Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Less Than Curious

My mom got me a temporary job helping out the 'central media' department of the Appleton Area School District. The district hires many 'coop students' for summer help, but as Vickie, the secretary of the dept, put it cutely, "You are not a coop student." Nah. I'm easily ten years too old for this position.

At least I look young, I think. At the very least I get to occasionally reference Mom, which might inflect youthfulness, unless they get my age right, then referring to 'mom,' 'our house' and 'I don't have a car' doesn't position me much above underachiever.

Summer of '95 I worked full-time as the switchboard operator at Appleton West High School. Summer of '98 I painted the entire interior and exterior of some middle school in Appleton. Seriously, I can't remember the name of the school, which I attribute very earnestly to suspected brain damage from inhaling oil-based paints and turpentine (for mending my errs) in non-ventilated rooms, and listening to books-on-tape.

Last Friday I began a temporary career as a human box-opener. I kid, I actually get to experience a lot of diversity in my job dueling as a barcode-applicator.

I work in the basement at a L-shaped desk comprised of two folding tables positioned at a 90 degree angle. I have two black permanent-markers, two box-cutters, rolls of barcode stickers and one pencil. I also have access to ten library carts, which I load textbooks and teacher materials onto and then wheel to my desk where I apply barcodes to both the front cover and title page, along with a AASD stamp.

I work with Vickie, Paula and Tracy. Paula manages the department and the office. The one fan is next to her desk as is the stereo. She prefers NPR and faces the fan towards her. However, she is on vacation this week, so Vickie turned the radio channel to the local oldies station, and she kindly turned the fan to blow across the room. Tracy comes in four hours a day to help out when needed, she is not directly employed by the the district, but she is married to the mail-guy.

Vickie introduced herself with framed photos of her family and a story to accompany each. She loves to talk, which really makes the day go by quicker. My humor is completely lost on her though, which has actually been a huge disappointment in general here. Most of our conversations revolve around family, her first and second husbands, her dead-beat step-son, her sweet-as-pie grandson (who got all of his manners from his mom), and her niece, who's band just won the local battle of the bands competition. (Grand prize: $250 and a slot at Oktoberfest)

Paula I only met briefly before she left for vacation. Not sure if she actually is on vacation or just taking vacation hours. Is there a difference? Mom said she was soft-spoken so I kept pretty quiet. Turns out she had a whole lot to say, but only about music. She taught piano privately for years before coming to the school district. She gave me a ton of useful teaching and business tips, you know, for when I start my own studio. She had created a theory game similar in style to Chutes & Ladders (which I am so going to steal) and organized piano 'parties' in lieu of 'recitals' to take the pressure off of the kids; only those who wanted to play in front of the group did so, otherwise you just listened and played games. I came away so inspired by our conversation that I spent my entire Friday evening researching pedagogy and general musicology texts online. I'd like to figure out a lesson plan using college level ethnomusicology materials to teach the basics of rhythm and form to children. The standard series of piano books are incredibly dry. Lots of ideas, too many, difficult to find (follow) one path...

Tracy brought in cheese curds today.

The small of my back was sore most of last night; too much lifting. Otherwise I'm injury free, not even a paper-cut to speak of. I try to take breaks for water, coffee (my mom's boss brews a special blend that makes all of the secretaries go gaga) and candy (so many delicious treats on everyone's desks, which I usually grab when they are on similar breaks). I pretty much just zone out the rest of the day.

The only 'downside' to speak of, other than having to wake up at 5:30AM, and a salary of $8.00 per hour, is that my brain is near over-heat mode (think excitebike) by 3pm. I amused myself tonight by drinking a beer and renaming the dogs. Cody now goes by Brown-Bear, and Jack by Rusty. Dad said I reminded him of Chevy Chase in one of the National Lampoon movies. Mom asked me to quit, she says Jack doesn't listen well, even when you use his Christian name.

I can hear Dad calling outside for the dogs now, using their new nicknames. He cracks me up. He's either doing it to annoy my mom, or just because, and to be honest, you'd never know.

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