It's early afternoon. I am in a waiting room in a doctor's office. Muzak plays faintly in the background. Sitting on all sides of me are old people. From what I heard my parents tell, old people go to the doctor a lot, especially the ones on Medicaid. They reason that the free insurance they have must not go to waste. They go in for a checkup, come back for tests because the doctor has found something wrong, return for more tests because the tests have shown something else that is wrong too and needs to be examined closer. The tests don't lie; old people are fragile. They go to the doctors' offices like they used to go to work when they were younger. It becomes the meaning of their lives; their main interest that they are always happy to discuss with their friends over a cup of tea. I cannot relate to anyone in this waiting room. I sit next to a pile of magazines, dig through "Arthritis Monthly" and the like and finally find a copy of The Ladies' Home Journal. I open it and begin to read.
Halfway through an article on low-fat cooking, a new song comes through the speakers.
Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup...
Holy smokes! I sit up and listen closer.
This used to be my favorite song when I was fourteen.
The murder of John Lennon sparked a new wave of Beatlemania in my home country, among teenagers anyway. One way or the other, each of us managed to come into possession of a Beatles tape. After school, I'd bring my friends to my apartment and we'd sit in our only room that I shared with my parents and listen to "Rubber Soul" or "Abbey Road" for hours, discussing the intricacies of the lyrics. We'd argue about who was better, Lennon or McCartney. (Lennon, of course.) Just before my parents came back from work, my friends would slip out quietly and I'd sit at my desk, looking like I'd been doing homework that whole time.
I think about those days, the teenage awkwardness, the dreams of growing up and becoming successful. I remember my best friend and a kid who had a crush on me in 7th grade, but covered it up so well, I thought he hated me and I didn't know why. I remember the room I grew up in, the tape deck that was already there when I was born, my friends' faces. For a minute, I am fourteen again.
I look up and see a face with a dreamy expression on it. "Oh, to be a teenager again." Only it isn't my face.
It's some random old guy's.
The man sitting across from me is clearly reliving his own younger days, his own Beatles-related memories. Come to think of it, he is not bad-looking.
He is also at least sixty-five. But at this moment, I can relate to him just as if we had grown up listening to Across the Universe in my parents' apartment together.
I think about my coworkers, about people whose blogs I read. How many of them can tell what "Across the Universe" even is? How many can name all four Beatles? I can do it in my sleep.
It is a sad, sad day the first time you feel one with a senior citizen.
"Welcome to the old age, Goldie," I say to myself.
Fast forward six or seven years. I am twenty-nine, have been living in America for three months with my husband and two young children, and am starting my first American job tomorrow. Better yet, it is an actual programming job! It's entry level and it pays next to nothing, but that doesn't faze me - this means that, from here, there is no way for me to go but up. I'd been out of work for too long, dependent on my husband and parents financially. My marriage is on the verge of falling apart after all the arguments about money, housework, and taking care of the boys. But now that I am a professional in America, I know this is all going to change. I am excited about the new life I'm beginning, and would be surprised if someone told me that I'm about to turn one of the darkest, nastiest pages of my life, something I'd be ashamed to tell people about many years later.
Next day in my new office, I noticed Aidan right away. He was my age, yet he occupied the corner office with a real window. Rumor had it he used to be a manager until he had to step down to work on some urgent, top-secret project. He was the tall, dark and handsome type. He drove a sleek sports car. (The sleek sports car later turned out to be a fifteen-year-old Pulsar covered in rust and dust - goes to show you how far off my judgment was.) He spoke flawless English and gave high-fives to his colleagues. I'd never seen a high-five before.
He was everything my husband wasn't. I fell for Aidan on the first day and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was terrified. I spent my days hiding from Aidan in fear he'd figure me out. I had never intended to act on my inconvenient crush.
Two months later, Aidan figured me out. Hey, I told you he was smart. What I didn't know then, though, was that Aidan had an abrasive personality and somewhat of a surplus of self-esteem. In Aidan's estimation, he was miles above my league. Whatever.
