Friday, January 27, 2017

Johnny’s Visit to the Vet

 Johnny needed his teeth cleaned. ASAP. Too much human flesh in his teeth, I presume. So I made him an appointment at the JSPCA animal clinic, which is an 8 minute walk from my apartment without Johnny, and a 20 minute walk carrying Johnny. The plan was to bring him in in the morning and pick him up after work.
I warned my roommates the day before that they might hear hair raising shrieking in the morning, but not to worry, since it was just Johnny carrying on. I took the carrier out the night before so I could surprise him the next morning without having to fish him out from under the bed (sustaining multiple injuries in the process). The method for getting large, obstreperous cats into their carrier when you’re only one person is to stand it up with the opening facing up, and then drop the cat in head first. It may not be the most pleasant method for the cat, but it works.
The walk to the clinic was unpleasant as well. One of the downstairs neighbors came out to make sure no one was torturing babies in the hallway. I informed him I was just taking my cat to the vet and he seemed satisfied by that explanation and went back inside. Carrying a 23 lb. cat anywhere is a trial, and not for the weak of arms. By the time I got there, I was afraid I had lost the use of my arms forever. Ditto with my hearing.
The secretary asked me all kinds of questions while Johnny scared off a few small dogs, one of them being, “has he fasted for 12 hours?”
“No...... was he supposed to?”
“No one told me that.”
“When was the last time he ate?”
“Twenty minutes ago, before we left the house.”
In the end, the vet decided he would just do the procedure later in the day and let me know when I could pick him up (figuratively speaking, since I wasn’t sure my arms would have recovered by then). I couldn’t even lift him onto the table. The vet had to help me, prompting the question, “whoa, is that all your cat, or is that carrier?” I assured him that it was the cat which weighed that much, not the carrier. He also asked me if Johnny was friendly, and I told him he’d better wait until the cat was under anesthesia before examining him if he had any kind of attachment to his skin.
I knew that there was no way I was going to be able to carry him back to the apartment, so I sent my roommate (the one with a car) a message asking him if he would be around in the evening and if he wanted to do me a favor. He said sure, no problem, he’d bring us back by car. So I sent him the address and a screenshot of a map with a “we are here” arrow.
I got the call from the vet on the way home from work, and called my roommate to let him know I was on my way there. When I got there, I told them I was there to pick up my cat. The first thing they asked me was, “what is that creature you brought us?” Everyone had questions about what kind of cat he is. It was as if the vet had pulled him out of the carrier, and then called everyone over to look at the humongous mutant cat. I explained that he’s a Norwegian Forest cat and that yes, they’re all that big. Meanwhile, Johnny was scaring away a large American bulldog puppy, while high on anesthesia.
I called my roommate to come get us. Thirty minutes later (it’s a 3 minute drive) I sent him a message to make sure he hadn’t been attacked by rabid wombats or something, and he called me to ask me where exactly the place was. I explained it to him and it turns out he’d been wondering around the neighborhood for half an hour with no real idea of where he was going. From this I learned that he requires instructions in writing, and that I need to make him repeat them to me afterwards to confirm that he knows where he’s going.
The vet had told me to give Johnny a small amount of food when I got home, wait an hour or so, and then give him a little bit more to make sure it wouldn’t upset his stomach. I put a handful or so of food in his bowl when we got home, and after he finished it, he just looked at me like where’s the rest? I went into the kitchen to eat something, and heard a loud thud coming from my room. I ran back in there to make sure he was ok, only to find that he had knocked over a 14 kilo bag of food and was gorging himself on what had spilled out. I tried to scoop up the food while he was still munching around my hands.

