Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Waste Some Time!"

I was looking for an email from a couple of years ago and came across an email thread with one of my teachers that I thought was particularly funny. Time was in high demand and short supply my final year of undergrad, which often led to me doing homework and other things on my laptop during my classes. One day my bad habit resulted in this conversation:

Here are my answers to the questions from the text. I am sorry I have to email them to you also--I didn't have time to get them done before class. Thanks!

I noticed you working on them during class.

Yes, I'm really sorry about that. I had a really busy week and am looking at a really busy weekend and Thanksgiving week (I have to complete several graduate school applications, finish a 20 page paper for a class, finish two other shorter papers for other classes, and finish doing research for and submit a final list of internships I want to apply for in Washington DC next summer--and I volunteer for 8 hours on Saturdays--in addition to my regular class and work schedule) and I was afraid if I didn't work on them during class, I wouldn't get them done. I hope it wasn't too distracting or annoying.

Nah, I’m aware that students aren’t robots and sometimes do other things in class—heaven forbid!  Yours just happened to be visible this time, because I could recognize the format of the Kiplyn Davis material on your computer screen over a long period of time.
The “problems” are that it cost you a few “lateness” points, it may have limited your involvement in class discussion, and it may have caused you to put in less thinking about your in-class writing before you went back to the Davis article. 
The only other problem is mine, not yours—that any teacher wants full attention, naturally.  So it reminded the old professor that his scintillating material wasn’t reaching one of his best students. 

You’re obviously a highly-motivated (“driven”?) student.
I hope you can have a little lighter load next semester. 
And a little time for the turkey and the family next week. 
Waste some time!  Read a frivolous novel!  Play a video game!  Go for a hike!  Take a nap!

I'm sure that my professor would be happy to know that while I didn't do any time-wasting during undergrad, I certainly learned how to do it well during graduate school!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Death of an Alternator

Today's story comes to you from the repository of work I did for my creative writing class, so it's in "memoir style." Which is kind of like Gangnam style, but not quite as cool.

If I had thought it through, I wouldn’t have driven my car when I was 98% sure that the alternator was dead. With the “check battery” light on and the headlights getting dim, I knew it was only a matter of time before my car died. But I was tired of walking to school in the freezing cold and getting home after midnight. I had papers to write and finals to take and I was not going to let a silly alternator keep me from driving my car.

The fateful decision was made when I decided I had to go to the store. Walmart was my first choice, but when I passed Rite-Aid and my car was starting to shutter, I turned in the parking lot. They would have what I needed, and I might even be able to make it home from here without my car dying. When I finished with my purchases, I got back in my car. Relieved when it started, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, just don’t let my car die in the middle of a busy road.” It was a desperate plea. My headlights, dimming quickly, were barely bright enough to light the road right in front of me. As I pulled out of the parking lot, the radio died. My car shuddered as I sped up, and I prayed again. I was all alone and it was almost midnight. I really didn’t want to have to call a tow truck to take my car to a shop. And I really didn’t want to get hit by someone that couldn’t see my car.

When I pulled onto Freedom, I knew I was in trouble. My car had started shuddering, like a drowned man trying to come back to life. I changed into a lower gear and crossed University Avenue. If my car could just keep going for six more blocks…

It couldn’t. With one final shudder and a terrible lurch, my car died in the middle of an intersection on a dimly lit street. Gathering my wits about me, I pushed my car to the side of the road andcalled my roommate. 

“Hi Teresa,” I said.

“Did your car die?” she asked. She must have heard me gloating about the fact that my car had started this morning,

“Yes. I can’t push it home alone because my lights are dead. I’m afraid someone won’t see me and will hit me. Can you come and drive behind my car with your flashers on while I push it the last few blocks?” I was too tired to call a tow truck when I just lived three blocks away from where my car had died.

Teresa showed up in less than five minutes with my other roommate, Brittany. She stared at my car. “Does this happen often?” she asked.

