Archive for June, 2007

Lucked Out

This past Friday, misfortune took a couple of swings at me and missed.  I saw the hand of fate fly by my face, and I felt the wind of the slap in my hair, but at the end of the night, my cheek remained unslapped (yes, I know that’s not a word, but it should be).  Let me clarify by saying that misfortune wasn’t trying to knock me out; these weren’t major catastrophes that I avoided – no pestilence or other wrath of God type activities – just incredible inconveniences. 

To begin, there are some background details that must be told:  First, The Megger was on Martha’s Vineyard with her college friends.  Second, I had tasked the weekend to work on a 15-20 page paper for my graduate class.  Third, I was coming home for only a short period of time before driving back to Somerville for my 9:45pm softball game.  Now, since I work in Cambridge, a natural question might be:  Why on God’s green earth would I drive from Cambridge to Clinton, only to turn around and drive back to Somerville; why not stay at work and start my paper and then go to the softball game from there? 

The reason’s name is Callie; our dog.  She has this hang-up where she likes to go outside from time to time.  If she doesn’t get to go outside, I have a fear that she will treat our bed as “the outside,” if you get my meaning, so I drove home.  It did occur to me along the way that I should probably just skip the softball game and just stay home to work on my paper, but that sort of rational thinking does not apply when dealing with something as important as softball. 

When I got home, I brought in the mail.  A note about the mail:  To whomever is sending me those handwritten envelopes with no return address that contain newspaper ads for cars or whatnot with “Timothy, check this out!” scrawled on the top of the ad:  Stop. No one calls me Timothy.  Don’t pretend to be my friend; it creates backlash.  I know that the whole point is just to get me to open the envelope, but I won’t do business with you if you attempt to deceive me. 

Anyway, I had just thrown the junk mail away when it began to rain.  I turned and ran out the front door, swinging the screen door shut behind me, and went to my car to close the sunroof.  I was sitting in the car, with driver’s door open, and the sunroof was about half-shut when I noticed something moving out of the corner of my eye:  My dog wandering around on my front lawn.  I know that she hadn’t left the house with me, and she’s not tall enough to open the door herself, so I knew that something odd had happened. 

Now, there is no fence around my front lawn, and my dog is the type of beast who has no master when she’s not on a leash or hemmed in by a fence.  She will take off on a sprint and no amount of calling will bring her back.  She had begun to trot down the street to play in traffic and start the circus of me chasing her all over town, when I called to her.

“Callie!  Wanna go for a ride?” 

Now, Callie should never want to go for a ride.  She gets nervous in the car, and slides all over the place when we take turns, and usually the ride ends up in places like the vet’s office.  Thankfully, dogs aren’t known for their rational behavior.  Callie always thinks that she wants to go for a ride.  She trotted over to the car with an “Ok, where to?” look on her face.  I snagged her collar and the crisis was averted. 

When I inspected the screen door, the inside latch had completely shattered.  Now, I hadn’t closed the door with any great force, but you know how these things happen:  Some guy in Australia drops a fork in a restaurant, and the shock wave travels along the earth’s crust and gets involved with frequencies and harmonicas and some guy named El Niño (translation:  “The Niño”) and before you know it, my door latch is hitting the catch with the force of a ball peen hammer and I have a new “to do” list item.  I carefully close the door so that it will stay shut and hope that there are no high winds in the future (Note: there wasn’t one of those “close the door with hydraulic power” gadgets on the door…that had broken off in a windstorm a while back). 

Fast forward an hour or so.  The rain has stopped, Callie has enjoyed a romp in the fenced yard, and it’s time for me to leave for my softball game.  I don’t want to disturb the delicate balance that is my front door, so I gather my things and head out the side door.  The door is just clicking shut and locking behind me when I think to pat my pants for my keys.  No keys.  My keys are hanging, as they always do, in the hallway leading to the front door. 

So, I’m locked out of my house and my car.  My wife, with the other set of keys, is on Martha’s Vineyard.  Through the door, I can hear my dog rummaging around in her bowl for that last piece of kibble.  It starts to sprinkle lightly. 

Rather than break a window (I hate replacing windows), I decide to try a breaking and entering technique used by only the most sophisticated criminals.  Now, I won’t go into detail, because I don’t want to be responsible for a crime wave in my town, but I can tell you that my method involved a plastic supermarket value card.  After about 5 minutes of sweating, jiggling, and swearing, I was able to get into the house, although I doubt I’ll be getting any more value out of that supermarket card. 

