enough to watch once, but I wouldn’t rent it to watch again) and ate my (very yummy) roasted chicken and crunchy veggies and fresh bread and a totally sinful chocolate mousse, and everything was good. Then the movie stopped in the middle of a sentence. The lights in the cabin came on suddenly, and a flight attendant, voice high and quivering in anxiety, called over the PA system “If there is a doctor on board, please contact the flight crew immediately!!”

The plane was immediately filled with the buzzing of frantic whispers:
“A doctor? What’s going on?” “Did they call a doctor?” “Is someone dead?”

We were over the Atlantic Ocean—no land in sight. Seconds later, a grim-faced man hurried down the aisle behind a member of the flight crew. Apparently a doctor was, in fact, on board. They stopped two rows behind me across the aisle. Things started to happen: the doctor starts to do things while leaning over the seats in the row in front of the patient (who I couldn’t see from my angle) with wildly flailing arms. Members of the crew held flashlights so that they shone onto the patient. Other members of the flight crew ran up and down the aisle of the plane, bringing blankets, bottles of water, and eventually an AED (!). Meanwhile, the plane continued to buzz with fearful excitement. A few very inconsiderate and stupid parents let their children run down the aisle to try and get a look at the goings-on, but they were sent sulking back up the aisle by other passengers with more common sense. The pilot began changing course toward Nova Scotia, preparing for the possibility of an emergency landing. At that announcement, the muttering in the cabin reached a fever pitch. I am very happy to report that most people were simultaneously bemoaning the certainty of missing their own connection AND acknowledging that the needs of a sick and possibly dying person trump that inconvenience. I didn’t hear anyone expressing anger at the diversion. It was a nice recharge for my belief in the basic goodness of humanity.

Maybe 20 or 25 minutes of this went by and the doctor must have needed more room to work than he could gain by leaning over the seatback of the seat in front of the patient, or perhaps he just tired of the gawking children and wanted to give the patient some measure of privacy, or perhaps he was contemplating some more invasive procedure and did not want to incite panic among the passengers. Whatever the reason, he rounded up six very large men from the surrounding seats and they lifted the patient—who turned out to be a man—out of the seat and carried him into the galley at the back of the plane. The doctor pulled the curtains behind him. A few minutes later the crew dimmed the cabin lights again and the movie came back on. The buzzing in the cabin slowly died out. I looked out the window and there was still no land in sight, just black-green water as far as the eye could see.

I must say that I just don’t understand how people could just go back to watching the movie and drinking their coffees. Knowing that there was a man less than 50 feet from me, possibly dying or already dead was sobering and upsetting. Knowing that there was no way that we could possibly reach land (and more advanced medical care than even the best doctor could provide with the materials available on board an airplane) was even more upsetting. We hear so much about the Golden Hour and the need for quick medical care in acute medical situations, and yet there are situations in our everyday lives where you might be out of reach of that care. How strange that the decision to board a flight might mean dying from what otherwise might be an easily treated ailment.

Perhaps 45 minutes or so after the original call for a doctor, the flight crew announced that the man had stabilized and that we would be landing in Baltimore as planned. Knowing that the situation was not nearly as dire as it had been was a relief, but a glance at my watch showed that the chances of getting to Baltimore in time to catch my flight were growing slim. But what can you do? If a man suffers a heart attack (the going theory at the time, probably fueled by the AED) over the Atlantic Ocean, it’s not too much to ask that the other passengers accept a delay in their travel plans in order to save the man’s life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

11 Classes

The streak is over. Today's lecture deals heavily with Erie.



Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Just My Luck

Today I was exhausted and ended up sleeping in so that I missed my bus. Finbar was nice enough to drive me to school, but I still didn't arrive until 9:15-- too late for Evidence.

The prof in this class is borderline insane (and not in a good way). His lectures are erratic and often nonsensical. He has a very annoying habit of starting a sentence, stopping in the middle to wander off on a seemingly unrelated tangent for several minutes, then going back to the point that he left off in the original sentence without recapping the first part of the sentence that we've all forgotten by then. He makes up bizarre hypotheticals and draws diagrams that don't match up with what he says in lecture OR what the book says. In fact, there are many days that I take no more than 100 words of notes because his lecture is so disorganized and unintelligible that it may as well be given in Pashtu or Inuit.

Given all of this and the fact that he doesn't take attendance, I wasn't too fussed about the idea of missing one of his lectures. I'm not in the habit of skipping for the sake of skipping and I can always get the notes from someone anyway, soooo... no big deal, right?

