Monthly Archives: July 2009

Communication breakdown

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As I was getting into my car in the Food Loin parking lot today, a youngish gentleman approached, motioning me to pull down the window.

“Sorry, I loved your hair, had to stop you—but don’t worry, I’m not hitting on you, this is part of a class project,” he said.

Recalling certain unpleasant class projects from my college years, I decided to not vroom away, not immediately. Plus I’d just seen Hairdresser Jeff, so the kid had that much right: my hair looked great.

“I’m a communications major, and I’m supposed to speak with thirty different strangers. Let me start by asking, are you a nice person or a mean person?”

I deliberated a while. “Guess that depends on the situation,” I said. “I don’t like binary distinctions.”

“Okay, let’s try a different approach: are you having a good day?”

“No,” I said immediately. “That one’s easy.”

“Uh, I see you have the Breast Cancer Awareness plates. That’s cool. I like boobies. High five!”

Now, while it is true that people all over the globe–ofdifferent ages, cultures, races, and genders—like breasts, it’s not something you necessarily say to a stranger.

Also, I can be a touchy-feely person, but only with people I (A) know and (B) like. I did not want his high five.

He asked some other questions, to which I gave benign answers. All the while he was feeding me compliments, presumably because that was part of his assignment. Maybe that’s what they teach in Communications.

“Yeah, your shirt’s great by the way, that’s why I stopped you” [wait, I thought it was the hair…?] “and also because you’re like the only white person I’ve seen.”

Granted, people of modest incomes, many of whom are people of color, shop at Food Loin, the only reasonably-priced grocery store in town. Be that as it may, I really do not see how race was pertinent. And the way he said it, as though to garner my agreement that “Yes, we’re all white here, ain’t it grand?” pushed exactly the wrong buttons.

“So anyway, the folks who do best will win an trip to either London or Paris. I picked London, because they speak English.”

Couldn’t be bothered to learn a new language, could you, you little racist punk. And people don’t win vacations for good grades. This is some kind of scam… I kept these thoughts to myself, with a nice neutral expression, while cogitating on the best way to undermine his project.

“I see you’re not wearing a ring. Single? Got a boyfriend somewhere?”

I debated giving him one of these three answers:

1. I’m married, but I don’t wear a ring.
2. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.
3. I’m a lesbian.

Instead I settled on “How is this relevant?”

I forget the response he gave, but at the next pause in his banter, I interrupted with “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t want to participate.”

“You’re a fucking weirdo,” he said. “No wonder you’re single.”

I really, sincerely, desperately hope that he is not a Communications major. Really.

I toyed with the idea of calling the police. “Yeah, there’s a young man hanging out in the Food Lion parking lot, going about insulting people. Should be easy to spot him. He’s the racist homophobe, and by his own admission he’s the only white person there.”

But being extraordinarily rude to people is not a crime. I know this well. It’s sort of my mantra at work.

I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask him for his professor’s contact info. Either I’d have exposed him for a fraud, or I could have informed the professor that his student reacted poorly to learning that a person did not want to participate in the project. “Okay, thank you for your time” would have been the correct response. And while I am, in some senses, a fucking weirdo, and while he correctly guessed that I am single (though bisexual, and opposed to the institution of marriage, in point of fact), I’m not quite sure how either condition pertained to the situation.

This does nothing to assuage my feelings of isolation and loneliness. But I’ve learned a very important lesson today: superb haircuts do not offer protection against mean people.

I’m heading up to Wisconsin to see family at the end of the week. I’ll blog when I get back. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments that ridicule that Communications major and/or make me feel better.


How not to earn a living working from home

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Having just now finished, I mean just this very minute, having just now finished a two-year writing project, I think I’ll… write for a little while!

I estimate that I spent about 300 hours over the past few weeks preparing my indexes. In that amount of time I probably could have written a paperback romance novel, which would have been far less stressful and far more lucrative.

The moral here is that you must never, ever decide to write a reference text. The project took me—again this is a vague estimate—took me 3,000 hours. (For comparison, a full-time, 40-hour job constitutes 2,080 hours in a year.) That’s a lot of weekends, evenings, holidays, and vacations devoted to a book that will, if I’m lucky, net me $2500. You do the math.

