The picture above shows not my card but a mock card whose middle strip slides out and lo, it’s a USB drive. I never used it because I would feel like an idiot, inserting a card into a PC (and perhaps expecting an electronic payment will take place).
My actual renewed card arrived by post today. In an unregistered, uninsured envelope. My bank makes no fuss. I appreciated that I didn’t have to confront the permanently aggressive-aggressive (that’s an upgrade of passive-aggressive) postman to get my card. The card requires authorised activation before it can be used anyway, so I assume the bank assumes it safe enough.
I always get mildly confused when I get an unmarked letter from Poland (it’s unmarked possibly for the sake of discretion, you know, like the package when you order sex toys online, which I never did, hence I have no idea what I’m talking about). Poland is the headquarters of my bank company. Their letters are in Czech, so are the services offered, but correspondence is dispatched from Poland for the sake of general confusion.
I activated my card (during the process of which I decided I absolutely hate its design, which involves a dolphin—why?) and tested whether it works alright. It does. And that’s how it happened that I ordered a new pair of shoes and paid online on checkout. (It wasn’t really that random, but poetic licence.)
Whenever I don’t know what to blog about, I blog about Trainspotting. It’s my favourite childhood film (sic) and one of my favourite books. The book is better than the movie, but the movie is good enough to have achieved a cult status in my book (see what I did here?).
Trainspotting still matters. A sequel to the film is currently being shot, which is bound to fall short of the original, yet I’m so much of a fan that I’d be actually willing to see it in the cinema.
While I don’t teach either literature or film, I managed to sneak the showing of the Trainspottingtrailer in one of my classes after I found that my students were completely oblivious of this masterpiece. Of course they would be, they were not even born when it was made.
I imagined the trailer would be a largely useless though interesting experience with no relevance to my English class, but there was a funny follow-up. For the final test, there was a listening exercise I lifted from one of the teachers’ books I use, and the tape contained a dialogue concerning the trainspotting hobby.
It was in fact an excruciatingly artificial mock radio programme featuring an agony aunt tackling teenagers’ dramas. A kid complained that his friends laughed at him because he was a trainspotter. The good soul advised to the kid that he might try to find fellow trainspotter friends. Problem solved.
I had a hard time trying not to crack up while playing the tape to the students (I know, I have a weird sense of humour). I was however pleased that my trainspotting lesson proved to have a practical use, provided that test writing is practical. After all, it turns out that nothing is irrelevant. (Which is an alternative to the equally valid opposite claim that everything is irrelevant.)
I’m scared of people who take a perfectly normal thing, like eating or exercising, and turn it into a whole lifestyle, so making it somewhat abnormal. The trouble is that people with a conscious lifestyle (orthodox yogis, vegetarians, non-gluten eaters, you name it) tend to spread their enlightenment like crusaders.
I found myself very uplifted when I came across a YouTube channel of a slightly creepy but likeable guy who pokes fun at conscious lifestyle leaders. While it’s difficult to say to what extent it’s a marketing pose, it can’t be denied that the man possesses the rare qualities of common sense and sense of humour.
Below is the first video I saw (I think it’s all over the internet now), which is somewhat lengthy for my taste but you don’t need to watch for more than a few seconds to see how he nails it.
My special favourite is his yoga video, which is hilarious and which also gives him away as a yoga practitioner (if he didn’t do yoga, I doubt he’d be able to strike the poses, plus check out his figure). It begins: The three most important things in my life are: God, my family and my Instagram account. Said with a deadpan face. Gotta love this.
My last day at work (for the moment, not forever) started early and poorly. The night before, my Wi-Fi had died in my arms and despite the tender loving care it promptly received, it failed to revive. I went to bed immediately after that since I had no clue what to do without Wi-Fi. (Feel free to judge.) I spent the whole night tossing, turning, having Wi-Fi-less nightmares and worrying about the patient, whom I left intubated and comatose. I woke up at 5 am, an hour before the alarm, and went to check the intense care unit straight away. There was no change.
