Me and Three Women in a Garden

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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13 Responses

  1. fillyjonk fillyjonk
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    says:

    Nice piece. As one of the “potential morons” in the faculty of a university, I admit I have some of the same concerns, some of the same distrust of “management” (administration and our state legislators). And I am also a bit concerned about reopening and what will happen with the virus. And yeah, I’ve had bitch sessions with my colleagues about particular administrators who “just don’t get it” or similar.

    I do notice some of the folks working on campus – well, when I am on campus and not working from home*. One of our groundskeepers is a graduate of our department (Botany), she and I would talk some times. (Our head horticulturalist is very cool – she grew up in American Samoa, has served in the military, has great stories, and is very knowledgeable about organic landscaping, she’s my go-to person when I have a question). I do remember something I overheard that made me simultaneously proud of my department, but otherwise sad – a new custodian was moving to our building from another one and I overheard our soon-to-be-retired past custodian talking to him – “Oh, you’ll like working in this department, ” she said, “They say ‘hello’ to you when they see you and talk to you”

    I mean, I never thought of us as the most polite or cultured bunch but really? Not saying hello to a fellow human being because they work a slightly different job from you? Weird.

    (*I don’t teach summers and am not paid, but I do research – though not this year I guess – and prep for the fall. This year that includes trying to figure out ecology labs that could be done as online simulations. I have a few but I admit I am not happy with the idea of maybe having to teach that way, though I’m not sure if I’m less happy with the idea of teaching in a mask and being very aware of staying 6′ away from everyone and washing my hands after every class)Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to fillyjonk
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      says:

      Yeah, I have no idea how we’ll reopen, although certainly we must at some point. I really don’t think the managers are doing a bad job at our university- my coworkers are mainly complaining about the head of facility services, who they’re complaining about because, well, he’s the boss. But, when you think about it, almost none of us have experienced anything quite like this in our lifetimes. So, we’re all sort of flying blind.

      As for the faculty and staff, I’m always a little surprised when they say hello, but very pleasantly so. It’s really only awkward when you need to get something by them and they’re ignoring you in a cramped space. It’s always a tricky balance between getting things done and not interfering too much with what other people are doing.

      I will say the one pet peeve of mine is when I’ve finished cleaning a building (I start at 6 a.m.) and the first few instructors are arriving and so I am passing someone in the hall first thing in the morning, and I say “Hi! Good morning!” because that’s *what you do* and they give me the freeze- slight look of discomfort, no response, walk directly past me. That’s just *weird* and dehumanizing and it’s hard not to respond with some choice expletives.

      But it really does make the day when someone says hello or thank you.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    I love this piece, Rufus. I love how much you love your co-workers. I love how you describe them well enough that I connect them to certain people I know, or have known.

    And the capstone is this: As you get older, you start to realize that no one is in control of anything.

    Yeah.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Doctor Jay
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      says:

      Thank you! I find them all fairly endearing.

      One of the things I try to convey when I write about my coworkers is it really is a job for square pegs. We’ve got the one cleaner who did the best dissertation defense I’ve ever seen for her PhD- it included a dance party. And then the guy who the older cleaners all think is out to lunch who has a record coming out in a few weeks that Billboard says “you have to check out.” There’s a guy who played on one of the ten best Canadian rock’n’roll records, in my opinion. Well, and then me, I guess. It’s a job for people who don’t fit in and like a lot of alone time to dream.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        One of the habits I’ve developed that has really got me through life is to assume that whomever I’m with, no matter how boring they might seem, has done something, been somewhere, or seen something that is well outside my own experience, and, as a result, is quite interesting. The point of a conversation with them is to find that thing.

        That has stood me in very good stead, and your description just underlines it. It’s harder with some than with others, though.Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    I need to pull out the bitterness that has taken root in my own heart or it will poison me, such that when physical death comes, it will be simply a formality.

    I’m making this my mantra.

    Thank you for it.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      Thank you. I have recently reconnected with the first girl I was in love with half my life ago, and it wasn’t like *that*- she’s married and we’re now old friends and two decades have passed. But reminiscing with her about what we were like as young and optimistic people was a nice reminder that all of the negative stuff sort of *builds up* on you overtime and periodically needs to be shed. I hope I’m getting there at least.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      This is the phrase that stuck out to me, as well. What a nice turn of phrase. We would all do well to take time to consider our lives as thoughtfully.Report

  4. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    Somehow reading this post got Life During Wartime stuck in my head.Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David
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    says:

    That is a great piece Rufus. Thank you.Report

  6. Avatar North
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    says:

    Brilliant writing Rufus! You can turn a phrase like nobody’s business!Report

  7. Avatar Rufus F.
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    says:

    Thanks again, everyone. I guess the reality is I’ve been doing a lot of reconsidering of things during this period of time and I have admitted that writing is really the only thing I want to do in life. I don’t know what that means as of yet. But, it’s good to own up to it.Report

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