Thursday, October 06, 2016

Quick fixes and elusive keys

The first fix of the day started with a noisy desk at the front of one of my classroom, a desk suffering so badly from loose bolts that it wobbles like crazy and lets out this annoying metallic SPROING whenever anyone gives it an accidental bump. And every time that happens, I jump.

Way back in August I notified the building coordinator of the problem and she promptly submitted a work order to the Physical Plant, but they're woefully understaffed right now and a desk that wobbles and makes an obnoxious noise is not very high on their priority list, so it was still making that noise this morning in my first-year writing class, where I was doing an exercise requiring students to write thesis statements in response to four sample midterm essay questions, mark the ones they liked most and least, and then show them to me for feedback. 

And every single time one of those students came up to the front of the class to show me a thesis statement, the desk went SPROING.

And I jumped.

After about 20 minutes of this, a helpful student sitting up front said, "Do you want me to fix that? All I need is a set of keys." So while I sat there conferring with one student, another one crawled under the desk with a set of keys, worked some hocus-pocus on the bolts, and emerged triumphant. I tried to wobble the desk but it didn't make a move. It was solid, immobile, silent--fixed.

If only every problem would submit to such an easy fix.

* * * *
On the way home I stopped at my local pharmacy to pick up a prescription and stood in line for a while before I noticed that the line wasn't going anywhere. Finally, an announcement: the computers were down so they couldn't process any credit card payments. I asked whether I could just hand over four dollars in cash and walk away with my prescription, but no: apparently it's necessary to confirm my identity electronically, because God forbid that some impostor should walk off with my precious blood-pressure pills and sell them on the street corner. Before you know it, we'd have people all over town walking around with low blood pressure, and then what would happen? 

The Powers That Be invited the crowd of impatient people to wait until computer service was restored, which could be 10 minutes or 10 hours. I considered my options: stunningly gorgeous fall day outside, crowd of cranky sick people inside, and no handy student popping up with the key to fix the problem. Which would be better for my blood pressure: a long wait at the pharmacy for some drugs or a long walk in the woods with my dog?

So I went home. Another easy fix, even if it's only temporary.

* * * * 
On my way up the big horrible hill near our house I saw a mouse, a tiny one, sitting in the middle of the road, a location not conducive to long life in the mouse world. I asked it what it was doing there without its mama, but it only turned its head away instead of scurrying off--odd behavior for a mouse. It clearly needed help, but what could I do? 

Oh, I suppose I could pick it up, nestle it gently in my baseball cap, carry it home, feed it with an eye-dropper, and nurture it carefully back to health, but then what? Let it loose to run around in my house until its neck gets snapped in a mousetrap? We struggle every winter to keep mice out of our house so I'm not sure it would make much sense to bring one in, no matter how sad and pathetic it appeared.

The mouse looked stuck, but it won't stay stuck long. A snake or a hawk or a pickup truck will soon put it out of its misery, but I'm still haunted by that tiny distressed creature unable to get out of the way on the road. Where's the fix for that?

* * * *
Home from my walk, I found a message on my answering machine, the latest in a number of messages dealing with my extended family's plan to travel from various states to my brother's house in North Carolina this weekend, a plan that is running smack into the uncertain trajectory of Hurricane Matthew. Should we stay or should we go? Too many different opinions, too many conflicting priorities, and everything hinges upon predicting the path of an uncooperative hurricane.

But that kind of problem is way outside my pay grade, so I gave it up as a lost cause and went to soak out my tensions in a hot bath. It's no quick fix and it won't solve the problem, but I refuse to lose any sleep over my inability to control the weather. So unless someone suddenly pops up with the key to a quick fix, I'm going to bed.     


dgwilliams said...

Sounds like you had someone who would make a great engineer in your class!

Bev said...

Fully 50 percent of the students in that class are majoring in Petroleum Engineering, so I'd say the odds are pretty good.

Oh, and the computer problem at the pharmacy was due to an AT&T cable that got cut, destroying internet access not just for the pharmacy but for most of the town, including the entire campus. And it's a good thing I didn't wait for a fix because it took close to 24 hours!