I work at area colleges and universities, captioning classes for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. This morning, school was delayed until 10 a.m. because of a winter storm. I had classes at 10 and 11, but the professors canceled them without notice. Then I had another class at another college at 2:30 and, mysteriously, nobody showed up at all. Finally I did some work at 4:00 when I captioned a faculty meeting for a professor.
10:00 – Show up at classroom to find professor has canceled class. Feel disappointed and not disappointed at same time. Go downstairs to office to wait for 11:00 class. I’m alone in the office. I turn on my computer to work on my novel.
10 to 11: A sign language interpreter comes in and sits down. I like her. I like all the interpreters. They’re an energetic, quirky bunch. I cheerily hold up my end of a conversation about what to do when there’s a funny smell coming from your refrigerator and you can’t find the source. We do some problem-solving but arrive at no conclusions.
11:00 – Show up at classroom to find professor has canceled class.
11 to 12:00: Back in interpreters’ office. Interpreters come and go like barn swallows. I turn on my computer to work on my novel. An interpreter says she wants to simplify her life. I tell her about how when I sold my house I got a dumpster, threw everything in it that I didn’t need, and had it hauled away. Maybe that’s what I should do, she says. I tell her it was very cleansing. Then I say, “I can’t believe I just said ‘cleansing.’”
12:00 to 1:23: I go home to walk the dog and eat lunch. For lunch, I steam a heap of butternut squash and eat it with two pieces of toast. I contemplate and relish the single life: I can eat squash and toast for lunch if it so pleases me. I rinse off the plate instead of letting the dog and cat lick it clean. They really want to have at it but I stand fast. They need to know who wears the pants in this family. Never mind that as the head of a household comprised of me, two cats, and a dog, I’m the only one who needs to wear pants.
1:23 to 2:00: I drive to another college for a 2:30 class. I stop at a bustling café where the twenty-something baristas are dancing around to “Dancing Queen.” I feel old and dour. I think about tipping them, but don’t. They’re being just a little too boisterous. They need to be more serious. They need to think about their futures. They are the generation after all that is going to have to do something about global warming.
I bring my coffee to a table, open my computer to work on my novel. Instead I listen to the break-up happening at a neighboring table. All I hear is the girl’s side. She’s telling the boy how selfish he is, and that instead of this he could have done that, but he didn’t, he did this, and she can’t get past it. Why didn’t he just do that? That’s what she would have done. He answers in a low, low voice that could be contrite or defiant or noncommittal.
2:20 to 2:25: I am about to give up hope of finding a parking spot near the building I work in when I see a young guy heading for his car. He’s leaving. But the car is encased in ice. He takes out his ice scraper and makes a couple of wimpy passes at the ice with it. His girlfriend gets out of the car and gives it a shot. They look at the ice. They look at the ice scraper. They look at each other. At this rate, I’ll be late for class before they finish. I jump out and stride towards them, smiling benevolently and waving my own ice scraper. He says "All right!" and I say, "I couldn’t just sit there and watch you," as though this were a random act of kindness, but we both know I just want the parking spot.
2:30 to 2:35: I sit in the empty classroom. Where is everybody? I feel as if I’m the lone protagonist in an existential one-woman show.
2:35 to 3:25: I go back to the bustling café. I order a coffee and a granola bar. The barista is friendly without being glib. I think about tipping him. Then I decide not to tip him. Then I tip him. I find a table. I open my computer to work on my novel. What will happen next? I think. If I were one of these characters, what would I make happen next? Hmm. What, what, what? Maybe one of them could start writing a novel in which nothing happens.
3:45 to 5:00: I drive to the college, park, find my way to the seminar room. I set up my equipment. The talking starts. I work. The talking stops. I stop working.
5:00 to 5:30: I drive to see an old friend. We talk for an hour. I complain about the day. He listens to me complain but does not complain himself. I tell him I’m going to go home and blog about it. I leave smiling, because I know he’s going to read it, and that when my novel is finished he'll read that too.
The day has not been wasted after all.