This morning was one of those mornings that leave my head spinning a little. I woke up early and a little groggy and got ready before the girls woke up. Eric took Addie to school and I checked email, ran an errand, and then dropped Nolie off at daycare across town. Back to this part of town, to the dentist. Where I had the most talkative oral hygienist on the planet.
"Am I going to get out of here by 10:30?" I asked.
"Oh, sure, hon" she said, leaning back, leisurely twirling and untwirling floss around her fingers. "So anyway, I'm looking at moving out to Debbie's, you know, because Rick has the cocaine problem and the girlfriend, and Debbie and I love to go gambling. That's where I was last Thanksgiving--Las Vegas, I mean. I met a big-time gambler who took me out...." Blahdiblahdiblah.
Normally, I find these one-way conversations fascinating, a break from having to hold my end up. In fact, I know people who just talk the entire time we're together, and I love it. I can just listen and nod and uh-huh and not have to contribute. Which feels like a giant relief. Almost like meditation. I can just leave my body and live in their saga, their drama, rather than my own.
But today, I really had to be out of the dentist's office by 10:30. A coworker had her baby yesterday and I needed to cover her 11 o'clock class in Golden. In short, I needed more flossing and less talking.
"I really have to leave by 10:30," I said meekly.
"You will, hon," she said. "So anyway, Deb runs this bus with all this dental equipment, and drives around to different little towns...."
I thought I was pretty much screwed by that point. Not only would I be late for class, but my teeth wouldn't get cleaned and I'd have to make yet another dental appointment. I'd had to cancel three already, and barely squeezed this one in. But then came my big break.
I read an article a while back by a professor who was talking about how, as soon as people find out she's an English teacher, they say something like, "Oh, I've always been terrible at grammar and spelling! You're probably going to correct my English!" As if, as an English teacher, you're trolling the streets with your dictionary and thesaurus and Strunk and White's waiting for a missed apostrophe or incorrect tense.
This has happned to me. If you teach English and you're in New York, the cabbie will ask you what you do (if he speaks English, that is), and you'll say, "I teach writing," and you know suddenly conjured in his mind is some looming Nun, Sister Grammarface from St. Mary of the Conjunction, who rapped his knuckles with a ruler when he didn't know the past pluperfect of "to kneel." And he's projecting that history on to you. "I'm terrible at English," he'll say. "Your students must love you!" he'll say sarcastically. End of conversation.
Mostly I hate these moments. Someone finds out I teach writing and they begin apologizing for their grammar or giving me crap about what Mrs. So-and-So gave them in 8th grade English. Then, the uncomfortable silence. I've never had much use for these moments. I'm not a grammar Nazi. I'm not even a grammar expert. It's important, but it's not the most important thing in communication. I'm uncomfortable, in general, with being seen this way.
The hygienist finally took a breath long enough to look at my chart and saw that I was an instructor. "So what do you teach, hon?" she said.
Ah-ha, I thought trying not to smile as she inserted the bitewings for the x-ray.
"Witig," I managed with the cardboard in my cheeks.
Silence. Then, "Oh." Teeth clenched (hers, not mine).
Which was followed by the most brutal gum cleaning I've ever endured. Mrs. So-and-So must have flunked my hygienist back in 8th grade. But it quieted her down at least, and I got out of there by 10:30, got to Golden by 11, taught the class, turned back around and picked up Nolie so that the sitter could leave for her Thanksgiving vacation, and was home by 1.
All in a day's work.