25 September 2010

Blogging a Drive Home From College

In one of my literature classes, we were discussing how difficult it is to write in second person. In my grammar class, we were toying with present tense. I have decided to combine the both of them in a story that is not the slightest bit autobiographical. No, really, it isn't. *shifty eyes* Okay, maybe it is just a little bit autobiographical . . .

You are going to drive home tonight, despite the fact that you've only driven the road once before, it's pitch-black, and you have no sense of direction.

You don't change out of your work uniform because you're in a hurry to get home. You think your uniform makes you look like a ninja, a Russian anarchist ninja from the early 20th century. You think you take Russian history a little too seriously. You even think that you may read too much. You decide you don't read enough. You make a resolution to read as much as you did before you moved away to college. You know this will not happen.

You turn on your car's interior light to find your favorite Pink Floyd CD before pulling out of the dorm parking lot. You didn't get to celebrate going back to school with your annual tradition of listening to "Another Brick in the Wall." You feel like a substandard Pink Floyd fan. You quote to yourself Roger Waters' sarcastic line about feelings from "The Trial" and feel like a slightly more functioning Pink Floyd fan.

You drive along, not paying attention to the music, convinced you will take a wrong turn and end up stranded at night in the middle of nowhere in a somewhat malfunctioning car. You tell yourself you're being paranoid. You count the prepositional phrases in your inner thoughts because that's what you covered in grammar class. You are obsessed with prepositional phrases. You distract yourself by reviewing your day. You analyze each social interaction you had and decide that your true calling in life is to be a hermit.

You wonder why your car seems so bright. You think it is perhaps the moonlight. You see there is no moon. You realize you drove for nearly thirty minutes with your car's interior light on and was totally oblivious to it. You ponder how you have managed to stay alive for 21 years.

You get distracted when you hear Pink Floyd's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" come on. You sing along. You tap your foot along to it, as well. You get so engrossed in it that you look up and realize you have no idea where you are. You look around for road signs. You see no road signs. You think about how very dark it is. You think about how despite the fact you're on a major road, it is pitch black because there are no other vehicles on the road. You lock the doors on your car repeatedly. You hear a clunk in your car and jump. You tell yourself you're being foolish. You re-lock the car again, just in case. You relax and sing another line. You re-lock the car one more time because you're obsessive like that. You re-lock it another time because that noise distracts you from the unidentifiable noise. You start to re-lock it again when you see your exit is up ahead. You didn't miss it. You just have no idea where it is because you've only driven this road once before. You re-lock the car once more because it's now a nervous tic.

You're finally on a road that you drove every day for two years. You think that you should be able to find your way home with no problem. You forget that you only drove the road at night a few times in that two years. You forget how terrible your eye-sight is. You underestimate how different the landscape looks at night. You shrug off the fact that more than anything else you want to pull over and take a nap.

You see a cop car's lights flashing on the side of the road. You become alarmed and automatically slam on your brakes, though you're not speeding. You grip the steering wheel tightly and hope you're not violating any traffic laws, none of which you can think of because you're too terrified of being pulled over at night in the middle of nowhere. You realize what you thought were cop car lights are actually random light reflections off of a mailbox. You feel somewhat stupid. You wonder why you're so scared of cops. You think that growing up in an area with a nasty reputation for police vigilantism may have something to do with it. You remind yourself that your severe anxiety disorder means you're slightly paranoid of everyone. You feel like Wade Duck from Garfield and Friends--you're scared of everything. You think that driving home from college by yourself at night might help you become less paranoid. You reflect on your journey, which is bringing you closer and closer to home, and decide that view is giving yourself too much credit. You realize you really miss reading Garfield everyday. You decide to get a newspaper subscription at college. You don't really check your mail enough to justify buying a newspaper subscription.

You pull onto the dirt road your family lives on. You know that home is only ten minutes away. You decide that since you've listened to the Floyd CD twice already, you'll turn it off and listen to the radio. You turn the radio on to a classic rock station that barely gets reception. You hear commercial after commercial but no classic rock. You get annoyed at the radio. You shout "Shut up!" at the radio after listening to 9.5 minutes worth of commercials and a truly obnoxious dee-jay. You calm down as the station then segues into a song. You become irritated as you realize the singer is Tom Petty. You do not like Tom Petty. You suffer through the Petty song anyway because you're pulling into your family's driveway and will turn off the car as soon as you park. You made it home it home in one piece. You think this is a cause for celebration. You try to ignore how silly that sounds as you walk into the house.

