everyone is smart.

I feel sometimes that my business professor, a young woman seeking her doctorate while teaching night classes at a community college, would be better at teaching kindergarten. She is enthusiastic in everything, wants us all to be involved in class lectures and encourages us to disagree with her whenever we want. She frequently puts us into small groups to discuss things like our favorite style of resume. She brings Whitman Samplers to class and passes them around. Her glass is not only half-full, she probably would be willing to pour some from her glass into all of our glasses, particularly if we needed something to wash down our chocolates. She is constantly fascinated by anything anyone has to say. If another human being finds something worth saying, she'll find it worth listening to.

One evening, a classmate was discribing how a friend of hers acquired some great job. "But," the girl added, "my friend, she is really smart-"

"Everyone is smart!" the teacher interrupted.

A look of confusion likely came over my face the moment I heard those words. No, I'm sorry, ma'am, that is false. I'm hopeful enough to believe that everyone has value, everyone can make a difference, and everyone has their own talents. But not everyone is smart, at least not by any definition of the word I've heard. Of course, I could hardly raise my hand and contradict her on this matter without seeming like an absolute bitch. I could probably even prove to her that her theory was bogus by simply pointing at some person in the class at that very moment. I don't have any specific person picked out, but there was bound to be at least one. I've taken too many college classes to think that idiots don't make it into higher education.

If I had contradicted her, she probably, given her manner, would have assumed that I did so because I felt that I, Sandra, am not smart. That would have turned out even worse for me.

"Um, excuse me? Everyone is not smart."

"Of course they are, don't be ridiculous! Are you smart?"

"Of course. But everyone is not."

So yeah, that would have effectively made me out as a jerk, though it probably would have provided me with a natural alliance with all the other jerks in the class, not all of which would be necessarily smart, but at least they think they are. But no, I sat there silently, and the other jerks did, too. I shook my head and just let the comment roll on by without argument, thinking to myself that no, everyone is not smart, and frankly, lady, I've got my doubts about you.


peoples is peoples.

"So. Of the men at work, who do you think is cheating on his wife?"

I'm at lunch with Jean, the receptionist. She's been having a rough week and declared earlier that she was in full man-hating mode. I'm not much of a man-hater. I've been pissed off at at some man or another many, many times, but I've never really been able to transfer that anger into hating the gender as a whole. Me, I'm still very much in favor of men. Like ice cream and flannel sheets and the sun, men were a good idea. There are good men out there and awful women. Like a Greek man once told Kermit the Frog, "Peoples is peoples."

But Jean's husband is in the doghouse for something, I don't ask what, because I don't want to pry and also because I know I'm not always very good at sympathy. I don't know Jean all that well, and truth be told, I'm afraid that I'll agree with her husband. And so even if I can't be a good man-hater for Jean, I am a girl, and a good girly talk would probably do her good. A strong margarita wouldn't hurt, either. But now she's asked me about the fidelity of the men we work with, and I'm just not sure what to say. I know these men have wives, and I know they have children, but I don't really think of them as sexual beings. It makes them easier to work with.

"Uhh...I don't really know. I'm probably naive, but I tend to assume that everyone is just being a good person unless I hear differently."

"Oh, of course, I do, too. But I answer the phones all day, and I know who is getting calls from other women."

"Well, some of the guys, I dunno, they give me the impression that they had a hard enough time getting someone to marry them in the first place." It's not that the men I work with are repulsive, but, well, they're dorks. They're smart and like computers a lot and are shy. Those things don't add up to having a lot of chicks knocking at their doors.

"Yeah, that's true of some of them. But not all. Some of them have women calling them all the time and not their wives."

"Maybe their mothers?" I'm hopeful. I was happy thinking that the men were all faithful, even the one or two whose morals I would question otherwise. Sure, they all complain about their wives from time to time, but mostly in a trivial way. You know, the have to call the little woman and ask if it's okay to go out for a beer after work kind of way.

"Yeah, right."

"These women call them at work? Why don't the guys tell them to use the backdoor number?" We have a backdoor number that will patch you through to an automated system. If you know the person's extension, you can call him/her directly rather than speak to Jean.

"Because men are stupid."

