Archive | August, 2020

It’s all relative

25 Aug

So much is up in the air.

Last week, we learned that, due to families opting out of remote learning and committing to a full year of online learning, we needed to lose a teacher. A volunteer was called for and we’d hoped to hear by Friday. We also hoped that we wouldn’t get “the call” if no volunteer came forth.

Late Friday, we got another email saying we’d hear next week. That meant another weekend of worry and wondering if and when we’d get details about expectations and requirements for teachers.

My teaching partner and I text frequently to manage our stress and frustration these days. Yesterday was no different. We’d waited all day for news. We both felt hopeful that we were still OK.

I was standing in the kitchen, texting, and could tell that Lucy needed a potty break. I was about to take her out back when I heard rustling in the recycling. Peeking out the back window, I saw a man riffling through the recycing. We’ll wait until he’s gone. I thought and went back to texting.

He was one of the regular recycling people who pass through the neighborhood in which I love. He seemed to be taking longer than usual so I peeked out the back window again and saw that he was actually looking through the garbage cans. I felt my anxiety rise. Our trash cans had been rather full the last two weeks because one of my neighbors was putting his condo up for sale and the tenant in another had moved out. I stayed at the window to be sure the recycler didn’t leave a mess

It was interesting to watch. He rooted deep into the bin and opened bags. He wiped his hands on what appeared to be a well used wet wipe. He was very methodical and stopped frequently, deep in thought as if he were contemplating the very nature of the items he encountered.

I went back to texting with my teaching partner, reflecting on the nature of the relative size of his problems compared to mine. despite the pandemic and the frustration I feel because I don’t know exactly what school will look like, I have a really good life.

It seemed that Lucy could no longer wait, so I leashed her up and we went out. The recycler greeted me in broken English. I returned his greeting as we headed out back in the opposite direction. Lucy was quick and we were back in the house in a minute. The recycler was still there, carefully weighing his options. He had two, fairly full bags. I removed Lucy’s leash, then popped my head out the door and asked the recycler, “Do you need another bag?”

“No. Thank you. I have more bag.” was all he said. He waved to me and headed off to the apartment complex next door.

Three Strikes

18 Aug

Had I’d left the store without paying?

This thought gnawed at me as I sat at my desk to balance my checkbook after doing groceries.  I had no receipt and my bank account showed no pending transactions. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize myself paying, but nothing came. I grabbed my keys and wallet and headed back to the store.

To be fair, it had already been a trying morning. I left the house before eight with three goals in mind: mail two bills, make a deposit in the credit union, and get groceries. It should have been quick and easy.

But, when I stopped at a nearby mailbox, I encountered this:

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I was disappointed – and quite angry about the politics behind this situation  – but I knew there was an actual post office not too far from the credit union.

As I approached the credit union, I was surprised to see that the ATMs had been removed. Driving past the front entrance, I  wondered when this branch had been closed and remembered that I’d seen another one opening in a location that used to house a Pier One store. I drove to the post office, where I managed to drop the bills, and on to the former Pier One location, where new ATMs let me do my business.

At the grocery store, I got what I needed quickly and opted to use the self check out. Portland has a plastic bag ban, but my local supermarket has been having trouble getting paper bags. If I went through the regular lines, I had to take plastic because grocery checkers aren’t allowed to pack bags brought from home. At that time in the morning, not many checkout stands were open. I figured the self serve line might be faster.

I had one large item that required a scan by the associate working the self check area.  I called her back a few minutes later, to scan my coupons. Once done, I drove home, prepared to spend the rest of the day in typical COVID fashion.

But, after unpacking the groceries and taking a shower, I realized I hadn’t paid for the groceries.

“I didn’t pay, did I?” I asked when I returned to the self check area, my heart still pounding.

“No, you didn’t,” said the same associate, who waved off my apology.

“It happens more than you’d think. But you came back,”was all she said.

She called her manager, who had to hand enter my order from the receipt the associate had printed when I’d absconded with my groceries. As I paid, I felt my heart rate return to normal.

 

11 Aug

For several years, in the days between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, my sister and I would ask, “When is Children’s Day?”

Every year, my mother would reply, “Every day is Children’s Day.” She was old school that way.

Apparently, Sunday, August 9th was National Book Lovers’ Day. I missed it, but can’t help channeling my mother because I believe that every day is book lovers’ day.

The pandemic has caused me to lose a bit of my reading mojo. I have lost the desire to read fiction – in print or as an audiobook. I seem to only have a desire for nonfiction, and not just the nonfiction books I have to read for the committee I am on.

I have always been able to lose myself in a fictional world. You would think that, homebound for the most part, I would easily escape to some fictional place, an armchair traveller. But, for some strange reason, I long to escape to real places: under the sea with whales and octopus, to Colombia and Washington, into politics and philosophy.

I know several people who have completely lost their reading mojo. So to lose interest in fiction isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just a thing.

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What should not be forgotten

4 Aug

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The sticky handrail
touched by the hands of
1500 middle schoolers

The rhythmic chime
of keys on a lanyard
as a colleague approaches

Second breakfast
with its mug of tea, a banana,
and a colleague with
her bowl of fruit and yogurt

The musty smell
of the locker room
as 120 sixth graders
leave for the day

The flow of students
up and down the staircase
at the beginning and end
of the day

The beep and buzz
of the lock
as you swipe your ID card
before the sun comes up

They joy in your heart
as you stand, before school,
in front of the building,
greeting families,
and one of your current,
or former students,
arrives

 

Randy Ribay

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