Three Christmas anecdotes

FIRST: I have been firmly on the Don’t Buy Me Anything train for Christmas for several years now, but this year my wife and I agreed to exchange one gift each. My wife won with this gift, which is an assortment of beard-grooming tools: a brush, which is gonna get used multiple times a day, beard-specific shampoo, which will get used as often as I need to use it, and beard balm and beard oil, which … well, we’ll see. This is actually just about the perfect Christmas gift, really– something that I would never have thought to buy for myself in a million years and would never have guessed that she’d gotten me in advance, but which I immediately realized upon receiving that it’s something I needed and am going to use all the time.

It is also a subtle dig at my hygiene, which a lesser person might choose to take as an insult but which I’m deciding I’m entertained by. ūüôā

SECOND: My son received three different gifts that he already had. One was a set of Minecraft sheets, which both my wife and her sister bought him in a bit of a communications breakdown. Second was a Transformer. I’m kind of irritated about the Transformer; he got it because he brought it to me in the comic shop last week and announced that he wanted me to buy it. I reminded him that Christmas was in a couple of days and made him put it back, then immediately took it to the counter and asked them to hold onto it until I could come back without the boy and buy it. They did, and I did. The second he unwrapped it he announced he already had it and went and produced the original figure. Then he argued with me about whether he’d picked it out or not.

Like. Dude. Yes the fuck you did. That’s the only reason I bought the goddamn thing.

THIRD: Okay, maybe technically this is two-and-a-half anecdotes, but whatever. He also got one of these two tumbler cars from my mom and dad. He already had one of these, too, but he immediately decided he was excited about having two because now we can race them. So, OK. No problem there. The punchline: I’m pretty sure they alsobought¬†him¬†the¬†original¬†one.

My mom just called a few minutes ago. My dad was in their office looking for something. He found a third bright red Sharper Image tumbler car in the office while he was looking for whatever he was looking for.

Apparently Mom and Dad really want my kid to have this toy.

In which I save Christmas

We didn’t have marshmallows.

No one was quite sure how it was that we didn’t have marshmallows, but we didn’t have marshmallows. And you cannot make Heavenly Salad without fuckin’ marshmallows. The ingredients: Grapes. Pineapple. Juice from same. Heavy cream. Milk. Lemon juice. Sugar. And marshmallows.¬†¬†They’re kinda important. And we didn’t have any.

At 8:4fuckin7 PM on Christmas Eve.

Turns out Walgreens is open on Christmas Eve. The 24-hour stores are still 24-hour, believe it or not. And there’s one close. We go back and forth a couple of times about 1) whether we actually need Heavenly Salad for Christmas dinner (yeah, we kinda do) and 2) whether Walgreens is likely to have marshmallows.

Walgreens.com allows me to search the inventory of individual stores and I discover that my Walgreens claims to have 10 packages of small marshmallows, but none of the traditional size. I have a vague memory of having tried this trick with the smaller marshmallows in the past and not being super happy with the results, but fuck it; I’d rather have undersized marshmallows than no Heavenly Salad.

I have to wait for a parking spot at Walgreens. Which is¬†packed. Which I suppose isn’t terribly surprising. The employees, who know full and goddamn well that everyone there needs one¬†thing¬†and¬†one¬†thing¬†only, are bouncing back and forth from customer to customer, basically pointing, barking “What do you need?” and leading them to that one thing. I overhear a conversation where one family is carefully explaining that they need macaroni, because their “side dish” is macaroni and cheese, and I realize with some horror that they mean Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I have a sudden flashback to this lady:

I don’t object to macaroni and cheese for Christmas, mind you– I thought about making it myself– but macaroni and cheese from scratch isn’t¬†hard. It’s not even much more expensive! No one should be bringing freaking Kraft Dinner to Christmas. They actually have all the ingredients to make it from scratch! I can see them from where I’m standing!

I find my marshmallows. It turns out they actually do have one bag of the proper size, and technically I only need the one bag, but the bag appears to have been exposed to extreme heat if not an actual flamethrower at some point and I reject it in favor of two bags of the smaller ones. But hey! I have marshmallows! Victory!

I get in line to buy my marshmallows. The cashiers appear to be in genuinely good moods, and they’re having the exact same conversation with everyone, and everyone in line appears to be grateful and happy and not at all the assortment of miserable bastards that I was expecting. There are lots of thank-yous being tossed around.

I glance at the guy in front of me. He is carrying the following items:

  1. A single DiGiorno personal microwave pizza
  2. One (1) liter bottle of Mountain Dew

and nothing else.

