When I arrived at my building early this morning, I had to work my way around the guy who was pushing the big floor waxer around and around and around the halls. His T-shirt urged me to "Blaze a new trail," and I suddenly had this vision of thousands--no, millions of pioneers forging their way across the wilderness, floor-waxers leading the way.
I expect to see many people wearing that same T-shirt this morning and I can tell you what it says on the back: Bring forth a Pioneer, the new slogan created by our branding consultants. Free T-shirts were distributed yesterday, with the promise of a dollar discount at the library cafe for anyone wearing the shirt today.
As a relatively compliant person willing to cheer for the home team, I had intended to wear the new shirt today, even though I need to look professional tonight when I introduce our visiting author. My plan was simple: wear the T-shirt for teaching this morning, blaze a trail to the cafe at noon to collect my dollar discount, and then change to a more professional blouse after lunch.
So this morning I put the trail-blazing shirt on and stood in front of the mirror. It fits! The color looks decent on me! The neckline doesn't feel as if it's strangling me, although I would prefer a V-neck! So what's the problem?
The sleeves, of course. Short sleeves. It's too warm in the building to wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath, and I can't put on short sleeves for teaching freshmen without involuntarily remembering the time when a freshman class class ganged up on me to write hateful and juvenile comments on my course evaluations insisting that I be required to wear long-sleeved shirts in class because students are distracted and sickened by the big ugly hairy mole on my arm. (And the person serving as provost at the time thought the students had a good point and suggested that I get some expensive and unnecessary surgery.)
That was a long time ago. I still wear short sleeves on campus sometimes--to work out in the rec center (but those students don't write my course evaluations) or to teach upper-level classes full of students who might be expected to deal with bodily difference maturely. But for years I have avoided wearing short sleeves to teach first-year classes because even thinking about short sleeves brings back the pain of those course evaluations afresh.
So instead of blazing new trails today, I'm stuck in a bumpy rut of painful memory that leads down a dead-end road. (But at least I don't have to push a floor waxer ahead of me.)