Monday, February 25, 2019

Drill, baby, drill

Cajoling middle-school students to remain still and quiet during a fire drill once they've reached their predetermined meeting spot is:
(A) Cruel and unusual punishment -- for all parties
(B) A futilely high bar in service of safety
(C) A stretch worth attempting
(D) A vestigial relic of compliance, perhaps
(E) The necessary means to a noble end
(F) Part of my job

I suspect there's a (G) through (Z), as well, with (Z) representing All of the Above. However, since it's past my bedtime, and I'm fading at the keyboard, I should probably save these later letters for installments during the Slice of Life Challenge that starts Friday...

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mess transit

I was going to publish a slice about one topic, which I'd drafted late Monday night. I didn't post at that time, and then something else more pressing clipped my writing tripwire Tuesday afternoon. So, I'm writing about that now. (Maybe I'll save the other draft for the coming March marathon of slicing...)

I'm sitting on a bus that's quite full. We pull in to the next station on our route, several people standing at the stop, waiting to board. I'm not sure there's room for all of them. "I wonder how many people will get off here," my inner optimist realist wonders. I count nine people pass me, exiting down the aisle.

Six new passengers pay their fares and board. "What will you do if you don't have enough room for all of us?" the seventh asks the driver.

"They'll have to wait for the next bus," he says matter-of-factly.

"Isn't that tomorrow?" says seven. "Can't you call another bus? Or what if they just stand?"

"Standees are against federal law. And there's no relief bus today," the driver says. "They can try Greyhound or wait a day."

"I'll get off then," decides number seven. "I have a place to stay here and can go tomorrow." She leaves, once learning from the driver how to reactivate her ticket for the next day.

Three more passengers get on, filling every available seat. And then one of the passengers who had disembarked returns from the bathroom in the station.

"That's why I told everyone to use the bathroom on the bus," says the flabbergasted bus driver to everyone, no one, and one man in particular. "You messed up my count and put me in quite a spot."

Last on, first off, apparently, so the driver heads to the back of the bus in search of the blond-haired woman who'd just boarded. Soon I hear, "If she's leaving, I'm leaving" from another passenger behind me, now part of a package deal. Thus, two exit, making way for the sheepish man who'd had to heed nature's call and one other person who'd been waiting in line with a blank look that could read as bewilderment or long-standing patience.

We roll away, five people left at the curb according to the driver's radio dispatch to his home base.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Many waters

This slice of life I'm writing is partly about death. It starts with me thinking about coincidences in the books I've read recently. It ends with a commencement speech titled "This is Water" by author David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008.

Over the past two weeks, I've read The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo and listened to audio versions of Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Each young-adult novel encouraged me to walk around in shoes different from my own, to challenge explicit biases, and to attune better to implicit ones. (If I sometimes fret about my subconscious' influence on me, I should also give it partial credit for leading me to pluck from shelves books I didn't know I wanted to read.)

These reading experiences made me realize anew how I "worship" literacy in its many forms, for the doors it can unlock. With that epiphany, my mind leaped to Foster Wallace's 2005 address at Kenyon College. So, I looked it up and paused at the part where he says, "Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship." Subjects of worship, he claims, become our "default-settings." He goes on: "They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing." I see now I've slipped into practicing teaching and reading and writing and speaking. Those are my habits, the ones that in Foster Wallace's words "will eat [me] alive." Or to streamline the borrowed metaphor: Waters that will drown me, with fleeting awareness of the influence of their confluence.