Go Ahead: Dunk-a-Teacher

My Elementary School.

My Elementary School.

Ten cents will get you a hotdog or a hamburger! You heard me right. No, I have not gone into the culinary business.

A vivid memory I have from elementary school (Joseph J. Greenberg – in Northeast Philadelphia) was the annual June Fair. It was the best day of the school year. I emailed my oldest friend MG to ask him about his memories of the June Fair. Firstly, he said “I used to look forward to the June Fair all year long.”

Like me however, one of his vivid memories of the fair is that at the end of the day, the burgers and hot dogs would go on sale. He and I did our utmost to make sure no food was wasted. I remember saving my money till the end knowing this sale was coming while MG remembers downing six burgers, never happier that our bus was one of the last ones to leave the school.

Now of course, it was not only about food, there were different stations, carnival type games, a jumper, etc. It was always a drag going back into class when the bell signaled recess had ended. I got in trouble every year pretending I did not hear the bell.

I bring this memory up as it came to mind recently. This year, the school I work at had its first ever field day.  They had various sporting activities, an obstacle course, dancing/DJ, and a dunk tank. There were no classes that day, and each staff member had to volunteer or be assigned to assist in some way.

Guess who volunteered for the dunk tank? Well, I was encouraged, but it did not take much. It would be my revenge. I would be rude and disrespectful and suffer few consequences. Revenge was going to be sweet.

Here are some of my favorite quips:

You are even worse at this than writing essays.

I could have brought a book up here.

No wonder the softball team didn’t make the playoffs

I know why you can’t throw straight – you’re from Jamaica. Go play soccer.

We all laughed. I laughed when they sunk me, and the students laughed at the comments.

When I got out of the tank, I wandered around and talked to students and watched others participate in the various activities. I noticed something: there were smiles everywhere.

Students lined up awaiting their chance to drop me.

Students lined up awaiting their chance to drop me.

Locked in and ready. Go ahead - make my day!

Locked in and ready. Go ahead – make my day!

 

 

 

 

 

I think one day long after the students graduate, they will look back on high school and recall Field Day as one of those cherished memories. Now, I need to make my way back to the June Fair. I could go for a 10-cent hot dog.

BR comes to work and is ready to teach my class. No, we don't have a smartboard in my classroom.

BR comes to work and is ready to teach my class. No, we don’t have a smartboard in my classroom.

12th graders happy to be done with high school.

12th graders happy to be done with high school.

Bloggers Wanted

Photo courtesy of google.com

Photo courtesy of google.com

I got into blogging for selfish reasons. I loved writing but my commitment to it swayed. There were times I would write regularly and then go months and write nothing. It’s not as if I did or did not have ideas. What I didn’t have was commitment.

When I finally committed to blogging (a few people had suggested that I do it), I decided that I would post regularly. I also figured that I would put it out there and people would read it. After my first blog post, I contacted everyone on my email list and let them know that I was now a blogger. I invited them to come take a look at the blog. Fortunately, a number of people did. I felt content.

As I continued blogging regularly, I noticed something. Comments on the blog were rare and the views dipped dramatically. Didn’t everyone want to read my brilliant, comical, insightful pieces? Weren’t those readers compelled to react? I didn’t understand the lack of reaction.

Six months after I began the blog, I was speaking to a friend of mine who is tech/new media savvy who also happened to like my writing. He asked me, “Do you read other people’s blogs?”

“Huh?”

“Other people blog too you know. Read theirs and that will encourage them to read yours.”

I had never thought of this. As I said, I was blogging to write, not to read. However, the blogging felt empty. I was pushing myself to improve and desirous of feedback but never thought that others might be in the same position. I told you I was selfish.

A couple of weeks after the conversation, I had a day off from work. I resolved to read and comment on 10 other blogs. After doing so, rather than wondering where did the time go, I felt exhilarated. I was engaging in (electronic) conversation with people all over.

While I would like to say my blog took off, and I have never looked back, that is not 100% true. (http://larrydbernstein.com/growing-past-the-plagues/).   However, I have gained something greater: a community.  A number of my fellow bloggers have become friends with whom I am in contact outside of the blog. We have shared in each other’s lives, given opinions, shared advice, offered sympathy, and appreciated successes.

So, while I started blogging for selfish reasons and still look at it as way to work on my writing, I have gained a great benefit.

On that note, I want to expand further. I want to find more blogs to add to my repertoire.

Let me tell you what I do and don’t look for in a blog. First, I don’t care for blogs that are a laundry list of what a person/family did day after day. I enjoy blogs that can find humor in the every day or humor in general. I also like when the blogger is truly willing to dig deep and share. I don’t care for posts that are too long or too short. Lastly and most importantly, I like a blogger who will engage – respond to comments and will also reciprocate and offer comments on my blog posts. However, it is not a tit for tat.

So, do you have or can you recommend a blog for me?

Thinking Traffic

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go, go, go. My family and I hurried out of the house shortly after I got home from work on Friday. Our destination was the Philadelphia suburbs.

We left our house in North Jersey at 4:45. Drives on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpike would comprise the mass majority of our trip. This 100 or so mile trip typically takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. Our arrival time on Friday was 7:55 or 3 hours and 10 minutes after we departed.

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

Picture is courtesy of Google.com

I have a question: Why?

I’m not clairvoyant, but I know your answer: Rush Hour. Yes, I knew we were traveling during the terribly inappropriately named rush hour where movement is often nill.

