Saturday, November 18, 2017

It's No Fun Being the Ugly Guy at a Bar

It isn't any fun being the ugly guy at a bar. While all of your friends are out making new friends, getting the smiles and being dragged onto the dance floor, you're just sort of there -with nothing to do- standing around with a glass of booze in your hand.

After a while, you invent things to do just to keep yourself occupied. You make suggestions to the playlist, or start thinking of better ways the stools could have been organized. You make double sure your glass is handed into the bartender when you go to get another drink and if the place is low minded enough, you may even start to play some darts or a game of pool. But all of those occupations are just examples of what the ugly guy at the bar does because, well, he's ugly and at a bar.

Most fellas fall into the trap of thinking that if they invite their friends to the bar, each as ugly as they,  that the state of affairs will be ameliorated.

Let me tell you, it does nothing to improve things. At the end of the night, it winds being just a group of ugly guys making suggestions to the playlist or thinking out loud of ways the barstools could have been better arranged. The group winds up giving extra work to the bartender because they're all bringing their empty glasses to the bar at the same time and are all asking for quarters for the pool table or for a few extra darts for the dart board. I know bars. And I know ugly. That's a potential train wreck.

Now there are tons of things that go into making a guy  ugly. It's not like someone just snapped their fingers. No one is born ugly. Consider, for a second,  this guy could be overworked. He may have stopped paying attention to his outward appearance. Fewer trips to the clothing store and the barber eventually makes a guy less attractive, don't you agree? And when you're less attractive than you otherwise would have been, well ... yeah.

But all of those "causes" of ugly just melt away when you actually open the door and enter the bar. Think about that moment. The instant you swing open the door to the bar and everyone looks up at you. W'eve all been there. Do you think they're thinking "wow. His kid must have been sick this whole week." or ""Poor guy! He must not have had time to keep up with the latest fashion trends!" or "Eh, he's shopping at the wrong store". Of course not! They're looking at you thinking only about the image you've been able to craft for yourself leading up to that one singular moment.. And if you've had time to keep up with trends and make sure your appearance is presentable, then maybe they're thinking good things when that door swings open and you'll catch a few smiles and make some friends.

And, if you're me, they're thinking only one thing: "Ugly guy" and they turn away. At this point my life, I just look around them for a pool table.

Now every once in a while, you get some bar dude who needs to remind you, or your group that you haven't paid enough attention yourself or to the world to be outwardly presentable in quiet some time. This guy knows the score. He knows you and your group may have been busy and may have missed one or two image related innovations over the past few months or even years. He knows you're there trying to get your groove back but, for whatever reason, he just doesn't care. This guy will literally stop his entire night just to make you feel worse about yourself. He'll follow you everywhere to remind you that you're out of place. He'll go to that pool table, or stand in the way of your dart board or even stand next to YOU and make suggestions to YOU as YOU make suggestions to that playlist. Guys like this are like Ahab. Here's how much Ahab hated Moby Dick:

All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it

That's how much this guy has it in for you. And you've got to be there, at the bar, trying desperately to function, despite him. Many of my nights have been ruined by guys like this. They are not fair and they're not right and they make matters worse.

There is no truth with malice in this post! I am so proud that my union, the UFT, is Mobilizing [its] Members for Battle To Get Paid Parental Leave (paywall) I could burst.  I would give back -lots- of what I and those like me have currently earned if it meant that no one in the future would ever be damned to the first 12 weeks of a child's life that my wife and I, and thousands like us, endured when our child was born.  That's not just the big picture. That's the only picture.  I've read the Facebook posts and Twitter feeds and blogs making nonsensical assertions assertions like 'no givebacks' and "Whereas ..." "it should be .. ." and they're all wrong. I've lived through the education wars and have gone ten years without a real raise just like other folks. I have the same scars as other people with keyboards and big mouths. (Actually, my scars are worse). They don't make any sense in any context.  We can come together behind Unity and help right this one wrong for mothers and fathers and children and families all across this city with none of the usual need to be recognized  and without any of the competition or anger or petulance or drama. It's time for anyone who isn't Unity to stop what they're doing, to simply support the efforts being made and, like the line from Legally Blonde,  try not to look so constipated.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mermaid Man: Preface