Today, he called on me in class. The one sure fire way for him to discover that I was absent. Apparently, though, he didn't quite *get* it at first. He wasn't looking at the right seat to correspond with my name on the seating chart, so there was no empty spot to tip him off. And apparently the fact that I didn't answer "Hey, I'm over here!" didn't clue him in either.

45 lectures scheduled for this semester. 123 students in the class. And yet somehow I manage to hit the lottery.


Monday, September 13, 2004

Epic Journey, Part 1

Just for my girls in Europe (ETA: and Seattle), here’s the full story of my epic journey home.

First, some technical information: all times are EDT, even for the parts of the story that take place in Europe. This is intended to keep the timeline clear.

The story really begins two days before my departure for the States. I was visiting Dani and Claus. On Wednesday, the heat was unbearable and I had a great deal of difficulty falling asleep in the unairconditioned apartment. In the end, I probably slept only three or four hours. Thursday, being my last day in Germany, was a whirlwind of visiting with friends who I hadn’t seen in four years and may not see again for a very long time. I ended up staying awake more or less all night talking and finishing my packing, save for a short catnap around 10 pm (4 am Friday morning in Germany). We left for the train station at 11:30 pm, and I left on the train to Frankfurt shortly after midnight (6 am Friday in Germany).

The first leg of the journey was a small commuter train that travels between Regensburg and Munich, stopping at all but the smallest villages. No first class section, but that’s no big deal. This was a double decker, though which meant lugging the luggage up and down steps no matter where you sit. I couldn’t squeeze my luggage down the narrow aisle without seriously (and understandably) annoying the commuters. So I left the two bags in the vestibule area and took a seat on the aisle near the staircase. This did not last long.

(TIME OUT—one of my esteemed classmates just used the word “validivity”. Help me.)

Back to the story. The arrangement of seating and luggage was not working out for me because I could not see the luggage and was therefore forced to jump up every time the train stopped at a station to make certain that my luggage didn’t take an unscheduled and unaccompanied trip into the Bavarian countryside. And the closer we got to Munich, the curvier the route got, so that eventually I had to get up and hold my luggage to keep it from flying around. But it’s not like I haven’t traveled in the SRO parts of trains before, so that wasn’t a big fat hairy deal. However, I somehow managed to pick the one train car in all of Germany that still has a smoking section—namely, the top deck of the car, which has no doors separating it from the stairwell, so the smoke can qualm unabated into the ostensibly non-smoking part of the train. It wasn’t so bad at first. But as we got closer to Munich, more and more people started lighting up, presumably to cram that last cigarette in before the start of a non-smoking working day. All train stations and subways in Munich are non-smoking, as are many (perhaps all) workplaces, so that might very well be the last chance to smoke for hours. The cloud of carcinogens grew thicker and thicker, and unlike the older trains, this nice, new double decker train does not have windows that open. I was dying by the time we arrived.

The next leg of the journey was a four hour trip in the high-speed ICE train. This train is nice, even in second class, with comfy seats, a restaurant car, smooth riding, and generally clean facilities. It’s much nicer than flying, if you ask me. But I wasn’t riding 2nd class—the Eurail pass for anyone over 26 only comes in 1st class. So I was riding in style. I had a reserved seat, which turned out to be in a compartment. The seats were leather, there was a table with electrical outlets for laptops, and the door shut out most noise from the rest of the train. Luxury.

My compartment was already occupied by two middle-aged men in suits. I figured that meant a quiet ride with them absorbed in the morning paper or reports or whatnot and me happily reading Harry Potter und der Fenixorden (or whatever the proper German title is—quite frankly, I am too lazy to look it up) and eating poppyseed pastries. Boy, was I wrong. If Finbar were a middle-aged German business man, these men would be Finbar. From the moment I walked through the door of the compartment, they were joking with each other and me, telling stories, and talking (as they say in German) about God and the world. Before they got off the train in Mannheim, we had talked about everything from the style of watch favored by Americans to linguistic difficulties in international business settings, to how cultural differences are reflected in languages, to (god help us all) George W. Bush. Nice guys, very funny. And unlike many Europeans, they were willing to listen to me when I tried to point out how their stereotypes of Americans were inaccurate. (Except for the watches. They were and probably remain to this day convinced that all Americans wear large plastic digital watches. Mine is small and silver because I’m “not a typical American”). I really enjoyed the trip, which is good, because that warm glow is probably all that kept me from going postal at the Frankfurt Airport.