“No. Well, sometimes,” I said, thinking of the several times I had run out of gas…and the leaking radiator that I had finally fixed a few months ago…and the winter I had to use ice-x on the inside of my car windshield because the defroster didn’t work. “I just need to push it home. Can you push from that side and I will steer and push from this side?”

The scene would have been comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Two girls pushing a car in the street while another one drove slowly behind with her flashers on. When the two men pulled over and offered to help, I only refused once. At their insistence, I got in and steered while they pushed. As they pushed my car into the parking lot, I sighed. My pride had finally taken a hit: this time, I couldn’t take care of my car problems by myself. But at I could say that I had pushed it out of the middle of the intersection by myself…

Here I am, so proud to be buying my first car. Pre-alternator failure.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Police at the CVS...and When It's a Big Deal

Because I live off of a busy highway right outside of Washington DC, 5 minutes from both the Pentagon and a national airport, I've become accustomed to seeing police cars everywhere. Last summer there was a police chase ending in the suspects crashing in to a gas station, abandoning their car, and finally two of them being caught and one getting away after a helicopter-led manhunt. A few months ago there was another chase that caused the highway near my house to be blocked off while I was driving home, and my first thought was, "How annoying that I can't turn right on this road and I have to go around!"

Anyway, one becomes accustomed to police cars in this part of the country, I guess. So when I saw two police cars parked in the middle of the parking lot of CVS last week, I wasn't too concerned. They were blocking cars but their lights weren't on, so I figured I would be safe going to the Redbox to check and see if Frozen was available (because I still haven't seen it, y'all!). And miracle of miracles, there were two empty parking spots right by the door! As I pulled in to one of them, another police car pulled in right next to me. I started to question my choice, but after checking for signs stating that this parking spot was reserved and seeing none, I backed up a bit to straighten my car. Looking up, ready to pull forward into the parking spot, I saw two officers leading a handcuffed man out of the store, walking toward my car. Seeing that the man was struggling to walk, I looked down and saw that while he was wearing sweat pants, his jeans were down around his ankles, impeding his walking.

Well, I quickly decided that maybe I should choose another parking spot and backed out. Only then did I notice a whole crowd of people gathered outside the store, watching as the police led the man over to the police car, with him moaning and wailing "They're gonna kill me!" the whole way. 

I found another parking spot, jumped out to check Redbox (still no Frozen!) and got back in my car. The man was still shouting as I drove away.

As I drove away I made a mental note to myself: next time I see several police cars in a parking lot, I won't park right next to the door.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

(Almost) Hit By a Car

I had lots and lots of jobs when I was at BYU, but only one of them was off campus. I worked at a call center down University Avenue, almost to Orem, and I rode my bike there each morning and rode back to campus at noon when I got off. Surprisingly, working at a call center wasn't my favorite job of all time, and I was always excited and ready to leave at noon. I was also working two other jobs at that time, as well as taking a full load of classes, so it was always nice to ride my bike away from work, knowing that even though the rest of the day would be super busy, I wouldn't have to come back to this job until tomorrow. Strangely enough, even though the ride there was downhill and the ride back was uphill, the way there always seemed to take a lot more effort than the way back!

One day I was riding back to campus, having completed another day of call center fun. I was riding my bike on the sidewalk/jogging/biking path next to the road, when all of a sudden a car pulled out of a hidden driveway, right in to my path. I swerved off the path and on to the shoulder to avoid the car, but when I tried to hop back on to the pathway my tire caught on the sidewalk's edge and I flipped forward and flew through the air. I distinctly remember thinking "twist your body so you don't break your arm or your nose!" before I crashed on the ground.

After a couple of seconds of lying on the ground, I sat up and slowly unbuckled my helmet. There was blood all over and I was in a lot of pain, but luckily I hadn't broken anything. I had a pretty nasty cut on my chin, had scratches on my forearm, and my flip-flop had broken off my foot and was lying down the pathway a bit, but other than that, nothing. Whatever I did in the air to twist my body was pretty impressive--whoever heard of someone getting in a bike wreck and landing only on their chin and forearm?