So, I was safely in my house, and another crisis had been averted, but now I had another to do list item for the weekend:  Install deadbolt on side door.  Anything to keep from writing that paper.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 29 Jun 2007 No Comments

A Trip to Fenway

The following is a running diary of my trip to Fenway Park on Friday, June 1st for the Red Sox-Yankees game: 

6:45pm:  It’s raining, and there is a tarp on the field.  I have just joined The Megger and her parents in our seats in the reserved grandstand behind home plate.  We “won” the right to buy these tickets through some sort of Yankee ticket lottery that the Red Sox held before the season.  I would love to invent something so popular that I would have to hold a lottery for people to win the right to pay me for it. 

The best seats we could get were obstructed view, so we are sitting behind one of the steel girders for the roof that is protecting us from the rain.  From my seat, which is not exactly made for a person of my advanced size and height, I can’t see home plate or third base.  I don’t mind so much, though, because I can already feel the excitement building in the park.  It’s always special when the Red Sox and Yankees play. 

It reminds me of a few years back when one of my friends called me to say that he had an extra luxury box ticket for a Red Sox – Yankees game on Easter Sunday.  It was a tough choice between spending Easter with my family, and spending it in a luxury box, watching the Sox-Yankees, and enjoying free food and beer.  I chose the game; was that wrong? 

7:10pm:  The rain stopped a few minutes ago, and there was an announcement that the game will start at 7:30.  Until then, though, the Red Sox are celebrating the 1967 Impossible Dream Team by showing highlights on the scoreboard of the Sox losing the 1946 World Series; it’s a bit disconcerting. 

7:15pm:  The video ends and various members of the 1967 team are introduced to the crowd.  The player’s name is announced, and he then has to climb down out of the stands and then struggle to put on a replica jersey with his name and number while the crowd claps politely.  Wouldn’t it have been easier to allow them to put the shirts on ahead of time, and have them walk out of the dugout instead of risking a broken hip by clambering down from the stands?  I know, I’m not a PR person, so I don’t understand these things. 

The manager of the 1967 team, Dick Williams, is introduced to a nice hand.  He’s been on sports radio the past day or so, but for some reason, during those interviews, he didn’t mention his indecent exposure arrest in 2000 for walking around outside a hotel sans pants. 

Jim Lonborg, who won the Cy Young Award in 1967, is the last player introduced. 

Wait, no Yaz?  Carl Yastrzemski, the guy who won the Triple Crown and carried the team to the World Series that year; the guy who lent his name to Big Yaz Special Fitness White Bread; the guy whose name was used for the band , Yaz (Their “Upstairs at Eric’s” is a Megger favorite), is too busy for this reunion?

I wonder for a moment if he demanded an exorbitant appearance fee, but then I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had a schedule conflict; probably signing loaves of bread at a mall somewhere. 

7:25pm:  The announcer says something to the effect of, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and remove your caps for the national anthem.”  The person at the microphone begins the performance, and I think back to the book Feeding the Green Monster, in which Rob Neyer reveals that all of these performances at Fenway are pre-recorded. 

Due to my upbringing, and my military service, I always stand up straight and put my hand over my heart when the national anthem is played.  To my extreme displeasure, two of the guys near me don’t take off their baseball caps for “The Star Spangled Banner.”  The guy a few seats to my right is wearing his baseball hat backwards and looks like Vin Diesel, but about 100 watts dimmer.  The guy a row in front of me has a serious blond mullet and a NASCAR hat. 

I reach forward and yank the hat, and about 20 strands of hair, off of mullet-guy, then do a spinning kick to relieve Mr. Dull Look of both his hat and his consciousness.  Ok, not really.  In truth, since I’m not Chuck Norris, I just stare at the flag, listen to the music, and seethe at the lack of respect these guys are showing.  I mean, I know that it’s a recording, but that is an important song to many people, including me.  I understand if they aren’t comfortable with the hand over the heart bit, but come on, take off your hat; if for no other reason than because the announcer asked you to.  Sigh. 

7:35 to 10:45pm:  The game starts, and it’s not pretty.  Tim Wakefield can’t control his knuckleball, the ball is flying everywhere and Yankees are running across the plate every time one of them gets past poor Doug Mirabelli.  Wakefield gets pulled and, despite a poor performance, still gets a nice round of applause from the crowd.  Who says that the Fenway fans have no class? 

