I’m rather wistful this morning. Here are two things that I’ve been missing HARD because of the pandemic:
Wearing fancy earrings. I have a whole drawer full of golden hoops, tortoise shell danglies, leather teardrops, and Kendra Scott knockoffs that are slowly going out of style. Instead, I’m donning studs, BORING, because I am fearful of losing an earlobe when tearing my mask off my face after class ends. Have you ever ripped a piercing wide open? I have— between freshman and sophomore year of college waiting tables at my cousin’s restaurant. I bussed a table using a big Rubbermaid container and brought it back to the dishwashing area. As I was setting it down, its lip got caught on my belly button ring and ripped that senior-year-in-high-school-spring-break-bad-decision right out. I screamed. It hurt like hell. For years the top of my bellybutton looked like it had floppy devil horns hanging upside down from it. I don’t want my ears to suffer the same fate. Occasionally I’ll sport my fancy earrings anyway when I want to live on the wild side or simply forget the dangers of fancy earring wearing. The only upside to wearing them is if you wear hoops. Then at least when you take your mask off, the hoopies catch the elastic and your mask can hang like a hammock from them if you don’t feel like putting your mask on your desk.
Name brand hand sanitizer. All I want for Christmas is some Germ-X or Purell. That cheap shit smells like tequila, and by nine a.m., WHILE I’M TEACHING CHILDREN, all I can think about is a giant top-shelf margarita. I’ve had to stop myself mid lesson from sniffing it because I’m all nostalgic for bygone Friday afternoon happy hours with my teacher friends. It’s not fair that my classroom smells like a Mexican restaurant when it’s unsafe to even patronize (Patrón-ize?) one currently. So if you walk past my classroom door and see me fondling a bottle of GermsNoMore and bringing it lovingly up to my nose, I might need you to come in and confiscate it and replace it with some chips and salsa, thank you very much.
If you need me for anything this Thanksgiving break, you can find me in my backyard wearing my favorite tortoise shell oversized hoopies sipping a massive margarita in my not-yet-purchased hammock.
What are the random things that you miss, friends?
The white-page glow of my Chromebook’s screen dimmed then disappeared as I closed my Chromebook with a click and thank-god-it’s-Friday.
Having just taught for five hours straight, I was famished. I exited the guest bedroom, my makeshift virtual classroom hub, and crossed into the kitchen, whipping the smart refrigerator’s door open to confirm it held nothing appetizing within. Its cool air laughed in my face while I sighed in defeat. I considered Waitr momentarily, but I’d already ordered it twice that week since I’d been too sick to cook. Ordering it a third time bordered on financial negligence.
The refrigerator chimed an eight-note tune, its way of saying—hey, blondie, you’re letting all the cold air out. Chastised, I eased its door closed, wishing no further admonishment.
Snatching my keys off the black-flecked, white countertop, I mosied out the door towards my Buick, jangling the keys in my hand to see if my archnemesis, our cat Suny, was lazing or prowling near. His Evil Highness failed to appear. Darn.
The sunshine did, however, and I unleashed an otherworldly fuck when it initially singed my vampire pallor. I shielded my eyes, forcing myself to gaze half-lidded into the cerulean sky, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness. A small defiance to acclimate to a healthy dose of Vitamin D. I sneezed. Thanks, Helios. I sneezed again.
Once I climbed into the car, I pressed my foot to the brake then my finger to the start button. I rolled the windows down, letting the stifling, stale November heat escape. I hooked my iPhone up to a power cord, engaging CarPlay mode, because who listens to the radio anymore when there’s Amazon Music? After a ferocious debate with myself because I felt like I was cheating on Taylor Swift’s Red album, I settled on The Chicks’ explicit Gaslighter album. I whispered sorry to TayTay, pinky-promised her we Would Be Getting Back Together, and cranked the volume to “How Do You Sleep at Night” to a the-neighbors-will-totally-disapprove level.
