Month: September 2016

Exit 125. Shining a spotlight on one of the things I dislike most about myself.

I had a strange dream the other night.

I was eating sushi, which doesn’t happen very often to begin with.  Sushi isn’t in my regular rotation of food, although I have a lot of friends who love sushi, and although I’m sushi-illterate, staring at the menu and randomly hoping I’ll like whatever I pick, usually I do in fact like it.  Anyway, I was with a few other people.  (I think I remember who one of them was, and he is definitely not someone I would ever be in a social situation like this with, but that’s not relevant right now.)

For some reason, in my dream, I went outside, leaving my food on the table.  (As is often the case with dreams, certain details stand out clearly even when they make no sense.  I remember exactly where this sushi place supposedly was: in Davis, in that strip of stores near 2nd and E Streets across the parking lot from Baskin-Robbins and the Paul Sykes memorial.  Again, I have no idea why this specific location was in my dream.  I’ve never eaten sushi there, and I don’t even know if there is a sushi place in that shopping center.  That area holds no particular significance in my life beyond memories of seeing Paul and his band (warning: link contains NSFW language after the song ends) a few times in 1995-96 and a painful rejection experience in 2000 at a restaurant in that shopping center that no longer exists.  But, again, not important.)  I don’t remember why I stepped outside, but I saw someone outside and started talking, which took longer than I thought.  When I got back to the sushi place, the people I was with had moved to an outside table, but my food was still inside.  When I went back inside to get it, it was gone; I asked the server what happened to it, and he said he threw it away, because he didn’t know if I was coming back.

I was angry.  I yelled at him and said they were the worst sushi restaurant ever, and I was going to tell all my friends not to eat there.  He said he had to throw my food away, because it would have spoiled by then based on how long I was gone (okaaaaaay), and I yelled at him that I didn’t care, I was hungry.  Then I stormed off, back outside to the people I was with.  I left soon after that, feeling terrible about myself for blowing up and making a scene, but as I passed the restaurant again on the way to my car, I felt a sudden urge to go inside and yell again at all the customers inside that they were wasting their money because this was such a bad place of business.  Then, as I got in the car, I felt terrible about myself because I couldn’t let it go.  I felt like a real jerk.

I don’t remember much after that.

But I think this dream was shining a spotlight on one of the things I dislike most about myself.  Every once in a while, I really do get very angry in public at people who are only doing their jobs, in ways that happen to be inconvenient for me.  And, just as in the dream, I always feel terrible afterward, often to the point of apologizing to whomever I blew up to.  Once, I even sent a letter to a place of business apologizing the next day.  But still, getting upset in public like that is childish, and it doesn’t help anyone with anything.  It doesn’t happen often, but it shouldn’t be happening at all.

I’ve improved the last few years at stepping back for a minute and calming down when I get really upset with the kids at work.  Maybe this dream is a reminder to do the same thing in situations like these.

Exit 124. Maybe it’s time to find someone else.

Santiago Casilla has been having a rough couple of months.

Casilla is the closer for the San Francisco Giants baseball team.  For my unbaseballed readers, “closer” is the informal term for a pitcher whose role is to enter the game late and usually only pitch one inning.  The strategy is to use the closer in a close game in which the team is leading, so that the closer can pitch a few quick outs and end the game in a win for his team.

But Casilla not been very good at his job lately.  Recently, when he has entered the game with a small lead, he ends up pitching poorly and letting the other team score, often resulting in a loss for the Giants.  Fans are frustrated, sometimes now to the point of booing when Giants manager Bruce Bochy calls for Casilla to enter the game.  (And I don’t think they were saying Boo-ochy.)  Two months ago, the Giants were the best team in all of Major League Baseball, but since then they have slid precipitously in the standings, now barely clinging to life in the playoff race.

The moderator of a Giants Facebook posted last night that the only thing that makes sense at this point is that Casilla must have compromising pictures of Bochy.  In other words, Casilla must be keeping the closer job by blackmailing Bochy, because Bochy should know better than to use Casilla in these situations when he has caused the team to lose so many games.

Last night, I was playing board games with friends, but keeping an eye on the Giants score on my phone.  The Giants were leading 2-1 over the St. Louis Cardinals going into the 9th inning, but then Casilla came in to pitch, walked a runner, gave up a couple of hits, and left the game with the Giants behind 3-2.  The Giants could not score in the bottom of the 9th.  My friends who also follow the Giants were expressing similar thoughts about why Bochy continues to use Casilla in these situations, and how Bochy keeps deflecting the question when asked this by reporters.  Everyone has a bad day sometimes.  Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  I get that.  If a closer blows a save or two, it shouldn’t cost him his job.  But when your team’s closer is leading Major League Baseball with nine blown saves this season, most of them coming relatively recently, then maybe it’s time to find someone else to do the job.

Finally, I said, “Bochy needs to let go and move on, and use someone else as the closer.  He’s acting like a guy who can’t get over his ex-girlfriend and keeps hoping they’ll get back together.”

I’ve been that guy before.  This is a hard life lesson for many of us, whether or not it has any connection with baseball.  Sometimes what used to work isn’t working anymore, and sometimes life has changed to the point where it may never work like that again.  Change is hard, but sometimes not changing is even harder in the long run.  Just like the Giants, I can’t stay stuck in my same old patterns and expect to stop being sad all of a sudden.  If I’m doing something that I don’t enjoy, taking time away from other things in life, then it’s time to do something else.  If I’m spending time and energy on people who aren’t making me a priority, then it’s time to stop making them such a priority.  Time to let go and move on.

