Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sad.. And The Bird Thing Really Did Happen, Too...

...forgive me, I was high on floor varnish fumes as I wrote this... when Mr. IQ said the floor would be done by Tuesday, damn it, he really meant what he said!!... Of course, silly old me, I thought he meant LAST Tuesday... wait a minute, today is WEDNESDAY!! That BASTARD!!....

Luciano Pavarotti died last week. Without trying to sound insensitive or selfish, I must say he picked a really crappy time to go. Could there BE a more stressful time of year than the beginning of September? On behalf of teachers everywhere who were going back to work last week and totally freaking out, THANKS A LOT, "PAV." Being blasted by your gut-wrenching, soul-searching, weep-inducing, "WhyAmIHereAnyway?"- Demanding, "DustInTheWind! AllIAmIsDustInTheWind!" Eye-Openers EVERY TIME I TURNED ON THE STUPID RADIO LAST WEEK was MORE THAN I COULD HANDLE. What on EARTH were you THINKING?? WERE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME TOO???

(Whoa, wait a minute! It's the touching works of KANSAS that make me feel all those deep things, not Luciano. Anyway.)

Without giving the impression that I'm more cultured than I really am, because, believe me, I'm not, it was terribly sad listening to him all last week. I'm sorry, but if you can listen to Nessun Dorma and not feel like sobbing your guts out, then you have no passion in your heart. Actually, I don't have a lot of passion in my heart, but I do have an amazing, near-genius ability to feel sorry for myself. Really, it's almost the same thing.

Anyway, I was going to tell you about the crickets.

Each year, when I return to work in the fall, our school is filled with the sound of crickets. They're not there in June, but over the summer they always manage to make their way into the building. Or maybe they are there in June, but haven't started chirping yet. My buddy Nitroglycol would know. My own personal knowledge of crickets comes exclusively from reading A Cricket in Times Square as a kid, and it seems to me that that cricket chirped his way through the whole book. (Yes, I do teach high school biology sometimes, thanks for asking! Shocked? Don't be. My only knowledge of chemistry comes from reading a scene in an Enid Blyton book where someone forgot to add baking powder to the scones. As a result, they didn't rise. They needed the baking powder for the acid/base bubbly thing to happen. If I remember correctly, Hilary [or was it Belinda?] was quite upset.)

Anyway. The crickets. Coming back to their chirps each fall would be quite charming, if you didn't know that they were all dying. There is one that sits and chirps all morning in my kitchenette-filled chemistry class, and try as I will, I can't find exactly where he (she?) is. It makes me sad hearing him chirp. Even the prospect of that big Mulberry Tree in the Sky that he may be going to if he's been good doesn't make me feel much better. He's giving his last performance and honestly, it's depressing as hell listening to him. Actually, it totally breaks my heart.

The first week of school is always very hard for me. I get scared and suffer stage fright, because teaching is very much like being on stage all day, and the possibility of bombing up there and being booed is very, very real. Maybe because of this, every fall when I hear these crickets I feel like crying and running away.

Of course, as fate would have it, as I was making my panic-stricken way to my very first class of the year last week, I ran into one of them. Oh, he looked so frightened, scurrying along this way and that, not sure where to go. His jerky little movements were awfully endearing, and he reminded me a lot of Baby Fangs when she was in her crawling stage: so very sweet and innocent and, damn it all, so terribly vulnerable.

"Hey, little buddy, come on, we'll flee this place together!" I tried to surreptitiously vibe him, hoping he'd jump onto my outstretched hand and be my friend as together we disappeared into my car and made a run for the border. But he wisely ignored me, so I had no choice but to head to my classroom where, left distracted (and distraught!) by the Baby Fangs crawling cricket, I found myself greeted by the unwelcoming presence of 31 unfamiliar kids, all staring up at me with unsmiling faces.

Really, there was nothing I could do but plunge nervously into my first lesson. So that's what I did.

