Saturday, November 18, 2006

This Letter Just Arrived From Dreamland Avenue in Fantasyville. The Rest of us Losers Must Live on Bad Vibes Boulevard in Shitburg City.

When I was in college, one of my professors lost his mother. The class got up a collection to send flowers to the funeral, along with a condolence card we all signed. When he returned a week later, almost every student with a kitchen had brought a casserole for him to take home. He got very choked up and said, "This is why I love teaching here -- people acknowledge the simple human things in your life."

Another time a professor mentioned in passing, but with a worried look on his face, that our papers would be late because his daughter was in the hospital with an ear infection run amuck. Two days later, two huge get-well cards, balloons, and a box of coloring books and crayons appeared from the class for him to take to her. We got back a lovely crayoned picture as thanks.

My senior year, I was the recipient of the generous acknowledgement of the simple human things in my life. I lost three relatives in quick succession, one of them a younger woman who still had minor children, who died very suddenly and in a foreign country. My family was REELING from the shock and struggling to muster our resources to deal with all of the funerals, and getting the suddenly-orphaned cousins home from a distant continent. It would have been easy for my professors to say snidely, "Your grandfather died last week, your grandmother two weeks ago, and now your aunt? Aren't you running out of relatives yet?" Instead, they sent my family condolence cards. To all three funerals. One department sent flowers. My student coworkers at my student job sent a HUGE arrangement. My professors, my supervisors, my fellow students all went out of the way to cover my shifts, arrange for me to have deadline extensions, reschedule tests, get notes, collect handouts, everything. I thought I might have to withdraw for the semester, but with everyone's generous help and understanding, I was able to finish the semester and graduate on time.

And guess where all my donor dollars go -- the college that treated me with human kindness or the professional school that treated me with harsh, unbending rules-adherence?

It's too bad the "Uncle Ernie" poster lives in a "real world" where people are assholes. I don't think he's doing his students any favors by preparing them for a world full of assholes. In the real world *I* live in, when I'm sick, my neighbors send over chicken soup, my husband's secretary sends him home with her trashy celebrity magazines to keep me entertained, my colleagues offer to cover my phones and appointments, and my clients are understanding and helpful about rescheduling.

I live in a world where people cover for each other at work so they don't have to miss a kid's dance recital, where neighbors watch your pets, where friends drive you to the airport at 4 a.m., and where acquaintances ask after your family. It's too bad the "Uncle Ernie" poster lives in a world with so little common decency and human kindness. He should try exercising a little and see how it works out for him.