Friday, October 7, 2011

The Only Job In Which I Can Amble, Mosey, Wander and Stroll

Given a two-day stretch as a substitute campus supervisor, I'm at my best on my second day. Whenever I'm called for the job, it's always a few weeks or sometimes a month in between, and my body is accustomed to the relatively slow pace of my average day. So the first day is always the hardest as my body's not sure what's going on, but this can't be right! All this walking? All this communication with other people? This sudden air of authority? Something's wrong!

Because my hours for this particular campus supervisor, Alex, were 9:30 to 3:30, I had time in the morning to go online and read. On Thursday, I spent those two hours (Dad, Meridith and I get to school at 7:30 or a little past) online, trying to catch up on the latest transcripts of arguments before the Supreme Court in its new term, which I've vowed to follow at length because of my interest in the institution. SCOTUSblog ( provides transcripts in .pdf form at day's end when there are arguments before the court, and I've just found out that The Oyez Project ( provides the audio, along with transcript follow-along. I think I'll wait at the end of each argument week for the audio because I'd like to read the transcript as the audio goes along. I'd like to listen to the justices' questions, vocal inflections, as well as those of the people arguing these cases.

But on Thursday morning, I finished reading the transcript of Maples v. Thomas, which SCOTUSblog, on its page of the case, puts in plain English: "Whether a defendant is prohibited from arguing in federal that his death sentence is unconstitutional because his lawyer missed a filing deadline in state court."

My maternal grandfather was a lawyer, passionate and dedicated, and though I don't remember a great deal about him, I picked up on this somehow, just as I did with a brief interest in boxing (He loved boxing) that led me to write recaps of fantasy boxing matches years ago when the Internet wasn't as advanced as it is now. However, I've no intention of following my grandfather. I'm happiest as a reader and writer and the Supreme Court is one of many interests.

Thursday was without radio calls from various members of the school administration to bring kids to the office. I walked around during the day, made sure everything was ok, supervised the kids during brunch (15-minute break) and lunch, made sure they got to class when the bell rang between each period, and made sure they left as swiftly as possible at the end of the day. But because my body wasn't used to such activity, I was completely worn out after the day was done. At Walmart Supercenter, where we went to pick up a few things, I felt like everything in me had been scooped out and I was left with a hull of myself. Zombie feeling.

I've started something new whenever I have this job. I love it, but I also make sure to pick out one thing to look forward to when I get home. Yesterday, it was dinner from Wienerschnitzel. Meridith and I went in and we ordered dinner for all of us to bring home, and I ordered a pastrami sandwich and ultimate chili cheese fries, which includes diced onions and sour cream. I had been good with my diet throughout the day, and this was worth it. Wienerschnitzel produces some satisfying chili cheese fries. It's a solid comfort food, even when you're not looking for comfort. Today, I looked forward to a shower in the evening. And it was worth it, naturally.

Today made all the difference. My body knew what was to come, since I had gone to bed at 12:30 a.m. again (I made no attempt to try to go to bed earlier, since I had to make my lunch for the day and shave beforehand), and I was ready. I had my Cheerios in the toy racecar in which you open the back and put them in; I had my Silk Very Vanilla soymilk, my favorite lemon yogurt, a few slices of Swiss and Provolone cheese, previously-frozen strawberries, blueberries and blackberries now thawed out in a plastic container; spinach, cherub tomatoes, and carrot chips in another plastic container; two rice cakes in a plastic baggie, and a Quaker oatmeal raisin granola bar. I gathered it all in a plastic bag and we were all off to work.

I spent time online after we got to school like I did yesterday, except for after the bell rang. Since the special education class that Meridith's an aide for was in Dad's classroom for first period, there aren't as many kids during that time, so I had a computer for myself. This morning, full up, so I went upstairs to the teachers' lounge to lie on the couch and read through most of Books by Larry McMurtry.

The newest feature in the teachers' lounge, right in front of that couch are book racks for teachers to bring in books they don't want anymore, for others to take. When I was substituting for Liz, one of the other campus supervisors (I was substituting these two days for Alex, who's also a football coach at Canyon High), I took my fair share of books then, including Night Fall by Nelson DeMille, All in One Place by Carolyne Aarsen, and someone must have been giving away their John Grisham collection, because I found The King of Torts, The Brethren, and A Painted House. It was funny finding all those Grisham books on the shelves (Bleachers was also there, but football doesn't interest me) because in 3rd grade, Mr. Dexter called my parents in for a conference because I was bringing John Grisham novels to class to read. And I could read them.

Yesterday on those racks, I spotted Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel (set in 1969 Biscayne Bay, Florida), a much cleaner copy of Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright (I had ordered it online and received it in the mail, and after bringing that better copy home, I put the other one in the Goodwill box), and The Broker by John Grisham. Of course I grabbed all of them. Today, the same Nora Roberts and two Sue Grafton novels still sit on those racks. But the next time I'm called in, I'm hoping there's more great possibilities like those finds.