I briefly consider asking him if he needs help, or if he needs an adult. Like, dude, do you want to come home with me? Because you are buying a microwave pizza and a Mountain Dew at 9:00 on Christmas Eve and if that is not a cry for help I cannot imagine what could possibly make it any worse.

And then, as if he can hear me, he gets out of line and wanders off somewhere. I do not follow him, because Jesus awkward, so instead I just buy my marshmallows and head home. I am very grateful to the people behind the counter and they are very nice to me.

And I have saved Christmas.

In which white people are still the absolute worst, plus some light whining

Pictured: an entitlement of wypipo

I’m doing the thing where I’m trying to make something I said on Twitter a bit less ephemeral by putting it here: I want a change in the rules. If white people are going to keep calling the police on black people for fucking existing in public, well, you go on ahead with your white self and keep doing that. But once the cops have investigated, when it turns out the black person was walking his dog, or taking his damn kids to the park, or buying groceries, or having a barbecue, or whatever goddamned normal-ass thing that black people are allowed to do unless white people are nearby, once the cops have investigated and determined that, yeah, that check for $1000 from this dude’s employer is really his check, and maybe y’all shoulda figured out that your average check cashing fraudster isn’t likely to volunteer two forms of ID and his fingerprint and just cashed the damn thing?

Once the cops figure that out, that accused black person gets five minutes in which he or she cannot be arrested or prosecuted for anything they do, up to and including stealing and detonating a nuclear weapon, if there happens to be one close enough. And the white people don’t get to run away. They gotta stay there while the five-minute rampage happens and if that five-minute rampage involves a white ass getting beat then maybe¬†you¬†shoulda¬†thought¬†of¬†that¬†before¬†you¬†called¬†the¬†cops,¬†you¬†dumb¬†racist cracker¬†motherfucker.


A story of what may actually be the last time I tried to cash a check: I am a high school student, and I have helped out an old lady down the street from me by mowing her lawn for her. A very old lady, who has rewarded me by writing me a check for, supposedly, $25. The only problem is that $25 check is so illegible that I’m the person she handed it to and I can’t decipher my own name, nor can I really honestly figure out how the scrawl in the little box says $25.00, and there is no way any human could possibly look at the part that counts, where you write out the amount in prose, and see “twenty-five dollars and 00/100.” She’s very old and palsied and this check looks like a toddler scribbled on it. There are no recognizable words. I need y’all to realize that I’m not exaggerating here.

I briefly think about not taking the check anywhere at all and just not worrying about it, and then take it to her bank, because there’s no way in hell my bank is touching the thing. And the teller not only agrees to cash it, but she asks me what the amount is supposed to be,¬†and¬†then¬†prepares¬†to¬†withdraw¬†that¬†amount,¬†based¬†on¬†nothing¬†more¬†than¬†my¬†say-so.

Now, okay, this was 24 years ago at minimum, and shit’s supposed to be more secure now. But there wasn’t even the vaguest¬†suggestion of suspicion on her part. Because: white boy.

And then it turned out the check was NSF, and I told her just to throw it away, because … nah. The whole thing was skeevy and even in high school $25 wasn’t enough money that I was gonna go to too much trouble to get it. It’s possible my dad ended up covering it; I don’t remember, but I didn’t end up ever cashing the check.


I have been doing make-up standardized tests all week, and by all week I mean basically every minute of my day other than lunch or advisory. On the one hand, this has been kind of wonderful, because it pins me in my room and people can’t pull me out of my office to make me do stuff, and it exempts me from things like hallway duty, which can be obnoxious. On the other hand, I have literally spent 24 solid hours out of the last three days in a damn near silent room with somewhere between eight and thirteen sixth graders all taking a test as I “monitor” them, and I am so bored I might die.

I mean, given my job’s definition of “exciting,” don’t take me whining about this too seriously, because there is a big difference between boring and stressful and given the choice I will leap joyfully into boring’s arms every time. But …. man. I gotta do this again tomorrow? Really? I’m playing music or summat during the test, because I can’t take the quiet any longer. It’s fuckin’ unnatural.

We’re not all gonna die

positivity.jpgIt’s possible that those of you who have been around for a while have been surprised at how little I’ve been talking about my new job. ¬†And the simple fact is I haven’t talked about it much because one of the things I’ve been trying¬†really hard to work on with this job, for my own mental health, is¬†leave work at work.

My new school has some issues. ¬†Some fucking major¬†issues. ¬†I’m going to leave it at that for right now.

But.

