Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for April, 2008

The Big Office Move

Posted by Gerald on April 27, 2008

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this here or not, but I had to move my office this week.  My new one is about a third smaller than the old one and still doesn’t have a window.

My department has shared a small suite of offices on a little isolated hallway at the front corner of the building.  I think this has enhanced a certain sense of group identity.  As I’ve mentioned before, we go to lunch together and socialize with each other outside of work to an extent that is very unusual compared to other departments in the college.

The new Vice-President is being moved into our office suite, as is the dean of our division and the director of Instructional Services and we are all being moved out.  There is a general shuffle going on so that, for the most part, the three departments in our division – we are all located on the lower floor of our building – will be roughly together.  Our department is sharing a hallway with the English department.

The moves started on Thursday as the offices some of us were moving into were being cleared out.  One of the people who was supposed to move is a notorious slacker and has a REALLY messy office.  We talked our Campus Resource Officer – the deputy sheriff who is on-campus all day – to get a blank eviction notice faxed over from his office.  He then served it on that instructor, evicting him from his office for “health code violations”.  The three other members of the department and I all moved on Friday.  It was supposed to take all day, but we were mostly done before lunch.  Our department chair and the remaining member of the department will move next week – supposedly Wednesday.  All-in-all the day was tiring and full of the irritations of moving (there was a bit of a flare of tempers between two of the others, but I wasn’t directly involved), but by the time it was done I had everything unpacked and ready to go for Monday.

We’re still pretty close to each other, but it feels oddly like we’ve been broken up.  We are used to just calling out to each other, sharing jokes, etc…  Our two newest members have been sharing an office this year, and have liked that.  Now they are in separate, but adjoining, offices.  Because no one wanted to inconvenience two of the senior instructors, my office is at the far end of the hallway from the other members of the department.  The other history instructor waked down to show me a book during the afternoon and said “This is unacceptable – you are just too far away.”  Actually, the current plan is that I’ll move down to the other end of the hall when one of the senior instructors retires (and she has a window!).

On the other hand, I’m now right next door to my friend Steve and right across from my friend Dana – thus I’m going to get lots more “guy time.”  Unfortunately, they weren’t in on Friday.  Because of that I left in the afternoon with a strange sense of loneliness and separation.

It is just funny to realize the things you come to rely on to get through the day.

Posted in Personal, work | Leave a Comment »

Clinton Visit

Posted by Gerald on April 27, 2008

We found out early this week that Bill Clinton was going to visit the campus on Wednesday.  He was visiting four college campuses here in NC that day and we were the third.  I think these were billed as something else, but they were campaign stops for Hillary.  I’ve never seen a President – sitting or former – in person, so I decided to stick around for the event.

Everyone in my department stayed for the speech.  We brought out folding camp chairs (thanks for the loan, Steve!) and staked out spots at about 4pm, so I was very close to the front.  He was scheduled to get there at 6:45.  It was like we were waiting in line for concert tickets.  We were having a good time.  The crowd eventually grew to about 1100 (according to the Sheriff’s department).  They started playing white-folks political rock (“Little Pink Houses” etc…) to entertain the crowd.  The speakers were really loud up front.

Due to delays at the earlier stops, Clinton didn’t arrive until about 9 pm.  Because of the crowd, we were all on our feet for the last three hours.  Before he got there, Hillary’s NC coordinator showed up to do a pep rally.  Since I’m supporting Obama I felt like a bit of an outsider there.  On the other hand, my high school pep rallies were not that much different.  I just don’t seem to respond to the whole group emotion thing very well even at the best of times.  After finishing a hard day of work and then sitting outside for four hours, I wasn’t in a great mood anyway.

One thing that really struck me during the pep rally was watching several of the intelligent and independent-minded women I work with being reduced to whooping contestants on The Price is Right by the “cheerleader” (as I thought of him) when he said “… and nobody tells a North Carolina woman to just sit down and shut up!”  Yeah, and “this is easily the most rocking town our band will visit on this tour!”  I’m sorry, but blatant ham-fisted pandering is blatant ham-fisted pandering, no matter the cause.