Before I continue fawning over this wonderful day, there are two cabinets in the school library, one under the magazine racks and a bigger one next to those racks with the labels "Discarded Books." These are books that are no longer needed in the school library and are free to take. Being that books are my life, these are wonderful portals, and in the smaller cabinet, when I was substituting for Liz, I found All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriott. Today, substituting for Alex, I found The Cherokee Trail by Louis L'Amour, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton, both with "Accelerated Reader" labels on them. Good enough for me!

Lying on the couch, I read a good portion of Books, and marveled at where I was in my life. Before work, I got to read. I stopped at a few points in the book to revel in that. I got to read, since I was starting at 9:30, and it was 8:30. All I want to do in my life is read and write, so this fits easily.

After I signed in on my time card and wrote down the hours, and picked up a walkie-talkie from the head campus supervisor's office, I walked around campus, and my mind went right back to thinking about Las Vegas, about Henderson, about how I can reinvent myself once I'm there. I intend to remain as I am now, but no one knows who I am. No one knows what I'm about, and I can strive to make the best impressions every time. In Henderson, I'd be entirely different from the person I was in Santa Clarita, happier, and from the person I was in Florida, much more grown up, but only in age.

That's what I love about this job: I can think about anything. I've had random song lyrics come to mind, I've thought about if I'd want to date again (I'm not sure I'd want to give up all this reading time), I've mulled over my writing projects, especially my new one which has me very excited. It's a solo foray into 1930s movie history, but not what's typically known. I've thought about possible angles for it, and that unlike What If They Lived?, whose format was already set for me (Phil Hall, my co-writer, who created it, already had everything laid out when he asked if I wanted to join him), I have to write an outline for this book. But I don't mind it because that's the skeleton for the book. Everything else to do with the book will emanate for that. It'll be fun. And it'll get me closer to editing, which I enjoy more than writing. I like to write, but I love to move around words, sentences, rewrite paragraphs, and shape a book to become what I'd want to read.

There were a few calls for a campus supervisor today, two kids going home, one dismissed curtly by a P.E. teacher who wanted me to take him to the principal's office, and another to be taken to see one of the assistant principals. Some kids are easy to talk to as we walk, some I can sense that silence is best as we walk to the office. It's easy to know.

Because Liz wasn't there today (she always seems to take Fridays off), I drove the golf cart to the basketball court with the mesh basketball bag hooked in the back, giving out the basketballs and taking IDs in exchange at brunch and lunch. There wasn't much action on the court at brunch. The only interesting part had been a kid giving me his backpack as collateral for a basketball. I'm ok with that, because if a kid wants to play basketball, my favorite sport, he's going to have the chance to play.

But at lunch, holy god! There was a 4-on-4 game going on that was the most intense, the most talented I have ever seen in the years I've been a substitute campus supervisor at La Mesa. These kids played hard, one kid fell on the blacktop, but was ok, and they were laser-coordinated. There was a clear love of the game among all of them, and one kid in particular threw a hook shot a few inches off half-court and it went in! I was stunned and the other kids were floored as well. Naturally, he tried it again merely two minutes after and didn't make it. Never attempt a sequel so soon after. Build up again, and then do it. After checking on the kid that had fallen on the blacktop, I enthusiastically complimented the star player on his shot. I love watching basketball (and only shooting hoops. No full-on games), and that was great basketball. There was no showmanship ahead of the shot. He just concentrated and did it.

After I had collected all the basketballs, one kid from that game limped up to me, having twisted his ankle, and he wanted to go to the health office in the front office. He got into the golf cart next to me, we went to the office, and I walked him in. Later, I found a jacket left near the office, brought it in to put into the lost and found pail, and went into the health office to see how he was doing, telling the woman working there about his great feats as part of that game. He was a great player as well. Devotion to the game is what I like to see first, and all of those kids had it.

Later in the day, while walking around the campus yet again, I looked at the cement blocks near the library with the poles planted that hold up part of the walkway roof, and I couldn't see how the golf cart could drive through that space, even though Liz and John, the head campus supervisor, had done it before. I went back to where the golf cart was, across from the campus supervisor office, put in the key and drove to that part. And it was like the space had widened. I drove through that easily.

I did two circuits around the campus, then parked it where it was, and a little later, drove it around again. I wanted the practice, and I did well. And since John was sitting in the health office at that time while it was lunchtime for the woman there, no one needed the golf cart, so there was my chance.

Those were the major parts of the day. I have other ideas for potential careers in Henderson, but I'm seriously considering this for a full-time career. I have easy access to strong recommendation letters, I have the experience, and I have a feeling that since you have to make your life work in whatever way you're looking for, being that you live in the desert, being a campus supervisor would be even better. And I wouldn't mind helping with traffic crossings at the end of the day, the roads being easier there. Traffic crossings at the end of the day at La Mesa are crazy. Those who pick up the kids are in a rush, don't care about others, very nearly run you over since they're not paying attention, and it's frustrating. I have the feeling it may not be that way there.

This is the good life. I have opportunities to read before I start work, during lunch, and during the day, walking around the campus, I can think about my writing. In fact, I thought of the title of this entry while walking past the classrooms in the 200 section of the school (Room 222, 234, and so forth), and spent some time thinking of the arrangement I wanted for those four words. This could be where I belong.