Cafe Hitch-hike


Madame Chair will simply walk

I chewed on the possibility of visiting my brother and cousin for Thanksgiving, but balked. A lot of people in my hometown were getting sick, and then a 14-year old girl died from a rare, COVID-related inflammation that hits children after they get it. My sister who lost her daughter last year flipped out over that (and it was her friend's daughter who died). This occurrence made things a lot more real to me. I doubt Bro Deebo and Cousin Drew are very cautious about COVID, and they're also out and about because of their work.

I thought about how I handled this lovely pandemic. I've been largely spared from many of its most difficult transitions (so far), but I'm not sure how long that will go on. At a recent virtual 'chat with the grand pubah' at my institution, they went on to give some initial figures. Some of our sister organizations are about to get hit hard because of pandemic-related changes, and we're probably going to take some lashes though maybe not as bad. I do like meeting with this GP (he's kinda cute and an affable chap besides), but his blue eyes and wide smile didn't distract me from his quietly stated caution.

It made me think of a former colleague who hit me up on one of the social media pages in the spring. He was unceremoniously ditched last year by my building's GP. I thought he sued, but he filed a personnel grievance and won a year's salary and benefits because the institution found the GP disregarded procedures. When he got in touch, he said the institution was not pleased with my building. The building had to spend 6 figures of its budget to manage that grievance, and it had other recent and poorly handled personnel matters (one involved sexual harassment which I jokingly guessed correctly during a coffee talk with an old super-, and the other was a threat of violence). He added that the institution was going to give us the bare minimum needed to "keep the lights on," and that some large structural changes were going to take place. He recommendation was to be ready to make tracks.

His remarks worried me, but some friends persuaded me he was just a guy with a serious ax to grind and was exaggerating. I'm still keeping his words close to me; after all, knowledge is power.

I was thinking of getting a county license to do a side gig, just to try it out for size and because it's a much different task than my job. It's sometimes refreshing to do something different, do it for fun and a little dinero, and it's something I can do online (no, it's not webcam girl and I wouldn't have to show anything, hah). If the pandemic recedes in the late spring or so, I can probably do this job at local festivals and music shows. Besides that, I actually have a 'what if I'm laid off?' scenario of how much I'd need to stay afloat, so I have a ballpark figure of what I'd need.

As for my job, many of its committees are having blitzes of activities so they can wrap things up by the end of the year. Once exams are done and final grades are submitted, most people say 'piss off!' until January 2, but before exams, they want to close what can be closed. I'm about to wrap up a term of one committee where I'm chair (no one else wanted it). Just when I thought I was going to quietly finish, we were asked to review and advise on a somewhat contentious statement by the institution. Then, I became a chair of another one starting next year (no one also wanted that), and have a feeling that I'm going to have an interesting matter to handle through that (especially if we have to do a lot of cuts or layoffs).

Once in a while, I get to handle a fly in the ointment as chair. Late in 2018, all the building grand pubahs and heads were in a meeting, and our department agreed to have its regularly scheduled meeting which I was to chair. Everyone was super pissed about the ongoing understaffing. We agreed to verbally bring our concerns with the GPs, then formally write a letter if they weren't addressed. To our surprise, they slowly responded but by the time anyone could be hired, the pandemic halted all that. I'm glad we did it, and I (surprisingly) didn't get any blowback for that.

I never thought about my chair positions that have added up and not always by acclimation. My mentor thinks I can do something with that knowledge. Gee, maybe I have some ability in that area after all. I often do my best when facilitating, structuring, and organizing (despite what past haters often thought). Well, well, I guess I can be Madame Chair!

Today, my mother turns 67. I sent her messages and a little bit of money, but haven't heard back from her. I don't know if this is going to be one of those lapses in our communication. We had this happen in 2011 after I visited for the holidays and we had a little scrape (she thought her then-beau and I were interested in each other). I know enough about lapses to know how they proceed. As long as I reached out the way I usually did, I did what I could.

I had a 2-hour ride in an Everglades reserve where I rode on its bordering berm. Draining this region for agricultural land which eventually turned into urban sprawl was one of the amazing feats in this place known for its quixotic, outlandish, if not bombastic dreams. I wrapped up my ride as the sun set, and saw many others arriving to watch it and do evening hikes. I didn't expect that many people and I wondered about the wildlife activity (especially gators and mosquitoes), but I noticed the park was opened until 10 PM. I saw one guy setting up a camera and telescope, and wondered how well he could see the skies.

I continue to look at the news in swatches. Maybe all of these rumblings and shakeups were needed for us to take a serious and different look at things; they had to take the forms of a pandemic, deaths, political fuckery, and changes we individually needed to make. I thought about all the obstruction that our 44th president faced. Maybe things had to get much worse before they could get better. Maybe people had to get seriously confused and distressed, and experience losses or changes to a point where they got fed up with the status quo. I'm not trying to be optimistic here. People can be seriously clueless about a lot of things, even when their backs are against the wall (then survival mode kicks in), and can't see things differently until after they are literally wounded or have their face rubbed in it. My novice theory is that's how things change when people are very resistant.

Well, it's just like what my supervisor said about the BLM protests and riots in early June: it's just like the 60s again. I agree, but I'm curious about what will change, and how it goes about. Why? I just don't think it's going to be the same. We just may see something we never expected or imagined.

What does Madame Chair think about this? I don't think, I'll just do. Walk through it the best I can.

downwind | upstream