Archive for September 2014
Yesterday I visited North Carolina Central University. This was the college that my Petsmart manager had recommended. I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
While NC State had had the feeling of being a small town inside of a larger town, NCCU felt like a community college. The set-ups were similar — a collection of buildings surrounding actual public roads, with lots of bricks — NCCU just felt small. It felt like walking around the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The athletic areas felt like the athletic areas of Loras College — small and overblown in importance.
I had actually scheduled a tour, so I went into the Admissions building to wait for the tour to begin. It was supposed to begin at 2:00. By 2:10, there was no sign of such a tour beginning, so I got up and walked around campus by myself. Besides, I had looked at a map, which showed the agenda of a tour. It seemed geared towards potential undergraduate on-campus students. I am none of those things.
Both the staff and the student population is predominantly black. That’s something that I realized right away. I’ve never spent a whole lot of time being obviously a minority someplace. Except maybe Italy? It felt unusual to me.
I managed to find the graduate school office fairly quickly (I took that picture on the steps of the building, just before it began raining). I walked into the office and met with the executive assistant for graduate admissions.
She admitted up-front that she didn’t know a whole lot about the Library Science program (on purpose, she had learned a while ago not to guess and give false information), but she could answer all my questions about admissions. She took down my name and contact information so she could forward it on to the relevant Library Science people. Literally all of the Library Science faculty and staff were in a department-wide meeting right then. But she named off two people in particular who she would pass my info on to, who she said were “very quick to respond.”
I asked about admissions requirements, since the website gave very little information on what standards they were looking for. She said that they took a “holistic approach” to admissions — a poor GPA could be made up by a good GRE, or a bad GRE could be followed by an excellent letter of purpose.* Having excellent everything could still lead to a rejection if the staff felt like you weren’t a good fit. She used 3.0 as a basic excellent GPA, which made me feel less bad about my 3.09 GPA.
I asked if, since the Library Science program was part of the IT program, it was a technology-based program. She had never heard the question before, had no idea what the answer was, and wrote it down to pass on to both the people she was going to email about me and the people in charge of overhauling the new website. It was a very good question apparently.
She asked if I was looking for a Yes or a No to that question. I replied that I wasn’t sure. I had worked in a library during my undergrad, where I had worked with more technology than actual books. Which was good — yay more technology understanding — and bad — boo not enough books. Then we both got on a random tangent where we declared e-readers worse than physical books.
I left soon afterwards.
I still have not received an email from her or from the professors she was emailing. I don’t know her email address, either.
I walked out of there with a better understanding of what I want to do with my life. Why do I want a degree in Library Science? So I can work in a big university library, and be surrounded by quiet, books, and a learning environment (at least, it was quiet in the interlibrary loan office at Mason). I want to work in a big university specifically, so that I can have a variety of classes to take every semester, even if I’m not working towards any one degree. So I rejected NC State out of hand. I don’t want a degree in Public History. I want a degree in Library Science.
Next up is UNC. I’m excited.
*Letters of purpose seem really big in the graduate community. At NC State, the student affairs woman I spoke with went on a tangent about how some people say that they are interested in history — “Not even American history, or ancient history, just history — it’s a big subject!” The executive assistant I spoke with mentioned that they reject people who want degree just to have a degree, since they tend to not finish the program.
Two days ago, the Pacman Frog showed signs of an eye infection; it was brought into the Quiet Room, and its eye was dosed with medication twice a day. I closed last night and opened this morning (I was covering a closing shift for someone else). Last night, the frog seemed…well, frog-like. Still. Pensive.
This is a Pacman Frog by the way. source
Last night, a man came into the store with his dead betta fish. He wanted to exchange it for another betta fish. I said that I couldn’t test the water if the fish was in the water. He asked what that had to do with anything. I explained that, per our policy, before we did an even exchange for fish, we tested the water. He exclaimed that no one had told him that. I said that it would be no problem, if he just brought back another water sample. He said something about how he had had the fish for two months and then it suddenly dies — Two months? I said. Because that even-exchange policy for fish only lasts for two weeks.
Long story short, he spoke with the manager, who corroborated my story. The fish policy is only for two weeks. The man left, sans fish, furious. The manager gestured at the fish in my hands and said to throw it away.
I went into the back room and held the fish cup over the trash can. I looked at the dead fish. He was a blue crowntail-plakat, with a blue body and head, rimmed in rainbow colors. He had been a beautiful fish.