Despite that, I don’t understand why the traffic moves so slowly if everybody wants to move fast. The speed limit on both highways is never below 55 and is often 65. Now, of course some people are willing to go faster 75, 80 and even higher while some go as slow as 50. So if everyone is willing to travel at least fifty miles per hour, why does the traffic slow down?

There were no accidents (Thank G-d) that I noted. There were no crews working on the highway (anybody else flash to the Springsteen song?). So, there was no need for a mass of cars to merge into another lane.

So, I am still left with the question why. These days there is one action people take when faced with such a dilemma: GOOGLE it! So, I did just that.

According to one website (http://www.skaggmo.com/newsletter3a.htm), “Drivers should be looking well ahead instead of concentrating on the car that they are following too close to. It’s easy to see the big picture if you are not tailgating. When you tailgate, all you see is a back door.” He goes on to note that people who try to go faster than the flow of traffic can cause traffic jams.

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_congestion) stated, “Traffic research still cannot fully predict under which conditions a ‘traffic jam’ (as opposed to heavy, but smoothly flowing traffic) may suddenly occur.”

Freakonomics (http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/03/10/what-causes-traffic-jams-you/) discusses Japanese scientists to shockwaves. “One driver’s slowing down creates a ripple effect that moves backwards through traffic, grinding everything to a halt for miles.” It goes on to note that as human error causes the problem then humans should be able to come up with the solution. In this case, “the classic ‘slow down and keep a constant speed’ method, which seems to be effective in breaking these shockwaves.”

Well, if traffic experts who have spent years researching the topic can’t come up with the solution, my simple Google search surely won’t lead me to an answer either.

However, I have learned a few things from my research that can be applied to real life.

First, it is necessary to consider the big picture. If we only worry about what is going on right in front of us at each given moment, we will not be able to go beyond said moment. If we want something grander, we need to step back and think about the greater possibilities.

Second, we are all in this together. Sometimes, we get so involved in our daily lives – often for good reason – we forget about the world around us. Despite what we may be dealing with, life is not me, me, me. If we give greater consideration to those around us – weather they be less or more fortunate – we will all ultimately benefit.

Lastly, sometimes issues come up that seem insurmountable and problems arise with no answer. Yet, if we consider how we got ourselves tangled up in the problem, there is a good chance we can unwind the situation and make it solvable.

I’m certain my greater understanding of traffic jams will not allow me to avoid them. Hopefully, though the next traffic jam will lead to similar thoughtful helpful, philosophic moments. That and the car snacks my wife has packed will get me through.

 

Becoming You

BecomeWhen my brothers and I were children, my aunt and uncle tape recorded/interviewed us. My oldest two brothers had a debate on football. My next older brother sounds listed the television shows he watched and the times and channels they were on – he sounded like a human T.V. Guide. Then it was my turn. My aunt and uncle asked me questions such as where I lived, who my best friend was, what school I went too, etc.

When they were ready to interview the next person, I asked to do it again. I said, “I can do it better.” I was no more than 6 years old.

Do you ever wonder when do you become you? When do you display the traits that stick with you for a life time? Is it when you are five and you are headed to kindergarten? Or maybe, 13 when you hit your teens and puberty? Or is it 21 when you become of legal drinking age? Or is it when you become 30 and gain perspective? Or is it when you are born?

When BR, my 9 year-old, was first born his eyes were wide open. I commented on this to the nurse who told me, “Oh that’s common. He’ll shut them soon.”  Well, we are still waiting. He is a ball of energy.

BR’s latest obsession is with baseball statistics. He carries around two statistics-filled books around the house (when he is not on the computer viewing MLB.com) as if he were Linus and the books were the blanket. His previous obsession, the presidents, seems to have faded away. Maybe, this obsession, statistics, sticks. He gets a job as a statistician, actuary, accountant – something numbers based. Maybe, he is a numbers boy who will turn into a numbers guy.

When SJ, my 6 year-old was first born, he came out plump with his eyes half closed. I commented about how he looked so sleepy. The nurse (a different one) noted that many babies come out with their eyes slightly closed. Well, SJ is a great sleeper. He is very content to watch television (though he does enjoy the park and his bike) and charges downstairs when I call out dinner time as if he were a bull exiting the gate at a rodeo.

Recently, SJ told me he wanted to be a meteorologist. He used to say Thomas the Train. When questioned as to why a meteorologist, he told me, “This way you get to be on tv and everyone watches you.” His instinct for showmanship is not something new. Every Friday night while we are eating our Sabbath meal, he shimmies on to the coffee table and introduces us to the SJ show. He will sing, tell jokes, and dance. He also bows, says “Thank you, thank you,” and insists that we clap. So, maybe he is a future entertainer of some sort. He is looking for that attention that second children see the first born get.

Then, there is me. I think about that tape my aunt and uncle made. “I can do better.” This thought often goes through my head. It both boosts me up and knocks me down. I am proud of my desire to learn, understand, and grow. Yet, the feeling that I can always do better hinders my feelings of satisfaction.  Contentment within myself is not something that comes to me easily.

Do you become you at some point and stay you? Recently, an old friend of mine contacted me – of course through Facebook. I had not spoken to her since my early 20’s – nearly 20 years ago.  I wonder if we spoke to each other or to anyone else, for that matter, to whom we had not spoken to in an extended time, would they recognize or see the same qualities?

I suppose there are a core set of qualities, values and instincts, etc. that one retains throughout life. However, maybe you are becoming you every day. Every day you are you even if you are a new you.