In my dazed state, my first thought was, "How in the world am I going to ride back to campus with a broken shoe? I'll just have to ride home and change my shoes and put a bandaid on this bleeding chin." I turned around to see if the person in the car who had almost hit me had a bandaid, but the car was EMPTY. Still sitting in the middle of the path and still running, but NO DRIVER. This story was starting to get exciting--I had now been involved in an almost-hit and run!

Irritated that the driver would just jump out of his/her car without even checking to see if I was ok, I started inspecting my bike to see if it was rideable when all of a sudden a large truck pulled over and three men in their mid-60's poked their heads out. "Are you ok?" they shouted.

"Umm, yeah, I just, uh, fell off my bike," I answered, trying to keep the blood dripping off my chin from getting all over my shirt.

"Did that car hit you?" one of them asked, and then realized there was no driver. "Hey, where'd the driver go?"

"Here, get in and we'll take you to the hospital," one of them offered.

Wondering if there was that much blood, I told them, "Oh no, I just live down the street. I'm just going to go home and get a bandaid."

"No, we aren't going to let you just ride your bike home in that state. Here, we'll throw your bike in the back of the truck and take you to the hospital."

I protested to no avail. They were bent on taking me to the hospital. So finally I just asked if they could take me to the BYU Health Center, thinking that I could just wash the blood off there. And surely they would have some bandaids that I could have. So they threw my bike in the back and I climbed in the truck (one of the men had to get out and wait there for his friends, since there were only three seats in the truck!) and they took me to the health center. 

I'm sure I was quite a sight with blood dripping from my chin, but I think my broken flip-flop was the worst part. Because the part that joined the top to the bottom had broken of, I had the flip flop on my foot but couldn't lift it and had to drag it. Worse, the flip flops were made of wood, so they were extra loud.

Flip Draaaaag. Flip Draaaaaaaaag. Flip Draaaaag. As I walked in to the Health Center everyone turned and stared. Not wanting to make a scene, I got in line to wait for the two people in front of me to finish with their emergencies, trying to nonchalantly cover my bleeding chin, pretending like everyone walks around in broken shoes and with bloody hands covering their chin.

Just then, one of the men who gave me a ride walked in. He had locked my bike up and then had come inside to make sure I was ok. "What are you doing, standing in line?" he asked. Then he loudly announced, "This woman has an emergency! She just got hit by a car!" I tried to duck my head and pretend like he was talking about someone else. After all, what's a little bit of blood on my chin? But he was having none of it. "Go over to the emergency section," he said, and then waited until I was talking to a nurse before he left.

I flip-draaaged over to the emergency section, all eyes on me. "Uh, hi," I said. "Do you have a bandaid?" Just then all of the adrenaline and awkwardness of the situation hit me, and I started to cry. "I'm sorry," I sobbed. "I just need a bandaid. And maybe a bathroom so I can wash the blood off." The nurse looked at me, pathetically weeping with a broken shoe and blood all over my face and hands, and directed me to follow her. She led me down the hall to a room with a sink near the door and gave me a container, lots of gauze, cleansing agents, and some triple antibiotic ointment. "You can clean up here," she said. "Do you think you need stitches?"

By this time I had gotten control of my emotions. "No, no, I think I'll be fine," I said. After she left I looked at myself in the mirror. I really did look like I had just been hit by a car. I avoided the mirror until I had finished cleaning up. Feeling much better (but still flip-draaaging everywhere I went), I went back out to the nurse. "Do I need to pay for...that stuff?" I asked awkwardly. "Oh no, don't be silly," she said. "I hope it heals quickly."

"Thanks," I said, as I flip-draaaged my way out of there.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And All Was Normal Again

This is what Peter thinks of his mother's antics.
While I was on my mission in Taiwan, my family changed dramatically. My older sister and just-younger sister got married, and then both of them, as well as my older brother and his wife (married for 5 years), had a son. That's 5 new men in the family in 18 months.