This is roughly the body shape I’m talking about. source
I thought that perhaps I ought to say a few words. It was a dead creature. He had probably lived a short, horrible life, full of cramped spaces and too little oxygen. Probably overfed. Probably cold. I hadn’t known about him for but five minutes, and he had been dead the whole time. Still, some respect was due.
All I could come up with was, “You were a beautiful fish.”
Then I dumped him and the cup into the trashcan with the kitty litter, used tank filters, and hamster food, and then went on my way.
This morning, the Pacman Frog was dead. I didn’t react as strongly as I had to the leopard gecko that died last week. All I did was take out a pair of tongs and poke it a few times to make sure that it was dead, before I wrapped it in a paper towel, put it in a fish bag, and wrote down the date, my name, and the Pacman Frog’s UPC code on the fish bag. Then stuffed the whole shebang into the freezer. Then I went about my day. Feeding animals. Sanitizing water dishes. Medicating the living sick animals.
I’ve seen a lot of dead animals lately.
I’m finally doing it! I’m finally taking a step forward towards grad school. Today I visited NC State. The university is over 125 years old; it began life as an agricultural college, but the sudden increase of students in the post-WWII G.I. Bill boom meant that they had to refocus. It’s a giant campus, big enough that you have to drive across. There’s even a railroad track running through it.
And don’t worry, there are tunnels underneath the railroad
(okay, WordPress, I told you to center that text, why aren’t you centering that text?)
I started out my visit by going to the, well, Visitor’s Center, where I encountered the dilemma that would hold me throughout the entire visit: I have no idea what I’m looking for. The friendly undergrad running the desk asked me what grad programs I was interested in, and I confessed that I had completely mixed up the three schools I was looking at, and had no idea what grad programs I was interested in. She asked me what I was interested in studying in general. I said “History and classics and libraries” so she put an X by the Humanities building, the History building, the student center, and the library. And the main parking lot.
After getting completely lost and then parking in permit-only parking, I headed for the student union, since it was closest. The Student Union is in the process of getting renovated, so I had to take the long way around, crossing the street twice just to get to the next building over. I earned a finger-wag from a passing bus drive. It was a weird moment of confusion, not only in where I was supposed to be going but also in the fact that people finger-wag?
The Student Union, Talley Hall, is gigantic, about three times the size of Mason’s Johnson Center. The food court puts the Johnson Center to shame as well; it’s an actual food court, with lots and lots and lots of seating. It was about 2:00, past a normal lunchtime, so most of the people there were snacking and studying, except for one dude who was trying to access one of the free X-Boxes that they have there for students to play on. Their convenience store was about twice the size of the Johnson Center convenience store. They had a pizza shop and a Jimmy John’s. And an ice cream store. I couldn’t resist.
Next I crossed under the railroad tracks and visited the academic side of campus, which is the more historic part of the campus and was absolutely beautiful.
Despite being a college campus, the whole place had a serene small-town feel. There was a mix of architectural styles from the various eras the campus had existed. I didn’t take a picture of it, but there was a building, the 1911 building, with a grand entrance of four pillars. I could hear birds chirping. A small group walked by in serious discussion. A young man skateboarded by. I watched him hop the curb and then, confidently, skate off towards his destination past the silo. He didn’t even look both ways. He didn’t need to.
I walked down the street and found a busy two-lane street, lined with Jimmy John’s, I ❤ New York Pizza, and a Chipotle, among others. I walked down this street to the Humanities building. They sent me towards the History building, because I had no idea what was really going on or where I was.
As I walked, I wondered if I really wanted a Masters in History. I concluded that I didn't, not really. The fun part of history is really just reading about it. I've never really been one for original research. What would I do with a Masters in history that I couldn't do with a Bachelors? No one really seemed to think a history degree is worth all that much. Come to think of it, why was I even studying Latin? What good would that do me?
I had absolutely no idea how to explain myself once I finally arrived at the third-floor office of the History wing. I stammered out that I was looking at grad schools (true) and I was interested in history (false?) and maybe there was someone I could talk to? They gave me the email address of someone I could talk to, then sent me further into the office to talk with Nerene, the woman in charge of Student Relations.
I said I was doing preliminary research into grad schools and she asked what I wanted to know. I had absolutely no idea what to say. Finally I came up with how long the program lasted, and the conversation continued from there. Honestly, most of my questions could have been answered by looking on the website. The program is 30 credits long. They get around 80 applications every year and they accept about 50 of them. She started talking about how many of the students become Teaching Assistants or work in the library, which sounded very appealing to me. She also said something about how they got students who "did 21 hours a semester in undergrad, and then they come here and do 9 and say that they work even harder here."