"I guess." Or maybe men just don't realize that the receptionist would ever take note of these things because they themselves wouldn't. Or maybe they don't feel like they have anything to hide from Jean. Despite my better nature, I start to half-envy Jean's position of power and her ability to get these tiny glimpses into our coworkers' personal lives.

"Do you think Jake runs around on his wife?"

I don't know how to answer these questions. There was really no one who I thought cheated on his spouse before this conversation, and I'm more than a little distraught to have my mental image of everyone's home lives turned upside down. I really don't think Jake cheats on his wife. But what do I know? Maybe he gets lots of phone calls.

"I don't really think so."

"Yeah, I don't either." Relief washes over me. I like Jake a lot, and I think he's overall a good person. Jean continues, "You know who gets a lot of calls? Ben."

"What?" I am shocked. I don't know Ben's wife or much about his home life, but I do know that he's very sweet and helpful, always cheerful even when I know he's tired and frustrated.

"Yup. Same woman, who is not his wife, calls him three, four times a day."

"But he's so nice!" Nice doesn't mean good, I know that. I still feel disillusioned.

"His wife is a little psycho. Bizarre. She suspects him, too."

"How do you know?"

"She calls and asks me if other women have been calling him. She asks where he is if he's not answering his phone."

"What do you say?"

"I tell him he gets business calls, which is true. And if I know he's out somewhere work-related, I tell her. If I don't know where he is, I just say that I don't know."

"Yeah." That makes sense. I'd do the same if I were her. I suddenly don't envy her position anymore.

"So my top three cheaters would be...well, there's Don, of course, but that's a given."

"Yeah, probably." No one much likes Don. He's not a nice person and I don't work with him all that much, so I have no trouble questioning his fidelity. "I imagine his wife is doing the same." For some reason, I feel the need to point out that women aren't always so innocent, too.

"Yeah, well, probably. But there's Ben, Matt, and Tom. That's my top three."

"Matt?" Crap, I like Matt a lot, too.

"If he's not cheating now, he has in the past. Oh, and Richard."

"Richard? I'm not sure about that."

"His wife is a, well, she wears the pants."

"Some men like that." I'm starting to doubt Jean now. Phone calls are one thing (and even that can be a little sketchy as evidence), but suspecting a man of infidelity just because she doesn't care for his wife? Given the right husband, I might someday be accused of wearing the pants. And I know she's hardly rooting for the males right now.

"Well, I guess. But definitely Tom."

"He doesn't seem to like his wife all that much," I sigh, because I think she is probably right. Everyone complains about his spouse, but Tom means his complaints just a little too much. Tom's always been a good guy to me, but even I can't really defend him here.

"He doesn't."

"I don't like to think of those guys this way."

"Men are stupid. I've been trying to watch them and notice their behavior so that I can recognize it if I ever see it in my husband."

"Yeah," I say without enthusiasm. Man-hating seems to be a draining activity.

The rest of the lunch conversation continues without incident, more gossip, but my mood is affected for the rest of the day. I feel conflicted by my impressions of these men, who are all very pleasant and have fun personalities, but may just be lousy cheaters in the end. In fact, I begin to worry why it is they're all so nice to me, though none of them have ever done or said anything inappropriate in that regard. I want reassurance, I want to talk this all over with someone else who knows these people, but it's not like I can tell any of them that Jean is monitoring their phone calls.

I can't be a man-hater, because I know that there are good men out there - I've met them. There are scummy women out there, too, but not even Jean has given up on being friends with females altogether, though no one probably sees how badly women can behave more than other women. No one gender has cornered the market on adultery. And maybe there are some dirty philanderers that walk the halls with me, but it's none of my concern. I can't let a woman who is mad at one man ruin my perspective on all the others. They're just people. Peoples is peoples.


well, are you?

This billboard is on the side of some highway that runs between Raleigh and the beach. I know, because I was on my way from Raleigh to the beach when I saw it.

Are you numb yet?

I assume that this graffiti was done to make a statement, asking all who might be on their way from Raleigh to the beach if they've become so overloaded with stimuli that they no longer feel anything anymore. At least, that was how I interpreted it. Maybe that's just the one I picked because I feel that way sometimes.