No, really. You do the math. I’m not gonna. Let’s just say that my first job, giving tuba lessons at the age of fourteen, paid significantly better wages per hour, and I didn’t even have to report my taxes on that. (If, um, anyone wants tuba lessons? Let me know, okay?)

It is at this point that I will accept congratulatory alcohol and food. I will make my point very plainly here, for any of you might have difficulty reading subtext: For the the first time in two years I have a free weekend—no library, no bookstore, no manuscript—and if I have to spend it huddled quietly in my apartment, drinking wine from a box and eating bad Chinese takeout that I had to buy for myself, lonely, unloved, and unmissed, in the rain (I assume it would be raining), well, be it on your own heads if you can live with that knowledge.

So there is no confusion, I will also accept congratulatory alcohol and food when the book is actually published.

I checked my book on Amazon again, and while my sales rank has slipped to two-million-somethingth place, I am very pleased to see that it now has some decent recommended purchases under the “Customers who bought related items also bought” section. Last time I looked, it was all yucky generic titles. This evening I looked, and…

…it was all graphic novels. Awesome. Not relevant, not related to my book whatsoever, completely useless really, but awesome. If you are thinking of buying Women’s Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests, then according to Amazon you may also be interested in these titles:

  • Northlanders v. 1. This is a graphic novel about a Viking. I liked it okay.
  • Fables v. 12. I love the Fables series. I gotta read volume 12, now that you mention it.
  • 100 Bullets v. 13. This series rocks. We just got v. 13 at the library today. I totally need to read it, but since the series has a complicated plot, I really ought to re-read the first twelve volumes… o’course, I have time now to do that kind of thing. Whee!
  • DMZ v. 7. dunno, haven’t read it
  • The Walking Dead v. 10. Eh. I read the first volume. Not impressed.
  • DMZ v. 6. Twice Amazon recommended this series. Maybe I should look into it.

Apparently someone with good reading tastes (except for The Walking Dead, I thought it was hokey) has pre-ordered my book. I hope this knowledge will be able to sustain my spirits through the weekend, though actually that won’t be necessary, what with all the celebrations and all, do I make myself clear?

Darkly dreaming indexer

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… okay, with that subject line I’m trying to pun off the book title Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but A) it’s a mediocre pun and B) I didn’t like the book. Great concept (serial killer on the Side of Good is our hero), unsatisfying execution. In my defense, A) it’s hard to pun off the word “index,” I’d jolly well like to see you do better, and B) my brain hurts.

My brain hurts because I’ve been consumed by my subject index. I am in Subject Index hell. I mean that. I am in hell. There is plenty of evidence to back me up here. To say nothing of the agony and misery, etc., the temperatures are exceedingly warm (mid-90s today) and there is gnashing of teeth.

When I am stressed, I grind my teeth in my sleep. I’m not aware of its happening at the time, obviously, what with being asleep and all, but I can tell by the ache in my jaw the next morning that my teeth have been committing a very slow form of suicide. Toothicide? Dentricide?

As recently as, say, eight weeks ago, I was blissfully unaware of the exquisite torture of indexing. I am ashamed, now, that I have never before admired the beauty of a well-prepared index. Henceforth I shall pay special attention to the quality of a book’s index, reserving the right to scorn any index that is not as good as, say, mine.

I would treat you to a painfully detailed explanation of subject indexing so that you could begin to appreciate the magnificent product I am creating, but unfortunately the magnificent product is due in a few weeks and I cannot realistically see myself finishing before November or so. I am not quite sure how to reconcile this gaping time disparity, but a likely first step is to not waste any more time blogging till it gets done.

And have I mentioned the title/author index? The entries are all in place. All that remains is to drop in the page numbers– but with 3,526 entries, assuming an optimistic ten seconds per entry, we’re looking at 9.79 hours.

Right. So no more blogging for a little while. Also no more laundry (which sucks), but also no more vacuuming (yay!) and no more fussing about with food preparation, which as I interpret it means “Ice cream for dinner every night!”