I confessed that I came from a school where full time students were 12-16 credit hours, and that I had preferred to do 12 credit hours a semester because I couldn't handle the standard 15. She nodded and said that it wasn't unusual for students to do part-time, but that part-time meant that I couldn't be a TA. From the many, many, many times she mentioned students as TAs, I got the sense that being a TA was standard. I asked how one becomes a TA.
They ask you to become one; they go in order of your GPA. But it didn’t matter if you only had, say, a 3.3; if the person who had a 3.5 turned down the offer, then they would consider you next.
I got very nervous because I had a 3.09 at George Mason and maybe wouldn’t be considered to be a TA at all.
Then she mentioned, for the third time, that “public history is different of course” and so I asked what public history is.
Well. Public History is history, of course, but with an emphasis on real-world work: archiving, working at a museum, working at a historical site. There were several classes in common, but they had their own classes too. This is when I got excited. This sounded like exactly the sort of program I wanted. Somewhat of a cross between library science and history.
Sensing my enthusiasm, she started talking about applications: deadlines, three letters of recommendations, they only asked for an unofficial transcript and that only when you had already been accepted…Oh, by the way, what other colleges was I looking at?
“My manager recommended North Carolina Central’s Masters in Library Science,” I said.
That was a very good program, and also, a lot of Masters students here went on to study Library Science at UNC. It was very normal. A lot of them did their final semester at NCSU and their first semester at UNC at the same time.
Then we talked about me for a little bit, and she recommended how to balance working at Starbucks with pursuing a Masters degree. Then I left.
I still feel out-of-sorts and unable to decide. On Monday I visit NCCU. I’m still not very good at asking questions about programs. But I have email addresses now, in case I have further questions. I just have no idea what I’m looking for.
Later that same day, I started singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” while fixing a mocha frappaccino, because that song has been stuck in my head for about seven days now. I then explained to Makala that the song was stuck in my head. Makala responded by singing Christmas carols. She sang,
“Oh bring us some figgy pudding
Oh bring us some figgy pudding
Oh bring us some figgy pudding
And bring some out here”
Then said, “What the hell is figgy pudding? It sounds disgusting.”
I then went through a basic gist of how people celebrated Christmas in pre-1820s Western society (long story short: get drunk, sing Christmas Carols, break into rich people’s houses and demand food and drink, because Christmas was the one time of year when poor people could do that — topsy turvy!) and how those traditions funneled into modern-day society (we switched from giving stuff to poor people to giving stuff to children, because children were regarded as little better back in those days basically).
Makala listened to all of this, and then said, “Why do you even know this??”
A few minutes later Steve the Security Guy walked by and, in the midst of the conversation, bragged about how he knew everything. Makala declared that he couldn’t, because I know everything and she could prove it. Steve wandered away after a customer asked us questions about our anniversary roast.
And today, one of the cashiers came by to refill her water cup. She complained that the store was too hot, and wished that it were more like the outside. I then explained about how most stores work to keep the inside conditioners as consistent as possible, thereby blocking out any way for customers to be able to tell time. Temperature regulation, no clocks, blocking view of the windows — all to keep customers from noticing how much time has passed. The more customers linger, the more they’ll buy.
The cashier listened intently, then said, “How do you even know all that??”
“She knows everything,” Makala said. “She’s like an encyclopedia.”
Target finally paid me on Tuesday, and I was utterly delighted. I was now about $400 richer. I began having fantasies of not dipping into my savings to pay for my student loan, and also, getting my car registered in North Carolina. Delighted, James and I went and ran errands. He wanted to buy some fabric so we could have a proper surface for our mini-games, X-Wing and Pirates. We took care of my errands first, because they were administrative and thus time-sensitive.
Both James and the bank teller said that they paid about $120 to get their car registered, so I kept $120 in cash from my paycheck and put the rest into my bank account. Then James and I drove to the nearest North Carolina Title and License Plate location.
There was a line, not surprisingly, but fortunately my line was shortest. I got in line while James sat in a chair.
I stood in line.
I stood in line some more.
I had already been on my feet working for eight hours and I think I stood there in one spot for what felt like 45 minutes. Finally I was called up. I had all my paperwork ready in-hand. The woman immediately began processing. Then she said, “That will be $199.”
“199?” I repeated.
“199.” The woman looked absolutely bored.
“I have 120 in cash,” I said. “Can I pay the rest in debit?”