My apologies for my absence! My homework has been quite unmerciful lately. I have realized that my school schedule is meddling with my blogging. I have decided to start rotating between weekly posts on this blog and my book blog. So . . . next week I'll post a book review, but the next week, I'll post something here. I'll still be posting weekly, just not for each blog. :)

12 September 2010

The Art of Making Eye Contact

Most of you who know me know that I am a somewhat backwards person when it comes to being social. Since I now have to walk everywhere I go, I have discovered a new social conundrum that vexes me: When passing someone on the sidewalk, what is the correct procedure? Should one look at the person and smile? Look at the person and nod? Look at the person and say, "Hello," and walk on? Look at the person and say, "Howdy! My name is Zella! I am a junior history and English major, but I am new here. My friends think I will be unemployed after I graduate, but that's only because they're jealous of all of the homework I am assigned. So nice to meet you. I deduce you are heading to the cafeteria, seeing as that's the only thing on campus at this location. I have read every Sherlock Holmes story ever printed; hence, my profound skills in deduction. I am sure nobody else besides Sherlock--we're on a first name basis, Sherlock and I are--and myself would have guessed that you were going to the cafeteria. Did you know Sherlock is still alive? Are you hungry? I recommend the quesadillas. Did I mention I work at the cafeteria? While at work the other day, I slightly burnt my hand on a pizza the other day. See? Isn't that a great scar to have for life on my left index finger? I have a lot of scars. I have always been clumsy and prone to trip on flat surfaces, though tripping isn't what caused me to burn myself. I like your shirt, and that's saying something because I don't usually notice other people's clothing. What did you say your name was? Hey, why are you running away!"

This is driving me crazy! I don't feel compelled to talk to someone I pass on the sidewalk because it's not the same as standing in line with someone, but since passing someone on the sidewalk means you often do make eye contact, I think it's rude to not do anything!

My old strategy of combating this was to look at my shoes or look on the other side of the pavement to avoid making eye contact, primarily because eye contact makes me nervous. I don't like people looking into the windows of my souls. I am afraid of what they will see . . .

But the other day I was walking along the sidewalk, watching other people, when I noticed them doing the same thing as me and it was so obvious that they were not trying to make eye contact! I may not want to look at someone, but I don't want them to know that I don't want to look at them. Therefore, for the past couple of days, I have tried to devise a less obvious way of not looking at people when I walk by them. This has proven tricky, primarily because I never know how the other person will react. There seems to be no one-size-fits-all tactic for meeting people on the sidewalk.

Some people make a point of not looking at me. I am not sure if they are fellow socially awkward souls or if I just look that hideous, but I like these people. I can either look at them and not have to fear making eye contact or I can look away from them and not feel bad for my cowardice. Either way, what little self-esteem I possess emerges intact.

Other people, however, are not as cooperative and insist on looking at me. These people unnerve me. I can't look away because that means I am essentially admitting that I am an asocial moron who has a weird phobia about my soul windows. However, I am never sure what to do when I look at them. At first, I was inspired by watching other people's take on this and thought I had a good solution to the problem. I noticed some random passers-by take care of the problem by nodding at me slightly as I pass by. I think this is a useful non-committal greeting, so I tried using it. Sometimes people return the nod, and we go our happy individual ways. But my nod sometimes gets stared at. I am not sure if these people want me to be more friendly or less friendly or if I just look ridiculous while nodding--a distinct possibility--and have confused them.

So . . . what do I do if they don't want me to nod at them? Maybe the nod is too non-committal. I have tried smiling at people. Usually this nets me a smile in return. Sometimes I get a glare in return. If I could figure out who was going to glare at me, I'd glare at them first, but life doesn't work that way.

I don't feel right glaring at someone without provocation, so sometimes I just settle for a slight smile, so it's not quite so happy but is still not unfriendly. This seems to work, most of the time, but, again, you always encounter the glaring types who are apparently not pleased with this.

