Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A post with a yellow hyena in it! That's something!

I am currently overwrought with work. Twice a year we have national sales conferences and the sheer amount of work that goes into these is just beyond anything reasonable. I work in college textbook publishing and August is a big month for us. It kicks off the new school year so we must set to work learning what we are selling.

In school, I was the type that studied hard to get good grades. My GPA was earned through grit and tears. Fractions still make me cry. Why do we need fractions when we have decimal points? My son came home from 3rd grade last year with fractions on his homework. I felt my senses tingle and my temples start to sweat. 

"Go find Daddy," I said.

"Why can't you help me, Mom?"

"Because sweetie, I will cry. Do you want to see mommy cry?" Shockingly he pondered it for a moment and then decided to seek out his father...the quiet genius that lives among us.

So, when the time comes to start prepping for the sale conference I get antsy. I get nervous at the amount of learning I must do. I am not expected to have deep knowledge of disciplines like physics or calculus but I have to know enough to have a conversation. That's the hard part. I have to learn the language of these disciplines so I can properly converse with professors. I have had times when I told professors I simply do not comprehend what they are saying.

"I am sorry Professor Calculus, but I don't understand what you mean. The L'Hospital rule? Is someone sick?"

Generally, my professors take the time to teach me which is really cool...usually. Not so much in biology where my confusion led to a conversation about the female yellow hyena which gives birth through an organ much like a male's, ah, thingamajig. Seriously. Never say you are confused in biology lest you want to lie awake at night and fret over a poor hyena's birthing options.

So, as I sit a week and a half out from my sales conference, I am feverishly completing online modules and piecing together an operating plan to carry me through December when I get to do the whole thing all over again. 

Though stress floods my mind this time of year I admit that it is pretty interesting to learn bits and pieces of all these different disciplines. I still haven't wrapped my head around the L'Hospital rule but I do have the disorders found in abnormal psychology down! At least it is something. Even Calculus instructors like a good story about an abnormal disorder once in awhile. And, sometimes those stories can be as unsettling as the poor hyena!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not what it seemed

I have made it no secret that Girl Scout cookie season is a dark time for me. It lands smack in the middle of my busiest season at work so my perception is admittedly skewed. But, it doesn't help when I am verbally assaulted while delivering cookie. Yes. It happened.

Some friends and family in a town about 40 minutes south of me ordered cookies. I decided it would be easiest to take a couple hours and deliver the cookies rather than mail them all. My first stop was a friend whose home I had never been too. She said, "Call me when you get off the freeway and I will guide you in." So I did. I called and her line was busy. It this age of technology it took my mind a moment to recognize the nearly forgotten sound. I tried again...still busy.

I decided to pull into a Taco Bell parking lot while I tried to reach her. I sat in my car facing the next business over which was a gas station. I dialed every minute or so and still received a busy signal. As I sat in my car a large man approached my driver side window. He thumped on the glass. I shook my head indicating I was not going to roll down my window. He thumped again and I shook my head again. Frustration came over his face but he walked away.

I was slightly disturbed but not overly concerned. Like any town this one surely had panhandlers. What happened next was what really left me dumbfounded.

I was still trying to reach my friend who was apparently on an exceedingly long call.  Moments after the man left my window an older woman who was pumping gas in her beat up pick-up marched over from the gas station to my car. She smacked her palm against my window and screamed - yes, she screamed - at me to roll my window down. Um, no! She smacked her hand against my window again and I rolled my window down about an inch so I could tell her to stop. She hollered at me to roll down my window all the way. I said there was no way that was going to happen and I asked her what her deal was. She proceeded to tell me that she was a Christian and that I was basically the spawn of hell. She saw me hand money to that guy and I was the problem with society. Trash like me had strung out teenagers panhandling for money on my behalf. She hoped I liked hell because that was were I would one day rot. Seriously.

I sat in my mom-wagon in my nicely pressed work clothes with boxes of Girl Scout cookies piled in the passenger seat  while this woman berated me and accused me of something that was so off-base I was positively stunned. I could not think of anything to say. I have never been attacked like that in my world of rainbows and puffy clouds. It was about two hours later when I thought of all the clever comebacks I should have spewed. The only thing that popped out of my mouth was..."What?"

