Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Three-and-a-Half Hour Miracle, or: The Stuff Domestic Olympics are Made Of

Way early yesterday morning, I tried watching John Grisham's The Rainmaker with Francis Ford Coppola and Danny DeVito's audio commentary, but was too tired and went to bed at 2:26.

I woke up to Mom asking me if I wanted to go to work, because the sub system for the Hart School District had called and a campus supervisor was needed at La Mesa. A paycheck on a Friday, any paycheck really, is always appealing, and so I said yes, and Mom went back to Dad and said so and it was done.

I looked at the clock radio on my nightstand: 6:00. I had only slept three and a half hours, but I was awake. Different from the other times I'd woken up to go to work is that I had about an hour and 10 minutes before, so I had breakfast, made lunch, and went back and forth on taking a shower, because my hair has grown long enough to the point where I don't like to manage it, and just try to wrestle it into flatness with compulsory combing. With a shower, I regain some semblance of control.

I didn't, and it was my biggest regret of the day, because I didn't feel good about it. I had gotten it as flat as it could go, with one section of strands standing out a bit in the back, but it still nagged at me. Nevertheless, off to work Dad and I went and this was the one time I was so grateful for my hours: 9:30 to 3:30, more than I usually am, because since Dad and I got to school around 7:30, I had two hours before I had to sign in and start my day.

I spent the hour or so before the bell rang at 8:35 on a computer in Dad's classroom, looking over the Black Friday deals the Warner Bros. store had, and immediately grabbed Night Court: The Complete Second Season for $7.50, which came out to $10-something with ground shipping and tax. I found the first season at Big Lots a year and a half ago, and every time we went after, I always hoped that the second season would be there, but always no luck. This turned out to be cheaper than the $15+ it's going for on Amazon, cheaper even than the cheaper rates by sellers on Amazon Marketplace.

Then I went upstairs to the teacher's lounge, which has windows that overlook the library, though that means nothing to me since Dad's classroom is right next to the library, and I pass it in order to get to the teacher's workroom that leads to the stairs that take me up to the teacher's lounge. With me was Here's Johnny! by Ed McMahon, and my mp3 player. I propped two pillows on the arm of the couch next to the perpetually empty book racks where teachers can bring books that they're done reading, but I couldn't survive or even tolerate life if my diet was only books by Fern Michaels and Nora Roberts. I'm always disheartened when I see that, because the faculty clearly doesn't seem to be a well-read bunch (Or maybe the ones that are keep their books to themselves and when they're done with them, donate them to Goodwill like I do), and the last time I discovered a really good find was when someone gave up a lot of Grisham paperbacks, including The Broker and the The Brethren. I grabbed them all except for Bleachers, since football doesn't interest me, which is why I couldn't get through Playing for Pizza, even though I wanted to try it to see Grisham doing something different.

Here's Johnny! helped me get over the immense disappointment of Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life. It's a breezy, touching, and very funny book about McMahon's 50+ years with Johnny Carson, and learning about him always being nice off camera, and leaving his work behind when he went home after the show (He didn't hang around after it was over) made him one of my heroes. I have a biography about Carson called King of the Night by Laurence Leamer that I intend to read some time this weekend, and I always Tivo Carson's Comedy Classics off of Reelz Channel, to not only admire Carson's gargantuan talent for comedy, but to study the skits as well.

It got close to 9:30, and I went back downstairs to Dad's classroom, put the book in my tote bag, went to the front office to sign in, and then went to the bathroom before going to the campus supervisors' office to get Alex R's walkie-talkie, since he was the one I was substituting for.

I love that I signed in, and then I got paid to pee. That wouldn't happen if I was a freelance writer, and I don't think I could ever be a freelance writer because you continually have to look for revenue sources, and I just want a paycheck to come in regularly so I can read a lot and write my books. I don't think the novelty of being paid to pee will ever wear off for me.

I don't like to talk much with my fellow campus supervisors. First, I'm there to do a job, get paid, and then go home. But mainly it's because I love walking around the campus when it feels empty while the kids are in class. And I did that a lot just to have something to do since there were very few calls from the office to pick up kids from classrooms. I didn't feel overly tired, but I felt snippy, so it was best to stay away from the usual conversations of what's going on lately in my life, which just seems to be asked to make conversation. I've never liked that.

While I rounded the corner of the first set of buildings on the campus, I thought more about whether I'd want a woman in my life. Two things came to mind: If she was a bibliophile to the intense degree that I am, I'd give it a chance. But also, I can't make that decision right now. I am surrounded by the sheer boredom of this valley. I don't have Hoover Dam nearby, the Strip is not a short drive to get to, the Pinball Hall of Fame cannot have all the quarters I can manage to bring at the moment, and so I cannot say whether or not I'd want the chance again because I'm not home; I'm not where I feel most comfortable. If I was, I'd certainly be more open-minded than I feel right now, so I know that it's best to wait. It's not a decision to rashly make.

I also thought a little about my books, not as much as before, because there's not much to think about now that I'm doing research for one of them. There's no fantasy aspect to it now; the work has begun and so the reality has set in. Not a bad reality, but just that in order to have another book to try to sell, I just have to do it.

