Thursday, September 30, 2010

If Luck is a lady, Karma is her trashy illegitimate cousin (Back to School Night)

Tonight is one of my most dreaded nights of the year: Back to School Night.

I don’t dread it because I’m specifically scared of meeting my students’ parents en masse. (Although I DO sometimes worry that they’re going to take one look at me and start laughing hysterically and ask, “No, really, where’s our kids’ ACTUAL teacher?”)

I dread it because I was the kid who used to send my dad after the teachers I didn’t like when he went to my school's Back to School Night.

And if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that if Luck is a lady, Karma is her illegitimate cousin who’s too trashy to even be cast on Jersey Shore.

In general, Back to School Night has been fine for me. Because I run the school newspaper, I wind up speaking mostly to parents who I’ve already known for a couple of years. So for my newspaper classes, parents usually come in, hug me, then ask how they can help support us. In other words, they’re wonderful and I love them.

My English classes are a little scarier. With a room full of kids, it’s easy. I am clearly in charge. I know it. They know it. Piece of cake. With a room full of adults, some of whom are old enough to be MY parents, I don’t feel like I’m in charge. Especially because I get asked every year by at least one parent how old I am. And if you’ve been reading my blog faithfully, you know that I do NOT like to talk about my age.

 And in a couple of disturbing cases, I've been asked out.  Even if the parents are good looking and single (which hopefully they are if they're asking me out), I'm not exactly ready for a high school aged stepchild.

The trick is to have enough to talk about to fill the whole ten minutes without room for a lot of questions. Because if you talk too fast (which I am constantly guilty of), you’ll have six minutes left for questions. And no one ever has general questions about the class. The questions are always specific to their child (and you can’t answer ONE of those without answering all of them), or they’re policy questions about the county or the school, and I never know the answers to those.

Usually I come away from Back to School Night knowing that I did a great job. But every once in awhile, a parent comes in with a grudge. The worst of those was at my old school. I was talking about the books that we were reading in the class, and one mother interrupted me to say that she found our choice of books inappropriate (Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird).

I tried to be honest and say that while Of Mice and Men isn’t one of my favorites, I think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best books ever written. This particular mother argued that the kids should be reading more contemporary choices. I said that I agreed that using books that they were already interested in reading, such as the Harry Potter books (which were HUGE at the time), would be useful in getting kids to develop a love of reading, I didn’t think that the county, who selected our books, agreed with that idea, but I encouraged her to take it to them.

Apparently this was a big mistake.

The next day, I was called down to my principal’s office during a planning period and told we had a serious problem. The mother who had criticized the book choices went up to my principal after my class, absolutely livid, and claimed that I was promoting Satanism.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Then, my principal told me that we had an even bigger problem with her other complaint about me, and that it was something that I was going to have to deal with.

Her complaint?

I was too young.

And my principal told me this completely deadpan. It took me a good five minutes to realize he found the situation funny.

I’ve never had any situations like that since then, and I usually get emails from parents the following day telling me that they loved my enthusiasm or see why their kids love my class. Which is a great ego boost.

But I’d still rather be home gearing up to watch Jersey Shore. If it runs late, I really hope the parents will understand that I need to get home to watch that. Their kids are my top priority from 7:25am until 2:10pm. The fight between Snooki and Angelina is going to be my priority tonight from 10pm until 11pm.

I’m not going to tell them that though. If liking Harry Potter means I was promoting Satanism, I don’t even want to begin to think about what liking Jersey Shore is promoting.

Team Snooki all the way!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I have the best dog in the world... but she's an evil super genius.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m obsessed with three things. Shoes, Bruce Springsteen, and my dog, Rosie.

Well I already wrote about shoes, and I pretty much wrote a book about loving Bruce (Literally. Beyond the Palace. Go buy it. It’s awesome even if you don’t like Bruce. I promise), so it’s time to talk about Rosie (whose name is short for Rosalita, and she likes to eat my shoes, so she does tie in to my other two big obsessions as well).

One of my biggest fears was always that I might someday turn into a crazy cat lady. You know, those old women who live with a million cats that they call their babies (and which, on The Simpsons at least, they use as projectile weapons).