Aidan started greeting me every morning by an eye roll. When the second-highest ranking person in the company rolls your eyes at you each time you say "good morning", you know you're in trouble - especially if you're a lowly entry-level programmer. I was scared shitless of losing my job. After a few more months of suffering in silence, I turned for advice to Aidan's close friend and my supervisor, George. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
George was very sympathetic. He promised to talk to Aidan. He took me out to lunches and stopped by my desk to chat. All was well until George started giving me somewhat strange tidbits of information.
"In America, it is customary for people to hug each other as a manner of greeting. If you don't let a person hug you, they'll think you're a foreigner."
"You may not know it, but in America, it is customary for people to kiss on the lips when they see each other. Yes, men and women too. I know, must sound strange to you, but you need to get used to it."
While I fretted and wondered if it was customary for Americans to dry-hump when they meet, rumors started around the office. Pretty soon, as far as everyone was concerned, George and I were dating. We were both married and had kids.
It just got weirder from there. George found a new job and left. Then he hired me. Rumors started at the new place.
George hired Aidan. He asked my permission to do it. "Whatever is good for the company," I said. Aidan was one of the best in his field, so that was it.
The first week with all three of us together at the new place, George called to tell me this:
"You're so lucky. It's not very often that people get a second chance. I mean, you're working with Aidan now."
Followed by even stranger phone calls to my house on weekends.
"Did you know that Aidan is hung like a horse? We went to the gym together."
God, I wish I was making this up.
That was just too much of the fucking head games. With George working me over every day, and Aidan in my face every weekday, I lost all touch with reality. I had a massive crush on Aidan again and I was dating George and someone else was dating George too and I had no idea how it all came to happen. Mr. Goldie was not much help, what with the two of us fighting 24-7 and the word divorce coming up in conversations more and more often.
I started getting into nasty arguments with Aidan. (Abrasive personality, remember?) I was racking my brain trying to reconcile my hero-worship of the guy with some asinine things he said and did, and all that with his crappy management style. I admired him one minute and hated him the next. Aidan, meanwhile, asked George what it would take to make me stop hitting on him.
A girl from the old job started a rumor behind my back that my whole career was based on fucking my supervisors in exchange for raises and promotions. I had been sure she and I were friends. It took me a few years to befriend another woman after that.
George was seeing someone else and using me as a cover-up in front of his wife and the woman's husband. One of my cover-up gigs entailed going to a late-night concert of 13th century folk music and listening to a female singer who had the same first name as my son LilProgrammer. My life was getting exponentially weirder.
I lost weight, going from a size 8 to a size 4. Sounds like every girl's dream, but I wasn't happy. Matter of fact, I was living in my personal version of hell.
I got fed up, found another job, and quit. Aidan stopped talking to me the day I gave notice, as he assumed I was leaving because of him. George did something even more interesting. He told everyone in the office I'd found a new job three days before they sent me a written offer. It was a pretty scary experience. If the old job had fired me, and the new job retracted the offer, then I guess it would've been up to George and his big mouth to support me and my family.
After I changed jobs, I had some more interactions with both George and Aidan. In fact, Mr. Goldie and I still run into them a few times a year, as we hang out with the same group of people. It is very awkward each time it happens.
Mr. Goldie and I have resolved our marital difficulties and are now an ideal couple, so you'd have to shoot me before I voluntarily agree to fuck it all up by going out and having an affair. We both worked our asses off to get where we are; I personally don't want all my hard work to go to waste.
This was nine years ago, more or less. For the first few years after that, I refused to view my coworkers as human beings. I told people I was sick of socializing at work and I wasn't going to do it anymore. But we humans are wired for socialization. When a deadline is coming up and the group of you works twelve-hour days side by side, or when you are on call and something breaks really badly and you spend all night on the phone with your teammate trying to fix it, bonding happens. Friendships form.
