Stumbling Toward… Something
Remember how I said last time that I wasn’t ready to go back to school? Well, the way this week has gone, it appears that school wasn’t ready to go back to school either.
First I swung into the department office on Monday morning to talk with the admin assistant about my waitlisted math class. She saw my point as to why I wanted to change to MAT 126, but said I had very little chance of getting into it with a waitlist more than 10 deep. However, she said it’s usually offered in the May term, which is a sort of pre-Summer Term summer term. As a May/summer course, it happens every day, but only takes three or four weeks, and I think that would be OK if it was the only class I was taking.
The upshot of that was that we dropped TME 152 and 86ed my waitlist slot for MAT 126, and now I’m not taking any math class this semester… which means that, since none of my other classes line up, there is now no day of the week on which I have more than one class (if you don’t count MET 107 lecture and lab as separate classes). This is… weird. Hell, two of my classes, MET 107 and COS 120, only happen once a week! (There is a version of COS 120 that meets on two days, but I didn’t sign up for it initially because it conflicted with TME 152 – and I didn’t switch to it this week because, possibly in a deliberate attempt to be as inefficient as possible, they scheduled the lecture for Monday morning and the lab for Friday afternoon. I mean, what?)
Also, while I was there, the admin lady looked at my course list and said, "That music class isn’t going to do you any good, you’ve already met the fine art requirement with one of your transfer credits from Worcester." I’m not sure how any of my transfer credits from WPI could possibly have met the fine art requirement, but the Computer says it’s so. So she handed me a list of courses and said, "Find something on that which meets at least two of Ethics, Population & the Environment, and Social Context & Institutions."
There aren’t many of those, and most of the ones I found aren’t offered in the spring semester or have prereqs I can’t meet, but upon closer examination of my degree progress report, I found a different combination of requirements that I could hit with a class that a) was being offered and b) I was actually interested in taking, which is how I find myself enrolled in CLA 102, "Latin Literature in English Translation". (CLA is the University of Maine’s course code for Classical Studies – basically, the kind of thing that used to be all universities did, 150-200 years ago.)
I considered Introduction to Women’s Studies – it would have hit Social Context and Ethics – but the syllabus for the online version, the only one I could fit into my schedule, gave me the Fear. Understand, I generally approve of women, and I’ve got no problem with their situation in the modern world being viewed as a topic of academic investigation. That’s perfectly legit with me. On the other hand, I don’t know that I could meaningfully interact with an instructor who takes the following position on the matter in the syllabus, before the word "go" has even been uttered:
This course takes a feminist theoretical perspective on many of the topics covered and utilizes the extensive feminist theory that has developed over the past thirty years to analyze women’s ongoing oppression in our society.
I mean, call me an unreconstructed cad, but if you’re going to throw down "oppression" in the introductory paragraph, I’m thinking the whole scene is going to be way too adversarial for my liking. I’m all for barging out of one’s comfort zone. It’s why I’m taking a class in the operation of machine tools this semester. But I have to draw the line someplace, and I think there is as good a place to draw it as any.
So, yeah, anyway. Before I’d even made my first class, I ended up, with the active encouragement of my department office, paring my schedule down to four days, each of which, weirdly, only has one actual course in it. Then it was off to the first meeting of MET 107, Machine Tool Laboratory – what we would be calling Metal Shop if this weren’t Srs Unvrsty Bsns rather than high school vocational training. I sound like I’m cutting vocational training down there, but that’s not where I’m coming from. It’s just that the university will have its academic pretensions about what is, after all, a class about making metal things by hand on big machines. "Laboratory" indeed.
Regardless, the first session was interesting, if a bit dry – there was a tour of the shop, which gave me mighty flashbacks to the metal shop in the Engineering Resources Department my dad used to run in the local paper mill when I was a kid, and an extensive safety briefing with slides of people who had gotten their Loose, Floppy Clothes and/or Long Hippie Hair caught in lathes. As Professor Anderson puts it, "I spend the first three weeks scaring you half to death about these machines and then the rest of the semester trying to make you comfortable with them."
I won’t be back in the machine shop for a couple of weeks, because I’m in the lab session that immediately follows the lecture on Monday, and there’s no school next Monday. That gives me plenty of time to line up safety glasses with side shields, get a pair of steel-toed shoes (ironically, when Dad and I bought the shoes I’ve been wearing back in August, we considered the steel-toed version and then decided I would never need that), and call my neurologists to ask, somewhat belatedly, whether I should actually be taking a class that involves the operation of metalworking machinery, what with me having to get a head MRI every six months until further notice. I, uh, probably should have thought of that sooner, but I haven’t actually cut any metal yet…
Then yesterday I missed the one class I had, which would have been the first session of an introductory mechanical drawing course, because at the time it was being held, I was at the campus health center trying to find out whether the cold I’d had since the previous Tuesday, and which had prevented me from getting a decent night’s sleep at any point in that week, was in fact some sort of entrenched sinus infection that would require antibiotical intervention to shift. (I can’t sleep if there’s nasal congestion going on. It just doesn’t work.) After a very long wait, I was examined and informed that no, it was just a bad head cold, and if nothing else I had tried had worked, I should go and buy a nasal rinse bottle and take some Benadryl.
"Even if it doesn’t help the congestion," the nurse said pragmatically, "it’ll put you to sleep anyway."
(I’m actually vaguely in awe of the sinus rinse. I’ve done jala neti for a while, but the gravity feed technique doesn’t work very well vs. impacted sinuses. The squeeze bottle method, on the other hand, boy howdy. It feels really weird, but I feel perfectly fine right now, where I spent yesterday afternoon staring into space and wondering why the people around me in the waiting room weren’t visibly reacting to my freakishly swollen forehead, which, I was sure, must have been at least 44 inches in diameter. Could be just a coincidence – that I was in the last four hours of the cold anyway when I bought the bottle – but damn, yo.)
And then today what would have been the first session of COS 120 was canceled because the University as a whole packed it in at 2 PM on account of the snowstorm. Which means, assuming there are classes tomorrow (which there should be), and assuming I make it down to the one I have (which I expect I will), I’ll have finished up the first week of the semester having attended two whole classes, and then, thanks to my newly blank Fridays and the holiday Monday, it’s straight into four days off. Well, apart from homework and whatnot.
All of which adds up to me feeling like the semester hasn’t really started yet, except for a vague sense of time pressure – that feeling I always get when there are deadlines involved, even if, as with MET 107’s project deadline, it’s four months away and I’m not even expected to be checked out on the machines yet. One thing I can already see is that the way my classes have ended up laid out this semester is going to make it hard to get into a rhythm. But that’s as may be. I’ll just have to ride it out and hope next fall comes together more cleanly. And that the new congressional overlords don’t kill the Pell Grant program. Which reminds me, I need to get next year’s FAFSA in ASAP, speaking of deadlines.