Because my respiratory system was otherwise engaged in snot factory mode à la prednisone, I couldn’t sing along, but I bopped my head, despite a lingering headache, as I eased onto the highway.
Burger King’s drive-through didn’t appear super busy, so I pulled in. I reluctantly turned my music down—Natalie, Emily, and Martie’s harmony decrescendoing into the low buzz associated with elevator music.
When it was my turn, the drive-through speaker issued forth a series of clicks and hisses. I assumed a human wasn’t attempting to make contact yet, so I sat patiently awaiting an employee’s request for my Whopper with cheese. More microphone noises filled the air for five minutes.
Fed up, in my sweetest, to appease the french fry gods, voice, I questioned, “Hello?” I waited for a plague of ketchup sent from the heavens to smote me. Death by ketchup asphyxiation, not a terrible way to go, I guessed.
Seconds passed. I broke into a sweat. A glance into my rearview mirror revealed the frustrated faces of lunch-hungry contemporaries also lamenting how fast food is never fast in the South, unless you’re at Chick-fil-A.
The speaker emitted a sound like someone was petting a microphone, and then finally spoke the most welcome phrase in the English language, “May I take your order?”
After a rather unremarkable exchange of credit card and food, the smell of hot cheeseburger and greasy fries wafted on the air conditioner’s current, and I fumbled with the paper bag while trying to turn right out of the parking lot.
The brown bag crinkled while I fished for some fries. They were hot and mushy, not quite crispy enough, but they’d do. I finished them before even turning onto the interstate.
I licked my fingers like a deer at a salt lick, reveling in the brine.
I knew I should wait to eat the burger, but I dug in, blindly.
I disrobed the burger, removing the bun (thank you wheat sensitivity), the lettuce, the onions, while keeping my eyes on the road. I tore off a piece of meat, my fingers immediately clothed in an outfit of ketchup, half-melted American cheese, and mayo, and plopped the certified Angus beef into my mouth.
My next piece had an entire pickle glued to it. I’d eat the pickle, but I knew my IBD would be like a Little Rascal shouting, “I’ve got a pickle! I’ve got a pickle! I’ve got a pickle! Hey! Hey! Hey!” and create utter mayhem for me five hours later.
So, I tried to fling the pickle back into the bag, but I missed.
It landed with a gentle thwack to my right, on the center console’s black, perilous precipice.
A moment of stark horror raced through my mind. I knew I couldn’t immediately conduct an emergency rescue operation on the rogue pickle. I was approaching a roundabout, requiring full concentration and both hands on the wheel. But if I didn’t get to it in time, it would dangle, slip, fall into that unreachable no-man’s-land canyon of inanimate-object-death between my driver’s seat and center console.
I prayed to the Vlasic god this time and hoped that the pickle’s mayo and ketchup shroud would keep him glued to the edge to counteract his slippery juiciness while I looped to the right.
I thought I heard a faint, “Save me. This is no way to go.” I swept my eyes down to check on him. I breathed in relief; he hadn’t moved.
I named him Dill.
I couldn’t let Dill die.
I swooped the steering wheel left.
Another look revealed Dill had slid down the slope, leaving a sluglike white and red trail behind him. Even though he was still reachable, I couldn’t rescue him yet.
By the time I made it safely through the roundabout, the abyss had devoured Dill.
When I reached my driveway, I threw my crossover into park, unbuckled my seatbelt, and flung open the car door. I splayed myself flat across the driver’s side seat, becoming flush with its surface area, garnering grip for the Herculean task of pickle rescue.
“I’m coming, Dill!” I shouted.
I thrust my arm over the driver’s seat ledge, wishing Dill would throw up an arm and meet me halfway. But the crevice trapped my can-palm-a-basketball-man-hand.
I struggled for a minute, escaping unscathed save for a few brush burns.
I heaved a sigh of frustration. I needed a break.
“I’ll be back later, Dill.”
So I left him there. I finished my lunch and my workday.