Numbness is disconcerting. It's like we know something is there or should be there, but we can't sense it. We only sense its absence. Like going to the dentist and leaving confused, because you certainly had a lower lip when you went in, but it doesn't seem to be there anymore. Now imagine that with your whole body, no, your mind.

I dunno, it seems like there could have been a lot of other, better statements to throw up on a billboard. Maybe even something practical - "Have you brushed your teeth today?" I would not be a very good graffiti artist, because I can never think of something important enough to say in a succinct manner. That's why I blog, instead. All this stuff would not fit on a billboard in such a way that it would be legible from the road. I do like the instant recognition I got from this one, though: If you've felt it, you got it. And if you've not felt it, you likely will someday, and then you'll get it and wish you hadn't.

I am not numb yet. I am sometimes, and I even wish that I were more often, like when something upsets me or hurts me so frequently that I wish I could just build up scar tissue on my feelings. But then I've gotten to the point of being numb like that, and it just seems like nothing's worth it anymore.

Or maybe, someone was just on their way from Raleigh to the beach, and it's a long time to be sitting on your bottom; pretty soon you get the needles and pins in that bottom. Maybe they were just asking about that.


the importance of body language.

Valerie has a pretty face ruined by a sour expression. She sits cross-armed and scowling across from me in my psychology class while the instructor teaches us the importance of body language. On the first day, she introduced herself by saying, "My name is Valerie, I'm from Macon, Georgia, and I hate North Carolina."

Hi, Valerie.

Granted, I find that being somewhere that I do not want to be puts me in a bad mood, too. But I think that if my situation required me to be somewhere that I didn't want to be all the time, I'd make some adjustments. Either I'd find my way back to Georgia or I'd just learn to deal.

I don't know why Valerie has to be in North Carolina, why she came here in the first place, nor why she can't leave. I don't know why she hates it here so much, if it actually has anything to do with the Old North State itself or it's just because it's not Georgia. Mostly I don't understand why she can't just grin and bear it, learn to like it here just for the sake of her sanity. Surely it's easier to like the Tarheel State than it is to be miserable all the time.

I am insulted on behalf of my entire state. This is my home, and I like it here. I want to sit down with Valerie and convince her that North Carolina is better than silly old Georgia anyway. Then I look at her perpetual scowl, and I think that I'd rather her go on back to Georgia, too.



The books! The books, the books, they're piled everywhere, sometimes lined up neatly in alphabetical order by author, but they're only pretending because another pile of disorganized books sits on top of the line. Someone put in my head the idea of spontaneous reading, the idea of picking up a book and deciding to read it because the cover looks interesting or because an author you like reviewed it and liked it. Spontaneous reading, the thing that keeps me in the book section of my local Goodwill(s) for half an hour at a time, adding to my stack that will be my next month's reading for only three dollars.

And I read fast.

I tear through the books, even the ones that are kinda slow that make me feel like I'm missing something (because they must be good, so-and-so on the back cover says so). I come home and sit for two hours on my tail after having sat on same said tail for a previous eight hours at work. Even as my hours drip by slowly and I mourn the lost chances to be productive, even as my waist expands from so much sitting on the tail, I can never count reading time as time lost. Perhaps if I were reading crap, then I could, because there's an awful lot out there that I won't have the time to read, what with death and all, and I bet some of it is good. But no, most of it is good, this spontaneous reading thing hasn't steered me too wrong. It is productive, though it only contributes to the expansion of the waist, it is the expansion of the mind, and this way, I can hope to catch a husband who won't be opposed to loving a fat wife with a book in her hand. Or in this way, I can hope to never have to worry about having a husband at all, making more time for reading before I run out of time for everything.

Used books come with bookmarks and dog-ears all ready and made for you. An old scrap of paper, a receipt from a college bookstore, a turned-down page fifteen pages in that makes you wonder why whoever it was didn't get very far. Perhaps death got in the way, or maybe something more likely, like children or work or waist expansion. I read them spontaneously, not having to like them very much at the end or even in the middle, because it was only a quarter, only fifty cents, only a dollar for hours of entertainment, phrases of which I can carry around in my head for years to come, to ponder until I finally figure it out and how it really all applies to me.