Cheerleader also had everyone send a text-message (“NC”) to a campaign phone number and then picked three of those who did to come up on stage and stay to meet Clinton, get an autograph, and ask a question.  Shortly before this, Cheerleader had been – well – cheer leading.  “Gimme an ‘H'”,  Gimme an ‘I””, etc… and then “Who is going to be the next President of the United States!?!”  I used my somewhat above average lung-power to reply “Barak Obama!!!”.  People around me had a variety of reactions.  My colleagues just thought it was funny, as did the guy behind me.  He had been ribbing me in a friendly manner and asking me to give him a t-shirt if I caught one (Cheerleader was tossing them around – and deliberately snubbed the five-year-old son of one of my colleagues who was standing up front.)  When the texting was done, the guy asked me what I wanted to ask Clinton.  He was somewhat taken aback when I responded “I want to ask him if he is deliberately trying to sabotage his wife’s campaign or if he just went insane sometime around the South Carolina primary?”  Actually, I’d like to ask him how he slept at night after having his State Department dick around for three months while 900,000 Rwandans were being killed, but that would probably have been rude.

In other words, I was feeling a bit cranky by the time Clinton arrived.  I was really thinking less about what he might say than about how long he’d take to say it.

While waiting for him to come out no less than four people came up to me to ask me to squat down so they would be able to see.  I’m in my mid-40’s and my knees aren’t what they used to be, still I tried.  I was really cramping up after about 30 minutes (and i felt that for two days), so I selfishly stood back up.  I’m a bastard.

Clinton gave a pretty familiar speech – Hillary’s experience, some specific policy points, things were better back when he was President, taking credit for economic developments during his administration that he had no control over, etc…  He did it well, about a “B-” speech for him, but then it was his third of the day and he still had one to go.  I’ve been hearing forever about how magnetic he is in person and the people around me were feeling it.  There were tears, screaming, etc…  I didn’t feel it.  I just heard a decently delivered political speech from a capable politician.  When he was done he worked the line.  If I had cared to use my size to my advantage, I could have gotten a handshake, but I wasn’t that much of a bastard.  Other people around me were less restrained, though.  Four of my colleagues moved right up to the front before the speech even started, so they got pictures taken with Clinton and got him to sign a bunch of things.  I didn’t bring anything to get autographed, but I don’t really get very attached to that sort of thing.

Also, frankly, I’m kind of ambivalent about Clinton.  He was a better President than Bush the elder and far better than Bush the Younger, but that’s about it.  Also, I really feel he betrayed both the Democratic Party and the public trust in the Lewinsky thing.  Maybe personal sexual behavior shouldn’t matter, but the fact is that it does and he knew that going in.

Anyhow, I didn’t get home until about 10:30.  The next day we all sort of felt like we had been at a rock concert – leg strain, slight tinnitus, and a sort of feeling of disassociation.

This wasn’t one of those experiences that really affected me deeply, but I think I’d be kicking myself if I hadn’t gone.

I’m still supporting Obama.

Posted in Personal | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Removing the “Guy Time” Post

Posted by Gerald on April 20, 2008

Some have argued that rational thought makes us human, others that it is the capacity to feel love, or to use tools, or to exist in a world of meaning.  All of these have some validity.  However, I’d like to make another contribution to that list.

The desire, need, and ability to occasionally edit makes us human.

For the first time in the year – roughly – that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve decided to remove a post.  I removed “Guy Time” because after reading Bridgett’s comment I started to realize that it was a bad piece of writing.  It didn’t really capture the events I was relating or my ideas about them so much as the generally foul mood I was in as I wrote the post.  The foul mood was mostly a result of a bad night’s sleep combined with hay fever and an end-of-the-semester case of ennui.

In the post I tried to tell about something that was actually quite funny at the time.  As I’ve mentioned before, all of my colleagues in the social science department are women.  One of those women had a birthday this week.  We are a pretty tight group and we always do departmental lunches to celebrate such things.