This fear was compounded by the fact that I hate cats. A lot. Like more than I hate people who can’t tell the difference between “your” and “you’re” and the Cowboys put together. Therefore, to become a cat lady would truly be a fate worse than death.

About a year and a half ago, I decided to take matters into my own hands and avoid the cat lady destiny by getting a dog. I’d had a miniature schnauzer growing up and wanted another one.

When I told my parents about this plan, my dad laughed at me for about ten minutes, then finally said, “You can’t even keep a plant alive! What makes you think you could handle a dog?”

(It’s true. I can’t keep a plant alive. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I water them, I talk to them, I even name them. My favorite was named Robert. Robert Plant. Get it? Although I got a LOT of weird looks from people when I told them that I’d killed Robert Plant. And explaining that it was an ACTUAL plant, not the guy from Led Zepplin didn’t make people think I was any less bizarre. Oh well. I just don’t tell people that I stuck a sheet of paper on the wall next to Robert and named it Jimmy.)

But despite my dad’s objections, I stuck to my guns and got Rosie.

And quickly realized that I knew NOTHING about dogs. The last time I had a puppy, I was a year old. And I didn’t realize just how much puppies enjoy peeing on the rug. Or that when they throw up, they eat it. Fun stuff like that.

Of course, Rosie also turned out to be an evil super genius.

For a while there, I pictured her internal monologue as sounding like Stewie from Family Guy, because she made several attempts to kill me.

We would take naps together and I would wake up as she was lunging for my throat. She’s also taken the bathmat and bathroom rug out of the bathroom while I was showering, in a clear attempt at matricide.

She grew out of that phase pretty quickly. Then she entered her Houdini period. Rosie can somehow escape from anything. She can get out of her locked crate with no trouble at all (and eventually made locking it impossible by chewing the door out of shape. See? She’s smart). I used to keep her babygated in the kitchen while I was at work. But after a couple of weeks of that, every time I came home, she was sitting on the sofa.

And one time when I came home, she was in the kitchen, but she had somehow managed to leave me a little present in the dining room. Meaning one of three things: 1) she got out, pooped on the rug, then climbed back over the babygate into the kitchen to look innocent, 2) some other dog broke into my house, pooped in the dining room, then left, or 3) Rosie can throw poop. All three of those scenarios worry me.

I finally gave up on the babygate situation.

Her next phase was quite a test for me as her mother, but I hope that I passed it, because I accept her no matter who she is.

Which I’m pretty sure is a lesbian.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I first got suspicious when she ate several holes in the carpet.

Next she started trying to eat my underwear. Like she literally ate a hole in my laundry hamper to get to them.

Then she became a peeping tom. Whenever I take a shower, I hear a little rustling sound, and then this cute little face peeks around the shower curtain at me. Which would be much cuter if I didn’t get the feeling that she was doing that because I’m naked.

She’s also been known to hump boy dogs. We had a little talk about the birds and the bees after she started doing that, but it doesn’t seem to have stopped the problem.

Rosie also seems confused about what type of animal a schnauzer is. She likes to lie on the back of the sofa and lick her paws like a cat. She won’t walk over a grate and eats grass like a cow. She likes to pounce on her stuffed animals and rip their throats out like a lion. And she walks on her hind legs a fair bit like a person.  She also does a pretty good impression of Batman.

But I think there’s a good reason for her confusion. She looks exactly like my dad.

They have the same beard. They make the same faces.

And he’s her favorite person in the world, which I think is because she thinks that HE is, in fact, a giant schnauzer and that she will look like him when she grows up. Which is entirely possible. Because I think she looks like him now.

I think my favorite thing about Rosie though (other than how cute she is!), is that she has a favorite tv show. House. She hears the theme music and comes running into the room, jumps on the sofa, and watches intently for the full hour. And God help the person who tries to shut it off while she’s watching. The cable went out one time during a rerun, and she bit me.

Not that I blame her. Hugh Laurie IS pretty freaking awesome.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's 2010... which means I'd better have my hoverboard in five years.

