Postcards from Various Edges

I've written the following two little snippets as incomplete posts from a few places I've been in the past 24 hours. Alone they don't really constitute fully formed posts. Heck, together they aren't really a fully formed post. But, they're little windows into the edges of bigger scenes that I'm inhabiting as I frantically scramble each day to try to prepare for my classes.
Monday, September 12
11:30 p.m.
I'm currently using the Fancy Scanner at the Big Science Thingey and there is a brain-numbing, ear-shattering alarm going off that Spousal Unit tells me means that there is bad stuff happening elsewhere in the building. Stuff like radiation. But, not to worry, he says, it is deliberate. The "Guys Upstairs" need to let some radiation leak in order to do their experiment. Hunh? He assures me that we are safe here at the Fancy Scanner, but that alarm sounds increasingly insistent. And, it is deeply irritating -- making a strange little itch happen somewhere between my ear canal and my frontal lobe. There aren't supposed to be people in this part of the Big Science Thingey right now, so the alarm isn't supposed to annoy them, so Spousal Unit says that we can't annoy the "Guys Upstairs" by asking them to deal with the alarm.

All of this makes me wonder -- if I'm here, and not supposed to be, does that mean that I am also being irradiated? Does it mean that like that very strange, unnatural European milk that sits demurely outside the refrigerator cart at the grocery, that I'll have an indefinite shelf life? Or does it mean that our potential-not-yet-really-thought-of unborn children will have gills? An indefinite shelf-life might not be all that bad, but gills would kind of suck, I would imagine. Although, hell, on second thought, in this brave new world that may be an advantage for my future offspring as they stare down hurricanes and global warming.
Tuesday, September 13
3:03 p.m.

I'm in the public library, working on my grading and lecture-writing before an appointment, and I'm eavesdropping. When I sat down, I read the scene that I'm overhearing as two people who met over the internet having their first face-to-face encounter. I thought, how sweet. They were sitting across a table from me, and leaning in toward each other, as if interested in each other.

But then at next glance, I realized that the white man was dressed from head to toe in impossibly bright white clothes is a soldier in uniform. And he is talking across the table to a beautiful, young African-American woman about what it is like to be in the Navy. He's recruiting. She's listening. He's telling her about the privilege of shore leave. About how his boss is good because he lets them have time off if they finish their tasks. About how it is cold on the boat. About how long it takes to finish boot camp. He's telling her about battlestations, and she's telling him about how her family isn't necessarily supporting her in this decision. Now she's asking him about combat. And he's describing the Special Forces and Operations and asking her when she's thinking about this. He's describing "shipping out" and money for college and 401K matching funds. He's showing her pictures and forms and she's quietly answering his questions.

I know we need the armed forces, and that they protect us, yadda yadda yadda patriotic stuff blah blah blah, but all I can think about is that this beautiful, quiet young person might just be signing up to die as I sit here and quietly listen. I want to shout -- "there are so many choices for you" and "your beautiful body is going to be ripped apart in a country elsewhere in the world fighting for something that a bunch of guys in bad suits decided was important to attack so that they (and we) can continue to drive our SUVs." But I don't. Maybe she doesn't feel like she has other choices. Maybe she really doesn't. Maybe this is something she believes in. And maybe she will survive long enough to get her college funds and her 401K. I truly hope so.


At 12:25 AM Frank said...

You know, babies DO have gills for a short period during gestation.

While I do sympathize, to a certain degree, with your distress over the recruitment, it seems like the young woman in questions is thoughtful and intelligent enough to weigh the risks.

At 8:33 AM HistGrad said...

I'm still smiling at the mental image of you (obviously in the middle of a stressful teaching prep) having to contend with alarms about, well, RADIATION! And Spousal Unit being mellow and unconcerned at the same time. :)


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