Saturday, September 16, 2006

Breathing again.

The week bumps and lurches to a conclusion. By Wednesday afternoon, I have stopped fleeing to the pier to sit sobbing on guano-encrusted benches. I have stopped repeating my mantra, "Just breathe. Just breathe."

The pace is still insane, but I'm beginning to find both the pace and my own hysteria comical. The breakdowns come in every shape and size. Wednesday morning, I'm trapped on the bus for an hour and a half due to several car accidents on nearby traffic arteries. At lunch time, I make five or six attempts to leave for lunch and am intercepted each time before I get more than a yard from my desk. Wednesday night, giving up on my own number 20 bus ever arriving, I get on the number 32 and, being a good citizen, tell the driver, "You know you're stopping at the wrong place?"
"Oh! Thanks," he says - and I am rewarded by the added delay of going back around the block to pick up the passengers he's missed and it's just enough time to hit the height of rush-hour traffic.

Wednesday night, my friend the IT person (Minor Deity, we call him), comes to eat pizza, drink cheap wine and install my newer, bigger, faster and more intelligent computer. He begins the task by asking, "Where is your CD for Aliant?" Aliant is my phone and internet service.
"Duh?" I respond. This is not the correct answer. It leads to Minor Deity showing me how he plays Demolition Derby with Old and New computers. He rips out a brightly colored chunk of Old computer and patches it into New computer. He is tapping crazily and speed-reading incomprehensible screens moving at lightspeed.

"What are you doing?" I ask. Standing well back.
"Getting your internet. Transferring your documents." Oh. Now things are going swimmingly except for the fact that I don't know my passwords to anything and this means we need to paste a phone to his ear or mine for half hour periods. "Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line to maintain your holding priority unless you happen to die first in which case we'd prefer that you have someone there to hang up the phone." Meanwhile, Girlfriend of Minor Deity is going through a crisis, so he's there, sometimes with a phone to each ear.

Thursday morning, new computer operating, end of hell-week in sight, I start out cheerful and early. The bus seems to fly along in the surprisingly light traffic. I'm checking my watch - 8:20 a.m. and I am 10 minutes away from work. I'll be on time! Wrong. The shit fairy, who has obviously been lurking around my vicinity for weeks, overhears this thought and begins to grin manically. The bus breaks down at 8:21. By now, I have given up. I cannot hope to even do damage control on the chaos of the week. I can, however, laugh at it. And I do.

It's fall term of firsts. The first time I've actually cried from the pressure. The first time a new student has ever said something like, "This is horrible. How do you guys stand it?" I am in full black humor mode and reassure her. "I cry and have panic attacks." Then I look at her distressed face. "It gets much better," I tell her, "in about a week or so it levels out some. It'll be okay."
"Is anyone going to show us how to use this library?" she wails, "I don't know how to use the catalogues or where anything is."
Suddenly I remember why I work there and who I work for. Not the administration. Not The College. I work for her.
"You'll get an orientation tour next week. If that isn't enough help, you come in and make an appointment with one of us for some one-on-one help, ok? You're going to be just fine. We'll get it sorted."

And we both go home feeling better.


Anonymous said...

It's funny how seeing one of the kids in a punchdrunk stupor or sweaty "what have I..." panic snaps us out of it for a spell.

Same here, same here...

At one point, I catch myself reciting policy I can't help, take a look at this one kid, seventeen, a Beal kid. She looks like she's going to cry any second now, and I Just Stop It. Goddammmit, I must be getting on here, seven years ago I'd be fostering a crush on this kid, now I get all parental.
"Come with me, I'll take you to the Facilities Office, we'll get this straightend up." I get there, and John (the campus access guy) figures the sitch out immediately. "We can't help but take a few underwing every year eh?"

"Yeah, fools."

"Maybe one day, one of 'em'll get famous and buy us a house."

I laugh, "I'd be happy if they remember my name."

And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

Oh right, identify myself:


LJ said...

Exactly, babes. And a lucky thing too. Better to have sympathy for someone else than to wallow in our own hysteria and self-pity, huh?

Mary said...

sometimes we have no choice but to wallow for a spell ... or so it would seem .. and i for one need to allow this to be the way it is on occasions.

but so glad, so very glad, things are a bit better.

phlegmfatale said...

Great to find a way to laugh at it. See? It's not smoothing out, you're just adjusting to the serial madness.

LJ said...

M., uh-huh. Sometimes wallowing is a necessary thing. The speed I was going, it was just impossible to pull out for a bit.And thanks...I'm very glad things are better, too.
Phelgmy. There you go again. "Serial madness." Expect theft of that one, too.

herhimnbryn said...

I remember the feeling you describe here. When I worked in an over stretched Social Services dept.
Having students with me and trying to keep a 'brave face' on for them! In the end the only way I could cope was to allow my sense of humour free reign!
Glad lj that your 'head of steam' is now disipating. Your writing is, as usual spot on.
Your students are fortunate indeed in having you there for them.

goatman said...

Sounds as if you need a break.
Head for the desert while you still have time before the snows fall.

LJ said...

H. I think one day I may disappear and if I do, check the deserts, the high north or mountains. I'll be the old hermit woman that only a few people have ever seen.
Goatman. Wish I could.

Teri said...

Minor Diety: I love that. God, I understand crying from the pressure, believe me. From my work pre and post Tessa!

Hope you're breathing easier.

phlegmfatale said...

use it with my blessing, darling!

chuck said...

...and if you feel good "goin' home", you're havin' a good day, I hope...