The train stops in a terminal attached to the airport. It’s all brand-spanking new and totally different from my last trip through Frankfurt four years ago. The signage, however, is abysmal, especially considering the number of non-German speaking Americans (and others) pass through this airport either as members of the military (and their families) or as tourists. When I say that the signage is abysmal, I don’t just mean “Oh, the signs weren’t in English”, I mean there were almost *no* signs in any language telling you how to get to the various terminals. I managed to piece the path together, and it could not have been more convoluted if it had been designed by a maze-builder. There were lots of steps involved: you go up two floors, then down one, then up one, then down three, and so on. And I would bet you that I walked at least three miles. I wasn’t too fussed just yet, because it was only about 5 am (Friday) and my flight didn’t leave until 8 am. But did I see a single luggage cart? No, I did not. But the final kicker was that the last set of escalators was broken. I wanted to cry. In fact, I wasn’t sure exactly how to wrestle my two rolly bags and two backpacks (one normal sized, one giant-hiking-the-Appalachian-Trail sized) down all three narrow flights of escalator-stairs. I took a deep breath and started the agonizing trip down one stair at a time. Great burly German men were pushing past me without even a glance in my direction. By the time that I got to the landing between the 1st and 2nd flights, I was *soaked* in sweat and my arms and legs were screaming. I was also thisclose to tears. I started the 2nd flight, but could not make it to the next landing, seized by a cramp in my side. I was standing on one step, holding my side, gasping in pain, using my body to wedge my rolly bags against the stair above me to prevent them from rolling past me and tumbling uncontrolled down the stairs, bowling over old-lady tourists and small children clutching their teddies. And did any of the big, strong men passing me by stop to ask if I was OK or if I needed help? No, they did not. CURSE YOU!

A few minutes later, I felt able to go on and started my torturous journey again. And like Cosette, my load was unexpectedly lightened by a sympathetic angel. But instead of a French ex-convict on a mission of mercy, my angels were two tiny women dressed in saris. Neither of them spoke German or more than pidgin English. Each of them grabbed one of my bags and lugged it to the bottom of the stairwell, where they waited for me to catch up and then waved goodbye with smiles as I thanked them profusely. I hope, wherever they are, that someone shows them the same great kindness that they showed me.

After all of this, I was extraordinarily dismayed to find out that I was nowhere near my goal (check-in at the international terminal, for those that have lost track of the thread of the story). I still had to take a shuttle bus to the appropriate terminal. I slogged up to the bus stop just as the bus pulled away. But hey, no problem, there’s another bus sitting a few yards behind it. I walked toward the second bus, only to see the doors whisk shut and the driver pull away from the curb. But wait! There are no people on that bus! What’s going on? The bus drove maybe 50 yards forward and stopped. The doors opened. I moved forward and boarded. I did not want to try to maneuver my luggage into the narrow aisles, and there were no luggage racks or anything, so I boarded at the rear door and moved up against the windows with my luggage, prepared to stand for the duration of the trip. But no, the driver had different ideas. He came stomping down the aisle, yelling at me in a thick Turkish accent that I had to get out of the aisle because “Other people besides you want to ride the bus”. I tried to explain about the whole heavy suitcases thing, but he just kept yelling, and finally, he picked up my big suitcase and heaved it up into a set of seats and told me to put my carry-on on top of the suitcase. So, instead of taking up just enough room to stand against the wall of the bus with my suitcases immediately in front of me (touching my legs, no less), I ended up taking up *four* seats—one for me, one mostly blocked by my hiking backpack, and two taken up by the big suitcase. But, you know, other people besides me wanted to ride the bus.

By this time, it was about 5:30 or so. Still no problem with time. Except that the bus just sat there. People had gotten on and the bus was fairly full—no empty seats that I could see, but still room to stand. So we continued to sit there. In a bus full of people. With windows that could not be opened. In the sun. Did I mention that Germany was in the middle of a heat wave? The passengers started to get mutinous. An elderly British woman started yelling in a clear, perfect German that this was ridiculous treatment of passengers, that her dogs were treated better than this, that the driver was a barbarian. A gigantically fat man started yelling up to the front of the bus, “My children can’t stand this much longer. Is this bus planning to leave anytime soon?” And the whole time, the driver sat, blissfully ignoring us, talking on his cell phone and fixing his hair in the side mirror (his window was open). After more than a half-hour, we finally took off. Tires squealing, we pulled up to the terminal and the passengers spilled out of the doors. And there I sat, unable to move until the entire bus emptied so that I could start prying the luggage out of the seat, into the aisle, and out the door. Did Mr. Bus Driver come back to help? No, he was fixing his hair again. I was finally reduced to a screaming fit along the lines of “You made this mess, you clean it up!”. He grudgingly slogged down the aisle and pulled my luggage out for me.