"Okay, so I'm, uh, Ms Whippersnapper and today we're, uh, going to learn about sig figs. Sort of. Well, we're going to add them. Not add sig figs, but, uh, use them. When adding. And subtracting! So, uh, let's say we've got 7000 plus 673 plus 120, well, you've got to include sig figs in your answer so, ha ha, let's look at all the numbers, the leftmost non sig fig number in 7000 is 7 and in the other two numbers it's 3 and 0, non-sig figs that is, so you look at the leftmost sig figs and, whoa, I guess if you're looking at the overhead that would be rightmost number, anyway, you've got to add them, that should be easy, you've been adding like this since grade three at least and besides, ha ha, you can always use a calculator, anyway line them up when you're adding them, thousands, hundreds, whatever, do that and look at your leftmost sig figs in the three numbers, I mean, rightmost, well, if you've written it down now on your own paper it would be leftmost and anyway, you need to check out this leftmostest number of the three and that will be your answer. Well, not your answer, but, you know, how you're going to answer your answer. I mean, question. Yes. Well, so you look at it, and it's thousands, right? Right? Right, so you take the thousandsplaceandputitinyour answersoeventhoughtheanswerisreally7793you're doingtheleftmostthingsoit'sgoingtobe8000. See? HAHAHAHAHA! Pretty easy, huh?"

I then spent the rest of the period going to each student individually and re-teaching what I had just "taught" to the whole class on the overhead.

But that was last week. This week has gone better. I think.

Except that I googled "Crickets" and discovered that to make chocolate-covered crickets you have to rinse them in water first and then stick them in the freezer until they're "dead but not yet frozen."

Then while reading Salmon Rushdie's book Fury in the tub, I emerged dripping and headed straight to the office (the office! Oh god, the office! Don't get me started on the office) to google the word "strappado." Finding out what it meant didn't exactly lift my spirits.

And then a bird flew into our house. Oh, poor bird. It settled on the dining room window sill, and I thought that I would be able to save him, because that window pushes open so easily. But when I moved forward to set him free he flew off frightened in the opposite direction, bashed into our living room window and went crashing dead onto our floor. It happened so fast it took me several seconds to even register what had happened.

If I were a clever girl, I would be able to make some clever connections here about all these dead and/or dying pretty tune makers. But I'm not, so I can't. All I know is that the cricket's little chirp was very faint today. He sounds so sad, and I still can't find him. I can hardly bear it that he's spending his last days cooped up in a dully painted, ugly-floored home-ec room.

But I know. He's only a cricket.


Pamela said...

I read that cricket chirps according to the temperature? ? ? ? ?

"Their songs are said to bring blessings to all that are lucky enough to hear them"

they live longer indoors, maybe it's not dying yet.

nitroglycol said...

Found some info here:

Seems it is a male, as females don't chirp. Pamela's statement about the temperature is correct, though the exact relationship between chirp timing and temperature varies between species. The article also notes that the eggs hatch in spring, which means they wouldn't reach maturity (and hence chirping) until later in the year).

BTW, your strappado link needs to be fixed, though I was still able to fiddle with it to get it to work. Thanks for that interesting piece of info (I'm sure Mr IQ already knew it; doesn't he have a book on the subject?)

Accidental Poet said...

what on EARTH is a sig-fig????

nitroglycol said...

She's referring to significant figures:

Jocelyn said...

I'm not sure I've ever found anything funnier in blogland than those paragraphs about Pavarotti dying at just the wrong time. Your weird brain and my weird brain need to be friends.

This is furthered proven by my being a teacher, too, who gets sick to her stomach and exhausted by the stage nerves required, esp.on the first day. The theater instructor at my former college used to say that an hour in the classroom, for him, as as taxing as performing in a three-hour play.

Amen. And standing ovation.

Jill said...

Oh, the sounds of dying crickets. We have one that been dying rather loudly just outside our bedroom window for the last week or so. If I could find him, I'd help him on his way.

cce said...

Crickets, back to school, Pavorati, sig figs...all in one post? You really have had a tough two weeks.
Hope your cricket brings you blessings before his demise!

jeffen said...

Post DAMN you!