I feel like I'm getting it, you know, the deeper meanings, those vague symbols, the underlying themes that your high school english teacher told you about which seemed crystal clear once explained in class, but you knew you could never have extracted that from the literature yourself. Me, always lost in the little secret that I could never find the symbols on my own unless they were bright and glaring and it all seemed to vague and who really knew what the author could have meant anyway? Now, just a little bit at a time, maybe? I'm getting it?

I read like a scientist, but I'm trying hard not to. Someone accused me of that once, and I was confused because I didn't think it was a bad thing at all. I want to just blaze through, picking up the important points that I'll need to know and missing on the implications that are too subtle for my skimming eye. Why these authors can't just say it, I don't know, but I want to understand their game, because I think that there may be something important to me hidden in there if I can just find it. Reading, I'm irritated to find, seems to take practice, and here I thought it was something that I had down. But finding those little pieces that the author snuck in for the reader who cares to find it, being able to figure out for myself what is good literature and what is not without having to be told, that is my aim. If I can't do that, I'll just have to join a gym.



I'm groggy and grumpy, but I promised myself a cup of hot chocolate if I just went to the grocery store and bought the things I needed, plus one bag of tiny marshmallows. And I'm here, looking like I didn't wash my hair and then slept on my ponytail, which I did. I pull up and get out of my car, and a girl approximately my age looks me up and down for longer than is polite, which makes me immediately self-conscious about my appearance, but then I notice that she's looking no better. I don't understand why she's looking at me like I'm sleeping with her man, and I'm half-tempted to call out, "It's not me, it's some other girl with awful hair!" Then I think it might be more fun to shout out that it is me, I am the other woman, but by that time, she's entered the Food Lion as the immigrant workers buff and sweep the floors, another trip to the grocery store a half hour before closing to buy only lottery tickets.

Whatever man she has, I'm certain that I do not want him.

I try to hurry down the items on my list, picking them out in numerical order of their aisles. One cucumber, a head of lettuce, tuna (name-brand on sale), cereal, tiny marshmallows, dishwasher detergent, juice, milk, cheese (fancy shredded). I pass a guy in the milk section who has clearly been sent to do a task about which he knows nothing. The selection of bovine juice baffles him as I slip in and quickly grab the store-brand purple milk with the latest expiration date. I feel no sympathy for him and wonder if he envies my familiarity with the dairy section, my command of the supermarket, my swift and smooth choice of the purple gallon which is a clear indication of months, nay, years of experience. Probably not, I realize, because that's just sort of a stupid thing to envy. I look at my cart - no basket tonight because of the milk and juice - and wonder if my situation is obvious, whether my groceries scream out "SINGLE GIRL" as clearly as a cart full of potato chips and condiments screams out "SINGLE GUY." I decide that my secret is safe just from the lack of low-fat frozen dinners.

I pay the cashier who I see here a lot and who once asked me if I went to high school with him. I'm always amazed that people might be fooled into thinking that I belong here when I'm really from somewhere far, far away, or maybe just a ninety minute drive to someplace that seems like light years. I drive my little blue cart out to my little blue car and unload my four plastic bags, one of them containing my purple milk. I can never decide how I feel about putting the milk in a bag, because sometimes they ask if that's how you want it, but I've never been able to tell much of an advantage either way. I drive the empty buggy, which is southern for "shopping cart," all the way back to the store rather than stow it in the designated area in the lot, because the extra steps make me feel like I'm making some sort of effort to exercise and take care of myself. I get into the car and drive towards home, all the time thinking about hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows and wondering why on earth I've got this inner narrator that takes a late-night trip to the grocery store and turns it into five hundred words on a web site in the middle of nowhere in cyberland.


surprise moving truck.

I give in to the heat and decide that it's nearly noon and time to get up. Josh left for work hours ago while I slept in, waking up every hour or so to notice once again how nice air conditioning in this house would be. I hear movement outside and upstairs, but I don't think much of it. I get dressed with the intention of finding something to eat for breakfast or lunch or whatever this meal should be. I walk out and open the front door to see a huge moving truck taking up the entire driveway. Guess I won't be going anywhere: PBJ, here I come.

Evan, Josh's roommate, walks by as I complete my sandwich assembly. "Hey, uh, are you moving?" I ask him.

"Yeah, apparently. My dad just kinda showed up with the truck this morning. I was surprised, too."

"Is everything okay?"

