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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How Creepy Is Too Creepy?

I saw something today that I haven't stopped thinking about.  It was the sort of scene most women will be all too familiar with--a man paying an inordinate amount of attention to a woman he doesn't know but without crossing any lines that would make his behavior illegal.

I was in line at the supermarket.  A woman who appeared to be in her mid- to late twenties got in line behind me.  A man who appeared to be in his late fifties to early sixties got in line behind her.  As a side note, I notice he was munching a handful of corn chips, in what was apparently a rather liberal interpretation of what constitutes a free sample.  Anyway, I digress.  I overheard the corn chip-munching man start a conversation with the woman behind me.  He started by commenting that she must really like corn nuts, which is an innocent enough--if somewhat bizarre--conversation starter.  She replied that they were for her boyfriend, which in my mind was a pretty clear signal for him to back off.  Nevertheless, he persisted. 

I don't remember what else he said, except that the conversation somehow escalated to him asking her what area she lived in, at which point she referenced her boyfriend again.  At that point, it was my turn to pay for my groceries, and I didn't hear what happened next.

For me, it was when he started trying to find out where she lived that turned this conversation from weird into creepy.  And since the woman in question alluded to her boyfriend twice in the conversation, I think she probably found the conversation creepy, too.  Referencing a boyfriend or husband is a tactic I've used in similar situations.  But I was left wondering what, if anything, to do.  The man in question was being creepy, but hadn't come close to crossing any legal lines.  It didn't seem like a situation for calling the police or store security.  We were in a crowded supermarket in broad daylight, which probably provided some safety.  I briefly considered waiting for the woman to finish paying for her groceries and offer to walk with her wherever she needed to go, but wasn't sure if that would be welcome. 

Truthfully, when I reflect on my own experiences of this sort, I'm not sure what I would even want from well-intentioned strangers in this sort of situation.  When I've been in similar situations, I've been very focused on determining whether the situation is likely to escalate in any way and make my escape. It's never occurred to me that a bystander could come to my rescue in any way.  But when I think about it, I realize that it shouldn't be that way.  After all, an inordinate amount of attention from a stranger would be far less unnerving if we felt like someone had our backs. 

So right now, I'm looking for ideas.  Was I correct to not intercede?  Should I have waited for the woman and offered to walk somewhere with her?  Butted in on the conversation to take some of the heat off the woman behind me in line?  There has been discussion recently of how to intercede in situations that are clearly more dangerous, but since low-level creepy incidents are unfortunately a large part of many women's lives, I think we need rules for bystanders in those, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Shouldn't We Move Past This As A Society?

Nope, not a political rant today.  At least I don't think it's tied up on politics in any way...

What I'm going to complain about is group assignments in educational settings.  It has been the bane of my existence since I was in 4th grade.  I still remember the assistant principal of my elementary school coming into my class and explaining the concept of "cooperative learning."  Back then, it was more structured.  Each group was supposed to divide into rolls:  leader, recorder, reporter, and maybe some other stuff I've forgotten.  I think even as a kid, I was hoping and expecting it to be a passing fad, but the concept has had a distressing amount of staying power.

In my experience, there has been a lot less group work in higher ed.  But in my K-12 years, I heard various excuses for group work.  One thing I heard a lot was that it was a way for students who were doing better to help students who were lagging behind, which always made me wonder how that was fair to the students who were doing well.  Another excuse was that eventually, we would all be in jobs that required massive amounts of group work, and we needed to get used to working together.

Well.  I can't speak for everyone's jobs, of course, but I can speak to the ones I've had.  Some of my jobs, like teaching, have actually required little to no group work.  Other jobs I've had involved completing tasks or projects in teams, but really in those situations, we were usually working individually on portions of projects that would all be put together in the end.  So we weren't putting up with each others neuroses and idiosyncrasies on a daily basis.  Also, it's worth pointing out that everyone was getting paid for their teamwork efforts. Personally, I will put up with a lot more when money is involved.

What inspired this particular rant is that I had a considerable amount of group work in one of my classes this semester, which, I'm happy to report, ended yesterday with the presentation of the last project.  Even under the best circumstances, this amount of group work would have been challenging, but the person I worked with turned out to be a complete nightmare.  She consistently waited until right before projects were due to do any work, and then second-guessed (and sometimes deleted) work I'd already done.  Then she would waste time agonizing over what other students in the class were doing and messing around with formatting.  She would then be miffed that I didn't want to match her amount of time engaged in useless behaviors that masquerade as "working."  In principle, it's supposed to be faster to complete projects with another person, but I'm convinced I would have finished all of the projects much faster on my own.

I understand that some people work better in groups as individuals.  But those of us who work better individually shouldn't be forced into that model, and people should stop talking about how beneficial group work is for us in the long run.  The fastest way for this nonsense to go away is for educators to stop forcing group work on everyone.  Can we finally take that step as a society?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Bridge Too Far

I had been feeling regretful recently about my lack of both time and material to update my blog.  The time is still a problem (still two weeks left in my semester!), but I now have some (completely unwelcome) material:  There. Is. A. Centipede. In. My. Home.

My building is unfortunately home to various unwelcome critters.  I've written here before about the rodent problem.  Laila usually keeps the mice at bay (she killed her sixth mouse a few weeks ago!).  However, the flip side of having a cat take care of the rodents is that her food attracts roaches, another one of the unwelcome critters.  In general--if I must live in a building with infestation problems--I'm okay with this trade off.  As gross as roaches are, I prefer them to the mice.

However, a centipede is another matter entirely.  Centipedes have always given me the creeps.  They run really fast, and I've hear their bites are painful.  They also just look awful.  Years ago, in another apartment, one somehow got into my closet light fixture and died there.  It was illuminated every time I turned the light on.  I took it as an omen that I needed to move.

Anyway, this current centipede is on the wall in the closet that holds my washer and dryer.  It's high enough up and wedged enough into the corner that it would be difficult to kill.  I'm afraid of I go after it with a broom, it'll just fall down and run off someplace (or worse, somehow fall on me).  At the moment it's hanging out and moving its antennae menacingly when I try to do laundry.  I don't like seeing it there, but I know if it disappears, I'll worry about where else it might show up. 

I'm hoping for less revolting material next time I write here.  Anyone got any great tips for dealing with centipedes that somehow get inside?