Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10: Odious, Stingy, Hard Preconceptions

"It should be Christmas Day, I am sure," said she, "on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge.  You know he is, Robert!  Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow!"

The speaker is Mrs. Cratchit, and she is responding to her husband's toast to the health and well being of Scrooge, the "Founder" of the Cratchit feast.  Scrooge is not a popular figure in the Cratchit household, and most certainly not with Mrs. Cratchit.  In fact, he's kind of the ogre of the clan, the person on which to pin all the ills and troubles of the world.

Now, I'm not saying that Scrooge isn't the cause of much grief for Bob Cratchit and his family.  Scrooge is a pretty mean bastard of an employer.  Cheap.  Ill-tempered.  Uncaring.  I wouldn't want to work for him in his original incarnation at the beginning of the novel.  But, that's the point of the whole book:  how Scrooge gets from point A (the meanest son of a bitch in the whole town of London) to point B (one step away from sainthood).

At this moment in my life, I live with many preconceptions, especially of the people/organizations who provide me employment.  The local health care organization for which I work is currently is the middle of a huge take-over from a much larger, national health care organization.  That makes me nervous.  Whenever one business becomes part of another, things will change.  Already, I have noticed some "corporate" dictums being handed down from on high.  For instance, all over the hospital, the winning entries from the employee photo contest adorn the walls.  Well, I should use the past tense--"adorned."  They all came down in the last month.  Most employees are walking around like they're Bob Cratchit, frightened and unsure, trying to sneak a piece of coal from Scrooge's office.

Also at this moment, at the university for which I teach, the employees (support staff and professors) are in contract negotiations.  Having just become a member of the professors' union, I have been privy to much of the current debate and discussion.  As a "contingent" faculty member, I am one of the ugly stepsisters of the teaching faculty.  I haven't been invited to many of the balls thrown by the palace in the almost 18 years I have been an instructor. 

Frankly, I do feel like Bob Cratchit in this situation.  I don't expect a whole lot to change.  Would I like a larger paycheck?  Sure.  Would I like my children to be able to attend the university for free like the rest of the employee/faculty kids?  You betcha.  Would I accept medical/pharmacy benefits from the school?  In a heart beat.  Do I expect these things to come to pass?  Not on your life.  I know it would take an act of God (or several Ghosts of Christmas) to change the academic attitude toward adjunct faculty.  We are, and will probably continue to be, the disposable Bob Cratchits of the university employment pool.  We won't be getting any free gooses from the administration for the holidays any time soon.

These are my preconceptions, based upon years of experience.  Like Mrs. Cratchit, I know what to expect from Scrooge.  I wish I could be a little more optimistic.  I wish I could be like Bob himself, who still wishes his boss the best, even though he knows, better than anyone else, what a pain in the ass Scrooge really is.  Yet, Bob maintains his positive outlook.

Perhaps I'm too jaded for that.  Perhaps I need to life a cup of rum punch in a toast to the university and hospital, proclaiming, "Huzzah and godspeed!"  Perhaps I will change my entire life outlook, become more of a Bob Cratchit.

And perhaps Saint Marty will live to see peace in the Middle East, a woman elected President of the United States, and Republicans stop bitching about health care reform.  It could happen.

Does this remind you of your boss?

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