15 May 2016

I Start Off With Complaints But Segue Into Saying Nice Things and Finish in the Usual Fashion

This is my favorite planet. Can you guess which one it is?

I don’t want partner to be a verb anymore. It was never meant to be in the first place.

I want to see the elimination of the redundant use of “up” in certain phrasal verbs as in heat up, coach up and fold up.

I can do without people telling me what day it is especially at the end of the work week. “Hey it’s Friday!” is unnecessary an I will henceforth reply to those three words with: “yeah, only three days until Monday!”

Speaking of days of the week…A few of them ago I said to a co-worker: “can you believe it’s already Tuesday?” I’m confident in asserting that I must be the first person in history to have said that.

You ever get walking tail gated? Sometimes the person walking behind you will be too close. I hate that. I often pull over (so to speak) and let them pass.

Every morning I stop in the Starbucks next to where I work and get a coffee. Every morning whichever one of the charming people who serves me asks some variation of “will there be anything else.” There never, ever is. Here is my guarantee to whomsoever may wait on me anywhere, anytime: if I ever want “anything else” I will tell you. I swear to whatever deity you want. Asking me if I want “anything else” never serves either to entice me or remind me.

At the risk of being obvious, I complain a lot, mostly about the annoying habits of my fellow travelers here on planet Earth (by the way, Earth is my favorite of the planets, maybe if I get an opportunity to visit any of the others I’ll change my mind). Complaining about people is fun and easy and for me it is a curative. Better to get it out than leave it bottled up inside. But the truth of the matter is that I like most people that I actually get to know and a good many of them I’m quite fond of. I teach some of the most wonderful people on the planet (just to be clear I’m referring to Earth) and work with absolute peaches. So as much as I complain about humans there are many I find perfectly charming and very, very few I've ever known at all well who I dislike.

As I write these words I can hear a child outside loudly counting in German. A few minutes ago I took out the recycling and heard a woman having a cell phone conversation in German. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that the woman and child are related. My neighborhood boasts a diversity akin to much of Berkeley and the Bay Area as a whole but one does not encounter a lot of Germans. Teaching as I do students from foreign lands I always get a fair amount of German students. I had three this last term. One tries to avoid generalizing in my line of work (at least I do some of colleagues can’t avoid attaching certain negative characteristics to certain nationalities) but I never mind using positive generalizations whether anyone wants to hear them or not. In that spirit I will assert that Germans make the best students. They not only tend to do well academically but are not generally shy and are eager participants in classroom activities. They are almost always friendly, open people with positive attitudes. It’s also worth noting that they have what I would consider healthy attitudes about the first half of the 20th century and Germany’s role in it, particularly in regards to Herr Hitler. It seems that Germans have been inculcated with the idea of owning up to their country’s horrific mistakes and seeing that they are not repeated. But they have a sense of humor too even about Der Fuhrer. It’s interesting to note that in addition to Germans, Japanese are excellent students (though often a bit too shy). Japanese are masters of grammar and hard work and boast wonderful attitudes. It seems taking a licking from the US in a war is just the tonic for a country. Militarism is de-emphasized and education, free speech and culture flourish. No, neither country is perfect just as no individual is but they are doing handsomely in my estimation.

Over the years some of my colleagues have decried students from France. It is true that the French show teachers considerably less respect than other nationalities (at home and abroad). They cluster and speak French — even in class — and are often frequent violators of our cell phone use policy. That said I like our French students (full disclosure I like people from all countries). Yes some provide challenges from time to time but they are interesting, opinionated people who aren’t bashful and have a sense of humor. I’ve been shocked when other teachers have spoken ill of them. I wonder how they would do in a public school like the one I taught in for two decades. Would they openly espouse antipathy of African Americans? Prejudice is prejudice whether you are targeting a race, creed or nationality.

I close now — hold your applause — with an observation/question about commuting. I understand taking one of the seats on a bus or subway reserved for the elderly, pregnant or infirm. After all there may be no one of that description needing a seat. What I don’t understand is not then relinquishing said seat when an 89 year old woman hobbling on a cane is standing right in front of you. I see it all the time. I’ve been on subway cars where someone in a regular seat had to give up theirs for a pregnant woman because none of the able bodied young men in the special seats can be bothered to yield. I notice on San Francisco busses tourists immediately sit in front and seem oblivious to the cripples and octogenarians and crippled octogenarians who get on. Is is because so many tourists have so little experience on public transportation? Is is because they are so dazzled by the sights that they are unaware? Or are they stupid jerks? I think a lot of people are unaware of their surroundings when it suits them. They just didn’t happen to see that old woman struggling with a package yet oddly they noticed that five dollar bill blowing in the wind. Well as I said, I like most people, but some….

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