“That will be an additional $5.”
I handed over the cash and my debit card. The woman looked at my cash, and then glared at me. “What is this extra $3 for?”
“That’s all the cash in my wallet,” I said. “I wanted to put as little on the debit card as possible.”
“But why,” she said, “Is there three dollars?”
I said, slowly, “I’m giving you one hundred and twenty-three dollars.”
She sighed and tapped at the computer some more and then put all of my cash in a little drawer. Then she shoved a license plate and a letter from NCDOT into my hands.
I decided to speak up. “All the people I talked to said that it would be around $120. I asked a lot of people. Why did it come out so expensive?”
She sighed. “We base your rate on the value of the car. If it seems like a bigger liability then we charge more.”
I processed for a second, and then said, “You charge more for cheaper cars?”
I stumbled back to James, who looked up from his phone and saw immediately that I was close to tears.
“Are you okay?”
I’m not sure what I said. I was more interested in leaving the building. We walked back to the car and James drove us to JoAnn’s Fabrics. Then he turned off the car and looked at me. “Are you okay? Do you feel up to going inside?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want to go home?”
James drove us home. I made grilled cheese and tomato soup for myself. After I ate, James recommended that we play a game. We tried out Kamisado, which James won handily at twice. Then we finally played Pirates, which I had been pushing for a month for us to play. James again won.
Normally I wouldn’t have been bothered by losing constantly, especially at a game like Pirates. Pirates is one of those journey-not-the-destination games. He ran my biggest ship derelict; normally I would have been narrating the plight of my poor pirates and laughing and suggesting that he sink my derelict ship. But my mood was so sour that it just made everything worse. After we cleaned up the game, I picked up my Cicero biography and lay on the bed and read. James came in and checked on me, but other than that, I spent the evening reading. It was probably the best part of the day.
“So let me get this straight,” said Eva. “You accept the concept of faster-than-light travel without affecting people’s relative ages, but you don’t get that our energies live outside of our bodies?”
“But where does it go?” Matt threw his arms into the air, pacing back and forth from one end of the study to the other end. “Where does it go, once our bodies die? Is it just everywhere? Am I walking through dead people right now?” He waved and slapped his fingers together, as if trying to grab something with them.
“No!” said Claire. “Only some people.”
“Then what,” Matt said. His pacing increased; he began walking in circles around the whole room. “If the Law of Conservation of Energy holds true, then that energy is being used somewhere. Where does it go?”
“The Afterlife,” Claire scoffed.
“Where is the Afterlife?” Matt asked. Eva stepped out from the doorway and put a hand on his arm, but Matt kept walking.
“It’s…it’s somewhere else,” Claire shrugged, and looked at Andy. Andy looked back at her, arms in her lap, listening patiently. She was not going to be any help. “Most people go there, but some people stay here. That’s all.”
“No, that’s not all,” Matt said. “What is the Afterlife? Why would all that energy need to be collected? Where does the energy go?”
“He has a point,” Andy said.
Claire glared at her. “It’s another point of existence. Another dimension, maybe.”
Perhaps Claire thought that the word dimension would ease him. But Matt was not through.
“Maybe? Maybe?” Matt stood in front of the window; his whole front was dark and unreadable. “If you’re the experts, why can’t you tell me? Shouldn’t you know?”
In the doorway, Eva cried quietly.
Well I don’t know about you, but I had a thoroughly dull evening planned — fried chicken and Doctor Who, maybe some tidying up around the apartment? But I’ve been playing phone tag with a manager for Harris Teeter the last few days and we finally managed to get in touch, and suddenly I had an interview.
I have a tentative offer for Harris Teeter, to work as a Starbucks barista and maybe sometimes as a bakery clerk. The pay is exactly the same as what I currently get at Target, but. Here are the important parts to me:
-I’m going to receive complete training
-Like, a set number of hours of training
-In something I’m already partially trained in
-Also, I think Harris Teeter might have better benefits
-Harris Teeter also appears to have more opportunities for personal growth. I’ve talked to a lot of Target employees who have complained that they want X position or would like to be trained for Y thing or promoted because they’ve worked for Z number of years. I get the sense, from James and from the hiring manager, that it’s a lot easier to grow at Harris Teeter. While I certainly don’t see myself working in a grocery store for the rest of my life, a masters degree ain’t free, and neither is room and board while pursuing a masters.
The actual hiring process takes like a week, so we’ll find out for sure later, but I am tentatively a barista at a Harris Teeter!
SONNY IS SO CUTE