I rebooted everything, again, and, in depths of despair, opened the Control Panel to run the network troubleshooting feature. I have my doubts about this one because whenever I can’t connect to the Internet, it asks me whether I wish to search for solution on the Internet. (Well, I’d love to, but you know, I can’t connect to the Internet.) During this resuscitation operation, the cat was chewing on my nightie and on wires spilling all over the place. Exactly at the point when I gave up, the modem’s yellow eye blinked and Wi-Fi went live.
My Wi-Fi proceeded to be significantly more alive than me, which I partly appreciated and partly hated. Since I had the time, I selected a thirty-minute yoga video to whose accompaniment to perform my usual morning torture. I reasoned it couldn’t possibly make me feel more exhausted than I already was, but I was proven wrong. On a more pleasant note, I allowed whole twenty minutes for painting a full face on my head and another twenty minutes to blow my hair completely dry, front and back. I normally don’t have the time, so I leave the back wet (if I can’t see it, it doesn’t bother me).
As it was my last day, I was carrying a heap of books, a pile of tests and other teaching resources to return to the teacher whom I was substituting. At the same time, I was supposed to hold oral exams that day. Now, the first task was calling for hiking boots and a backpack, while the second one required a smart dress and heels. I compromised, put on jeans and ballet flats but a nice blouse and blazer and took my two largest bags, dragging half my weight in them.
I arrived at the bus stop twenty minutes before the bus departure. I was semi-conscious by then, as I don’t see the need to be wide awake during routine tasks. I lit a cigarette, obviously, to balance out my previous rigorous yoga practice. A nice girl aged fifteen tops approached me and asked, very politely, for a cigarette. That woke me up and I suffered an acute fit of laughter. I countered the kid with a staccato series of questions and answers, including, Don’t say! Why? I don’t think this is going to work out. Buy your own packet for god’s sake. The girl just stared, having lost her speech capacity, and then walked away.
I seated myself and my oversized bags on a bench. A bus which wasn’t mine pulled up and belched out a dozen small screaming kids and their teacher. I clutched the metal grille which formed the bench I was sitting on and did my best to fend off the kid attack. It was worse than a zombie apocalypse. By the time they were done with me, I was painfully awake and traumatised. My bus was delayed, as it only leaves on time when I miss it, and when it did show up, an alien stewardess, who surely wasn’t even employed at the company, emerged from the door.
My distress, however I didn’t think it possible, further deepened. This was supposed to be the last day of my regular routine, I didn’t sign up for begging teenagers, murderous kids or Martian stewardesses. The stewardess’s name tag said Jane Charlotte Something. I knew she was an alien. I told you so. No one in my country has two given names (unless they are pretentious pseudo-celebrities) and no one in my country is called Charlotte (if you wish to name a Czech girl Charlotte, you name her Šarlota, which is a fully legitimate Czech variant that all your fellow countrymen will be able to spell and pronounce).
Charlotte introduced herself as Charlotte into the bus mic, further confirming her extra-terrestrial status by using her exotic second name as if she didn’t have a perfectly normal first name. She sounded like she hated her job. See, I knew she wasn’t a regular employee, as the company takes pride in employing only stewards who can maintain a fake smile throughout the whole day. Customers everywhere are not only entitled but outright expected to vent their frustrations on the staff, so when it was time for complimentary hot drinks, I asked for coffee, no milk, no sugar. I knew Charlotte would mess up. I was sorry for her by the time she returned to ask me what it was I wanted again.
The rest of my day didn’t suck (that much). A manageable number of students arrived for the oral exam and none of them forced me by the sheer power of their incompetence to abuse make a rightful use of my competence to fail them. A special thanks goes to the students who gave up and didn’t show up for the exam at all (you saved me work and saved my day, guys, kudos). My usual coffee shop, where I waited for my bus back, played nice chill-out music and my usual latte came with a complimentary choccie. It only does so on good days. When I discovered that the choccie contained hazelnuts, my happiness (if I had the capacity to experience such a thing) was complete. All came to a full zen circle when the return bus came staffed with Patricia, a stewardess so good at her job that I often wonder if her fake smile is real.