Exit 123. You’re tough.

Since I teach math, I have had many students over the years tell me that I was one of their favorite teachers, despite the fact that they hate math, or they are bad at math (they think), or both.  I know that feeling well, although as a student, math was never the class I hated.

I recently saw a post, on the Facebook group for alumni of the high school I went to, saying that a former physical education teacher and coach had passed away.  I’ll call him Mr. F.  I saw him much the way that the students in my classes whom I described above see me: I hated PE.  I was never very good at running or lifting or any physical activity.  But I loved Mr. F as a teacher, mostly because he was really funny.  Sometimes he would say things completely unexpected out of nowhere.  One time, I told him, quietly, nervously that my stomach hurt and asked if I could use the bathroom before we started running or doing whatever we were doing that day.  He pointed toward the bathroom and said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Yeah!  Go take a big sh**!”  I have not stayed in touch with Mr. F, I haven’t seen him since I finished high school, and I don’t know anything about his passing other than someone on this post mentioned cancer.

But when I saw that he passed away, this was not the story I shared on that post.

In the summer of 1991, right after the year I had Mr. F’s PE class, I worked out in the weight room with the football team.  A lot of my friends told me I should play football, mostly because of how I was built.  But I was not an athlete.  I liked to eat too much, and I did not like to run.  But football players were the cool kids, you know how high school stereotypes are, so I worked out with the football team nevertheless.

There was another problem, though: I didn’t really understand football.  I understood the basics, touchdowns, field goals, first downs, and such.  So in addition to working out all summer, I solved this other problem the only way I knew how: I did my research.  I did a lot of reading that summer about football.  I learned about football rules, the roles of the different positions on the field, different types of plays, strategies, and the history of American football.  And when the first day of double practices came, just after my 15th birthday, I was ready.

No, I wasn’t.  Who am I kidding…

I was in the locker room getting ready that morning, and I saw Mr. F.  I had not seen him all summer, and I wasn’t sure if he knew that I was going to try out for football.  He seemed happy to see me, and he asked how I was doing.  I said that I was nervous, and that it looked like practice today was going to be tough.  “But you know what?” he replied.  “You’re tough.”  It really meant something to me that he believed in me, despite the fact that I could never run very fast or do a pull-up in his class the year before.

My football career lasted one day.  I lasted that morning and that afternoon, and I didn’t come back.  I was in way over my head.  I was badly out of shape.  But something positive did come out of that experience in the end.  It took a few months for me to get over the disappointment of not being good enough to play football, of letting down Mr. F and all my friends who encouraged me to play.  But by the time the following football season started, in the fall of 1992, I enjoyed watching football much more than I ever had in the past.  The time I spent learning more about the game helped me enjoy watching it much more, and this has stayed with me to this day.

It’s okay that I couldn’t handle football, and that I wasn’t very fast or strong in Mr. F’s PE class.  Not everyone is an athlete.  But I still found inspiration from Mr. F.

And it’s okay that some of the students in my class did not understand everything I attempted to teach them.  Not everyone is a mathematician.  But my students can still find inspiration from my class.

Exit 122. Everything is more interesting when you focus on the positive.

Last night, a friend from high school did one of those viral Facebook posts where you answer questions about yourself.  In this one, you were given a year in the past, and you answered questions comparing what you and your life were like in that year and what the same things are like now.  She gave me 2003.  It wasn’t a very long survey, and most of my answers to the questions weren’t very exciting.  “Relationship status?”  “Number of kids?”  My answer was “none,” both in 2003 and now.  I usually only share these kinds of posts when I have answers that are specifically interesting or funny, but I had no such answers, and I noted on my post that my answers for this one were kind of boring, wondering out loud why I was wasting my time with this post.

After I posted that, I went for a 25-mile bike ride… yay me.  I checked my phone during a water break, and I saw that I had two replies, one from another unmarried and childless friend my age agreeing with me, and one from my friend who originally posted it, apologizing and offering to think of some more interesting questions to ask me.

No apology was necessary.  I was not truly upset.  If anything, I was just being overly negative about being unmarried and childless, something I tend to do too often that really only makes the situation worse.  I felt bad at this point for my response… it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

But I had a thought as I continued my bike ride.  Instead of dwelling on something that makes me far more upset than it should, I’m going to turn this around and make it positive.  So when I got home, I thought of some positive changes that I have made and/or that have happened to me since 2003, and I added those to my post.  At the start of 2003, I had only been to 14 states; now I’ve been to 48, plus the District of Columbia.  (If you don’t include airport stops or driving into a state and then right back out just to say I’d been there, it would be 7 then and 38 now).  In 2003, I lived in an apartment in which my mailbox got broken into once a month, presumably by people looking for welfare checks, with neighbors who I could never tell if they were fighting or having sex or both.  Today I own a house (by which I mean I pay a mortgage) on a quiet street.  In 2003, I had never ridden my bike more than 20 miles in one day; today, I have broken 50 miles three times.  I had been to two NBA basketball games in my life up until 2003; now that number is around 80.  I discovered the music of Carbon Leaf in 2002 but had not yet seen them live as of 2003; now, I have seen them 19 times.

Everything is more interesting when you focus on the positive.  It’s not always easy, though.