Lunch was a pleasure because there was what's called Lunch Bunch, in which one of the teams of teachers at the school have lunch available for the rest of the faculty and staff. This team had a "baked potato bar," which is baked potatoes, toppings, salad, and dessert. I wasn't interested because I had brought my lunch (My favorite lemon yogurt, tuna in a flatbread wrap, spinach and shredded carrots, and an oatmeal raisin granola bar) and didn't want to be near anyone because the natural tiredness from only three-and-a-half hours' sleep was beginning to set in. In fact, when I drank from my water bottle during lunch, in which there was only one other person in the teacher's lounge, my left hand shook a bit. Lunch is always a reliable revival technique.

Later in the day, after supervising the kids at lunch, which for me means standing near the lines in which kids get their lunch from the kitchen (There's no cafeteria), I kept walking the campus, and thought about the plays I want to write, two- and three-character pieces. It felt to me like this campus, even with this valley's aversion to history, seemed weighted with memories. I remembered the first time I was a campus supervisor and was very popular among the kids who had known me when I was a tutor for the AVID program (some kind of college-bound thing) during the day in a science class and a math class, which spurred me on to do something else because I couldn't stand the rigid structure of it, how there was no room to just help out with questions the kids had about their work, instead following the program as written.

I was also thinking about the memories graduates of this school probably have, and I wondered about a play that takes place on a middle school campus, where a few 20-somethings return to the campus at night, managing not to attract the attention of the alarm system, who wander the grounds, comparing their lives now to their lives then, what they thought would happen then that didn't happen now. It's part disappoinment, part shock at the vast gulf between childhood and adulthood. Of course, that's just one of probably over 30 ideas I have for plays, though it's not a priority right now as I have three others I want to write more. The silence of the campus always does things like that to me, as well as appreciating the meditative qualities during those afternoon class periods. For me, it's the equivalent of sitting at a penny slot machine in Las Vegas and tuning out everything else, watching those reels spin and just thinking.

When Dad and I got home, I still didn't fall on my face from exhaustion. I opened the mail I got, took out books like The Pelican Brief, and three books by massively funny Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan from the United Kingdom. Dad decided it was finally time to replace our old computer monitor because the greens were looking like yellows, among other color distortions. Mom looked at how much monitors were selling for in the Office Depot circular on the website, and then Meridith, Dad and I went out not only to buy one, but to also go to $5 Friday at Pavilions, to get teriyaki wings, chicken tenders, and other things we needed.

Dinner was those teriyaki wings and chicken tenders, and it was 9 p.m. by the time I finished washing the dishes and covered the birds for the night, so it was time for me to read the comics that come by e-mail for me, such as Baby Blues, Mutts, and Pearls Before Swine, comics for the next day, and that, as well as a few book-related websites, was all I could manage. I had had it. I left the computer to Dad to hook up the new monitor, went to my room, put the first disc of the first season of Night Court in my DVD player, and that was it. By 11:10, the TV and DVD player were off, and I was in bed, fully prepared to crash hard into dreams.

Today, I feel like myself again. I've got Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon in front of me, and plan to also bring along The Pelican Brief when we go out to Kohl's and a few other places (I've realized that I can't keep delaying shopping for new pants, since I can't go out to Las Vegas next, whenever that might be, on only one pair. I hate spending that time trying them on, but I must. My weight is good, so it's not that, but it's just the boredom from such an act. Try this one on, see if it fits right, try the next one on, and the next; it feels almost robotic), and I've got a great deal of shows to watch on the Tivo in the living room. Thank god that hard crash didn't happen tonight. Tomorrow, Mom, Meridith and I have to go out early to get haircuts, and we have to leave by a little after 9 before our appointment at 10. I can easily go to bed earlier to get up earlier now because of yesterday. I feel wisps of effects from yesterday, but not as much.

I'm still amazed that I managed yesterday on three-and-a-half hours of sleep. That usually doesn't happen to me because I'm called the night before and therefore have ample time to make lunch, make sure I have the books I want in my tote bag, and go to bed earlier. In that case, I get about 5 and 1/2 to 6 hours of sleep and that turns out to be enough. I learned this was the second day Alex had been out because of the stomach flu, and that's why the automated sub system called that morning.

Sometimes the body's tested. There's no choice. And thankfully I got through quite well. Being paid for that is the best thing about it.


  1. Being paid to poop is especially cool. Isn't it sad that teachers read so little? I used to live in the same area as Nora Roberts. She is obnoxious. Glad you made it through the day.


  2. Maybe it's because they deal so much with education as it is during the day, that they don't feel compelled to further their own. And some feel that they've reached the pinnacle, and remain there, and feel the fervent need to lord it over everyone else. I'm grateful for my 11th grade English teacher, Roberta Little, who clearly read a lot, and got me interested in plays and Mark Twain because of that.

    I hope I'm called in for the only three days this week, tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday. Or at least Tuesday and Wednesday, since there'd probably be one more round by the campus supervisors and then they'd (hopefully) gradually slink away as Thanksgiving gets closer. My Thanksgiving is at home this year, as it has been every year we've lived here, so I can go in easily.