I never eat out—except when I do, of course. I did so when I had two hours to pass away before my return bus’s departure when I finished teaching/examining. I could have taken the more expensive, less comfortable and Wi-Fi-less train, but I’m loyal to my preferred bus service (less expensive, more comfortable and Wi-Fi-equipped). I thought I could have a lunch somewhere while waiting, as I’ve grown increasingly fed up with my low-calorie food diet (fed is probably not the best word choice in reference to my diet) and was craving actual food (I maintain that vegetables and tofu do not qualify as actual food).
I spent much time deciding if I’d go for lunch and even more time deciding where to go for lunch. I’m indecisive. I’m also scared of people and eating out requires dealing with them. I went through my agonisingly slow deciding process while sitting on a bench in the scorching heat and chain-smoking (two is already a chain), vaguely unhappy with myself. Perhaps I could just as well remain here, contemplating my incompetence, and making do with my crisp rice bread snack? But then the thought of food that is actually food was so tempting.
I consulted my mobile device for eating places nearby. All of them looked OK, none of them looked like a must-visit though. Round the corner there was what turned out to be a vegetarian diner—so as to prove to myself that I’m not biased, I checked out the daily menu posted on their web and found that they offered sweet rice and a tofu meal. Now, that’s not much of an improvement when compared to the rice bread in my handbag and the tofu in my fridge. As I noticed I was already starting to draw attention (a nervous person sitting alone and fidgeting on a bench is bound to want to blow something up), I abandoned my post and went in the nearest restaurant across the street.
Inside, I planned to tuck myself into a corner somewhere, but seating options suitable for a single person were somewhat limited, so I climbed on a slightly raised platform strewn with a bunch of small tables. That was a largely counter-intuitive choice, but at least the platform lined the wall. I hate open spaces (which is another way of saying I’m agoraphobic). The waiters (or, as one of my students termed them during her oral exam, the servants) were complaisant (which always makes me embarrassed for myself for no good reason), and the menu offered chicken wraps and a pasta salad (which I deemed acceptable).
I was so cheeky as to ask if I could have the salad without dressing. I don’t like my food all sticky with a semi-fluid substance of dubious colour and texture. The waiter reported that the dressing was already mixed in the meal; so never mind, let’s try the wraps. The waiter double-checked, correcting my wraps pronunciation (I czechified it, but the waiter was probably proud he knew how to pronounce it in English, so I naturally didn’t mention my PhD in English and tried not to let on the depth of my embarrassment). I asked for water then, possibly with a slice of lemon or something, because I reasoned it would be cheaper than mineral water.
The food was alright but rather expensive, and the tap water turned out to be outright overpriced. Good to know that next time I should just have beer, which is the cheapest drink you can get (cheaper than water and cheaper than bread). I was quite proud of myself because I ventured to interact with people (I hated it) and I confirmed my initial suspicion that eating out was neither affordable nor too delightful when practised alone. I’m also pleased to report an entertaining incident: as I was leaving, I obviously forgot all about me being on a raised platform, and I nearly faceplanted, to the genuine concern of the nearby waiter. He advised me to mind the step.
Invigilating students writing tests is arguably the most boring part of teaching. When I was a student myself, teachers would bring newspapers to amuse themselves with while sitting for hours on end in oppressive classrooms and wondering whether the students have unionised already and will stage a revolution to overthrow the tyranny of the teacher. It never happened during my student lifetime, which means it’s bound to occur now that I’m a teacher myself, so that I could get the full enjoyment out of being trampled to death by a horde of frustrated kids.
Like my teachers before me, I don’t take any interest in the students’ struggle. I’d like my efforts to be commensurate with my wages, but I already work considerably harder than what I’m paid for, therefore there arises no obligation for me to be committed any deeper. I can’t say that I bring newspapers to read while on my watch – I make use of current technology to pass away the time of torture for those sitting the test and time of dullness for me as the not-so vigilant overseer.
