And . . . It Begins

Happy 2018!

When I awoke this morning, it was -1ºF.  I closed my eyes for a few extra minutes and checked again.

It was now -3ºF.

I didn’t know that something like that could happen.  I mean, as the day goes on, it’s supposed to get warmer, right?  If this is any indication of what 2018 is going to be like, then it’s not doing itself any favors with me.

Damn, it’s cold out there.

I had two projects for today.  Well, there are about twenty-seven projects on the docket; I was only going to try to tackle two of them.  What can I say?  The new year just started; I don’t want to use up all of my motivation before the end of the year’s first month.

I need to have my car checked out before I register it for this year.  Personally, I resent having to do this, but it’s a long story and me whining won’t change anything.  But the sum is that I must have a mechanic’s authorization that says my car is in decent shape.  I know it is, as I’ve been blessed not to have any troubles this past year.  But this is a requirement and there’s that whole “rendering unto Caesar” part, so . . . there it is.

Frankly, I think Caesar’s getting a tad greedy, but . . . I digress.

Reluctantly, I dressed for the conditions – by this point it was -6ºF, per Accuweather, and I was wondering if Rod Serling was out front delivering a narration about my situation.  Seriously – how does it get colder as the sun continues to rise?  Did I awake in Bizarroworld?  No matter; I have my long underwear and a trusty wool sweater to keep me warm, and after I’d applied all of the required layers of garments, I was off to the car.

I’ve driven my car just once since December 23.  In that time, the average temperature was something like -10ºF.  If I have nowhere to go, then I don’t go – very simple philosophy that saves me gas and gas money.  And since I knew that I’d had a half tank of gas already, I knew that my only real problem would be in how the transmission might respond to being rustled from its slumber.  That could be a problem.

My first car was a 1978 Plymouth Fury.  Take a minute to look that up on Google; I’ll wait.

For those not interested, realize that the Plymouth Fury was the standard mid-1970s police vehicle because of its engine and the amount of room it had in the back seat.  Hell, that thing was so big, I used to joke that it had a basement.  I moved half of the stuff I owned across country in that back seat in only one trip.  My father picked it out for me and I slaved away until I could pay off that $2,500 loan that it took to buy it.  Got me through a couple of bad Upper Midwest winters, too.  This was back when you had to have two sets of tires – summer tires and snow tires – along with the required chains and standing jack.

I mention this because I come from that generation that believed that you needed to have a half tank of gas in your car during the winter, and that you needed to let the vehicle warm up for a good thirty minutes or so before you took off.  The former is to ensure that the gas lines don’t freeze up, and the latter is to ensure that the transmission and carburetor would work effectively.  My father was adamant that I warm the car up before doing what ever I had to do, and with a Plymouth Fury, believe me – if you didn’t warm it up, you were looking at a real short trip.

My understanding is that nowadays, warming up is not necessary, unless you want someone to steal your car.  Every winter, some idiot goes out, starts their car to warm it up, and will then return to their warm and cozy home – leaving the car unlocked and idling.  If I sound harsh, it’s because this is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen people do.  I’ve yet to see a news article about someone who was found frozen to death in the seat of their car as they tried to warm it up in the driveway.  It’s like people who are “so cold” that they’ll put a gas pump into their tank, then immediately jump back into the vehicle to “stay warm,” despite the fact that this is illegal.  Usually – nine times out of ten – the person who’d set up their vehicle to warm while they waited will come back to find an empty space where their warming car once rested – I kid you not.  Last year, the local police actually had to issue a warning to the community to not do this.

In my case, I don’t need to warm the car up, and the auto mechanic is less than two miles from my home – I can do this.  Wrapped tight, I decided to venture forth.  And I did so – slowly.  Remember, I’ve only driven once in nearly two weeks, and it felt like my car was not in a forgiving mood.  I moved very slowly, despite having put some pressure on the accelerator, and not wanting to blow the transmission, I figured I’d be as gentle as possible until it was willing to cooperate.

