Sunday, September 20, 2009

post racial?

I recently took a trip to my local CVS to find an anniversary card to send to my girlfriend. I sifted through the displays, but unfortunately, most cards are now of the talking variety and while I love those weird green and purple creatures with the high voices that star in most of the Hallmark cards, they're not always the most appropriate for every occasion.

I live in a neighborhood heavily populated by Portuguese and Spanish speaking people, so there was a large selection of cards in Spanish. I don't think it was prejudiced of me to ignore that section. I wanted to pick a card I could read. However, my prejudice did become harder to defend when I got to the Mahogany section of the Hallmark brand. I found a card that showed a happy young black couple dancing. Jenny and I have gone dancing and enjoyed it. The couple seemed to be in our age range. There was nothing on the card that made it seem exclusive to a religion, culture, or way of life. It was just a happy, young black couple dancing with a background of jazzy colors. It seemed appropriate enough.

And, yet, I just couldn't picture sending it to her. There's no guarantee that if I saw a white version of this card, I'd be more inclined to get it. However, I'm sure that because they were black I was immediately less inclined.

I remember as a kid my mom and I went shopping to buy a birthday gift for my baby cousin. I watched a lot of TV back then and knew all the toys from the commercials. I was pointing out different dolls to my mom (this one can eat and afterward you can clean the poop out of its diaper; this one can suck its thumb and sing the chorus of "Hey Hey, We're the Monkees") and I pointed out a new doll that was all the rage. I don't remember what made it special. Maybe it got good gas mileage and doubled as an espresso machine. Anyway, my mom was appalled I'd even suggest it because the only one left at KMart was the black version.

At the time I could distinguish between race, but I just didn't see why it was a big deal, especially since we're not even white. It's not like Mattel makes a little Filipino doll that sells Chicklets on the street corner and rolls lumpia for holidays*.

*As a complete aside, does anyone else find it odd that the only picture I could find of children rolling lumpia turns out to be a picture of black kids?

Anyway, I guess as you grow older, you notice differences more. I ended up getting one of those cards that shows two little kids pretending to be adults. You know, the kind that has the four year old boy dressed in a suit and the girl gives him a kiss before he takes the train. Isn't a card that implies toddlers engaged in adult behavior and forced to grow up too fast much more disturbing than a card showing adult black people dancing?

I guess I know the answer based on my choice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

worth sharing today

Here's a poem worth sharing today from one of my favorite writers, X.J. Kennedy.

"September Twelfth, 2001"

Maybe it's even more important to reflect today that it was yesterday.

Monday, September 7, 2009

everybody plays the fool, concluded

On April Fools Day of 2008 I wrote a post called Everybody Plays a Fool detailing a couple humiliating moments in my life and promised that a third "Armin Plays the Fool" story was soon to come. I assumed everyone would start salivating for this last embarrassing story, like the third secret of Fatima.

But no one seemed very interested, though I was under the impression that "Armin makes an ass out of himself" stories were the bread and butter of this blog.

So here it is, whether anyone cares anymore:

3. I shat my pants.

Is that the proper conjugation of the verb? I shitted my pants? I had shit my pants?

Regardless, the take home point: I lost control of my bowels while still wearing Dockers. Not when I was six. Not when I was ten. Well, actually, I probably did shat/shit/had shit my pants at those ages, but the the story I'm recounting took place when I was twenty four.

I was working as a teacher's assistant at a high school and, as a side gig, I went to the house of a special needs kid in the morning before school started to help him with his hygiene routine. I was supposed to make sure he showered, combed his hair, shaved, and found clean clothes to wear. For some reason, they picked me for this job even though I could use my own minimum wage earning teacher's assistant to help me with all of these things, too.

At the time, I was not a regular coffee drinker, but some mornings were so rough, I needed to stop at Dunkin Donuts before I got to his place at 6:15 AM. This morning, I left his place after drinking a large coffee (probably recuperating from a week day night out, which most likely also aided in my gastric turmoil). Halfway to school and stuck in greater metro boston traffic, I realized I was in serious trouble. My intestines were reenacting the French Revolution.

Worse yet, I got a call from my boss saying a potential new student was visiting. I had just been promoted to lead teacher of my own classroom for the coming school year and a parent was bringing in her son to see if I would be the right teacher for him. You know, the kind of teacher that is caring, attentive, in control of his bowels...

After thirty minutes of agony, a wave of hope flooded me when I got past the traffic, turned into the school parking lot, and began the penguin waddle to the restroom, trying to walk with haste, but keep my butt cheeks clenched simultaneously.

The high school where I worked was like a college campus, comprised of a bunch of separate buildings instead of one large building. The building containing my classroom had a restroom, but I didn't want to risk the students seeing me, so I headed to the cafeteria instead.

I was in the faculty bathroom (private, thankfully), had just enough time to lock the door, pull down my pants, but was a second too late. Disaster. Do you remember that swimmer in the Beijing Olympics who lost to Michael Phelps by a millionth of a second? I know exactly how he feels. I was that close to surviving this ordeal with my pride intact.

The excitement over, I sat in the bathroom pondering my choices. I called my boss and lied saying I had a flat tire. I don't condone lying to a supervisor, but even Jesus and Abe Lincoln would have had a hard time fessing up at that moment. Since the students walked between the classroom and cafeteria, I was terrified that a student already saw me on campus. The next day, one girl said she did see me, but it was easy to convince her otherwise because she's retarded. I don't mean that as an insult at all. She's mentally retarded and it's easy to convince her she didn't see me even though she really did see me walk the horrible walk of shame from the bathroom to my car.

Here's a bonus: that same year, I was living with three other people in a one bathroom apartment. One morning after drinking too much, there was someone in the bathroom and without another option, I took a shit in a Hefty garbage bag in my room, then left that garbage bag on the street because I didn't know what else to do with it.

I don't deserve to be part of the civilized world and I atone for all my sins. But, as a warning, if we're driving in your car and I say I need a bathroom, I'm not just trying to make small talk. You best be finding the nearest rest stop or Arbie's.