Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Up In the Air

There was a moment on our flight to Arizona when it was quiet and calm--both inside the cabin and in my head. The drink cart had made its way down the aisle and I decided against alcohol (too early) or peanuts ($6 for a package no larger than a tea bag. Sweet Fancy Moses! What's up with that?)

Flight terrifies me into a mild state of apoplexy, the type that even my jet pilot friend with two degrees in physics could never coax me out of. Yet here I was, seated next to my husband, peacefully and unmedicated-ly people watching. The man reading Kingsolver's "The Bean Trees. The grandmother in front of me perusing the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogue for early Christmas gifts. The young snoring college student in headphones seated behind us--sandwiched between two female passengers who sat helpless as he assaulted rows 10 through 17 with his aggressively glottal explosions while he was blissfully protected from that annoying scraping sound a page sometimes makes when it's being turned. Because of the headphones. I felt sure both women wanted to punch him right in the throat.

Yes, I was hermetically sealed in this metal tube breathing everyone else's old air. Yes, my seat--like all the others in coach--did not allow ample enough leg room for a large child, let alone an adult. Yes, from my chair I could see the people in First Class drinking from real glass and crossing their legs without help from a second individual--preferably one with extensive chiropractic training. I was okay with it.

Maybe it was because I had already decided that this would be my last year at the school where I am presently incarcerated teaching. I imagine the triumphant return of Migraine Formula Excedrin to grocery shelves everywhere (and the disappearance of all Hostess products) is probably more of a shock than my decision to leave the source of my recent bitterness. Being locked in a room with a television that played nothing but old Gunsmoke reruns would produce less stress than the kind that bubbles up in me every Sunday night as I set my alarm for "dark thirty".

There may be one or two of you out there who are saying: "Buckle up, Nancy and let me pour you a big old glass of Get Over It" because--yes--I do have a job and it comes with health insurance, but those can't be the only factors that make it worth getting up every morning at 5 and coming home at 6 (with added hours for paper grading and lesson planning at home). There has to be more to it.

What was the straw that broke the camel's back? Was it last year when a failing child lied to her mother  about remarks she fabricated and attributed to me? (And then only retracting them after her mother had reported me to downtown? And after an investigation proved the girl a liar, the mother never apologized) Was it last week when student threatened to stab one of my colleagues? Or was it two years ago when a student actually DID stab one of my colleagues? Is it the overwhelming number of sub-standard parents whose misplaced sense of priority allows them to feel justified to apply for "free breakfast and lunch" for their child and use the extra money to buy an iPhone 5? Or is it the mother who claims that her son's inability to behave in school is our fault because her taxes pay my salary. I know. That last one didn't even make any sense. The woman is an idiot.

Maybe it's all of the above that make Sundays such a miserable day--only because it's the day before Monday. A woman in my yoga class says that one of her co-workers from the low-income high school where they both teach went to the principal and said, "I'm having feelings of suicide. I have to get out of this building or I'm going to kill myself".

That's not me, you understand. But I can imagine the process that might lead someone to have thoughts like that. Her students are basically the kind I have now...just older.  Low income, some low-intellect/ life experience with low expectations and riding in the last car of the welfare train. Add some anger and age five years. The next time you hear about them? It's on the 10 o'clock news.

I make jokes about the parents who pick up their kids wearing pajamas or tube tops.  The jobless "homies" that make up a good 40% of the dads/brothers/uncles at our school. The mothers with the stupidity or sheer audacity to get pregnant AGAIN--holy Jesus--after it's been made patently clear that they don't or can't take care of the half dozen kids they have now. The notes from parents detailing their child's absence the day before--with "stomach ache" spelled stomag acker. Mothers who agree to meet with us and then stand us up without shame. Fathers who don't know what grade their own child is in. The demands for free tutoring or for school supplies that they assume I should pay for because they can't.  And--worst of all--the school district which operates on the fantasy that the people I've just described above are the exception and not--as they really are--the rule.

It's a hot mess and there's no use saying that it isn't. Pretending the one student I'm likely to save is worth wading through the crap storm of everything else isn't enough any more. That child is a figment of everyone's imagination and even if he really exists, you can't help the someone who doesn't want to be helped. If I don't get out of there soon, someone's going to find me wandering the freeway at night wearing soft pants, drinking out of a paper sack and singing the theme to "The Flintstones".  It would be funny if it weren't true.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'm Sad Because Vodka Popscicles Don't Freeze

A trip to Arizona for a wedding, the election,  a weekend campus visit to see two of our sons in college, a heartbreaking level of work stress, one respiratory infection, a crying jag, the discovery of Trader Joe's salads and a partridge in a pear tree. That is where I've been for the last month and the five of you who still read this blog most likely already knew it and refrained from calling in a missing person's report. I appreciate your self-restraint.

Meanwhile the words have built up inside my head to dangerous levels and this is bad news since it is time for Thanksgiving and the emotional dodgeball game that is holiday dinner at my in-laws. I've come to know it: Dysfunctional-Palooza.

I love my in-laws and they've always been good to me, but it's always been difficult for me to allow my life to be influenced or my holidays negatively affected by the off-kilter way others conduct their relationships. This year I seem to be unable to keep that from happening. The plan was to have the dinner at our house--you know--like the big kids do and have everyone plus their wheelbarrow of crazy here. One son is only here briefly and it was going to work better for him to leave from our house, rather than 45 minutes west of here after a dinner that will NOT start on time, no matter how many promises are made.

However, my MIL chose to allow my FIL to play his "heart attack" card and keep dinner out at their house. Now before you gasp at the sheer, unbridled heartlessness of that last statement, Aunt Bea, let me just tell you that this is the way my FIL operates ALL of the time. Even when his heart hasn't been stitched together with catgut and hot glue. He works hard all week long being the infante terrible of the legal world and then wants to sit out in his workshop and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist.

Now he would like to do this again on Thanksgiving day and just pretend it's because it's due to a weak heart, rather than the fact that he's uncomfortable in other people's houses all of the time. Not to mention that I believe he's no longer on the pre-op medication that kept his moods of non-confrontational. This is no small feat given that the scotch and cigar industries took a major hit while he was under doctor's watch before his bi-pass and now those pills that made him okay with pretending that sparkling grape juice was just as satisfying as a snootful of chardonnay have probably worn off and it's every man, woman and child for himself.

Bring on the turkey coma, people. I'm hoping to lose consciousness before the BIL with the low self esteem and loose-cannon mouth says something stupid. I'm in no frame of mind to trifle with fools. My yoga instructor says that every time we encounter that family member who brings on the road rage, we should go outside and do a handstand.

At this rate I'll just have to eat my entire dinner while upside down. What about you? Who makes you crazy?