Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pages from the Beckett Handbook: First Days of the Quarter

There are days when I'm convinced I'm a character in an absurdist play:  it's the only way my life--particularly my work life--makes sense.

The first week of our summer quarter veered between surreal moments and the kind of ordinariness that would be dreary, if not for the surreal stuff that bookended the ordinary bits. 

I arrived on Monday not sure that the classrooms would be ready, since late on the Friday before the start of the quarter, the rooms were far from ready:  desks in the hallways, computer equipment hither and yon, painting still in progress.

But happily on Monday, all I had to do was to move some chairs into a "new" classroom that was supposed to have 35 chairs, but only had 26.  Why didn't we do that on Friday?  The room was still a storage area on the Friday before the quarter started.

Once I moved the chairs, it was clear that the room wouldn't hold 35 comfortably.  So, I moved some classes into different rooms, moved those classes into the "new" room, and posted signs.  There was still some traffic directing to do, since very few people actually read the signs posted on the door, but for the most part, we coped.

So, the first part of the first week of the quarter turned into the end of the week, and I thought that all the issues were settled.  Thursday was almost eerily quiet.  I congratulated myself on solving the first week issues that had bedeviled us on Monday and Tuesday.  I prepared some poetry packets.  I thought about creating a new, book-length collection of poems.  I was ready to sink down into Summer quarter.

Ah, hubris.

On Friday (yes, Friday the 13th), one of my faculty members told me that one of our computer classrooms was missing computers.  I went up to count, and sure enough, we were missing 6 computers.  I did all the electronic filing to let the various people in charge know of this problem.

Come to find out, many of our computer classrooms were scheduled to lose computers over the break.  We've lost students, so we don't need as many computers--so goes the reasoning on the administrative side higher up.

Unfortunately, no one told us folks who actually manage the classes that go into the classrooms.  These decisions probably happened 8 weeks ago, when there would have been plenty of time to make decisions that would have avoided the problems that I now must solve.  I could have made classes smaller or made better use of the one remaining larger computer classroom had I been alerted of these changes earlier.  But no, I didn't find out until Summer quarter classes were in full swing.

Not for the first time did I think about Beckett's Waiting for Godot.  I half expected a tramp to ask me for a carrot or a radish.  I strategized.  I consulted the room use chart.  I thought about trees and leaves and fraying ropes and belts.  I spent Friday afternoon sending out all sorts of e-mails, which I wouldn't have had to do, had I just been told about the room changes when the decisions were first made.  I cast longing looks back to Thursday.  I forbid myself to interpret all the absurdity into a cosmic sign, a direction from God.

Late in the day, I walked down a hallway.  The young man walking towards me--was he whistling "La Marseillaise"?  Surely not.  We passed each other.  He whistled the opening notes again.  I turned and said, "Are you whistling the French national anthem?"  He turned and said, "Yes I am."  I said, "Happy Bastille Day!" 

Yes, I'm a character in a surreal play--it's the only explanation.  I'd rather be a character in a frothy romantic comedy, preferably one set in Paris or San Francisco or some picturesque town in the British Isles.

At least I'm not a character in a Greek tragedy. 

1 comment:

Marissa said...

You crack me up. "Happy Bastille Day," indeed. You are a character in The Office, which is sort of like a modern surrealist drama.

I'd rather have my life set in the British Isles, too. Wouldn't everything just seem better? ;-)