Having finally made it to the international terminal, I was now starting to worry slightly about the time. It was about 6:15, and Icelandair requests that passengers for international flights check in two hours before departure. I was now at slightly less than that. I was thrilled to find luggage carts in large numbers, and finally unstrapped the heavy hiking pack. Thus unburdened, I shoved off for the check-in counters. Of course the Icelandair counter was all the way at the opposite end of the terminal. *sigh* I wended my way through the throngs at United and Delta and my heart soared when the blue and gold Icelandair logo came into sight. But the problem was that there didn’t seem to be any actual lines, just a huge crowd of people milling around with carts full of luggage and a whole line of counters for small airlines. Not wanting to get into the wrong line or cut in line or something, I flagged down one of the red-blazered airport staff and asked her where the line for Icelandair check-in was. She pointed to a place, I thanked her, and rolled my cart there. And stood and stood and stood, while every line but the one I was in started moving. A woman and her daughter who were just in front of me asked the same woman what was going on and came back with the answer that Icelandair check-in was moving to the Acme Air counter and we would have to get into that line. So we moved over and joined what might be the single largest line of passengers I have ever seen. And I’ve flown on Christmas several times. Anyway, we were snaking slowly but inexorably toward the front of the line and suddenly I noticed that the other passengers all had Acme Air tags on their luggage. The feeling of unease grew as I finally got far enough forward to see that there were people in Icelandair uniforms at the Icelandair counter and that they were checking people in. I started looking around for Red Blazer Lady. But she was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t sure what to do.

By now it was 7 am, and I was really worried because the lines were long and I hadn’t gone through security yet. I thought that I was really playing things safe by arriving at the airport three hours before departure. What on earth was going on? Red Blazer Lady came into view, but she was studiously avoiding eye contact with the waiting line of passengers. Eventually, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I swung my stuff out of line and made my way over to her. She oh-so-casually started to wander away, so I had to yell after her “Hey! Which one of these lines is supposed to be for Icelandair check-in? That one or that one?” She turned and oh-so-disdainfully points to the original line I was in. I wanted to explode. “Are you sure? Because you also said that that line was for Icelandair. I don’t have time for another mistake.” She started denying that she said any such thing, yada yada, and eventually I had to interrupt. She insisted that the original line was the correct one, so I headed over and joined the end of the line, fuming. It was hot, I was tired (been awake for most of the last 48 hours by that point), I was worried that I would miss my flight, I was hungry, and I had to pee. And this was the slooooowest check-in line ever. Ever.

Cut to the point where I finally get to the front of the line. The gent behind the counter saw my blue passport and immediately addressed me in English. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Don’t assume that just because I’m American I can’t speak any language but English! Now, in fairness, I understand that most people are just trying to be friendly and don’t intend to condescend. That’s why, despite my annoyance, I’m never nasty to people, I just reply in German, “I can speak German” in as friendly a manner as possible. Most people smile back and switch to German, everyone’s happy. Not this guy. He responded in English, “That’s OK, you don’t need to worry about it. I can just speak English.” RRRRRRRRR! That’s just flat out rude. I’m not worried about speaking German. If I was, I would just have accepted your original unspoken offer to speak English. Furthermore, if I want to conduct the transaction taking place in Germany in German I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. It’s the language spoken in that country! It’s even the official language! And don’t condescend to me!

I repeated my standard sentence in a much less friendly manner.

He switched to German.

Now, here’s the part of the story that I know Dani and Claus are most looking forward to: when I heaved my bags on the conveyor belt, the total combined weight was 58 kg. Yes, that’s right, fifty-eight. My sigh of relief at not needing to pay the excess baggage charge could be heard in Siberia and is probably responsible for Hurricanes Frances and Ivan, thanks to the butterfly effect. Sorry, Florida.

Anyway, this is when I found out that the flight was delayed until 9:30 a.m. Well, OK, but the thing is, I have to connect in Reykjavík and delaying the flight by an hour and a half will probably make me miss the flight. And if I miss the flight in Iceland, I won’t make it to Baltimore in time to get my flight to Our Fair City. And then I won’t be able to drive to Buffalo with Finbar in time for his parents’ anniversary party—you know, the one we’re hosting. Nothing to be done about that right now, I guess. Wonder what’s to eat in this airport?