The location for this lunch was suddenly changed on Friday morning to “Miss Rose’s Tea Room” – and not at the request, or even with the knowledge of, the guest of honor.  I began theatrically, and loudly, complaining about this as an assault on my manhood.  My colleagues found this hysterical, so it became the running joke of the morning.

I work with a group of strong and confident women who trust me enough to be pretty open and relaxed around me.  They also constantly rib me about this stuff – everything from talking about how “Gerald’s gone to his ‘happy place'” when the conversation turns to birth complication horror stories to calling me the “pimp daddy” of the department and referring to “Gerald and his Ho’s”

Just as an aside: I NEVER say any of the stuff about “pimps” and “ho’s”.  To this I attribute the continuing good will of my co-workers and, indeed, my ongoing survival.  A little lesson to some of my white male brethren who might not have figured this out – history being what it has been, there are some jokes we do not get to make.

Pressing onward with the story – we went to lunch.  The venue was very “Steel Magnolias” and the owner laughed loudly when she heard me tell the others that I might forgive them eventually for bringing me here.  That got a solid laugh, but I judged that at that point the joke was wearing out, so I just dropped it.  Lunch was fine, if a bit pricey.

Afterwards we went back to campus and immediately into our division’s annual program review session – powerpoints, enrollment levels, what did we accomplish this year, what should we do next year, etc…  It was in the course of this that the grandmother of the division, an elderly English instructor with the kind of wicked sense of humor you only develop by successfully living a life, inadvertently referred to the “history ladies”.  Almost immediately she caught that and started to offer an apology.  I had immediately crossed gazes with Allison, my history colleague, and we were both already snickering since this fit so well into the morning’s jokes.  Even those who didn’t know about that caught the minor faux pas and the room started erupting in laughter.  I loudly protested, “See – ONE trip to the tea room and look what happens!!!”  Everyone laughed and then we finished the meeting.

As one would expect, I kept hearing about this all afternoon.  I think that was where the trouble began.

I was tired and increasingly uncomfortable (sinus headache) as the day went on.  With each mention by someone who wasn’t there, what had been funny started to seem irritating.  Still, I knew it was just me feeling out of sorts, so I dutifully chuckled and kept my mouth shut.  Right up until the blog post, when what started as a story turned into a rant.

In the course of that rant, I said something about the culture wanting me to be ashamed of being male.  Bridgett rightly called me on this, asking if I really thought there was an “attack on maleness” in the dominant culture.  I don’t.  What I was thinking about at that moment was the nearly universal depiction of men in sitcoms as horny sports-obsessed morons and how that doesn’t fit me, my late father, or any of my male friends.  Still, I don’t really see an attack on “maleness” there.  If anything, this probably serves to excuse bad behavior as a kind of cultural reinforcement of “boy will be boys.”

I think that, like a lot of men with my level of education and set of beliefs about gender, I am sometimes caught between being comfortable enough with WHO I am but somewhat ambivalent about what it means to be WHAT I am.  Call it white male liberal guilt if you are feeling dismissive.  I’ve learned there is patriarchy and, wittingly or not, I’ve benefited from it.  I’ve learned there is a racial hierarchy and, wittingly or not, I’ve benefited from it.  I cannot divorce myself from the historical context any more than anyone else can.  That is what I am.  Integrating that awareness into who I am and being able to live with the result is an ongoing issue for me, and I’d be willing to bet I’m not alone in that.

So, in a supreme moment of “crotchetiness” I got into the written equivalent of that point in a verbal argument where you stop trying to be reasonable and you just start venting.  My purpose in writing this blog is mostly selfish.  It is a modernist journal.  When inspired to write, I write.  Then I do minor copy-editing and I hit “publish”.  This is as close as I get to an act of spontaneous creativity.  I had to think all night before pulling the “Guy Time” post because it seems to violate that.  On the other hand, I’ve not written another post that I looked at later and really felt didn’t represent me, even my flaws, in an accurate way.  It was intellectually sloppy.  I don’t think that is me.

So I pulled it and I’m still not sure I did the right thing.

Posted in Personal, thoughts | Tagged: , , | 8 Comments »