Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9: Gratitude Number Five, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I am grateful for my father today.

For the past week, I've been battling my toilet.  Last Monday or Tuesday, it started leaking.  At first, it was a slow, intermittent drip...drip...drip.  Nothing to worry about.  By Friday, the leak had progressed to an almost steady drip-drip-drip, just short of a stream.

I know, I know.  I'm a plumber's son.  I should be able to deal with a stupid leak on a toilet tank.  Well, the best I could do was to keep emptying the pitcher underneath the leak.  This morning, I actually came up with the idea of turning off the water to the toilet and draining it.

Last night, I mentioned the leak to my father on the way home from church.  He looked at me.  "That's a Mansfield toilet, isn't it?" he said.  I nodded.  "It's probably the back bolt that's leaking, huh?" he said.  I nodded again.  "That's the one that always goes on the Mansfields," he said.  I think I said something stupid, like, "Oh, really?"

When I got home from church this afternoon, my toilet was fixed.  No leak.  Empty pitcher.  A wonderful gift from my dad.

Two years ago on this day, I was writing about my jobs at the university and medical office.  Considering my current predicament, I thought it was appropriate to rebroadcast this episode of Saint Marty.  I guess the old saying is true:  you don't know how good you got it until it's gone.

March 9, 2012:  His Clerk, Bob Cratchit, Being Watched

The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in an dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters.  Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal.  But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted it would be necessary for them to part.  Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

Scrooge makes Bob Cratchit's working life pretty miserable.  In the little scene that opens the novel, Scrooge freezes Bob in his office and threatens to fire him at one point.  Scrooge micromanages even the pieces of coal Bob uses.  Bob being Bob, he accepts his employer's ways good-naturedly, even makes a Christmas toast to Scrooge a little later in the story.

In my two main jobs, at the university and the outpatient surgery center, I have a fair amount of autonomy.  I've been in both positions long enough, I guess, that my employers have confidence in my job performances.  I would probably shrivel up and blow away if I had to work in Scrooge's counting house.  I can't stand being scrutinized.  It makes me nervous, even nauseous.  Of the two jobs, I feel most like Bob Cratchit in the medical office.  It's part of a very large health care system, and if my little cog in the machinery doesn't turn properly, the bigger cogs take notice.

Really, in any job I've ever had (and I've had quite a few), I've always had a fair amount of oversight.  In some jobs, the oversight was subtle and unobtrusive.  In other jobs, the oversight was Scrooge-like, counting every piece of coal and candle I used.  At the university, I'm pretty much left alone.  I've known the English Department Head since I was an undergraduate (we share the same birth date).  He knows he can trust me.  I don't recall the last time I was actually observed in the classroom.  The oversight, for me, comes at the end of the semester, when the Department Head reviews my classroom evaluations, and I've never had a problem in that area.  Sure, I get the occasional cranky student, but not very often.

Watch your back, Bob
I feel the most comfortable at the university, in the classroom.  It's my element.  It's what I love to do.  The surgery center helps me pay the bills and provides health insurance.  The teaching helps me stay sane and feeds my passions.  Over the summer months, when I'm not teaching, when I'm just greasing my cog and counting the coal, I get anxious.  I start feeling a little like Bob Cratchit in his comforter, warming his hands over a candle flame.

As a part-time adjunct instructor of English, however, there's always going to be a little bit of Bob in my existence.  I know that.

Saint Marty needs to get to work now.  Scrooge is watching. 

Confessions of Saint Marty

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