"Don't you 'what' me! You know what you are! You are evil. You are evil to your core."

"How dare you!" I grew one small ounce of backbone. "How dare you accuse me of such things. I didn't even roll down my window for that man."

"I saw him hand you money! You are filth!"

"He did not hand money! I don't know what you think you saw but the only reason I am sitting here is to call my friend to get directions to her house so I can deliver GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!" I gestured to the mammoth stack of cookies in my car.

"Well, I am sorry." That was ALL she said. She called me the spawn of hell and then offered a feeble "I am sorry?"

"What? You come over here and accuse me of all sorts of awful things and then you say, "Oh, gee, I'm sorry?"

She snapped again and yelled, "I said I was sorry! I don't know what your deal is! I AM SORRY!"

With a smack on my door she stomped back to the gas station and jumped in her gas-guzzler and chugged away.

I sat in my car for a long time before my heart stopped racing. I do not like confrontation even if it is planned and must take place. I am big on flight skills and only polish my fighting skills if I truly must. I did not know how to process what had just taken place. It was so beyond my reality. 

The thing that stuck with me was the woman said she was a Christian. Really? I am a Christian also and I don't go around smacking on car windows and yelling at people about things I know nothing about. Because a person is Christian does not give them license to say whatever they want. It is not a perpetual get-out-of-jail-free card.

The only thing I do know about that day is that I will use the post office to deliver my cookie orders this year lest I run into any overzealous Christian impostors again!



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

That wasn't in the Course Description

In my college days I spent 5 weeks one summer knocking out an Introduction to Sociology course to fill a requirement. Five days a week at 7 a.m. If nothing, I secured great parking.

The professor invited a wide variety of guest speakers to keep us engaged. It worked. I found it was easy to get myself up so early because I was curious to see who would be speaking each day.

We were introduced to a cross-dressing male who was happily married to a noble woman who accepted this quirk. She was so accepting in fact that she would often tell "Bob" to go away and not come back until he was "Barbara." I am positive I could not be so understanding.

We also met a beautiful young woman who said she weekly turned down offers of dates from male suitors because she preferred women. And, I sat captivated in my seat as a young man wept and confessed he was homosexual. He spoke of his wrenching struggle to come to grips with his sexuality and the moment of truth when he confided in his mother. 

He said he wept as he told her and felt physically ill. The mother looked at him and said, "Finally! I have been waiting years for you to tell me this. You are what you are. Get over it! I have to go make dinner." 

"No hug?" someone asked.

"No hug!" he sobbed.

Despite the truly fascinating people that came to class none was more intriguing than the professor himself. He had assortment of oddities built-in to his character. He told us about his intense collect of dream journals. Every morning he told us he would feverishly write about the dreams he had as he slept. He would log his mood and events taking place and reference past journals in attempts to decipher what each dream meant. I would sit and listen to his analysis of his nightly visions and think to myself, "Dude, what did you have for dinner?"

One day the professor crossed a line between quirky and certifiable. I arrived at class to find all the desks arranged in a circle. I quietly took my seat as the professor stood in the middle. His whole being was humming. He had something he was very eager to share.

Once the seats where full the theatrics began. The professor began to tell us about an intense class he attended over the weekend. It took him to the very roots of his existence. He experienced his very own birth. That's right. His birth. He paused as he let us attempt to digest the enormity of what he said. I was hoping he wasn't going to whip out a black and white 8mm reel but I soon realized that would have been preferable.

The professor began to tell us about how, under the awesome tutelage of someone theoretically sane, he was transported back to his mother's womb. He slowly lowered himself to the floor and curled himself into the fetal position and began writhing and wiggling. This could have been the most uncomfortable situation I have ever been in. It was like watching something immensely private and wishing you could be anywhere - and I mean ANYWHERE - else.