Back to the Future Part 2 was on TV recently, and as I watched it, I realized something: I’d better get my damn hoverboard in five years.

I’m serious.

If I don’t have a hoverboard and a flying car by 2015, I’m going to be really, REALLY angry at that whole movie franchise.

I think it’s absolutely hilarious to look back at old movies with “future” scenes and see what they thought the world would look like by now. Although, except for the tv/video phone stuff, which we do actually have now, our current world more closely resembles Hill Valley in 1985 than the Back to the Future’s version of Hill Valley in 2015.

Oh wait, that’s just the 1980s style fashion. They had Delorean time machines in 1985. Geez, we’re further behind than an ‘80s movie’s representation of the ‘80s.

Although the best were when movies and tv shows from the ‘60s and ‘70s showed their version of the future, because then there were always colonies living on the moon and flying? Yeah, you could fly if you wanted to in the future. But why would you want to when teleporting is so much quicker and easier! And it was all done with such HORRIBLE special effects. I love it.

To be honest though, I don’t want flying cars. I think people are terrible drivers; I don’t want to give them the opportunity to be terrible drivers IN THE AIR. If you’re flying, and you hit another car, not only do you crash, you both then FALL and hit something else. Talk about a pile up!
(Yes, that was terrible. All you former Rampage kids out there know that if Keegan said that, he’d have had to hit his bell. I’m sorry.)

And even though the technology was out of control advanced in their version of the future, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, did you ever notice that there were no minorities in their version of the future? (With the exception of Star Trek, which had a token black woman, a token Asian, and a token William Shatner… but Klingons far outnumbered the minorities.)

I feel like Rod Serling would be more surprised by Obama than by the internet.

What I think is amazing is that no one saw most off our biggest technological changes coming, whereas the things that everyone assumed would be commonplace by now didn’t happen. You didn’t see cell phones or computers or ipods or the internet or anything else that’s so necessary to our survival now in any “futuristic” shows.

Okay, that’s not ENTIRELY true. We do have the video chat technology that all of that stuff predicted, it’s just not as commonplace as they said it would be. And Maxwell Smart of Get Smart (the tv show, not the movie. If you haven’t seen the show, you need to watch it on dvd or Nick at Nite ASAP. Classic show.) didn’t have a cell phone, but he DID have a shoe phone.
 Man. I wish I had a shoe phone. Then again, that wasn’t set in the future.  So it doesn't REALLY count.

Here are my predictions for thirty years in the future. I don’t think we’ll have flying cars.

I don’t think we’ll be living on the moon (hell, we haven’t been there in more than forty years). And I don’t think we’ll have a woman president (sorry Hillary, I just don’t think it’s happening. But don’t feel bad. I don’t think we’ll have had a Jewish president by then either. So I’m doubly out of the running).

So what will we have? I’ll tell you. Those horrible speed cameras? They’re going to be everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. But, the good news is that there will be some kind of device to avoid them capturing you. It won’t be legal. But it’ll be sneaky. And it won’t be like those stupid license plate covers that any cop can spot now. It’ll be something that like senses the speed cameras and puts a mirror over your license plate so it can’t get the picture, then hides the mirror again.

I think we’ll have electric cars. Not because people care about the environment (the Republicans still won’t, even when there’s serious incontrovertible proof of all the climate change stuff we’ve been warning them about), but because the gas situation is finally going to get too extreme to keep our current usage up. Sorry Sarah Palin, drill baby drill isn’t gonna save us.

I think Comcast is still going to suck. There’s no getting around that one. It may have a different name, but whatever we’re calling our cable provider in the future, the bottom line is we’ll still have reasons to hate them.

And lastly, we will have hoverboards. Because if I don’t get my goddamned hoverboard in the next five years, there’s going to be hell to pay. You hear me, Robert Zemeckis? You’d better get on that.  You've got five years.  Because in 2015, if I don’t have one, I’m going to be knocking on your door.

And if you don't have a hoverboard for me, I won’t be happy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

No grammar for you! Come back, one year!

In college, I had a secret.