Needless to say, I was a little unsure of how to act around these sisters of mine who used to be just sisters but now were "sisters with a husband and a child." One morning soon after I returned from Taiwan I was visiting my older sister at her house. I was walking down the hallway from the bathroom and, just as I came out into the clearing next to the stairs, my older sister, who had been crouched down, hiding, behind the wall, lunged out and growled at me. I almost fell down the stairs out of shock.

The funny thing is, after this little incident, I felt much more comfortable around her. I knew that everything was normal and that even a husband and a son hadn't changed her one bit!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Buying a Mattress, Ghetto Style

When I first moved to Columbus for grad school, I had nothing but the clothes on my back. And everything that could fit in to my car (so I guess a little more than the clothes on my back...). You know what doesn't fit in to my car? Furniture. My friends lent me an air mattress for the first couple of days that I moved in to my new apartment, but I needed to find a mattress ASAP. The only problem was (and always is) money. And transportation. I searched for several days to find a mattress that was cheap enough and close enough to my house that I could haul it myself.

Several days in to the search, I struck gold. A mattress store just down the street from my house was having a close-out sale. After bargaining with the salesperson for 30 minutes, we finally settled on a price. $89 dollars for a twin mattress--and an agreement that he would tie the mattress on top of my car so I could drive it home.

Yes friends, I did. With the mattress flapping in the wind, I drove it home, cut if off my car, and hauled it in to my house. Because I'm ghetto like that.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bacon Cheeseburgers and Coffee

This story was already briefly mentioned when I wrote about spending the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah at a small village community in Israel in 2011. But it's funny enough to bear repeating. In case you don't want to read the whole story, I had just driven the community's rabbi and his 6-year-old son to the hospital so the son could get emergency stitches on his head after getting hit by a flying plastic chair (thrown--not at him, but he happened to be in its path--by his sister). As the only gentile in town, I was the only one the rabbi could ask to drive on the holiday-sabbath without violating the terms of Shabbat himself. Even as his son was bleeding, he still made sure that I was the first one to open my car door and the last one to close it so that neither he nor his son would activate the electricity powering the light. As I recall, I even signed the release form for his son at the hospital because writing on Shabbat is also forbidden.

The next day, in gratitude, the rabbi invited me and Vered, my host for Rosh Hashanah, over to his house for Shabbat dinner. Before eating, they performed the kiddush, a short ritual which involves blessing bread and wine and then everyone eating/drinking a small amount. As a Mormon, I don't drink wine (or any alcohol), not even a little bit. Since I'd had some awkward situations at other kiddush that weekend, I tried to quietly give my cup of wine to Vered to drink (it was about 1/2 inch in a small plastic bathroom-size plastic drinking cup). However, she didn't want the rabbi and his family to think that she just wanted to drink everyone's wine, so instead she loudly announced, "She doesn't drink wine. Do you have any plain grape juice?"

I had to laugh at what happened next. First the rabbi and his wife tried to convince me that it was only a teeny bit of wine--"only 10% or so. It's weak enough that even children can drink it. And plus it's just a swallow. I'm sure it won't be a problem to drink it."

After I politely refused, they didn't push the matter, but instead asked why Mormons don't drink wine. "It's a commandment from God," I explained, thinking that my conservative Jewish friends with their extremely strict dietary laws (and their observance of Shabbat even in an emergency situation) would understand the rational behind a commandment that forbids a certain kind of food or drink. "We also don't drink coffee or tea."

"You don't drink coffee?" the rabbi's wife gasped. "You mean you've never had coffee in your life?"

"No, never," I responded.

"You don't know what you're missing!" she said as she stood there, horrified at the thought of an entire religion whose adherents didn't drink coffee.

Looking around their kitchen at their kosher food, their stove with a specially equipped timer so they didn't have to turn it on on Shabbat, and the rabbi and his wife's religious clothing, and thinking about the trip to the hospital the night before, I couldn't help but laugh inwardly. "You mean you've never had a bacon cheeseburger?" I wanted to ask. "You don't know what you're missing!"

But I didn't say it. After all, what's the good of being able to eat bacon cheeseburgers if I can't drink coffee

The synagogue at the moshav.