Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Occupational Hazards of Campus Life

Every occupation has hazards that simply go with the territory. Welders know they will likely go blind early. Car mechanics know that oil stained fingers will just be a fact of life. Wood workers know that missing thumbs and fingers are signs of true experience. In their case, missing one finger isn’t bad. But missing more than one may mean you don’t learn from your mistakes.

Campus workers face similar occupational hazards, especially those who work in the engineering building. Daily struggles include doors which open into brick walls, a maze of interconnecting passages which include slopes and twists and turns so that those who enter from the west never quite know which door they’ll come out on the opposite side, and the infamous elevator. Passengers are never quite sure the elevator will decide to work when they enter. The intrepid still take the risk daily, skipping the stairs and their supposed healthful effects in favor of the Russian roulette of the elevator.

It operates like many octogenarians. Slowly, and creakily, with occasional lapses in memory. “Was I going up or down?” the elevator seems to wonder as it pauses midway between floors. The occupants wait with baited breath, sometimes punching the button a second time to remind the elevator of its direction, other times holding back, afraid that any sudden movements will send the elevator’s rickety belts crashing downwards without warning.

With a jerk, the elevator resumes its upward movement, stopping at the next level and waiting an interminable time before deciding it is safe to open the doors and allow its passengers a shaky kneed exit.

Gonga experiences all of these hazards, and more as he makes his way across campus daily, passing out flyers for The Textbook Game and playing his accordion. It’s really not that much different than dodging cobras and tripping over rotten logs in his home in the Congo. Some things just go with the territory. Though he could really do without the people taking advantage of his poor peripheral vision to dodge up behind him and steal his hat; or worse yet, the tip money out of his suitcase. That just ruins a gorilla’s day. The only thing worse is discovering a banana shortage at the store. But that’s a story for another day.

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter Doldrums

Fans of maritime adventures know the devastating effects of the doldrums on the moral of sailors. Those long, lazy stretches of sea where the wind has completely died out and sailors have nothing but the grinding sameness of routine to mark the time from day to day. With the modern convenience of coal power, or some other sort of internal combustion, the doldrums no longer prove much of a nuisance. But less than a hundred years ago, sailors dreaded having to pass through those latitudes. The only cure for doldrums seemed to be scrubbing the deck, or making fancy knots or playing game after game of cards. In such confined quarters, it never took long before you lost your shirt, and maybe everything else along with it. But then again, the card shark could never quite get away from you either. And who knew, if you kept playing, you just might win it back again. Anything, and nothing could happen in the doldrums.

Gonga read about the doldrums last week. And the only reason he had time to read about such things was his own experience suffering through the doldrums. As a result, Gonga had taken to likening the down week of break after Christmas to the doldrums.

The first couple of weeks of break are fantastic. Christmas preparations, parties, food, songs, colored lights everywhere! But then the festivities end, all the decorations disappear, and you’re left with two more aching weeks before classes begin again. True, about three weeks into the semester, and you’ll be wishing you were back in doldrums, enjoying the peace and sunshine. But for now, you’re stuck in it, just waiting.

Gonga has been through his CD collection three times now. The first time he re-arranged all the CD’s so that they were in the proper case. The second time, he threw away CDs he decided were trashy, and made a list of the music he would like to acquire in the next year. The third time, he arranged them all in alphabetical order by artist.

He’s not sure what to do next. He’s almost wishing he had a deck to scrub, and a grumpy skipper to crack a whip and make him scrub it. At least then things would be a bit more interesting.

When the skipper failed to materialize, Gonga sighed and leaned his chin in his hand. Was it almost morning in Congo? Then at least he could Skype his parents and see if anything interesting was going on there.

Gonga tapped his fingers against the table top. Repetitive. Endlessly repetitive. Oh how he hated the winter doldrums.

The Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gonga’s New Year Resolutions

Gonga has resolved to change a few things about the way he works. For one, he has spent so many hours hearing his boss complain about people showing up late for work, that he has decided to lessen this experience for himself. In other words, Gonga has resolved to show up to work at least two hours late twice this year. That way he has reduced his time spent listening to complaining by four hours.

Gonga has also determined that he will set a completely new standard when it comes to the expectation to work overtime. He will double anyone’s overtime. This means that when his buddy Derrick works three hours of overtime, Gonga will figure out how to work six hours of overtime. It also means that when his boss puts in 35 hours of overtime doing the final inventory count for the year, Gogna has resolved to put in 70 hours of overtime during that same period. How exactly he intends to do this, he hasn’t quite determined. However, since there are 168 hours in a week, he doesn’t think that hitting 110 hours should be too much of an issue. Besides, he likes the idea of bringing a sleeping bag to work and camping out between the shelves of books for the night.

Historically Gonga has struggled with his weight. He can never quite manage to get it under control. He eats like crazy one week and makes a slight gain. But the second he catches a cold, or the second Derrick proposes some new crazy adventure, the gains slough off to nothing. He often despairs of ever attaining anything close to his father’s grand 250 pounds. So this year Gonga has set a new goal. He will eat a quart of icecream every single night. He will also make himself stop by Dairy Queen for lunch every other day and add a tall milkshake to his diet. Hopefully this will add 25 pounds by the end of the year. He’d have to gain 75 to match his athletic younger brother. But Gonga knows better than to hope for that. If he can just gain 25 pounds this year, and keep it on for at least two weeks, he will be thrilled.

I know that at this point, a number of you are beginning to resent Gonga. Perhaps you wish that you could come to work late a few times, end up sleeping at work in a sleeping bag and gain 25 pounds this year. I’m not sure that I would recommend this course of action for anyone besides a gorilla. But I can assure you that this particular set of resolutions is probably within your grasp, if you so choose.

Happy New Year!!!

~Textbook Game Blogger: Laura Prather