Watching Johnny stoned on ketamine, was quite an experience. My roommates asked if he could be like that all the time. They were able to walk by him without getting hissed or swiped at. He just meandered around the apartment with no real destination. He kept wandering over to his food or water dish, taking a bite or a swallow, forgetting why he was there, and then staring at the wall for the next 10 minutes. He repeated this procedure for maybe an hour before wandering off. I knew he was feeling more alert when I found him in the bathtub. And he slept on my bed at night as he usually does. By the next morning, my roommates were lamenting his return to normal, after his usual morning hissy fit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Natania’s Guide On How Not To Sound Like An Idiot When You Speak

 This blog post is going to be more of an instructional guide than an accounting of my recent, and all too constant, bureaucratic hurdles. It has come to my attention over the last few years that the Americans I come across, either tourists or recent immigrants, sound exceptionally idiotic when they speak. This seems to apply mostly to high schoolers, college kids, and people in their young 20s. I don’t know the origin of this pandemic of inarticulate youth, since as far as I can tell, TV characters and media personalities don’t speak this way (though admittedly our soon to be president is hardly the most eloquent of celebrities). It’s unfortunate because many of these people are very intelligent people, but you’d never know it when overhearing their incomprehensible babble on the street.
Case in point: I was unfortunate enough to overhear a conversation between two girls on the bus. One was explaining to her friend that if she wanted to go into research, she’d have to get a PhD, etc. I was having a very hard time taking her aspirations seriously as the conversation went something like this:
“So, like, I think I might want to do, like, research or something. But like, I’d have to get a PhD. And like, my GPA is like, only a 3.3, not like, a 3.5 or whatever. So like, I hope they don’t look at only my grades, cuz like, grades aren’t everything. You know?”
I was just hoping that they aren’t going to base her acceptance on an interview, because if so, she’s pretty much screwed.

So here are my guidelines for all those of you who would like to be taken seriously as an intelligent human being, but face the obstacle of speaking like a teenage girl. Remember, I’m not judging you. I just really want to help. Because listening to you speak hurts my brain and makes me want to stick forks in my ears to both drown you out, and confuse the pain centers in my central nervous system. So here goes:

1) Gather your thoughts: If you don’t know what you want to say, then just don’t. Think about what you want to say and how to say it before you actually do say it. Don’t start talking if you have no idea how to end the sentence. No one has time to listen to you tell a rambling 10 minute story about how the supermarket ran out of milk. If you can’t tell your story in a minimum of words, then don’t bother. It probably wasn’t that interesting a story anyway. Especially if it was about milk.

2) Don’t use fillers: Don’t pepper your speech with words that have no meaning other than to occupy empty space. For example- like, whatever, and my personal favorite- so like, whatever. These fillers are speech habits that can be broken if we are made conscious of them. My sister had a friend who said the word “like” so often that my dad started counting out loud. It took her a while to figure out what he was counting, though my sister was much quicker on the uptake. Have a friend do this to you. Preferably a friend you already didn’t like much since this gets annoying very quickly and may end up with said friend in the emergency room with a broken nose.

3) Don’t end sentences like questions: You know what I’m talking about. That lifting of tone at the end of a sentence signifying either a question or insecurity with the statement just made. The one that makes irritating pedants ask, “is that a statement or a question?” I will freely admit to being annoyingly pedantic. My father knows this well (as he carries the brunt of my snotty observations). And amazingly still loves me. My father is an inspiring man. In any case, at least pretend to be convinced of the accuracy of your statement.

So please, for the sake of America’s reputation, try not to sound like a moron when you speak. You’re only adding fuel to the fire. The Europeans are already laughing at us. And the Japanese have begun referring to us as “the bipedal primate clan.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Exceptional Exceptions Committee