"Oh yeah, don't worry. My dad's cool, so you don't have to worry about running into him or anything."

I pause, because I'm confused. I have no idea how his answer fit with my question. "No, I mean, is everything okay with you? Are you not going back to school?"

"I guess not."

I decide not to push him for any more info. I know he's gotten in trouble for underage drinking recently, and I suppose his parents decided it was time to intervene. "Man, that sucks."
"Yeah, well."

"Do you need any help?"

"Nah, we got all the heavy stuff already."

"I'm really strong for a girl."

"I'm sure you are, but I think we got it."

Evan heads back upstairs to continue his spontaneous packing. I do meet Evan's dad and decide that he probably is cool. He looks like what I imagine a couple of my more eccentric college professors look like on their days off.

I sit down with my PBJ and wonder about how Evan answered my question. I didn't care about the beer bottles or the cigarette butts - I don't even live here. And even if I were caught doing something supposedly illicit, what was his dad going to do - call my parents? Evan is twenty and still under parental jurisdiction. They pay his bills and write him off on their taxes. I miss the days when I didn't have to worry about electric bills and rent, but I confess that I prefer the way it is now, when I stay out as late as I please, sleep til noon on Saturdays, and never have to worry that a moving truck is coming to take me home.


no adam.

I had to give a speech once to an association of public school teachers to thank them for a scholarship. Another guy was giving a speech, too, for the same reason. We were supposed to go tell all those nice teachers what we had learned in our first year of college, one that had been partially paid for by all those smiling women. The other guy talked a lot about tutoring underprivileged children. My speech was basically a compilation of light-hearted tips that most anyone who has been through college can relate to. Okay, fine, I didn't tutor any underprivileged children, but my speech was more interesting.

One of my tips was this: Guys will walk dogs around campus to pick up girls. I fall for it every time.

So while I told all those ladies that I learned this in college, I continue to fall for it five years later. I try really hard not to, because I don't want to encourage those guys who think all they need for a free chick is a puppy. But, man, puppies are cute. There must be something deep within women that makes us weak to cuddly creatures. In fact, I think it goes all the way back to creation. There's that whole legend about Lilith, Adam's first wife, who got herself liberated and left him standing in the Garden. So when God made Eve, He wanted to avoid that whole mess, so He gave Adam one of those really squishy, wrinkly puppies to hold when Eve woke up, and the rest is history.

Or something like that.

Last night, a guy was walking a dog outside my apartment. It was not a squishy, wrinkly puppy, it was an enormous, beautiful mammoth of a dog, a Great Dane. I'm coming to realize that when things are named as "Great," it's not an exaggeration. This dog's shoulders came up to my hip. His head came up to my chest, which made it much easier for him to smell my breasts. I knew they were big dogs, but I'd never seen one in person. I realized then that Scooby Doo is drawn to scale, rather than just being a cartoonish exaggeration. I think the Great Dane might have been God's prototype for the horse.

I'd seen the dog before around the apartment complex, and I always really wanted to go up and pet it and admire the massive creature up close. But I always fought the urge, because I did not want to be picked up. But the dog was right outside, it was even in my path to the mailbox. I had to pet the dog. I was a little intimidated, but the animal was indeed a sweetheart, wagging his tail and sniffing me as his new friend.

My new friend's name is Marvin.

But I kept the visit short, because I still did not want to encourage the dog's owner, who was about my age and looked like the type of person who would use a pet to attract female attention. Yes, you have a very interesting and gorgeous and sweet-natured dog, but that does not necessarily indicate anything about you, so I'll be moving on now. So I went on to my mailbox, leaving them behind.

On the way back from the mailbox, I ran into them again. In fact, it appears they had followed me about halfway to the mail center. The owner explained, "He must like you - he followed you all the way up here!"


I pet Marvin some more - he really did have soft fur - and then moved on again. It was an effort to do so. I was fighting thousands of years of genetics, I was fighting my own pair of X chromosomes, but I did it. Like I said, it was hard, because I'm no Lilith. Then again, that dude was no Adam.


eve's nail polish.

