The ins and outs of the bathroom
Seriously, I have to manage this, too?
It’s not my favorite thing when I solicit questions about the task and someone asks to go to the bathroom. Maybe I need to teach the term “clarifying questions.”
Sixth graders have to ask permission, sign out, and only one person can go the bathroom at a time. I’m supposed to keep the sign-outs in case of an incident — graffiti or a storm of paper towels — so the office can cross-reference it with anyone signed out during the infraction, play Columbo. I’ve even been asked for student journals to help amateur handwriting analysis. I guess it’s all an improvement over my previous school which had fewer rules, and then two girls would met up in the bathroom and… you know, let’s leave it at sign-outs are good.
Tracking who’s out means one more plate to balance. My time is spent teaching the lesson, managing behavior, working with kids individually. I don’t like devoting brain space to who’s in and out of the classroom. Sometimes the answer is, You can go after Kamala comes back, and she hasn’t even left yet. Sometimes I say, check the board to see if the last person who signed out is back, I can’t remember. I would rather focus on any other aspect of class.
Sometimes I say, Can it wait 5m? Is it an emergency? Plenty of kids need to go at the exact moment I’m teaching what the whole day is about. For some kids, the bathroom is an escape hatch, a refuge. I was taught to give the kids their bathroom and use the staff one. Which I did, but it’s so far away and and the boys’ room is right across the hall. There’s a gender-neutral bathroom, but I steer clear during school hours. If someone’s taken the time to walk over to use it, someone who needs that should have priority over me. The cost is I see sixth graders in the bathroom and it never goes well. But at least I don’t have to sign out.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
I guess the fact that I spill less coffee on myself these days is progress. And yet, this is still very me. Oh and Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I’ve been obsessed with Miles Davis’s 1969 experimental jazz album Bitches Brew. It’s a different universe than Kind of Blue, and I’m insanely stupid when it comes to jazz. I can’t say that I fully get why it’s great, or what exactly I like about it. It has weird instruments, no real tunes, plenty of songs are hard to catch onto. It took a literal dozen listens before I started to get a feel for the songs. But I can’t stop listening, it blows me away every time.
My Back Pages
In college a million years ago, I got a chance to interview the white supremacist of the moment, Dilbert creator Scott Adams. Back then he seemed harmless and non-partisan, although he did describe fame as feeling “like Michael Jackson for a day, minus the child molestation.” From a draft I found of the Tufts Daily article I self-titled, “Dilbert: Moving Faster Than Pens at an Engineer's Convention,” 1995:
Dilbert has taken the world by storm. The comic strip starring a terminally geeky electrical engineer and his wise-cracking, misanthropic dog has become one of the biggest attractions in the funny pages, syndicated in more than 140 papers nation-wide. As its press kit states, “Dilbert’s popularity is spreading faster than a computer virus.”
To be fair, the strip started in 1989 and was only just starting to enter the publi consciousness, so it’s nearly forgivable to feel the need to introduce the world to Dilbert. It is much less forgettable to print lines from the press kit verbatim. Journalism!
Scott Adams actually seems like a normal guy, or at least as normal as the rest of us loonies. On the phone, he speaks in a slow, relaxed, and casual manner, dryly describing himself as “five-eight, trim and athletic build, thinning blond hair, glasses, and incredibly good-looking. And you can put, I have a real nice butt.”
I feel like some of these details I added to convince the reader, Yes, I really talked to this future segregationist chump. As for the word loonies, that’s straight-up Monty Python.
A 36-year-old graduate of Harwood College in New York, Adams works for a northern California telecommunications company in addition to cartooning. He is not married, and does not have a dog, but two cats named Sarah and Freddie (sorry — no Catbert). His shoe size is “nine-and-a-half, sometimes ten.”
That’s how early it was, this was still a side hustle. I remember thinking that asking interviewees their shoe size was some next-level stuff, but he wasn’t as impressed. Weird that he had no wife, he seems like such a charming racist malcontent!
Earlier this year, Dilbert won high acclaim from computer nerds around the country when Adams revealed his personal e-mail address in one of his strips. Since January, almost 10,000 people have written to him over Internet, and he receives about 50 messages daily. He generally tries to answer every message he gets.
Oh those numbers, what a lovely postcard from 1995. That was when my nerdy roommate would get emails asking him for radio interviews because he had the same name as a minor celebrity. I tend to be harsh on myself as a journalist, but I’ll note that a recent piece in the Washington Post about his downfall mentioned this, too. So of all the facts I could have shared about this bigoted dickhead, I chose a good one. I’m waiting for the investigation into whether he does in fact have a nice butt. (Spoiler: he is a butt.)
And what does Mr. Adams have to say about our lovely institution of higher learning? “I don't know a thing about Tufts,” he admitted, “but it sounds like a college that would have difficult courses.”
Always a wise choice to kiss the ass of your interviewer!