Even with attractions, we're all only human. Lock me with a bunch of IT guys in daily, intense five-hour meetings where we have to cover each other's back, followed by long sessions of working together covering each other's back, and, after a few months of this, even IT guys will begin to look attractive. If you're an IT guy and we work together and I spend most of my day hiding from you, then most probably this is what happened - for some reason, at the moment, I find you attractive. This too shall pass. Then I will come out of my hiding and we will talk. I have also had my guy friends approach me with propositions in my old job. I'd look each guy in the eye and tell him he's awesome and a terrific friend, it's just that I don't believe in dating at work or in dating while married. Then I'd tell him my story of George and Aidan. The guy usually goes out and finds someone else, and remains friends with me. Works for all three of us, myself, the guy, and his new woman. Probably for Mr. Goldie too, I might add.
So this, in a nutshell, is a story of how karma bit me in the ass for not taking a coworker's crush seriously back in 1990. Moral of the story is, I guess, that we need to respect people's feelings, but not to the point where we allow those other people to bring us down (Aidan) or mess with our head (George). As an online friend of mine brilliantly put it once, we cannot let another person's insanity become our reality.
Another spin-off, this time off a guest post on VA. BC Woods (check him out by the way; he's pretty good with words!) caught some flack in the comments for not showing enough sympathy for a woman that lusted after him. Naturally, this brought back memories. Unlike in BCW's case, no privates were exposed in my story, and for that, I apologize.
I was 22 and working at my first job, in a small Russian town where I knew no one. My boyfriend (now known to my readers as Mr. Goldie) was still in school, seven hundred miles away. The living conditions were particularly exhausting. I couldn't find a place to rent. The company provided a bed in a five-story building, in a room with two other girls. One of the girls was okay; I wasn't on speaking terms with the other. Each of the floors two through five had forty rooms, a hallway, two bathrooms, two kitchens, a washing area with sinks lining the walls. We used the sinks to wash our hair, brush our teeth, and do our laundry. Our resident alcoholics were frequently seen peeing in them. On the first floor we had the showers, open for our convenience from 6AM till midnight, mysteriously closed all day Tuesday. A large number of young families lived in the building; crowds of screaming kids roamed the hallways, giving us headaches and keeping the resident babies awake. I was pretty darn miserable. I missed my boyfriend. Every guy in town was hitting on me but I couldn't cheat. We had agreed to get married as soon as he finished school.
He was 19, a lanky, bespectacled, geeky-looking kid with moldy teeth that he never seemed to brush. In a town with ten research institutes, he didn't stand out as incredibly bright, compared to other guys I knew, but he was okay to hang out with. He worked with me in our company’s IT department and his parents were fairly high-ranking execs at the same company. I don't remember for the life of me what it was I said or did that set off his raging, intense crush on me. Life was boring; work was slow; Dima (as will be his name for the duration of this story) was incredibly obvious; so pretty soon we both became the talk of the town.
I tried to let him down gently, but I didn't know how. I was a late bloomer and had not started dating until 17. Before Mr. Goldie, I'd had a bunch of short-lived affairs that I inevitably ended. At 22, I was good at dumping guys, but not at comforting a lovestruck nineteen-year-old without further leading him on. This went on for a couple of years. I don't remember much of it now, except a few funny stories, like for example the first time Mr. Goldie came to visit on his winter break. I could not get any work done that day, hovering by the phone, waiting for that call. The only person more excited than myself was Dima. I swear he stopped by my desk every five minutes.
"Has he called?"
"Has he called yet?"
"So has he called or not?"
"What, he still hasn't called?" - the happy Dima asked me after lunch. - "Maybe he's not coming!" - and a shit-eating grin brightened his face.
I told Dima to get lost, promising I'd beat the crap out of him if he didn't, thus saving him the humiliation when Mr. Goldie did call five minutes later.
Before our department's annual holiday party, the guys from my group pulled me aside. They were in their early 30s, married with kids, and treated me like their little sister. It felt nice being protected.
"OK, we have a plan, you don't need to worry about Dima at all," the guys explained. "We're going to sit next to him and make sure he's drunk. We're not gonna stop till he's out cold. You can count on us."
