Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Overheard Conversation in a Middle School Hallway

I work in a middle school.  Most people, when I tell them this, look at me with horror at the idea of being around middle school kids, but I love it.  I adore middle school aged students the most, with their "not-quite-a-teenager-but-not-really-a-child" shenanigans.  Many of them sometimes act like the adults around them aren't there, they are so focused on their peers.  These two were in the halls, and they did not notice me walking behind them. Or perhaps they did notice me, and thought that I couldn't hear them. It's even money.

Teenager 1: Wanna fight?
Teenager 2: Yeah, I'll fight you. How about fifth period?

My ears perked up at this, and I listened more closely.  If these two were going to fight fifth period, I would have to hustle to find an administrator.  I continued to walk behind them. The two didn't seem to be angry or upset.  They were talking in normal tones.  I wanted to know more, and they didn't disappoint.

Teenager 1: No, I got a test.  How about after school?
Teenager 2: No, I got soccer.. How about Saturday in the park?
Teenager 1: No, I got stuff to do with my mom.  What about Sunday?
Teenager 2. I got church.
Teenager 1: Me too.

The two finally decided that they were just going to stay friends because they did not have the time to fight. They disappeared around the corner and I stopped at my office door.

A good decision, I think. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

We All Need To Vent

Some days are just full of frustrations.  Trials and tribulations, as the old folks might say. From the time you wake up, everything seems to go wrong.  Your alarm doesn't wake you because you forgot to turn it on. The coffee maker dies after depositing a viscous, bad smelling, barely-liquid into your cup.  You run out of gas on the way to work, because the fuel gauge is broken.  The report you have been working on for the past three days mysteriously vanishes when you hit 'print'.  The teacher who was supposed to complete a rating scale 'forgot'.  You sit on a chair before realizing that it contains a liquid, and your white pants are ruined.  Not that I would EVER wear white pants, for fear of a sea captain named Ahab. But if this did happen to me, I would find it completely necessary to just take the rest of the day off. Maybe the week.

Frustration happens. Most of us blow everything off, and move along.  We'd go nuts if we didn't. And it makes sense to let things go, especially in today's  It certainly isn't professional to throw yourself on the ground and have a grand fit, although it sounds very fun.  But some days you just can't blow things off, and they pile up.  An explosion is imminent.
Bless whoever made this comedy gold.

When I get that frustrated, I have to vent. I need to mutter a few choice curse words under my breath, or visualize the Hand of God coming down from the heavens and smiting the object of my frustration. Occasionally, I will need to distract myself with chocolate. A little of this, and then I take a deep breath, refocus, and get back to work.  Problem solved.

That is for minor irritations.  Major irritations require a human touch for venting, to regain balance. We have to talk it all out of our system, and we need someone else's ears. There is no other way to get rid of all the emotions that are building up inside you.  Bad things happen when you keep things bottled up inside. 

This is a big favor to ask of another person, of course. I suppose that you can pay someone to listen to you, but that can get expensive.  You can try to vent to a complete stranger, or your spouse, but it's never the same.  It's also the reason that I can't go back to a particular Burger King in San Marcos.

Thankfully, most of us have a friend or two who will listen while we complain or whine about the unfairness or inconsideration of whatever is causing us annoyance. Trust has already been established, and the rules laid out.  These rare souls don't tell you how to fix the problem, or what you "should" have done.  No, they're cheering your rant on, encouraging you with just the right comments("NO WAY!", "She did NOT!")  to keep you going until the anger is spent.  Then come the tissues, the hugs, laughter.  And the snacks!  The storm has passed.  This is the magic of a good friendship.

It is important to cherish these particular friends, and not overtax their ears with constant complaining.  Reciprocity is so important.  Your friends may call you on occasion and want to vent and to neglect them would demonstrate poor manners and a definite lack of consideration. Just as they listened to you vent, you should listen to them.  Otherwise your magical friend will probably find herself venting to another, and her frustration will be with you!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

This Beer IS Family

A member of the family!
Every so often, my parents clear out a drawer, or a box, or the fridge, and get rid of things that they don't need anymore.  They don't want it to go far, of course  My dad is a bit of a pack rat, no matter how hard my mother tries to change his ways. If my dad were left to his own devices, his house would end up on a "very special" episode of Hoarders.  My mother is vigilant in her efforts, however.  So my dad attempts a work-around.

"Get rid of" and "clearing out" in my family means that I get a phone call.

"We're cleaning out the fridge," my dad called the other day. "Do you want all of this wine?"

"Sure," I said.  It was a win-win, I thought. I like wine, and my dad would be comforted by the nearness of his "stuff".  I hung up the phone and went back to my coffee.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.  It was my dad, with a box.  I began pulling small bottles out of the box.

"Uh...how old is this wine?" I looked at the label, which was in German.  The date said 1971.   

"We got it in Germany," my dad said.  "So 1973 or so.  Oh, and here--"  He handed me a beer instead of a bottle of wine.

"Wait--how old is this beer?"  I looked at the scraped label. 

"It's from Germany, too,"  my dad said.  He left to toss some frozen hamburger from 2011.  I looked at the wine more carefully, holding up a bottle and checking for weirdness, like little particles or cloudiness.  I put those that looked safe in the fridge, then picked up the beer.  I held it up to the light.

Instead of particles, there were clumps. There were CHAINS of clumps, like a little nebula inside the brown glass. Entire colonies of bacteria were floating in that bottle, and likely had been growing since the 70s.  Bacteria that had never been seen before might be in there.

Instead of a beer, I had an almost fifty year old science experiment. I wondered if my bottle contained the German equivalent of kimchi, and a new health craze would be born.  Maybe Zane could show this off at a science fair, and win first prize, I thought. 

My mom texted me at that moment, telling me NOT to drink the beer.  There are no preservatives in that beer, she said.  Things could be growing in there, she said.  Throw it out, she said.

Throw it out?  What if this beer was sentient?  What if the bacteria were released into the ecosystem and ran amok, causing a plague of epic proportion?

As I stared at the viscous fluid moving around, my nausea was replaced by nostalgia.  I grew up with this beer in the house, the colonies of bacteria slowly growing along with me. This beer and I had been through many moves, across oceans and time zones.  It was practically a sibling.  Multiple siblings, if the number of bacteria clumps were any indication!  How could I throw that out? How could I possibly destroy that?

The answer is that I could not.  The bottle is still sitting on my stove, while I decide what to do.  I may call a local research center or college, to see if they are interested. Or perhaps I will just stick this particular family member into the back of my fridge, following in my father's footsteps. 

I made sure to say that last part out loud, just in case the bacteria actually IS sentient.  Can't be too careful in my family!