Observations and Oddities


My Series of Unfortunate Events

I don’t generally use my blog as a place to chronicle the events of my day, but today is one of those days that you just have to document for posterity’s sake.

Before I begin, a brief disclosure: I am fully aware that there are plenty of people in world who are having days much worse than mine and do not intend this as a feel-sorry-for-me story. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My day got such a bad start today that it was simply comical and I thought I might bring a smile or two to those of you that read my randomness. So, here it goes- a series of unfortunate events.

Chapter 1: The Parking Garage
I’ve successfully made it to the parking garage down the street from my office- on time, in a cute outfit and having a good hair day. I have the world on a string! Then, next thing I know, I’m on my way up the ramp of the 8th floor of the garage and my car loses all engine power. I hit the breaks to keep from rolling backward and the people behind me look at me like I’m nuts for just stopping. Honking commences (it’s 8:30 a.m. in downtown Cincinnati, the garage is a little busy). I get out of the car and ask three people to back up, so I can let my car roll backward into a corner so they can pass. I then stand there looking distressed and placing SOS calls from my cell phone as my co-workers and other corporate downtowners drive by and gawk. Garage staff comes to help, thinking they can just jump the battery- garage traffic blocked again. I know it is not the battery, but they insist on trying for nearly 30 minutes.

Finally, I convince them I will need to be towed and we call for a truck that can clear the low ceilings of the garage. They say it will be a lot easier to tow me out if we can get the car down to the bottom of the garage, so two garage employees and a really nice guy who had just pulled into the garage, push my car up the ramp so I can turn to the down side and coast to the lowest level of the garage. I cannot express how much fun it was making all of the tight turns around the corners of the garage with my power steering not working, but I somehow made it safely to the ground floor.

Chapter 2: Back to From Where I Came
The tow truck arrives and picks me up without incident. I ask the driver to take me and my dead car to my neighborhood mechanic rather than trusting a random downtown garage (I live about 25 miles away from work). When I get there I realize I cannot find my keys. I think maybe they are still in the car, but they are not. I empty my purse and computer bag onto the hood of my car- they are not there. I search the cab of the tow truck- still not there. They are also nowhere to be found in mechanic’s parking lot. I check my coat pockets and find that the pocket I most likely would have put them is has a hole in it. Guessing my keys are on the floor of the parking garage downtown. I let the mechanic know that I will have to have my husband bring a key later, because apparently I am an idiot. My tow truck guy says he has to head back downtown anyway, and that he will check with the garage for my keys and call me if he finds them (nice guy).

Chapter 3: In Search of a Rental Car
The concierge guy from the garage drives me to the Enterprise location in my small town- they have no cars. In fact, not a single Enterprise location on the east side of Cincinnati (including the BIG one at Kings Auto Mall, that keeps an inventory of 300 cars) has a car. They say maybe by Friday. The driver takes me to a local place that the garage works with regularly and they also have no cars. Apparently all of the rain and last week’s black ice have left all of the car rental places empty and the body shops full. I decide God is trying to tell me to go home and I choose to listen.

Chapter 4: My Situation Wreaks Havoc for Others
The shop we took the car to is literally right down the street from my house, so as the driver brings me home, we see that there is a major car accident right in front of the shop. We turn onto my street and stare for a minute- trying to establish how such a bad accident happened in that location. The driver then notices that my tow truck is back at the shop- he guesses that maybe the tow driver found my keys in his truck after all and has brought them back for me (maybe this day is getting better?).The driver calls back to the shop to ask and finds out, that no, my keys have not been found, but that my tow truck driver was involved in the accident that we were just observing. Apparently he is the one who hit the badly damaged car lying in the ditch- an incident that occurred only because of my situation.

Chapter 5: Working from Home
Finally settled at home (thank goodness for that keypad on the garage door) and I sit down to log-in to the office VPN- thankful I have my work stuff with me from finishing up some writing last night at home. Up pop the VPN errors- I’m unable to log in. I spend the next 30 minutes on the phone troubleshooting with the help desk (although kudos to my tech guy for being super helpful) to realize that something is just randomly screwed up with my VPN client and that we have to install another one to get me reconnected. It’s a glitch, no explanation for why it happened, but it did.

It’s at this point in the day when I realize it is probably good that I am now back in the safety of my home where I can remain safely contained and no longer be a danger to those around me (or those who are around my tow truck driver). It’s also at this point when I am finally able to look back at the course of my morning (its only Noon) , have a hearty laugh and realize that this is a story I just have to share.