I picked up Little Thing from school, and when we pulled into the driveway, I explained Dill’s situation. She was unbothered and callous. She withdrew indoors to watch her iPad.
I knew if I didn’t rescue Dill now his corpse would wreak havoc on my olfactory senses for weeks.
I knew what I had to do.
I opened my car door one last time and got on my knees. I pushed the button on the bottom side of my car’s seat. The seat moved back as far as it could go.
I brought my head level to the car’s floor. My eyes shifted over rocks and dust, settling on the dark space between the seat and the console.
And there was Dill. Wedged between a black and gold earring and a tube of pink lipstick. Looking dehydrated and on his last breath.
I grabbed the tube of lipstick and used it as a rope to rescue him.
I cradled him in my arms.
I looked at him as he croaked, “Thank you.”
I screamed and dropped him.
Not because he was talking, but because he’d grown a full head of hair. Long blonde hair that looked vaguely familiar.
I recovered quickly, picking him up off the pavement.
I brought him inside as he breathed his last breath.
Little Thing (Who knew she was so morbid?) asked for a final viewing.
Although I manage to grade most student-written essays during school hours, inevitably home grading transpires from time to time. Here’s what my grading process looks like when I do lug home heaps of papers.
Sit at the kitchen table, and empty llama tote bag of dreaded essays.
Shuffle all essays into groups of five, piling them into one tower by alternating stacks perpendicularly.
Grab blue Uniball pen. Fancy pens make grading tolerable. Giggle because the word “Uniball” is funny.
Snap a picture of grading setup, witty teacher caption included, and post it to Insta and Facebook stories.
Realize fifteen minutes has passed. Pick up Uniball. Bust into laughter again. Little Thing hollers, “What’s so funny? Can I see?”
Skim first paper while chuckling. Chuckles dissolve into whimpers of distress because the first essay is ghastly, soul-crushing.
Shuffle the broken paper to stack’s end.
Scan the next five essays without connecting pen to paper, and hyperventilating starts. HOW CAN ALL OF THEM BE PIECES OF POO ON A STICK?????? Question career path and meaning of life. Become convinced of worst teacher on the planet status. Stash those five essays to the back of the pile.
Search for best student writer’s essay. Read it. Faith in humanity is restored.
Glance up and around. Am horrified by the dishes mounded in the sink and clutter-strewn house. Decide to tidy up, clean the toilets, and scrub the master bathroom’s floor with a toothbrush.
Register it’s dinner time, have wasted an entire Saturday afternoon, and cook dinner.
Make husband do dishes in order to get back to grading.
Scroll through Facebook on the ChromeBook for an hour instead with the stack of papers as an audience. Their collective judgment is palpable.
Pick up Uniball. Smirk.
Trudge through five essays, finally giving feedback.
Decide grading is more fun with wine. Pour a glass.
Down the glass swiftly like a college student shooting a lemon drop.
Grade five more essays in half the time, because wine. Uniball has the time of his life.
Pour another glass, and lose steam quickly after, only grading two more essays.
Call it a night, and resolve to spend Sunday afternoon at the library grading because Grading. At. Home. Doesn’t. Work.
Tuck a wilted and defeated Uniball into bed, errrr, back into his llama tote bag house.
Decide a blue felt pen is more appropriate for library essay grading. It would be mildly embarrassing to get kicked out for hysterical laughter.
Currently, I am teaching The Odyssey for the first time in my career (I think. I might have blocked out teaching it like a bad memory; it’s not my favorite text.) As per my curriculum’s instructions, I’ve been working on summarizing, characterization, and conflict with the kids while reading Book One, and this week I assessed those skills using a passage they hadn’t read before.
And while most students rocked the summarizing skill portion of the task, some epically misunderstood these lines from the text:
But all of the suitors broke into uproar through the shadowed halls, all of them lifting prayers to lie beside [Penelope], share her bed, until discreet Telemachus took command:
(A little context might be helpful as well: Odysseus, the king of Ithaka, is taking an eternity to get home from the Trojan War and people fear him dead. His wife Penelope, a snack, is bedeviled by suitors who have taken up residence in her own home.)