I realized something at my last school, something I know I’ve said here before, but something I¬†need to keep reminding myself of, over and over again, until it sinks the hell in. ¬†When you don’t work in the classroom, and you don’t know any of the kids, there’s gonna be a good chunk of change where the¬†only kids you interact with are the ones who are catching your attention, and the¬†vast majority of the time the way those kids are going to catch your attention is with negative behaviors. ¬†If 400 kids are in a hallway at one time and¬†three of them yell “motherfucker” at the top of their lungs, my takeaway is going to be¬†these fucking kids just swear in the hallways like it doesn’t even matter and the fact that 397 of those 400 kids¬†weren’t cussing in the hall is going to go overlooked.

In a school with 800 kids, if 95% of the kids get through their day doing what they’re supposed to do and don’t get into any trouble, 5% of the kids is¬†forty kids in the office, which in an eight-hour day is five kids an hour, or one kid in trouble every twelve minutes. ¬†And those kids aren’t going to be evenly distributed– 2/3 of them will be after lunch, for example, and it’s¬†really fucking easy to focus on those 40 and not the 760 who didn’t get into any trouble that day. ¬†And that skews your perspective, right?

I know I’ve said it before. ¬†I need to keep saying it to keep my shit together.

Lemme tell a story.

We have¬†both a teacher shortage and an overcrowding issue. ¬†There are some classes in our building that are¬†massively too big as a result, and even just a couple of teacher absences can cause a cascade situation where we’re constantly having to find teachers to cover classrooms, because getting subs is basically impossible. ¬†And we have a couple of classes that more or less haven’t actually had a real teacher yet this year because of that.

I got back from lunch at 12:45. ¬†About five minutes after I walked back into the building I got a buzz on my radio from my boss. ¬†She needed me to cover a class for a period. ¬†Now, I’m literally the last resort for this a lot of the time for various reasons related to my actual job. ¬†They don’t¬†want me doing classroom coverage, so if they’re calling me in it’s because every other available adult has already been pressed into service.

She tells me I’m covering one of those overcrowded classrooms which has never had a real teacher. ¬†It’s basically a study hall at this point because there’s nobody to write daily curriculum for the class, and most of the kids in there at this point have learned that whoever is trying to make them work today isn’t going to be there tomorrow and so it’s, to put it delicately, challenging to motivate them to do anything. ¬†And I admit it, I groaned and rolled my eyes, because I didn’t really¬†want to, but fuck it I’m gonna pitch in. ¬†And then she says to me “It’s 12:30 to 1:11 and then take them to lunch.”

I look at my watch. ¬†It’s¬†12:50. ¬†

“You mean this class started twenty minutes ago?”

She looks at her watch, and without saying another word turns on her heel and fucking sprints out of the office.

Oh.

I follow her.  She heads to the classroom at a high rate of speed.

Where 30-some-odd eighth graders were sitting in their seats, quietly having a study hall, and making so little noise that for twenty fucking minutes, no one had noticed that there was no adult in the room with them.  

Now: this is on the grown-ups. ¬†Somebody fucked up somewhere. ¬†And the kids got reminded, somewhat vigorously, that¬†maybe somebody should take the initiative to go to the damn office and let us know if¬†no one is in the room. ¬†But it’s kind of hard to get mad at a group of kids who are sitting and quietly, if not¬†working, at least goofing off in a non-obnoxious manner– and a couple of those kids who had pencils in their hand and were¬†clearly doing homework were¬†not kids I would have expected to make those decisions on their own, so there was absolutely a bit of positive peer pressure going on there.

And I sat in that damn room until lunchtime and not for¬†one second did I have to ask a kid in the room to do a¬†single damn thing. ¬†My presence in the room made¬†no difference whatsoever to anything anybody was doing. ¬†It didn’t¬†have to.

And I’ll tell you what: a minute before they were supposed to go to lunch, I did something ¬†I’ve not done very many times in my career: I flashed the lights in the room a couple of times (still hot as fuck, so the lights were out) and got everyone’s attention– to the point where they were¬†closing their computers and turning volume off, which blew my mind– and I thanked them. ¬†I¬†basically said exactly what was in this post, only I said it in a minute instead of a thousand words. ¬†I thanked them for being part of that chunk of kids who quietly did the right thing instead of¬†god only fucking knows what chaos they might have been getting up to in there. ¬†And I gotta say: my outlook on my fucking job got improved today in a lot of ways.

I’mma bring the little bastards doughnuts on Monday, ¬†I think.

RAGEQUIT! Or: I Went to Target

targetI had a moderatelyРbut only moderatelyРstressful day at work today, which made me think when I got home that a nice way to relax might be to spend some time playing the vidya gaemz.  And did I play Spider-Man, with its soothing and fun web-slinging action?  No.  I played Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, which is a fucking bastard of a game.