One of the craziest things I had to do during the education wars was stop to document workplace abuses and contract violations with and for other teachers. Whenever anyone is under any real kind of abuse that violates a rule, agreement or law, the best tools they have are a cool, clear head (so as not to become emotional) and a good notebook to document the incidents in anecdotal form as they go. Knowledge of your rights is important but these two tools are actually the best you've to work with on a day to day basis   It is tough work. I would sit with a teacher at a coffee shop or bar or even in a park or over the phone and just walk them through the process of creating a log of the sometimes many incidents involved in the pattern of abuse since it began.

I didn't do it often, but when I did, it would take hours. That's a lot of tome to give up for a person you barely know. But I remembered being alone in a similar environment, so I spent those hours helping, as best as I could, those teachers to find at least that sense of empowerment.

Sometimes these patterns had gone on for months before the teacher found their way to me. So the discussion also involved the person having to relive some painful memories as we went along.

Imagine being a teacher, spending all of your time on lesson plans or telephone calls or grading -or all of these- then having to put up with patterns of abuse from your (usually Bloomberg appointed) supervisor. All of your discretion, all of your freedom, your creativity and motivation to do to the job is taken from you when the environment becomes difficult beyond what is acceptable by contract or law.

You go through stages of mourning when this happens. There is a denial stage, where you just can't accept that these things are actually happening to you. There is an anger stage when it becomes clear that any future hopes you had have been taken from you, probably forever, by this abuser (or by the person or persons who sent the abuser to perform their duties). There are stages for bargaining, anger and depression as well. Each of them are painful. Each of them bring their own separate pain. Eventually, it becomes difficult to even wake up and go to work.

And then the teacher reaches a moment of realization; an awareness that these things aren't things, but a thing -a singular thing- that is defined as a pattern of abusive workplace behavior and only then, only at that moment, is he or she is ready to reach out for some help.

Now, after months of this new reality, and after finally reaching out to someone, imagine being told that the best -the very best- you can do is to change your mentality, to document each and every incident in a cold, clear writing tone of voice and that you have to start from the very beginning of the pattern, re-experiencing all of those painful memories, so as to log them one by one --now. Right now -in this coffee shop or in this bar or on this park bench or classroom or over the phone. That's tough work.  That's crazy (actually, it's nuts). But it happens. And it happens to good teachers.

For capricious and for arbitrary reasons.

But don't sweat it! Workplace abusers are often hilarious! These are typically people of an incredibly low intellect and even lower sense of self esteem.  Think Mermaid Man: That superhero who is still around long after any reasonable time that he should have been. The guy who never hung up his tights but is still around because he knows no other way. This person who is after you. You're going to let that guy ruin your days?

Almost every teacher I spoke with came to realize that the person who was on them was a little person trying -desperately- to feel big. Some people are hurt by those folks. But other people know how to have fun with them. Be that other guy.

Sure, you'll have to go about a way of bringing the ol' junkyard dog to heel but that's why they make unions and lawyers (mine is Bryan D Glass and, although I haven't been in trouble at work in many years,  it's good to know he's there and I still have him on speed dial). So, as you are patiently pursuing those options, just chill out and have a little fun ;).

And if you're not sure where to start and you're in the city and a UFT member, those dissenting caucus' can serve as a good resource. I belong to MORE. But ICESolidarity and New Action Caucus are also made up of strong, experienced, union minded people who will literally stop what they are doing to help you start a process to end it. Don't discount the ruling the Unity Caucus, of the UFT either. They get a lot of bad press but they too are made up of people who are paid to help teachers help students.

And if you're going to read the blogs only read the funny ones. They ones who take their work seriously but keep their jobs in check.

Chapter 1: Mermaid Man has an idea