Between 2 and 3am, people would tap quietly on my door.

I would open it, just a crack, looking carefully to see if anyone was watching before letting them in.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” they would say. They all looked the same. Red, glassy eyes. Hair sticking up as if it hadn’t been brushed in days. Mismatched clothes. In slippers or socks or bare feet. Papers clutched tightly in their hands. The stink of coffee and cigarette smoke wafting into my room with them.

And they all needed my help.

To edit their papers.

Because I am the Grammar Nazi.

I come by my Nazi-esque grammar habits honestly. I’m currently an English teacher. I spent two-and-a-half years as a journalism major, and was Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper. I was on Good Morning America about students using Instant Messenger and text message slang in English papers, and was quoted in the paperback edition of The World is Flat on the same subject.

But I think I would have been the Grammar Nazi even without these qualifications.

I blame my parents for this. My mother encouraged me to read as much as possible from an early age, and I devoured every book that I could get my hands on. (Although she will probably never let me live down the fact that when I was five I told her that I didn’t want to learn how to read because I didn’t want to be smart; I only wanted to be pretty.) And my father took advantage of my grammatical skills, by employing me to proofread everything that he wrote, starting when I was 12. 

It’s not easy being a Grammar Nazi, especially as a child. Improper grammar has always annoyed me to an inordinate degree. And it felt only natural to correct people who spoke incorrectly.

I therefore had no friends until I learned to stop correcting everyone’s grammar.

Eventually, I found ways to keep my mouth shut when people used improper grammar. Yes, I cringe when people use the word “impact” incorrectly (it’s a noun, not a verb. Get used to it!), but I no longer tell them that they are wrong. I think less of people who say “irregardless” (it’s not a word. I don’t care if says it is. It isn’t.), but I stay quiet.

Writing, however, is another story altogether.

Everyone blames the internet for their poor grammar.

“Oh, it’s just Facebook. I know the difference between you’re and your. Honest.”

That’s not the internet’s fault. That’s your fault. Because you’re lazy. (Note the proper use of “your” vs. “you’re” there? Learn it, live it, love it.)

Here’s what I don’t understand: do people not realize how ignorant they look when they make those mistakes? Because I’ll tell you this right now, it’s not cute. And it doesn’t matter how attractive you are; if you screw up the your/you’re situation, I’m never going to go out with you. Nor will any other self-respecting person who understands proper grammar.

Then there’s spelling. I’m not the world’s greatest speller. Close. But not quite. I cannot claim the title of the Spelling Nazi. My students like to laugh at me about this, because I can’t spell words out loud. If I can write the words down, I can spell almost anything. But I would be eliminated from the first round of a spelling bee. If a word is more than four letters long, I have to write it down to spell it. Luckily I’m a writer, not a professional spelling bee participant.

But internet programs HAVE SPELLCHECK. Firefox, for example, underlines words that I have mistyped. And if it had that little red squiggly line under it, I’m going to fix it. Because I’m not lazy when it comes to spelling.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t hold it against you if you are a poor speller. (I do hold it against you if you confuse their/there/they’re, you’re/your, it’s/its or anything else along those lines. And if you can’t figure out apostrophes, go back to second grade.) But don’t try to tell me that it’s the internet’s fault. It’s not. It’s your fault. Own up to it. Or else do something about it and stop being so lazy.
 I do have another confession to make: in speech (and occasionally in email and on Facebook), I sometimes say things conversationally that I know are wrong in formal English. And because I am the Grammar Nazi and I do that, I grant you the permission to do it too. I’m not a hypocrite about grammar. I say “anyways,” even though I know the word is “anyway.” I’ve been known to “sice” things, even though that is slang and not a real word. But conversational slang is very different from using the wrong word out of sheer laziness.

And it’s also okay to mess your grammar up for the sake of annoying people who haven’t learned to stop verbally correcting spoken grammar. I have a friend who insists that it’s only acceptable to say “I’m well,” not “I’m good,” when someone asks you how you are. (She’s wrong, but that’s another story. If the question, “how are you?” is not directly referring to the person’s health, but is a general inquiry into how his or her life is currently going, which is how the question is commonly intended, good is an acceptable answer. Trust me. I’m the Grammar Nazi.) So I always reply, “I’m good,” just to irritate her.