As it turned out, you cannot outdrink a teenager, even a geeky one, when you're an aging, 33-year-old family man. I was enjoying myself at the party, when I suddenly found Dima in front of me staring in my face.
"Lllletsss dddate?" he proposed.
I looked around for my protectors. They had all passed out. Out of the IT crowd, about fifty people were still mulling about; most of them worked on other floors and I hadn't seen them before in my life.
"I'd love to, Dima, but you know I can't, I have a boyfriend."
"Bull (hiccup) shhit. I will see you chasing after me yet, Goldie," announced Dima, suddenly loud and clear. Fifty people turned around to see who'd be chasing after Dima. Damn you, instant fame.
Call me a cold hearted bitch, but that shit is funny.
Next day, nobody in our group did any work. My fellow programmers gathered round to assess the situation.
I suddenly found everyone feeling sorry for Dima, and staring at me accusingly.
"How come you're all sorry for Dima? How come no one is sorry for me?" I asked them.
A coworker thundered, "When you are on your knees begging someone for love, that's the day we'll feel sorry for you!" That was supposed to shame me.
Instead, it pissed me off.
In my opinion, Dima had it easy. At the end of his shift, he was going to go to his parents' nice, cozy apartment where he had a room of his own that he didn't have to share with a bitchy, catty roommate. A room of his own that he could enter and then close the door, lay down on his comfy bed, and jack off to his little heart's content, thinking of me. And when he was done, he could go take a shower, even if it was on a Tuesday, and take it alone, with no preteen girls standing around staring open-mouthed at his privates. Heck, he could even take a nice hot bath if he wanted to. Last time I'd taken a real, lie-down bath was on my birthday, when a coworker invited me to her place to sleep over. Unlike me, Dima had his own place, with his mom and dad taking care of him. His only problem, that fucking crush, was all in his head. He was the one who had cultivated it in there, and he could put an end to it as soon as he decided to. Whereas getting out of my situation was not as easy.
Such were the thoughts that ran in my 22-year-old, maximalist mind. In retrospect, I should not have thought those thoughts, cuz karma is a bitch. But more on that later.
Back to Dima. By the time Mr. Goldie moved in with me, Dima was completely over his crush, to the point where he'd come over, drink with Mr. Goldie, and play with the young LilProgrammer. Eventually he met someone, got married, had a kid, and, in a twist of irony, asked us to give him our baby crib when we left for America. So basically our children grew up in the same crib, which was kind of what Dima had initially wanted, though not one hundred percent the same thing. But hey, you can't have it all. From what I hear, he's still happily married, has a nice career and has gained some serious weight.
When my kids were little, I used to tell them a story about a guy who had a crush on me, but whom I had to turn down, because he never brushed his teeth. The story worked especially well on ChinchillaBoy, who now brushes his teeth three times a day.
I can finally post this story, as I recently found out none of its characters work at that company anymore. Also, as my yesterday's test showed, no one reads this site, so I can post whatever I damn want and screw the consequences.
Many years ago, before my present job, I worked at a large manufacturing company which from here on out will be known as BigPaper Corp. Life was good at BigPaper Corp., deadlines were lenient and my managers did not mind my blogging at work. Vacation was plentiful and the bennies good. Sadly, with all this bounty came a pager and an obligation to be on call 24x7. When I caught myself cowering each time a phone rang, I knew it was time to quit, so I found another job and gave notice. A few days later, when I was walking past my supervisor's office, he motioned to me to come in.