 I had mentioned to my Professor that I was interested in doing a Master’s degree at some point. I had also asked him if it was possible to get a raise once I finished my Bachelor’s degree. He thought that there was an automatic raise from the university once you finish your bachelor’s degree but that I should check with the secretaries about it. I did, and unsurprisingly no such thing happens for hourly workers, only for workers with a set monthly paycheck (who are these mystical people and do they actually exist?). So as a college graduate with a B.Sc. who regularly does DNA testing and engineers bacteria, I essentially earn the same amount as the guy who spreads chumus on your pita at Shlomi’s Falafel. Luckily for humanity, my main motivator is not money, which is why I still work there. I happen to love my job and feel somewhat appreciated by my coworkers and boss (less so by the mice). That doesn’t mean that this job is sustainable for the long term. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed (and Johnny’s is a large mouth to feed).
He asked me about it one day, if I had checked with the secretaries about a pay increase and I informed him that unfortunately hourly workers do not receive a raise upon receiving a degree. He thought about it for a few seconds and asked me if I’d be interested in applying for a Master’s degree starting next semester. So I though about it for a few seconds and answered that I just might be. The only problem? My grades. I was 2.2 points short of the acceptance requirements. On the other hand, I have two things going for me- 1) I’ve been working in a research lab for over a year 2) I’m an immigrant who finished university in a foreign country with a foreign language. So it’s entirely possible that they could make an exception for me, as I’ve heard has been made for other olim.
So “we” started the process- first stop, set up a meeting with the professor in charge of advanced degrees to discuss my chances of being accepted. Easier said then done. She was out of the country for a week, then couldn’t fit me in for another two weeks after she got back. When she did finally get around to speaking with me, I was informed that they had decided this year that they would not accept anyone with an average below an 80, no exceptions. Buuuuuuut, if the exceptions committee (yes, HU has a committee for exceptions though there are no exceptions. Unless they make an exception.) decided, they could accept me “on condition” which would require a year of make up classes, and then if I had an average of above an 80, I would be accepted to a Master’s degree. Well that sounds super fun. Another year of school for no reason! All I had to do was write a request letter, send in my grades and a recommendation letter from my professor, and they’d decide what to do.
Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice. This is life for Natania. Jumping through hoops of fire has become something of a habit for me. I suppose if this whole science thing doesn’t work out, there’s always the circus. Maybe I could even bring Johnny. He’s certainly something of an attraction. I would call him “the Mighty Vegetable Hunter” or “the Majestic Biting Viking Cat.” If not, maybe Shlomi’s hiring.
The good news is that in the end, they only gave me two make up classes next semester so I can start the Master’s next year (assuming I don’t completely drop the ball on this one. And then trip over it, falling on my face). I think the university just enjoys torturing me.
Speaking of which, they seem to have “forgotten” to pay me this month. This is what happens in an overly bureaucratic system where every step requires a special form and 3 different signatures of very specific people who are either on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/are out of the office at the moment/etc. I checked my bank account on the first of the month, when I get paid. No money had been deposited but since it was New Year’s day, I figured maybe the banks were on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/out of the office and I cut them some slack. When I still had not received my paycheck the next day, I went to the secretaries to ask what was going on. They looked quite harried and were running around like ADD kids given too many tasks at once. It turns out that when the head secretary had left her post at Ein Kerem to work at Har Hatzofim, she had not quite finished everything that she had needed to do. In addition, her son had been sick so she had been out of the office even when she was technically still working there. I was informed that the head secretary has to fill out a form every 2 months for all the hourly workers to renew their work approval so that they can get their paychecks. This sounds like more unnecessary paperwork to me, but HU has an entire department dedicated to creating more paperwork and other obstacles standing in the way of a generally uncomplicated life. At least in my imagination they do. With a row of elves tapping away at typewriters, and Soviet bureaucrats hovering over them devising more and more ways of making everyone’s lives hell.
In short, the secretary had not taken care of such trivial matters as people’s ability to pay rent and buy food before she had left and no one else had access to her systems. Nor could they decipher the notes and tables she had left on her desk which allegedly documented her activities (though they could also have been bets taken on the races for all I know). Her replacement is only arriving in a few weeks (probably with absolutely no idea of what’s going on) and the other secretaries were swamped (a line of unhappy looking people had begun to form behind me). They tried calling various people (none of whom answered) and looking stuff up on the computer (which froze), so I left them to it and went back to work (which I would hopefully be paid for eventually).
The next day I planned to go back and check on their progress with the matter. But with all the work they had to do, and backlog of urgent matters, they had decided to take a day off. The next day I again intended to check progress but couldn’t get to work due to the drivers of my favorite bus company going on strike and shutting down an entire city. I finally made contact on Thursday and was informed that they were trying to get me an advance so at least I’d get something. I thought that was very generous of them since I hadn’t gotten paid in 5 days due to their bureaucratic incompetence, and general ineffectiveness, but you take what you can get.
In a normal company, this story would have gone like this: “Hey, I didn’t get my paycheck this month.” “Oh, the secretary who deals with finances left and I guess she never got around to it. I’ll call the accountant and have him write you a check by the end of the day. And as an apology, please take this plate of cookies.”