Because, as I have learned the hard way, no one likes a grammar corrector.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I love my phone. I just hate talking on it.

I hate talking on the phone.

Those of you who know me are sitting there with a very puzzled look on your face. I know. I always have my phone in my hand. Picturing me without my phone would be like picturing my dad without coffee. Like Linus without his blanket. Like Harry Potter without his glasses. Like Cher without an inappropriate outfit. Like Britney Spears without a baby bump and bare feet. It just doesn’t work.

I’m completely and utterly addicted to my phone. But I hate TALKING on it.

I think the reason for this is because I’m so ADD. I have trouble focusing on a conversation with no visuals to go with it. For example, I don’t mind talking on Skype. (Although, to be fair, if I’m talking to you on Skype, I’m probably looking at MYSELF while talking to you. Because I’m just that vain. But you really can’t tell. So it’s okay.) But JUST the phone? I can’t do it for more than a minute or two.
So I go to extreme lengths to avoid having to talk on the phone. I don’t have a landline for this reason. A landline has NO purpose except for talking on the phone, therefore I won’t have one in my house. Plus, the only people who ever called me on that phone when I had one were solicitors and my grandma. Pass. (Sorry Grandma. But you have my cell number, so I don’t feel TOO bad.)

I also NEVER answer my cell phone except when my dad calls. And I only answer his calls because they last for less than 30 seconds and if I DON’T answer when he calls, he immediately assumes I died and keeps calling every ten seconds until I do answer. I’m not quite sure how that logic works. If I’m dead, I’m clearly not going to answer ten seconds later, and if I’m alive, clearly I’ll call him back when I see the missed call. But I try to answer on the first call just so he doesn’t tell Facebook that I died and cancel my account because I missed his call while I was in the shower or something. THAT would be tragic.

The next step to avoiding using the phone is to never listen to voicemail messages. My outgoing message used to say not to leave a message because I wasn’t going to listen to it, but then people started leaving long rambling messages just to piss me off. It worked. But my friends know at this point that I’m not going to listen to their messages, so if they want to talk to me, they should text or email me.

In general, this eliminates all need to talk on the phone unless I have a story to tell that’s too long to text (which is, I think, EXACTLY what this blog is for).

Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t work out the way I’d like it to.

Like with my Grandma. Who I love dearly, don’t get me wrong. But she and technology are mortal enemies, and cell phones are no exception. She has a cell phone (the most basic phone possible. She says she wants all the technology that mine has. But I just can’t deal with that, so she has the type of cell phone that existed in 1986, just smaller), and she decided at one point that she wanted to learn how to send text messages. I thought this was great, because it meant there was one less person I would have to talk to on the phone.
I should have known better.

After an entire afternoon devoted to teaching her how to send, receive, and read text messages, I thought she had a pretty firm grasp on how to do it. So I showed her picture messaging.

Big mistake.

The next day, while I was at school, my phone kept vibrating. Finally I checked it during a planning period, assuming that there had to be some emergency because no one would so completely spam my phone while I was at school unless someone had died or at the very least was trapped down a well somewhere and I was the only number available to dial for help.

It was 47 picture messages from my grandma, all of my grandfather sleeping in his easy chair. Then 286 text messages asking if I got her picture.

When I called her to ask her to please stop blowing up my phone, she told me that when I didn’t respond, she figured it meant that none of the messages actually sent, so she just kept resending them.

Luckily, by the following day, she had forgotten how to text and I never re-taught her. I answer her calls now, just in case she suddenly remembers how texting works.

So if you call me, and I don’t answer, try not to be offended. It’s not you, it’s me.

Unless I don’t like you. Then it’s you.

So if you TEXT me and I don’t respond, then it’s definitely you.

And please don’t send me picture messages of my sleeping grandfather. It’s seriously creepy and weird. And old people, like dogs, look dead when they sleep sometimes. No one wants to see that.