I was appalled to discover that the defining culinary opportunity at Frankfurt International Airport is McDonald’s. And the place was swarming with loud Americans and their ill-behaved children, screaming at each other in English and generally acting like the stereotype of the Ugly American. Now, I don’t particularly care for McD’s in the States to begin with, although I do occasionally get the urge for a Big Mac (usually followed by the realization that there’s a reason why I don’t normally eat at McD’s), and I have philosophical issues with eating at McD’s in a foreign country (why go 7,000 miles and eat/do the same things you do at home? Not to mention my general unease with the effects of what one might call “McDonaldization” in the wider world). There were, it’s true, some other options: an expensive “Tex-Mex” bar (complete with plastic Corona banners), an expensive pasta restaurant, and an extremely expensive sit-down restaurant. Faced with those choices, I decided to either eat the cheese crackers and beef jerky in my backpack or wait for food service on the flight. There were still Euros burning a hole in my wallet, and I’d held off on buying German magazines the entire time I’d been in Landshut so that I’d have a pleasant diversion to look forward to on the long flight.

There was a small Presseladen downstairs, and I bought a gigantic stack of magazines, which probably technically put me over the weight limit for baggage. Good thing no one weighs a carry-on at the gate. I went through security, which took maybe 2 minutes, since no one was in line and started wandering around the gate areas, savoring my last chance to move freely before I strapped in for the first leg of a really long trip in the cramped quarters of Economy Class (otherwise known as Deep-Vein-Thrombosis Class). Back in the corner of the far wing of the gate areas, I found a little gourmet grocery. Heaven! I bought Brie and Salami and fresh Semmel and a cup of Griesbrei and a tiny little bottle of red wine. Then I bee-lined it back to Gate 26, where I spread out a little epicurean feast on top of my carry-on and thoroughly enjoyed the wait for boarding.


Thursday, September 09, 2004


Pei and I both got study carrels in the perfect row. I'm pretty sure that this is the height of dorkiness.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Security Breach

When I walked into the student lounge this afternoon, dripping wet thanks to the torrential downpour that is the remnants of Hurricane Frances, I was mildly surprised to see the Dean of Students perched on the back of one of the couches. He doesn’t normally hang out with us students. As I got closer to the couches on my way to my locker to drop off my dripping umbrella, I could see Mean Registrar Lady sitting at a table in front of the couch with a box in front of her. At that moment, I came within view of the locker bay and noticed the large signs notifying us that “For Security Reasons, Locker Combinations will be changed between 12:45 and 4:00 this afternoon. Please See the Registrar For Your new combination at the table in the Student Lounge.” This part was in 32 pt. font. Underneath, in 12 pt., italicized font, it said, “See email from Dean Happy for more information.”

I walked over to the table and got my new combination (my second new one in as many weeks, since my locker was supposedly given a new lock over the summer), put my stuff away amid much joking with others trying to get into their lockers, and came up to the classroom. Class didn’t start for another half-hour or so, so I plugged in and pulled up my email. The email from Dean Happy was a work of art—hedging and hemming and hawing so that no real information was communicated. The official story is that “a list of some locker combinations was misplaced”. The word on the street is that it was stolen from the administration office. I’m sure in another day or two, the story will involve an armed hold-up and the subsequent theft of thousands of dollars worth of possessions from the lockers.


Are You Threatening Me?


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Potty Training 101

Every single student and teacher in this building is a college-educated adult. Many of them even have graduate degrees. There is no reason on God’s green earth why I should ever, ever walk into a toilet and find it unflushed with a urine-splashed seat.

Ladies! For the love of all that is good, either sit your precious tush on the toilet seat (and I promise, you won’t catch Toilet Seat Disease, or whatever it is that you fear) or if you absolutely must hover while you pee, take 10 seconds to turn around and check to see if you sprinkled a little bit. If the answer to that question is yes, then for Cripe’s sake, WIPE IT OFF! No one wants to sit on your cold urine, and not all of us want to (or are able to) hover over the toilet. Furthermore, there is not any reason on earth why you should not flush the toilet when you are finished. Do you leave toilets full of urine sitting in your bathroom at home?

And you, girl who was in the stall next to me, get back here and wash your hands! Were you raised in a barn? And no, you weren’t just adjusting your clothes or something. I could hear you, I could hear your toilet flush (thank you for that, though), I assume that your hand(s) came into contact with either your private girl parts or the germy toilet handle or possibly even some form of bodily excretion. What is wrong with you? Do you want to spread germs to everyone who touches door handles/ desks/ computer terminals/ bannisters after you? I mean, there are some people here who make me feel tempted to resort to biological warfare or other forms of violence, but being a decent human being prevents me from actually acting on those urges.

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