I had gone through six supervisors in my five years at BigPaper. The last one was a nice, friendly guy by the name of Andy. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think of Andy - nice. Extremely nice. Too fucking nice. Going out of his way to be nice to every single person at the same time. You cannot do that in a corporate world. You see, in a large corporation like BigPaper, there is a lot of politics going on. There are a lot of conflicting interests. There are tons of people who are out to get each other and actively working to put the other person out of the game. There are tons of people who want to get their way, no matter what. When you try to give each one of these people everything they want, you end up effectively screwing each and every one of them. That was Andy's biggest problem. As he beckoned, I walked into his office and sat down. What followed was a lecture on what a valuable employee I had been, how bad it was for the company to lose me, and can I maybe consider coming back in a year or two. One of the reasons I was leaving was because Andy had tried to shift another coworker's calls onto me, but I didn't feel like talking about it. Much like poor Andy, I am nonconfrontational almost to the point of idiocy. Andy droned on; I nodded with a sad look on my face. Suddenly something that flew out of Andy's mouth caught my attention.
"Last night," he informed me, "all of us team leaders were in my office discussing how we're going to replace everyone, you know, what with everybody leaving and all the hiring freezes we've had lately, you know, it turns out we are ten people short. We made a list of, you know, all the positions we had to fill, and what we'll have to pay them. We put it all on my whiteboard, you know."
I turned my head to look at the whiteboard. Yeah, that's a list all right. Here's my position, here's a few others. Wait, what is that? Their salaries?...
Bless his soul. Andy had sat in the office all day with the door open, so any passerby could turn their head and see how much money our replacements were going to make. And they were going to do very well for themselves. Whoever was to replace me, for example, was going to get 20K more than I did.
That kinda pissed me off.
I'd been with the company five years.
I'd been up more nights than a professional hooker.
I worked sixty-hour weeks, I pulled all-nighters, I made money for the company. And this person, who didn't even exist yet, was going to be paid that much more. This meant that, in return for my hard work, the company had been underpaying me so outrageously, they couldn't dream about offering the same amount to my replacement; they knew the amount was ridiculously small, even though all those years they had been telling me it was "competitive" and "right on the market reference point". And if they screwed me, then by the same token they must have been screwing the majority of my teammates the same way.
And they didn't even mind telling me about it.
"Hey," I offered, "20 thousand more than me? That's pretty harsh."
Andy turned all shades of pale and red simultaneously.
"Please don't tell."
Bless his heart. He was supposed to erase it and forgot. That's our Andy. He begged for another five minutes, then we both went back to our work.
I granted Andy's wish, almost.
I only told two of my closest friends. Two weeks after I left, everybody knew. I just thought people deserved to know they'd been had. Nothing material came out of it, though. But it was worth a try.
Andy, for unrelated reasons I suppose, was moved to a position where nobody had to report to him, then another more obscure position, then another, and now is no longer with BigPaper. I wish him success at whatever he's doing now. But first he needs to grow and nurture what I believe to be the most important body part in a manager, no, any person who wishes to get anywhere professionally in our field.
I am referring, of course, to a backbone.
Although a pair of balls would also come in handy.
Opinions, anyone? Mine happens to be that accomodations should go both ways. The church should (and tried to) accomodate the family; likewise the family should have taken steps to accomodate the parisioners, who are clearly afraid for their lives (the kid has started someone's car on one occassion? Scary!), and the priest, who does not want legal action taken against himself or his church. I also agree with Ms. Cornelius that the child seems afraid of crowded church and communion (entirely possible - autism - being uncomfortable around large groups of people - tactile sensitivity) and additional therapy may be needed to address that.
The easiest solution that comes to mind would be for the family to take turns attending Sunday liturgy, with one of the parents staying home with the child, and then possibly taking him to a smaller service on a less regular basis. Weekly Sunday mass might be overkill for him at this point. That's what I would have done.
Last week, we were on vacation. Good for us, eh? Well, the jury is still out. Anyway, the good part is, I submitted a review to TripAdvisor as soon as we got back and they posted it today. Here it is, so you don't have to click over. I'm so proud of my writing prowess.
