Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two encounters with The Man...

So for various reasons (one of which is the fact that I teach early American literature, which includes the Puritans), I usually have my radar all set to receive Signs and Wonders--things that, if they happened in a novel or a movie or a dream, the audience would go "woah, that's gotta mean something." Recently I had two encounters with figures of Authority--with a capital A--that made me think Someone is trying to tell me Something.

The first involves me at a party. Now, I'm not one to go partying all that much these days, especially when it requires driving down to Columbus, not to mention wearing something other than jeans. But this was a DJ Hero party, with a karaoke machine added in, and all manner of 80s songs were likely to be played. I just happened to be on a New Order jag--playing their songs on YouTube and finally downloading some onto Patrick's ipod--so the chance to dance around a friend's living room to some awesome music was too tempting to pass up. I put on my 80s duds--orange crushed-velvet leggings, a big t-shirt (like the Frankie ones, but this one was about Ed Meese), my purple Doc Martin boots, and my biker jacket--and put my hair up and I was out the door. It was a risk, dressing like that in front of colleagues, but they appreciated my getting into the spirit of the party.

(Here's a link to a YouTube video of my current obsession...)

Sadly, no New Order tunes were available at the party. I was pretty bummed. So to make up for it, I joined in on the karaoke fun with a couple other people. That's when it happened...

Just as I launched into a song (I can't even remember which one it was), red and blue lights started flashing outside the window I was facing. The cops! Holy crap, I'm going to get arrested for being too loud! At my age!!!

Luckily, it wasn't a noise complaint; there was a car (mine, as it happened) parked in front of the house, which was the WRONG side of the street to be parked on. So I grabbed my jacket & keys and moved it. I wondered if the cop was a bit taken aback by my outfit, but he was perfectly kind and didn't give me a hassle. Or a ticket.

The next incident happened last week. A government agent came to my office to interview me about a former student who was seeking security clearance. He showed me his badge and then began to ask lots and lots of questions, some of which I could only vaguely answer (the student graduated about 4 years ago and we haven't been in touch since then). I was happy to tell him lots of positive things about this person--one of the first students I got to know and admire on a personal level in my first year in my job. Then he got to an interesting line of inquiry: he wanted to know if the student had voiced any subversive or anti-government thoughts.

I felt kind of like Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes), when he's flown off his swing and is flying through the air upside down, with a totally blank look on his face, and says "Houston, we have a negative on that orbit trajectory..." In my head, I was saying, "well, hell yeah, buddy, of course that student had subversive thoughts! She was a double major in English and Women & Gender Studies! She took two courses with me! If I did my job, she would HAVE to have subversive thoughts! and maybe even be critical of the government! and other institutions of power! It's called critical thinking!!!"

Luckily, what was in my head stayed there. What he meant was: is this person likely to become a terrorist? And the correct answer to that, in my opinion, was NO. But first I engaged him in a discussion of what we meant by "subversive." "Did you see the poster on my door?" I asked.

So we had a little chuckle at the different ways in which we were using this word, and the interview continued.

Those were my two Signs and Wonders moments, each one inspiring me to think about my relationship to Authority. It's interesting to me that, although both of them involved encounters with people in power (and a LOT of power, at that), neither one was particularly confrontational... hm... I think I'll be working out those details for a while.

I hope you see some Signs and Wonders in your own life!

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