Smiles can have several meanings, so maybe these people are just unsure of what I am smiling about. Do they not know I am smiling at them? Do they think I am snickering at them? Do they think I am going to mug them? I decided that I should announce my intentions, so they would know that I am just being friendly. But . . . I am not out-going enough to greet someone I don't know verbally, and I have been on the receiving end of this one and have mixed-feelings about it. A "Hello!" or even a "Nice day, isn't it?" are more than okay with me, but I feel trapped when someone thinks that because I happen to be at the same intersection as them entitles me to hear his or her's life story. I only say "Hi!" to someone if they initiate it by acknowledging my smile or nod with a smile or nod in turn. Yet this strikes me as overkill because I have already greeted them and greeting them again makes me feel intrusive.

I really don't think I have any other recourse besides these meager options listed above, so for now I have settled on waiting for the other person to see me and then seeing what they do before I respond in turn. If they don't look at me, I don't look at them. If they smile or nod at me, I smile or nod at them. If they say "hello!" to me, I say "hello" to them. If they glare at me, I look away and pretend to not see them. If they run up to me and decide that we're going to be the bestest of friends because I am going to lunch at the same time they are leaving the cafeteria, I run like a track star in the opposite direction. *sigh* The perils of social engagements . . .

What's your method for making eye contact? Or avoiding eye contact, for that matter?

05 September 2010

The Life of a Dorm Rat

I suppose many of you remember my little series from last semester in which I wrote a couple of blog posts about my daily life. I was recently thinking about how much my schedule as a sophomore commuter to a community college differs from being a junior English/history major at a residential college, so I decided to blog about it. I won't torment you with two posts about my schedule like last time. I'll just torment you by cramming it all in one post. ^^


7:30 am: My two alarm clocks go off, so I drag myself out of bed at some point shortly thereafter to get dressed and brush my hair. If I am good and have time, I check my e-mail. If not, I schlep out of my dorm and hurry to the cafeteria, calling my grandmother en route to say hello and assure her that I am still alive.

8:05am: I am at the cafeteria. My breakfast always ends up being one of three things: pancakes or French toast with chocolate milk, biscuit and gravy with eggs smothered in gravy because I can't eat the eggs without the gravy and chocolate milk, or biscuit and gravy and chocolate milk with some form of pastry when I can't bring myself to face the eggs.

8:30am: By this point, I have finished eating and am either back in my dorm checking my e-mail if I didn't do it earlier and grabbing my extremely heavy bag of books--Note to self: Being an English major means you get to carry an obscene number of heavy books--or I am on my way to my first class. I like to be early, and that gives me time to review our assignments.

9:00am: Introduction to Grammar: This is my grammar class. Those of you who know me well know I am a grammar nazi. As you can imagine, I adore this class. I'm not going to say it's an easy class, per se, because you have to learn a lot of terms and rules, but the daily homework assignments are often done in class and my professor is great. She explains things well and has a lively sense of humor, so it's always a fun time.

9:50am: I don't have any classes at this time, so sometimes I run errands, sometimes I go back to my dorm, and sometimes I just work on my homework for the next class while sitting in the hallway.

11am: Foundations of Literary Studies: This is a class required for all English majors at my school. I think of it as being English Comp 2 on steroids. We cover all of the basic and not-so basic literary terms and concepts that are needed to take higher-level English classes. I enjoy this class because we have read a lot of poetry that I either already loved or that I have never read before and enjoyed very much. The syllabus promises some of my favorite short stories and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Yayayay! I really like my professor in this class--she is also my academic advisor and the sponsor of Sigma Tau Delta. We also always have lively, if not heated, discussions in here. We don't have a murderous reading load, but there are a lot of projects in this class (3 essays, 3 exams, 1 presentation, and 1 list of about 70 literary terms) that keeps me busy.

12pm: Survey of American Lit. 2: I have to run like a maniac from my last class to this one in a neighboring building. As with all of my other English classes, I just love this one! We're currently reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We only have 13 students in here and the professor is hilarious. We always have a daily quiz on what we read, so we're all always shouting random questions at each other based on what we think our professor is going to ask before he comes in. The homework isn't brutal in here, either, but the quizzes are definitely an incentive to keep up with the reading.

1pm: Lunch. I walk up to the cafeteria and find something edible to eat.