My husband and I and our teenage son have just returned from our 7-night stay at this hotel. We are extremely easygoing, low-maintenance people with low low expectations. In fact, two years ago we stayed at Hollywood Beach Towers next door and loved it. This year we wanted to see what the Ramada was like so decided to give it a try, big mistake. The hotel is in need of major renovation, everything smells. My husband's allergies flared up because of the old musty carpets and mattresses. There was no thermostat in our room, instead there was an AC that had two positions, OFF and ON which was about 40F. You had to either freeze or suffocate, I spent every night getting up to turn the AC off and on every few hours. Our biggest disappointment was the pool. In Hollywood Beach Towers, the pool is directly adjacent to the hotel and is open till 11PM or midnight, this one is at a distance from the hotel so you have to walk through a mall and a bar to get to the pool. Also it closes at 8. Service is incredibly hard to get, if you're a female, I recommend that you turn on the cute and go talk to the concierge directly, this is the only way we have been able to get help when needed. Overall a huge disappointment, I have stayed at Motel 6 and 8 but nothing as bad as this. Go to Hollywood Beach Towers instead or choose a different hotel altogether.
Seriously though, I'm so mad. I just got back from vacation, I am supposed to be all recharged and energetic; instead, I'm exhausted because we never managed to get a good night's sleep at that place. Don't be like me, don't stay in cheapo hotels - it'll cost you more in the long run.
How did we end up there, you ask? Well it all started seven years ago, when we went to a timeshare presentation to get free steak and ended up buying the damn property. Stupid, stupid, stupid. We are now trying to get rid of the timeshare. I'll let you know how that goes.
There is something I need to warn my scarce readers about. This time around, I'm going to talk on my blog exactly the way I talk to my parents, my children, and my dog Sparky.
That will mean profuse swearing.
My previous iteration on this blog, I tried hard to accomodate all people that for some reason had me linked under "Christian blogs", "Orthodox blogs" and what have you. This led to a strange, unnatural language peppered with words like "shoot" and "dang" and an occasional "frick".
This is not me. This is not how I talk. This is how Elliott from "Scrubs" talks. I'm not comfortable talking like that.
I go to church. My youngest son is an altar boy. I taught Sunday school last year and will probably continue. I may occasionally post a rant on religion. I am serious about all these things. I am not, however, a Mother Theresa. I am not your model Christian. If you want your kids, readers, or spouse to model their spiritual lives after me, then you are really messed up and I want you to please drop me a line. We'll get along.
Seriously people, if this poem does not convince you that I cannot be listed under Orthodox blogs and such, then I give up.
That said, there's going to be swearing on this blog, and if you do not like it, you can go frick yourself.
Figured I'd start by picking apart VA's posts and then maybe I'll generate some ideas of my own. Before I get my ass sued for blog-stalking or something, let me say I'm doing it for LilProgrammer's benefit. He has read all of VA and she is apparently his new hero, which I think is pretty cool for a 15-year-old. I've read most of the site; there are some posts I actively agree with; then, there are others that I just as actively disagree with. Like I said, I've seen most of the site and V's background is impressive. The woman has been through a lot. Heck, I thought I'd been through a lot, but I'm not even close. The only person in our family that comes anywhere close is my Mom. My Mom was four years old when WWII came to her town, she was evacuated on the same day with her daycare class, and lived in an orphanage with her sister for a year before their mother found them. And they lived through three more years of war after that. And her father never came back from that war. And there is more to that story, but she'll probably kill me if I share it on an open blog. Compared to that, I've lived a sheltered life. But, given long enough time, even the most sheltered person will experience enough shit. I am no exception. I won't say more as my family members are involved. But you'll find some stuff if you browse through my archives.
Basically, this is my attempt to turn to LilProgrammer and say, Yes, this is what V says, but this is how I see it. In my forty-one years in two countries, this is how I've seen it work, so, from my experience, I disagree. Because, as we all know, teenagers love reading their parents' blogs.
Anyway, LilProgrammer and I have had an ongoing argument for the last three-ish or so years. LilProgrammer wants to be, as you may guess, a programmer. He has the brain for it. He has the work ethics. He has the programming skills. All of the above are better than mine. I have the attention span of a five-year-old on a sugar high. He works hard in school and gets good grades. Hold on a minute till I re-read this last sentence because it's like balm on my wounds. All my hard work and dedication and faith in my children, finally paying off. Ahhhh. Okay, I'm back. Here's the problem, though.