I played Dark Souls II to relax.

Those of you who have played this game are laughing at me right now, and you are right to do so.

So here’s the deal with the¬†Dark Souls series: first, it’s balls-hard even just in the basic gameplay. ¬†It doesn’t matter how big, rough and tough your character is; lose focus and even the lowliest scrub enemy is going to be able to kill you in a few hits. ¬†On top of that, you gain experience by killing bad guys like you do in a lot of games, but you actually spend that experience like currency to gain levels, and you can’t do that just anywhere; each game in the series has one place where you can gain those levels. ¬†And if you get killed, you¬†drop all your experience points in the place where you died. ¬†Want those thousands of XP representing a few possible levels back? ¬†You gotta get back to where you just got killed without getting killed again and pick ’em back up, then¬†escape to get where you can actually use them. Die again along the way? Too bad so sad, them shits are gone.

And¬†DSII: SotFS¬†is a special edition, one where they¬†added a bunch of enemies, because apparently vanilla Dark Souls isn’t fucking hard enough.

Long story short; I got killed like three thousand times in a row, in a¬†very enemy-heavy area, where none of the enemies are very tough but if you quit paying attention even for a couple seconds you’re¬†dead, and the last time I left like four levels’ worth of XP on the table when some fucker I’d missed and walked right past stabbed me in the back, maybe three feet from my damn green blob of love.

And I did something I haven’t done in something like 35 years of gaming: ¬†I¬†broke my fucking controller. ¬†I spiked the thing like a goddamn football and then watched as the PS4 helpfully told me that it had lost contact with the controller.

Fuuuuck.

Fifteen minutes to dinner. ¬†Well, I can’t¬†turn the damn game off without a controller, and the boy’s gonna want to play¬†Spider-Man later, so… Target is pretty close. ¬†I can totally go to Target and get a new controller in fifteen minutes.

Off to Target. ¬†I’m on a mission and I know exactly where I’m going, so I don’t pay too much attention to the young lady who smiles at me and says hello as I’m walking past her, and I say hello back but I’m probably fifteen feet past her before I realize that I’m pretty sure she’s a former student, one who I haven’t seen since sixth grade (she moved) and who just graduated high school. ¬†But I don’t realize it until I’m well past the point where I can turn back around and say hi, plus I legitimately haven’t seen the kid in six years and I’m not 100% sure.

I find the video game section. ¬†I find PS4 controllers. ¬†They’re locked up. ¬†And someone else smiles at me and asks me where the¬†Xbox controllers are.

And I realize I’m in Target in a red shirt. ¬†Sigh.

I know the answer, so fuck it, I answer her question.

A moment later, someone in a¬†blue shirt asks me if I need any help, and I have a brief split-second of pure confusion– because I don’t work here, and someone just asked me for help, and¬†you clearly don’t work here, so why are you asking me if¬†you can help me?

And then I see the Target Security logo on his blue shirt.  Oh, OK.  Fine.  Gimme this controller.

He goes and gets a guy. ¬†The guy is maybe 25. ¬†And by this point I’m sort of laughing at myself, so I tell the guy that I’ve been a gamer for something like 35 years and I just rage-smashed my first controller.

He laughs, and– I swear to¬†God, and these games are old enough that it makes¬†no sense that he said this– says “Dark Souls or Bloodborne?”

“Dark Souls II. ¬†The No-Man’s Wharf.”

And he knows¬†exactly what I’m talking about,¬†and we commiserate for a minute or two, and he offers me a protection plan on the new controller, which I decline and I probably should have bought.

And then I see a¬†second former student, also looking for video game paraphernalia, although this one doesn’t immediately recognize me. ¬† And he’s got a bunch of friends with him so I don’t bother saying hi.

And then I leave.  Or at least try to.

And then I see a¬†third former student, this one also an employee, and we talk for a moment. ¬†And then I see the first former student¬†again, and yes, it’s her, and she laughs and tells me she’d just sent a text message to someone else from her class who she knows I’m still in touch with to ask¬†her to ask¬†me if I’d just been to Target.

I, of course, had been thinking that I’d text that exact same person to see if the first girl worked at Target, so this plan makes perfect sense.

And then I went home, ate dinner, resolved to go directly to the boss of the stage without bothering to go get my souls along the way, because¬†fuck them, died while doing¬†that by falling off a Goddamned bridge, then finally made it to the boss and not only beat that bastard on the first try but I didn’t even get¬†hit.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t break controllers, and if you do you shouldn’t leave your house afterwards.

The end.