Nothing really sage to say about this picture. This shot was taken across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario (that's Canada, folks). You can see the lovely towers of the GM building in the background. In the foreground is a giant hand, holding an apple (duh). Along the riverside in Windsor is a big statue park where there were lots of giant statues, the meaning of many I did not understand, not that I tried very hard. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying art! According to the little plaque at the foot (wrist?) of the statue, this one has something to do with Eve and the apple, though I don't recall the Bible mentioning anything about Eve's shiny nail polish. Of course, the Good Book does leave out some details from time to time, so maybe this is just such a case.


for the love of code.

I'm taking a business class this semester as part of my requirements for that Viticulture and Enology degree that I'm going after for whatever reason. The class, by and large, sucks. It's an intro class where I'm assigned to read a couple chapters out of a big textbook every week and copy down bold-faced words like "supply," "risk," and "empowerment."

The teacher must know that the class sucks, because she strives at every opportunity to engage us all in discussion. I participate in these sort of haphazardly. I often disagree with something someone has said, but I just keep it to myself because I'm not that interested in correcting their thinking. Sometimes I'll chip in with some smart-aleck comment, because I find that I am much better at that than making convincing arguments. I've always been one to go with my strengths.

We were discussing different economic systems this evening, and as always in these sorts of discussions, someone brought up both Wal-Mart and Microsoft. While everyone in there seemed to be capitalists (as I found from earlier in the evening), they seemed to be pretty pissed off at the companies who were good at it. It's popular to demonize these companies for cornering markets and being ubiquitous and basically making a series of very smart business moves. I don't doubt that there are shifty people in both those companies, but I feel that shifty people just sort of go with the business world.

The professor was obviously very anti-Microsoft, as she showed when she got fired up about their lawsuits and questionable business practices. I was kind of drifting in and out of the discussion at this point. I don't know much about Microsoft's history or their business practices and I've never been much interested. Then, she said, "And plus, they don't share their program code with anyone!"

Whoa, nelly, hang on there a second, it was time for Sandra to get involved in the class.

"Uh, why should they have to share their source code?"

"Good question! Should they?"

No, c'mon, woman! You obviously think they should and I asked you a question, so stop trying to get everyone engaged and interested and answer me. At that point, a couple of rebels in the back started chipping in about Linux and Open Office, effectively ending the conversation since no one had any idea what that stuff is. I sat there, irritated and was pretty much useless for the rest of the class.

Some programmer, some poor geeky dude wrote all that buggy Microsoft code that everyone complains about. Someone devoted hours upon hours to it. Days, weeks, months, coding problems haunted that guy in his free time while the bugs chased him in his sleep. And at the end of that, you want him to just open it up to everyone to use? It's just capitalism versus communism again, and ten minutes ago they were all hard-core capitalist infidels.

There is a lot of open source programming out there, where everyone just contributes to the project and everyone has access to all the code. It's a great idea, and one that won't work in a lot of areas: programming has the advantage of producing a lot of geeks who do it just for the love of code. But the love of code doesn't pay the bills, and if you want to run a business, you can't just be giving away your products and then expect people to buy it as well.

So that was what I meditated over while the class finished up, as my professor griped about how Microsoft was getting away with murder, all the while showing us lecture slides that she had made in Powerpoint - Microsoft Powerpoint. Ridiculous.


two and a half things.

Things, because I'm hard up for what to write and yet I still feel your glaring eyes and their silent reproach for more words to feed them. Or something like that.

Thing 1: Unsocialized.
I saw a bumper sticker today, one in the fashion of those old stupid caution signs that said "Baby on Board!" However, this one said "Caution: Unsocialized Homeschoolers on board." I was amused, both because I know some adults who were homeschooled and are now social retards, and because I have siblings who homeschool their children. My nieces and nephews seem fairly well-adjusted so far - they don't seem to be any more socially inept than...well, me.

Thing 2: Technically Geeky.
I realized that I am a geek today. No, really, I already knew, but it's always nice (or traumatizing) to have these things confirmed. Josh asked me where he could find a good deal on a CD burner. No, no the fact that he came to me is not the reason that I am a geek. I told him what kind of prices he could expect if he looked around a bit, but then - geeky part alert! - I told him that I had an extra one anyway, and he could just have it. Luckily, he'll see the incident as proof that I'm a good girlfriend, not that I'm a big loser.

Thing 3: I only thought of two things.
Sorry about that.