LilProgrammer firmly believes he doesn't need to go to college.
I’m ashamed to admit I'm hoping and praying for peer pressure. I figure, when all his friends start sending out applications, he will see the light. But then I remind myself, when did LilProgrammer ever want to emulate his peers?
Anyway, in this post on VA LilProgrammer's POV is validated. Sort of. The problem with all sweeping generalizations is, they do not apply to all of us. It might have done V a world of good not to start college right out of high school. Our situation is different. I have two main points to prove it.
1. Our family sucks at selling.
Notice the beginning of V's post where she talks about her entrepreneurial experience, starting at age nine. Here's where our family is different. We cannot sell. We could not sell ice cream in the desert to save our lives. I know, because we've tried, and we've tried hard.
Back in Russia, after the birth of LilProgrammer, I promptly lost my job. The correct term was, I was told to remain on unpaid maternity leave indefinitely, but that's splitting hairs really. Before that, I used to bring home more than Mr. Goldie. I was good at my work, I still had the energy, and I could learn a new programming language in a weekend. I was given all sorts of raises and perks and attractive new projects with loads of potential. Then I got my ass pregnant and that was the end of my amazing programming career in the 90's Russia.
I found myself a thankless part-time job as a secretary. That was the best I could do in our small town, where jobs were scarce, with a toddler on my hands that had not started daycare yet. In addition to that, I tried selling some of the stuff we had accumulated over the past few years.
It was a royal disaster.
I remember one winter day when I sat in the town marketplace from morning till dark, surrounded by sewing machines, pots and pans and LPs and books and who knows what else, trying to sell that shit. I sat there all freakin day, froze miserably, and did not sell a single item. Towards the end of the day, a cop approached me. Turned out there was some kind of fee I had to pay for using the marketplace for the day. The cop looked at my unsold possessions, asked how my sales were doing, chuckled and left without charging me anything. I ended up unloading all the stuff at various second-hand stores. They paid me small amounts. That was the best I could do.
Our next sales stint took place when we were packing to leave for America. This time, I tried a different approach. I made a list of what we needed to sell, mostly furniture. Then right under that, I added another list of things that we were giving away for free, mostly toys and books and, I'm guessing, LPs. I then posted the full list on every billboard and telephone pole in town. My genius idea went something like this - people would come in for the free stuff, see our amazing furniture, and, not being able to resist, they'd buy it. This was the 90's Russia, in a small town, where every other adult was unemployed and most of the general population had problems putting food on the table. But hey, to my inner entrepreneur, it seemed worth a try.
The next morning, two preteen boys knocked on our door, asking:
"Is this where the free stuff is?"
This was the first float of the Great Parade of Freeloaders. We spent all day answering the door. People were coming in droves, taking the free items, and complaing about their size, color, and general wear and tear as they carried our things out the door. Not one person bought anything. Eventually we sold most of our furniture to our neighbor next door. We had been keeping it a secret from her that we were leaving. She found out by accident. Her son had just gotten married and needed furniture for his new family nest. We had no idea. If this does not tell you how badly we suck at selling stuff, then I don't know how to convince you.
We do not sell. We do not have the skills. We could have the best furniture, LPs, sewing machines, ideas, books, programs, what have you, and we won’t be able to sell them for any amount because we can't. We suck as entrepreneurs and our children have both inherited that massive suckage. I defy LilProgrammer to prove me wrong by showing me anything he has ever sold for any amount. We are doomed to be 9-to-5 workers. As sucky as it sounds to an ambitious teenager, there are worse things in life, such as being unemployed and broke. I've been both and I'll take 9-to-5 over it any day. As such, college is the right place for us.