At this point, my schedule depends on what day it is. On Monday and Friday, I have nothing scheduled whatsoever after this, so I usually work on homework, take a dinner break around 5:30pm, and then return to homework. So far, the campus clubs I am interested in joining have meetings on these days, so I attend those when they are scheduled, and go to bed around 10:30pm. On Friday, however, I am scheduled to work in the cafeteria. So . . . I get to work by 4pm and stay until 8pm, with a fifteen minute break at 4:30pm to eat. This is my jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none day. I work wherever I am needed, which means one day I'll be serving food, the next week, I'll be making pizzas. (Note to self: Cutting pizzas is more scientific than you'd believe.) Then I go home and play on my computer until the wee hours of the morning.


7:30pm: I wake up at the same time, but I'm usually lazier about getting out of bed at this time because my roommate is getting ready to leave for an early class. When I do get out of bed, my morning schedule is pretty much the same as the previous day as far as breakfast and pre-class activities.

9:30pm: History of Africa: This is an upper-division history elective I am taking. I have little knowledge of African history and my professor is very good and is just an all-around nice person who also double majored in history and English, so I look forward to this one. There are also only 6 of us in this class. Please don't cancel us. We have to do a presentation on an African country of our choice in November, so I'll be doing research for that soon. Until then, I just have reading assignments, so the homework load is reasonable.

11am: I wander back to my dorm to check my email and wait for the cafeteria to open at 11:15 pm, in which I walk over to eat lunch. I spend the next couple of hours doing homework or research in the library for my next class.

1pm: Introduction to Historical Research: This is a required course for all history majors and is one I just relish, though it is very time-consuming. Basically, we're learning the ins and outs of conducting historical research with the library as our laboratory. (My professor's own words.) This professor has a wonderful sense of humor and a biting sense of sarcasm, so his lectures are always amusing. But there is a ton of homework, including maintaining a daily journal of assignments, extensive reading, and a semester-long research project. Mine is on the Russian Revolution, which is one of favorite historical periods. So . . . I enjoy this class very much, but it sure does take up a lot of my time.

2:20pm: What happens after I get out of my last class depends on what is day it is. On Tuesday, I have some time to do homework or crash in my dorm until I go to work at 4pm. On that day, I am a cook's help, which means I get to take very hot stuff out of its pan and take it to the serving line and clean the kitchen. On Thursday, I have to run like a crazy woman from my class all the way across campus to the cafeteria because my shift starts at 2:30pm. I work on salads on those days, so I usually spend an hour chopping up vegetables before setting up the salad bar and running it and putting all of it away solo. It's not too bad of a job, but I don't eat salad and there is a ton of stuff to set up and put up. Woe is me.

7:30pm: I am finished with work on both days, so I go home to take a shower to get rid of the grease or ranch dressing that is covering me and my uniform. (I must say, if my roommate were not in the room, I would so lick my uniform when it has ranch dressing on it. Ahem.) I am usually too tired to do much homework, so I usually just review my assignments for the next day and call it a night at 10pm. (Though one time I was so exhausted I came home, collapsed on my bed, and woke up two hours later to find that I was asleep at the foot of my bed. I changed positions and promptly fell back asleep until the next morning. Talking to my coworkers, I have learned that we "caf kids," as the cafeteria workers are called, are quite prone to this. My next-door neighbor and coworker and newly acquired friend told me she crashed for eighteen hours last weekend.

So . . . there's my weekly schedule. I have to work every other weekend, like this one, so I spend those days chilling out or doing homework and work from 4:00-7:30pm both days as a cashier for the cafeteria. (The great part of this is I get to open the cafeteria doors with a fascinating tool that looks like a cat burglar's tool and an instrument to perform a lobotomy. I rambled about this on Twitter yesterday. Anyway, as soon as I saw it, those are the two things that ran through my head. Unfortunately, since I am insane, I immediately blurted out those thoughts to my boss who was showing me the tools. Fortunately, my boss is slightly insane, too, so instead of glaring at me, he started nodding his head and agreed. Yay for meeting like-minded people! Erm, yeah.) On the other weekends, I usually go home for a day or two to say hello to my family and apologize to my Chihuahua for abandoning him.

And that's that.