Speaking of class, this is A-Rod’s first trip to Boston since the flap with him and a female companion in Toronto, and also the first time he’s been here since the controversy when A-Rod shouted at the Blue Jay third baseman, confusing the fielder enough so that he dropped a pop fly. 

During the game, A-Rod gets thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, and the crowd goes wild.  Later, there are “AAA-Rod” chants (which ALWAYS seem to backfire, by the way), but none of the “Who’s your mistress?” chants that the sports radio people were predicting.  Also, thankfully, there aren’t any of the “Yankees S***” chants that always make me a little embarrassed to be a Red Sox fan. 

At about 10:45pm, with the Sox losing, 9-3, I decide to head home.  I’m hot and uncomfortable in the grandstand seats, and I have to take the train to get to my car.  The Megger, who will stay to watch the rest of the game with her parents, asks, “What if the Red Sox come back?” 

Stumped for an answer, I reply, “But what if there’s a tornado?” 

“Fair enough,” she says, understanding me completely.

Sports Tim 08 Jun 2007 No Comments

Career Aspirations

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

I always hated that question as a kid, if only because I never had a good answer for it.  When I was younger, I didn’t know any better, so my default answer was always, “I want to play for the Red Sox!”  The questioner would look at my plump physique, probably giggle a little, and then indulge my pipe dream with a smile and a few words about practicing hard. 

As I grew up, the question remained, although it took on different forms:  “Are you going to college?” and “What major are you going to take in school?” and, when I went into the working world, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” 

Again, I hated these questions.  It seemed to me that most of the people asking these questions were looking for their own answers as much as they are curious about the path I was going to take with my life. 

One time in a job interview, my interviewer asked me where I saw myself in five years, and I honestly saw myself sitting on the beach, sipping icy drinks and thinking of ways to spend my lottery winnings.  I sat there in the interview room, quietly enjoying the scene for almost a minute of uncomfortable silence, before stammering out some answer I thought would fit more neatly with what the interviewer wanted to hear.

I didn’t get the job. 

I’ve always been stumped about those questions.  When I was in high school, I decided to join the Air National Guard and then attend the University of Lowell (as it was known then) for electrical engineering.  This was not due to some deep need of mine to wear camouflage one weekend a month and a pocket protector the other days; instead, I chose that path because two of my brothers had done it and, well, it seemed to work out pretty well for them. 

Luckily for me, the Air Force was a great decision, and I have never regretted it.  However, it became clear after only three years that engineering was not the field for me.  In considering other fields, I thought about English, but I received some advice that I would “never find work” in that field.  So, I graduated with a business management degree, in the hopes that it would help me to quickly become gainfully employed. 

By that point, my career wasn’t about dreams any longer, it was about expediency.  I wanted a job; I wanted an apartment; I wanted a car.  Now. 

Somehow, despite my business management degree, no one wanted me to manage their business right after graduation, so I got the only job I could find:  accounting.    I figured out that I hated accounting after only three accounting jobs and many sleepless nights.  I would stay up at night and despair over my chances of finding another job when the only experience on my resume was “Accounting.” 

All was not lost, however.  Through a friend (friends are important to your careers, kids), I managed to find a job doing technical support for an accounting software company.  I would support the software and teach day and weeklong classes software classes to my clients.  My job was, when boiled down to its essence, about helping people to learn, whether on the phone or in the classroom.  For the first time in my career, when I got home at the end of the day it felt like I had done something worthwhile. 

It was at this point that I began to think about how good it felt to make a difference in other people’s lives, and I began to think about teaching English.  My whole life, people have been telling me that I would make a great teacher, but until now I always just assumed that they were being polite.  Now I hoped that they were right.  I started to do some research. 

I talked to my friends who are educators and every one of them was enthusiastic about their careers and about the difference they were making in their students’ lives.  They, along with my wife, encouraged me to start the process. 

My first step was to take a graduate English class, just to see how I would like it.  Driving home after the first night of class I was punching my steering wheel and shouting “This is what I want to do!” to no one in particular.  I knew that I wanted to work in education, and that I wanted to help students to embrace and appreciate reading and writing.  Most of my classmates were teachers, and they made it all seem very possible. 

That class was about a year ago.  Since that time, I have continued to take classes at night (4.0 GPA so far), have been accepted to a Graduate English program, and have passed the tests required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to teach.  I hope that my efforts will someday lead to a job teaching middle or high school English, and that I will be able to make a positive impact on my students. 

Until then, I’m still doing software support, a job I enjoy quite a bit; but I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.  It feels good to not hate that question any more.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 01 Jun 2007 No Comments