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Lessons learned

As I was working today on the copy for a new brochure, I heard a voice from my past.  It was my high school English Composition teacher saying to me “one sentence does not a paragraph make.”  Now, you should know that I am a professional communicator.  I work in marketing, where the rules of writing are a bit more casual than the rubrics of formal composition.  As such, it is perfectly acceptable for me use a standalone sentence as an opening paragraph. It is also acceptable for me to use the occasional run-on sentence, to start a sentence with “but” or “because” and to break a myriad of other proper writing rules. However I can’t help but hear the echoes of one of my life’s educators in my head as I apply the skills she helped me hone.

Today, for some reason, this resonated a bit more with me than it has in the past and I started to look back on some of the other great things I have learned from teachers throughout my life. While the list that ran through my head included people from various walks of life who had crossed paths with me in a wide variety of roles, I kept finding myself focusing on the professional educators that were (along with my parents) charged with the task preparing me to be an effective, functioning  adult. 

These teachers performed all of the obligatory tasks- I learned to read, write, spell and tabulate. I understand (a little more than) the basics of life science, anatomy, U.S. and world history and geography.  I can even speak a little bit of Spanish.   My teachers did their job. They taught me the required subject matter. They saw me through the system and prepared me to be an employed grown-up.  But when I reflected on the things that they taught me that have most impacted who I am today- it had nothing to do with what was in the lesson plan, or what I needed to know to score well on the ISTEP test, or even what the requirements were to earn my college scholarship.  The things they really taught me are far more important.

I found it fitting in the wake of recent events, to list a few of the things I’ve learned from teachers along the way. As people are pondering the monetary value of the service educators provide, I’ve gathered a few of the priceless things they gave to me in the bullets below.  This list could go on for days and days, so I mean no disrespect to those who may not be mentioned, or by leaving out additional things I learned from those listed, but here are a few that stand out:

  • Mrs. Willis taught me in kindergarten that it is OK to be proud of your talents and to share them with others without feeling like you are different or showing off. I was an early reader when many of my classmates were just beginning to explore the concept. She would have me read to the class during group reading time, something that made me very self-conscious.
  • Ms Tonies taught me that you shouldn’t cave to peer pressure.  A classmate had dared me to bite him. I knew better, but he was one of the “cool” kids and I was not.  I caved to his pressure and was immediately reprimanded and sent to the hall for a one-on-one conversation with Ms. Tonies (and, I feared, the paddle).  However, I received no corporal punishment. Instead I was given the 8-year old equivalent of the “if your friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” lesson.
  • Mr. Guerin (OK, so he was a principal at the time) taught me that if you want something, you should tell someone that you want it, ask what it will take to get it and then work hard to do just that.  As a fifth grade student, I wanted nothing more than to be asked to participate in Project Challenge (an extra curricular learning program). However, an invitation was dependent on teacher recommendation and honor roll grades.  The grading period in which invitations were extended I received one of very few C+’s in my K-12 educational career- in handwriting.  I was devastated by the fact that something so (in my esteemed ten year-old opinion) insignificant, could keep me from my goal. I plead my case to Mr. Guerin.  After helping me see that handwriting was indeed important, and gaining my commitment to work hard to improve my script, Mr. Guerin offered me the chance to test for inclusion in the program.   I made it and improved my handwriting grade immediately.
  • Mrs. Grossman taught me that I had a natural talent for teaching.  I was never a student in Mrs. Grossman’s class. However, I did help lead a junior Girl Scout troop that met in her classroom after school when I was a junior high school student.  As such, she would often still be there, grading papers at her desk, silently observing how I interacted with the girls I was directing.  One week she stopped me and told me that I should really consider being a teacher, having been impressed with how I was able to connect with my girls and to really get them excited about what we were learning.   I did major in elementary education for a brief time in college before realizing it wasn’t really for me (I don’t really like kids as much as I thought).  However, years later I found that she was very right as I found myself in a job I loved- educating adults as a corporate trainer.
  • Mrs. McNeely told me I had stage presence. Following my first performance in a high school drama club production, she pulled me aside in the lobby and informed me of this. It was one of the biggest confidence boosters of my life and has been instrumental in helping me become a comfortable (and pretty effective) public speaker.
  • Dr. Hall taught me that the appropriate answer is usually “it depends.”   During the discussion of confounding variables in a Sociology 201 class, Dr. Hall taught me that things are hardly every black and white and before making a judgment  one should always consider what other variables there may be that have been overlooked. The foundation of critical thinking, a lesson I am reminded of on a daily basis and one that I believe has helped shape my character as an adult.

It is my sincere belief that individuals are created by their unique combination of exposure to- and experience with- others. It takes others’ contributions to create who we are. In my case, I feel blessed to have had some amazing people help make me who I am today and to continue to have others who are helping shape who I am still becoming.  My teachers have provided more than their fair share to this monumental task and I think one more recognition is appropriate as I close this entry.

Mrs. Talley taught me  that “once sentence does not a paragraph make.”