Now think like an 8th grader. How would you interpret this with your nearly teenage brain? Let’s look at some student responses.
“Penelope dies, which leaves the suitors devastated.”
“Penelope’s suitors hope to follow her into her room, but Telemachus does not allow it.”
“The suitors are outraged that Penelope has gone back to her room without them.”
“The suitors are entering Penelope’s room as Telemachus yells at them for destroying his house.”
“The suitors come to ask Penelope if they can sleep next to her . . .”
“The suitors try to get into Penelope’s bed and cause an uproar, but Telemachus stops them.”
“The suitors bombarded Telemachus’s mom by going beside her in her own bed.”
Y’all. I giggled uncontrollably while grading. Handling questions about why students missed points for these interpretations is going to be brutal. I don’t think a comment like Well, Kayla, you insinuate salacious behavior occurred instead of explaining that individually the suitors wish to marry Penelope will go over well. So please think happy thoughts for me and my sanity when I hand these assignments back.
Like any llama loving teacher, I scoured the internet for llama-phernalia for my classroom before summer’s end. I scored a new water bottle, shoulder tote, and sticker decal set.
And while my favorite fluffy animal has been incorporated into my teacher wardrobe via a plethora of printed punny shirts, I desperately wanted a llama dress for the first day of school. Now before judging me, I realize a llama dress might be a bit obnoxious on the first day, but the longer I teach, the more I let my crazy flag fly from the get-go. At my school, we’re allowed to wear jeans and T-shirts as rewards, and teachers-a-plenty wore jeans on the first day of school. But, I’m of the staunch opinion that IT’S TOO HOT FOR PANTS in Louisiana in August, particularly when sweating through outdoor recess duty at lunchtime. So imma wear a dress, a llama one at that, thanks.
Unfortunately for me, Amazon doesn’t currently offer a llama dress (I’m researching ways to remedy this situation. I mean, how dare they!). Adding one to my already chock full-ama virtual shopping cart wasn’t an option, so venturing out into the non-Amazon, scary Russian roulette interwebs shopping realm was my last resort to fulfilling my dream.
On meowpinky.com, my eyes grazed this dress, and like any responsible social media user in her mid to late 30s, I immediately screenshot it and polled my Facebook friends as to whether I should purchase it. To no one’s surprise, the answer was yes. I decided on green, even though it was available in many colors, because I wanted to make my new llama friend feel like she was in nature, chomping on hay or grass or whatever llamas eat. (Mental note: Must make time to research what llamas actually eat.)
I anxiously awaited my new llama dress, but she didn’t arrive by the first day of school. In fact, she didn’t arrive until last week because she journeyed all the way from China, and upon arrival in the U.S., meandered her way from the West Coast to Louisiana like the free-range camelid she is.
When she finally arrived, I tore into her packaging with glee and unfurled her to view her full glory. And while she is glorious, she’s not quite the glorious that I was expecting. She looks rather cheap, and I’m quite scandalized by her appearance. She’s honestly gloriously terrible, and I love her even more because of it.
You see, the person who brought her into being simply printed her outline in black on a giant piece of army green vinyl and then IRONED ON THE ENTIRE PIECE OF ARMY GREEN VINYL, OFF CENTER NO LESS, ONTO AN UNMATCHED MOSS GREEN DRESS.
Her poor pockets resemble two marsupial pouches, she is of the camel family dammit, that look like they have both housed five too many babies.
I would wear her to school to parade her around, despite being poorly made (It’s not her fault.), but she’s too short to wear even with leggings. So me showing her off like a proud mama displaying pics of her newborn on Insta, Facebook, and WordPress will have to suffice as her first and last public appearance.
I’d love to hear about your online shopping mishaps!