Fortunately, there was little traffic on my street, meaning that I didn’t have to worry about some guy pulling up behind me and honking because I wasn’t tear-assing it down the road.  I made it to the mechanic’s, only to find out that he had no openings for at least a week; he’d be happy to make an appointment for me.  Not knowing how my schedule would play out, I politely declined, knowing that in about a week or so, I could probably get a walk-in spot.  So, I took the car home.  It rode a lot better during the return trek, and all went smoothly.  I still have no place to go, but if the weather is better, I might make an afternoon run on Thursday.  At the very least I might just fill up the tank.

The second trek involved something of greater importance.

Until this fall, I used to sign out a university provided laptop to use in my classes.  Simple process:  Just stop by IT’s offices in the morning, sign out an available laptop for the week, do my job, return said laptop on Friday, and do it all again the following week.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

If there was one consistent theme in all of my annual professional reviews, it’s that I don’t use enough “technology” in my classes.  I’d complain, except that it’s true.  I hate showing movies, and despite having purchased at least two dozen of them for various classes, I’ve only shown about four.  People don’t pay attention during films, and unless they’re extremely pertinent, they can be a colossal waste of time.  I don’t like to show PowerPoint slide shows because I refuse to become tech-dependent in my lectures.  Sure, PowerPoint is good for showing a few photos and a couple of maps, but when an instructor uses a data-rich slide presentation in lieu of actually teaching, then it’s more of a problem than a help.  I’ve been called “old school,” and I see that as more of a compliment than a complaint.  Honestly, if I could find my old transparencies, I’d be using those for maps, rather than spending the night before a lecture frantically scanning for something to steal from Google.

I had a laptop, but the hard drive died, and repairing it was cost prohibitive, hence my using university-provided equipment.  But that changed in October.  For some reason, the student who was the gate-keeper of the laptops – university provided laptops, no less – decided that I wasn’t worthy of one.  I don’t know what happened, but when I came to get one – the same routine I’d been doing now for a couple of years – he suddenly questioned my need for this piece of equipment.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of those people who, in a situation like this, reels back and looks down my nose with disgust and revulsion, dismissing the student in question as a “peasant,” while demanding my equipment.  But I was surprised that this routine, which had gone on for quite some time without disruption, was being questioned.  If there was a problem, no one had said anything to me.  If there had been a change in policy, again – they were silent.  As far as I knew, nothing had changed until now, so I was at a loss.

What really got me, though, was his dismissiveness.  I couldn’t get a computer, he said, and if I did get it, I could only have it for a couple of hours.  When I explained that I needed for class (you know, that whole teaching thing), he became downright rude about the situation, telling me that he would “do [me] a favor and bypass the rules this one time.”

WTF?  No, seriously . . . what the f***??

I walked out of the office.  I didn’t say anything, because if I had, I would have unloaded.  I knew that if I said anything, I’d burn that bridge with the IT office.  Shoot, I’d burn the bridge, the water, scorch the banks of the river, and likely set the atmosphere aflame.

I was pissed.

A week later, I was given the same treatment by the same student worker.  The difference this time, though, was that the other IT staff were present.  And while at least two were aware of my dependence on the university provided laptops (this is why they have them), neither said a word as the student worker again berated my request.  But this kid couldn’t just stop there; no, he had to get greedy.  I don’t think he knew I caught it when he said (and I’ll paraphrase): “You could just buy your own computer.

Welp, we just went to DEFCON 1, people.

Given what I’ve said, you might think that I went ballistic on everyone there, but I didn’t.

Nope.  Didn’t say a single word.

I smiled, left the room, and headed back to my office.  At the start of each class that day, I explained to my students what was going on – that the IT department had refused my request to use one of the available laptops.  As a result, I couldn’t show maps, photos, or the like, and that students would either have to imagine things or look them up later.  Surprisingly, my classes adapted and the term went on, albeit with no tech.

What does any of this have to do with today?  Simple – I went out and bought a new laptop.  Bought one of the least expensive computers I could find, added MS Office, and got the extended warranty.  A good $500 that I really didn’t have, all because one campus department decided it would arbitrarily change its campus mission.  It’s a nice computer, too.

But now I have a new goal.  See, I want to get on the campus committee that decides IT’s budget.

2018 might be fun.  I know it will be for me.


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