I’m gradually getting the hang of it – of trying to do something at least marginally productive during the time that is bound to be wasted – as illustrated by the following sample of activities I indulged in during my most recent babysitting, I mean studentsitting session.
I updated my Instagram with my latest rubbish phone snaps; reorganised (again) all app icons on all my phone’s screens; messaged a few colleagues who were at work and not currently invigilating anyone, therefore disinclined to entertain me; and set up a new email signature for my phone, saying, besides my name, Sent from my dumb mobile device. Then I grew bored with the phone and decided to take it a level up.
I switched on my hardware-keyboard-equipped tablet with the intention to blog a little. My tablet does not have its own SIM card with a data plan, so I proceeded to set up a hot spot to make my tablet receive my phone’s 4G data without the need for cables. (I don’t carry any cables to class because I would be in real danger of using them to strangle myself in frustration.) The hot spot I set up worked. It was my first time trying, so I was pretty pleased with myself.
The cheating students proved to be too distracting for me to do any blogging, so I warned them (again), Zip it up for gd’s sake, you’re disturbing me, on which they did zip it up (for a while), allowing me to surf the depths of tech net to see what I can do about the increasingly annoying Instagram adds evilly masquerading as regular posts. It turned out I can do next to nothing. Even if I were willing to pay to remove adds, such option does not exist. There is one way, which involves rooting your Android / jailbreaking you iOS, which I wisely decided to abstain from since I wouldn’t know what I’m doing.
That’s one thing I share with my students after all – we don’t know what we’re doing. There is one difference though: I know that I don’t know what I’m doing, therefore I avoid doing it, whereas the kids don’t know that they don’t know what they’re doing and erroneously think that they know what they’re doing. Are you following me? In any case, I have to excuse myself now, since I need to stand up and yell at the students present to put their bloody hands so I can see them and stop Googling the test answers. Or someone gets hurt.
It’s my last week on teaching duty and I’m getting somewhat nostalgic about it. Not about the teaching, which I find a thoroughly depressing experience, but about my commute ritual.
I hope the people I’ve been commuting with will miss me as much as I’ll miss them. Poor stewardess Patricia, who serves my regular bus line, will find my seat no. 53 unoccupied (or, worse, occupied by a stranger who picked the seat on a whim rather than because it’s their spot) and will have to abandon her own ritual of bringing me my usual medium sparkling water without me having to ask for it.
Also, my favourite underage waiter in the coffee shop where I always wait for my return bus will have no one to ask what kind of latte I’m having today (my preferred choice is the one with coconut syrup).
The doorwoman at the university building C3 will probably be relieved because she never remembered who I was and routinely insisted that I identify myself. It clearly makes perfect sense that a random person asks for a classroom key so that she could surreptitiously teach there a bunch of ignorant kids.
Who is bound to be most pleased with the end of my teaching stint is my cat. The cat demands that I sit at home and keep her company. It’s a question what she gets out of it because while I’m home, she doesn’t pay me any attention. That’s a feature she shares with my students, whom I for this reason won’t miss at all.
As I was sitting on a bench, having consumed a snack of puffed rice bread and finished off with a smoke, I was approached by a young man of unclear intentions. Have you been sitting here long? he inquired. I considered it a curious way of greeting but responded that not really and inquired what he wanted. He wouldn’t say.
Instead, he sat down next to me and asked me what I had for breakfast. I thought it escalated quickly but decided to humour him. As far as a brief snort of I don’t eat breakfast qualifies as good-humoured. I quickly asked in turn what he ate for breakfast but didn’t really want to know. The answer was the quizzical nutrients.
The conversation continued in this vein, which soon became boring and I was no longer interested in what the man’s problem was. He eventually came clean, confessing that he was a nutrition specialist. I was too nonplussed by then to even fall into a fit of laughter at the wild idea that I would waste my non-existent money on the advice of a nutrition specialist.
I told the specialist straight away that his service was not required. When I left the bench and walked a bit on, I saw him harassing another random person in the street. I think he was doing it wrong. He didn’t even leave me his business card. I could have just as well got drunk and wanted to call him to give him my honest opinion of his nutrients.