2. We make our living by learning new things. College teaches you to learn new things.
Granted, I do not have an American college education. Both Mr. Goldie and I did, however, get a math degree from one of the top schools in the former Soviet Union. Luckily for us, our education was free. I'm just throwing it in here to explain the "top school" part to a local reader, otherwise he'll be left wondering how in heck we could afford it. We learned a lot of random stuff in our five years of schooling, including but not limited to functional analysis, differential equations, mathematical physics, Algol-68 programming, and hardware and operational system of an IBM mainframe. I couldn't remember any of this stuff today if you paid me. In my on-and-off-almost-twenty-year career, I never used any of them and I never needed to. Sometime around our fourth year of school, we the students finally backed one of our professors up against a wall and asked the question - why on earth are we studying all this if we're never going to need it in real life? Wouldn't we be better served learning C (not C++, it didn't exist yet) and personal computers instead? Shouldn't we spend our time learning the latest technology? This was the year when the height of the latest technology was Pac-man.
The professor calmly replied that the school's goal was not to stuff us with a certain amount of knowledge, facts and skills necessary to do our job. That part was up to us. The goal of the school, on the other hand, was to teach us how to learn. Looking back, it is indeed a more useful skill than knowing how to program a Pac-man game.
Remember when I said I used to be able to pick up a new programming language in a weekend?
That's what college teaches you. And in our profession, that's a life-or-death skill. Either you have it, or you lose your job to a kid in India that does. If LilProgrammer wants to code for a living, he needs to understand that and follow through by applying to a nice state university his parents can actually afford.
As a bonus fact, Mr. Goldie and I met in college and have been more or less happily married for over sixteen years. You can count it as an argument for or against college education. It's really up to you.
I've been thinking maybe I should start blogging again.
Here's how I stumbled upon this thought.
As you (both of you, my faithful readers) remember, I have a teenage son named LilProgrammer. Naturally, I barge into LilProgrammer's room several times a day, under lame excuses like that I'm about to start laundry and I need his laundry basket, or I'm about to start the dishwasher and I need his dirty dishes. Anyway, this one morning, as I walked in, LilProgrammer quickly minimized a window on his computer screen.
Gasp! Porn? Violence? Drug-dealing site? I allow my kids to get away with a heck of a lot. What untold horrors did LilProgrammer feel the need to minimize? Turns out, it was Violent Acres.
My teenage son has been reading a blog. And I used to have one, too! And I don't anymore. If I bring it back from the dead, maybe one day, some teen will read it too, huh? How about that?
So I pondered. And I pondered. And BTW, yes, I do know that VA claims not to be a blog. But, seriously, people? If it walks like a duck... Anyway, while pondering, I read through most of VA so I could chat about it with LilProgrammer, and I found some really neat, thought-provoking posts that I will comment on sometime later. For now, here's the updates.
Remember those little kids I used to have? They are going into 7th and 10th grades this fall. LilProgrammer, by the way, is 6'2" tall, so a new nickname may be in order, but I'm lazy.
The kids are doing great in school. And they cook their own food and mow the lawn. This feels good, my friends.
I'm still on all sorts of Asperger mailing lists, but I have no idea why. I should really unsubscribe but like I said, I'm lazy.
Our little doggy Sparky is all grown up, two years old and very cute.
We just got back from vacation. We had vacation club points to burn, so we stayed at one of their locations for a week. I submitted a review of the hotel to TripAdvisor today. It is called "Nasty Hovel". We had a great time.
I try to plan a trip to Russia next year, but my family still hasn't warmed up to it. I have recently reconnected with a crazy number of old friends through two Russian social-networking websites, this one and this one, and have a massive urge to come over and catch up with them in person. Please help me convince my family.
Speaking of, if you can read Russian, my LJ is alive and kicking, averaging about two updates a month. Click over if you're interested. The latest stories have been about me teaching Sunday School this past school year. Yes, you read that right. Hard to believe, huh?
In closing, I was going to post a link to LilProgrammer's site, but apparently he took it offline without even asking his mother's permission. This sucks; there was a really neat game on that site that LilProgrammer wrote over last summer break. So this is all I have for today. Peace, friends and spammers.