Sadly, it didn't stop there. The professor began to make meek little cries and whimpers interspersed with comments like, "It was blackness! There was pain! I was being ripped from my cocoon!" And then with finality he thrust his body forward on the floor and wailed like the newborn baby he thought he was. He screeched that the "light is blinding! So cold. I am so cold!" It was positively horrifying. I had just watch my 60 something year old professor emerge from his invisible mother's hoo-ha.

My classmates and I sat in stunned silence. We looked at the floor, the ceiling, anywhere but at him or anyone else. I wanted to shower. I wanted to take a bar of Lava soap and scrape the icky away. I remember shuffling out of class; no one said one word. I know we were all wishing it was a Friday and not a Monday. And, I knew we were all grateful is was a short summer session.

When we pushed out of the building into the cool summer morning life began to return. I walked numbly to my car and listened as classmates began to speak again. I did finally start smiling again when I heard one classmate ask his buddy, "Dude, do you think that is going to be on the final?" Oh, how I hoped not!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Talking and Hugging

I am a hugger and a talker. If I am introduced to you at a party I will hug you goodbye when you leave. It is in my genes. It is a reflex I have tried again and a again to suppress but now I just embrace my is merely one of many. 

It is also in my genes to talk. I will talk to anyone about pretty much anything. The gift of gab is an asset to my career in college publishing. I have to talk to a variety of people about a variety of topics. I do admit that sometimes my gift fails me. When a Physics professor starts talking about acoustic shielding or mechanical waves I start to fade. 

I further admit that I have actually taken notes from a conversation phonetically and then e-mailed them to an editor asking them to please decipher them for me. My college degree in journalism only goes so far.

Usually the gift of chat is interesting if nothing else. While standing in security lines at an airport in Miami I met a retired engineer. His claim to fame? The Boeing 767. As we talked I learned so much about aeronautical engineering. It was fascinating. I asked my new friend if he was happy to be flying on an aircraft he helped design. He replied that he had been retired for so long and the aircraft industry had changed so much he was certain the 767 of today barely resembled the one of years past. 

"But, it's still good right? I will fly right?" I asked.

"Oh sure!" He replied. "It will fly. Probably."

I have also met the guy that dumps out the solar potties at Yosemite. The sun can only do so much before a guy and a donkey have to come and do the dirty work. While hiking Half Dome my group passed a guy walking the trail with a donkey laden with barrels. I had to ask. I learned that the duo hike around the park daily to collect and haul out waste from porta-potties.

"Seriously? That is crazy!" I was amazed.

"Someone has got to do it. And, I get to hike around this beautiful park everyday," was his reply. He needs to be speaking at seminars with that passion. Talk about having the right perspective on things!

At Sam's Club recently I let two older gentlemen scoot ahead of me in line because they had one flat of soup and I had a cart full of grub. I learned that one of the gentlemen had 12 children! He and his wife had 7 girls and one boy and then they adopted another boy and four girls. I was exhausted at the thought. We chatted our way through checkout and when we parted he handed me his card. The guy is a Brigadier General who now works with the Joint Service Honors Command that serves families of fallen soldiers. I was awestruck.

In the course of my life I have met some of the most interesting people from pilots to air marshals and yoga instructors to dog trainers. One of the people I remember the most clearly was a Vietnam Vet that was paralyzed in the war. I met him while I was in college. He was wheeling around campus in his wheelchair when - for whatever reason - he parked next to me as I sat on a bench between classes. He started talking with a clear zest for life. He had no regrets about his past - he was only moving forward with his future. He was a neat guy that popped into my life at a moment when I needed a pep talk. I never saw him again and often wondered if he was an angel. I remember talking to him with ease and being mesmerized by his vivacity.

My chattiness has definitely introduced me to some interesting characters and I can only image who I have yet to meet. I love that we pop in and out of people's lives for brief moments. Sometimes the person that you meet in the produce section says just the thing you need to carry you though the day. And sometimes the person that you meet offers you a glimpse at a perspective you never had before. 

And, it could be that the person that gives you that unexpected hug gives you the emotional touch you need to carry on or the lift in your spirits to turn your day around. 

So go on...the world is an incredible place. Try to meet a few people it in.