Thursday, May 10, 2012

James Thurber's The Catbird Seat and Prison Yard Mentality

"Mr. Martin bough the pack of Camels on Monday night in the most crowded cigar store on was only a week to the day since he had decided to rub out Mrs. Ulgine Barrows." -Thurber, The Catbird Seat

So the Great Shakespeare Poster Mystery concludes with James Thurber.  Fine, it had to end somewhere.  After much questioning and posturing, sending students here and there during class time to investigate, it was finally confessed that yes, they threw them in the garbage. Who is "They?"  Better question!  By "They" do I mean school authorities that hang up the phone when I call the main office demanding answers and duck out the fire escape when they see me coming?  Possibly.  By "They" do I mean my old Chinese math teaching nemesis who barged into my class yesterday (again) to force them to complete a priority assignment (her class is more important than mine)?  Could be.  Or by "They" do I mean the mysterious fairies of misfortune that seem to follow me through the corridors and inner workings of this school system?
Hmmm... James Thurber, you said?
"Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel?" -Thurber, The Catbird Seat

I like James Thurber, he was a doodler and a lisper, often speaking in strange accents on the phone to confuse people.  An odd looking fellow, he wrote of very weak men dominated by powerful and determined women.
"I am preparing a bomb!," said Mr. Martin, "which will blow the old goat higher than hell." -Thurber, The Catbird Seat

We covered his The Catbird Seat this week, about a docile file clerk who decides to murder an overzealous and appalling office new hire... the braying, chattering, rampaging, oblivious, Mrs. Ulgine Barrows.
It's certainly a Walter Mitty type fantasy, for sure...we all work with people who are obnoxious... and by work I mean, we are surrounded by them unable to escape because most adults work 40 to 50 hour weeks and see their office colleagues more than their own family members.
"Can't you see how he has tricked us, you old fool? Can't you see his little game?" -Thurber, The Catbird Seat

So it got me thinking about who we choose to associate with and how that balances with whom we are forced to deal, and how offices... bad offices... can easily be reduced to prison yards. In a prison yard, there is no karmic realizations... no, these bad things are happening to me because I deserve them... there's no hurting people's, I really shouldn't have stabbed my cell mate a hundred times, that's was in poor taste... there's no manner or etiquette... oh dear, did I crush glass into impossible to digest crystals and feed it to you?  Is that why you are bleeding internally? 
My sincere apologies.
"The hubbub finally died out down the corridor...Mr. Martin walked quietly across the room to the W20 file, wearing a look of studious concentration." -Thurber, The Catbird Seat

No, in a prison yard you just strike before the other guy has a chance.  You care about nothing.  Not their feelings, not their worth as a person, not their potential contribution to society, no mentoring, not fostering.  You just kill or be killed.  It's savage.  That's what professional life has become for myself and other co-workers here.  The strange part is... I don't think I mind at all. 

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