Archive for May, 2012
It’s 3 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. Unless you are getting out of bed to pee, it’s never good to be aware of a midweek 3 a.m. as a 37-year-old. Making matters worse are the facts that I am in a pub, I am having a good time, there is a waitress standing in front of me, I have a course to teach in 7 hours and my conversational abilities have devolved to that of being able to utter idiomatic statements about being out too late on a week night.
“Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb!”
The waitress is unimpressed, “So, one more?”
“In for a penny, in for a pound!”
It continues like this for more time than I am willing to admit. Mercifully, someone commandeers the reins and orders. Bad music is playing and the drinks come two minutes later.
“Cheers!” Everyone says.
“Yeah, this is going to hell in a hand basket.”
There’s this picture of my grandfather, he’s sitting on a porch and wearing a huge smile and pants up to his nipples (1950s). His slim head is accentuated by ears like a Koala bear. A picture of my other grandfather has him in a pub wearing a Leprechaun look of beard and no mustache.
Outwardly, there’s nothing striking in the pictures, they look ordinary enough and are doing ordinary things. I can see my resemblance in them – red beard in grandfather #2 and while my ears are unKoalalike, I do have the ability to catch fireflies in my teeth when I smile. Despite the ordinariness of the photos, there is an underlying mood to them that until recently I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
After wondering for a long time what that mood was, I finally decided that it was appreciation.
I have been staring at the word ‘convergent’ for four minutes, dreaming of where I’d like to permanently implant it into my professor’s body. I drop the papers on my coffee table and stand to stretch my legs. It is 7:14 p.m. I’ve been studying for a final exam in The European Union and Global Trade since 5:25 p.m.
In the last 109 minutes I have sent nine emails, commented of four Facebook posts, cooked and eaten two pork chops and mashed sweet potatoes in a brown sugar sauce (awesome!), made three moves on Chess.com, cleaned my washing machine’s filter and swifted my flat. In this time I have read 2.3 pages of the 70 pages of notes I have to cover tonight.
I have to get out of the house.
10.4 minutes later I am at the local pub. I break out my notes, order a beer and wear the same smug ‘how did I not think of this before’ expression that the Earl of Sandwich wore as he bit into his first BLT.
Rationales made on the walk here: Why not study at the pub? It’ll help me relax, there are no distractions such as the Internet, washing machines and my swifter. Pubs are quiet. What could possibly go wrong?
Below is a time-lined account of how it went wrong.
As I get to the school I perform my Monday morning ritual. I sigh, tell myself that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me. I hope for a bomb threat and then utter my daily prayer.
People pray for all kinds of different reasons: world peace, health, happiness, sex, tacos. I pray to avoid people. Almost every prayer that I say starts like this: Dear Sidney, please don’t let me see…followed by a name.
This morning there are four people on the prayer list. One is a mouth breathing narcissist who enjoys a near-romantic relationship with his mobile phone. His name is Q and he is a student and permanent member of this Monday morning list. The other three (B, C and D) are acute additions for various reasons. In any case, I do not want to see any of them.
The elevator doors are closing as I run up and pound the button; I let out a victorious growl as the doors halt and then inch apart. I am almost to the hidden Narnia of my office.
Though my prayer might be working today, Sidney isn’t always the most attentive deity.
I’m standing at the tram stop and the weather, in mid-May, is cool and breezy, as though I am in a fabric softener commercial. For a man who sweats like Hunter S. Thompson drank, this is a gift from the gods of overheated English teachers.
My smile and comfort are in direct incongruity to the shivering misery all around me. The Czechs are clad in jackets, coats and scarves. I fit in like my grandmother at a Black Eyed Peas concert.
As the tram approaches, I know that my breezy fabric softener commercial is about to end and I am about to reverse roles with the Czechs. We all step onto a tram full of thick and soupy air, the general atmosphere close to that of a Hopi sweat lodge. Every window on the tram is closed tight.
The Czechs let out a sigh of relief and I slip into a misery-induced meditation as I try to defy both Newton’s laws of gravity and Galeone’s rule of stuffy locales. As the first bead of sweat carves a path down my scalp and plops onto my shirt collar, I concede the battle and admit defeat.
A least once a week, I wake up to an esoteric note written in sleepy chicken scratch. The notes are always in my unicorn very manly notebook which sits on the night table and whose sole purpose is to catch these night-time ramblings. I live alone and don’t do hallucinogenic drugs anymore, so I can’t blame it on a sneaky flatmate, the cat or those pesky wall elves.
I often spend the rest of the day trying to decipher the note. Sometimes, this is not a difficult venture, as in the case of last week’s note:
Scarlett Johansonn must marry me on the mountain.
OK, so the mountain is a bit confusing, and disturbing, but I think the gist is clear. Sometimes, these notes prove undecipherable and their mystery tortures me throughout the rest of the week. March 16th, 2012:
This dog is not my dinner companion.
The student with whom I am consulting rolls her eyes at the ceiling again. She has spent most of the meeting glaring down at her sandals, which are decorated with bedazzled geckos. I am attempting to assist her in outlining an essay on the Common Agriculture Policy, a subject which is as interesting and sexy as autopsying a basketball.
The look of abject boredom she wears is ameliorated by her unwillingness to assist me in assisting her. Moreover, she has answered her phone twice and sent two text messages in the thirty minutes we have been trapped in my office together. Otherwise, her appreciation flows over like a chemistry experiment gone awry.
Her phone beeps again. She takes it off the desk and, without explanation or apology, reads her text message. Then begins typing.
A response is finally in order.
The commuters on the 3 tram are staring at me, obviously overwhelmed by the spectacle of a fat man leaning against a trashcan stretching his hamstrings. I finish stretching, cry the cry of a man out of procrastinatory tactics and step into my run with the pace of a well-fed gastropod. Today the goal is 23 minutes of running, about 4.2K.
The main advantage of running along the Vltava River is that it offers more visual distractions. There are spandex-clad goddesses, bums drying out from a night on the Beaujolais Boxeau, and the quiet Vltava itself. Disadvantages include obstacles such as ducks, geese, dogs and people who make me look fast and bendy. Old women drag along shopping caddies and old men drag along other old men.
The main disadvantage is that these people, ducks and commuters can also see me at a moment when dignity and strength are not the first adjectives one would use to describe me. And this is most painfully relevant when it involves the spandex goddesses.
The blue lights at the Casino Royale are dimmed by smoke and the hazy thrill of nudity without the necessity of buying dinner to procure it. There are ten of us from three different Anglophone nations – US, UK, and Australia. We sit under the televisions, drink beer and chat while we wait out the last few minutes of a ‘football’ match that is keeping the strippers from making their appearance.
Finally, after an extended overtime period of ‘football’, as if this is something that any person needs in their lives, the first stripper begins to select her music on the jukebox. The ten of us hush in the universally subdued manner of men about to see strippers, as though we are trying to portray a cool exterior to hide the little boy inside chanting, “Boobies! Boobies! Boobies!”