Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Back To School Gift

Sometimes you meet someone and you think, "You are so full of shit that I do not understand how you believe anything that comes out of your own mouth." I met one of those people last night.

My friend, C, and I went to a French-speaking club dinner hosted at a French restaurant, owned by French people. C took French in school and wants to start practicing again, and I love any excuse to speak in French. So we were both excited to try this place out and catch up in some broken phrases. And then, as happens in Chicago, this weird blizzard-of-London hit. The peculiar thing about Chicago that I will never understand is that for a city with a spectacular amount of terrible weather, NOT ONE PERSON can drive in any of it. So, C and I arrived at this beautifully cozy little French place in the middle of this snow-rain disaster (do you think the word "snoining" would catch on if I used it?) to find that no one else showed up. Except an older gentleman who was completely full of shit. I mean, truly, MADE of shit. Surely there was some truth in there somewhere, but I was not about to wade through the crap to find it. At one point, C was sharing that her mother's heritage is French. Said gentleman, who is from Canada, then asked, "Is she really French or is she Lousiana-French?" Seriously?

While he was informing us of his many talents and how he was better at them than we could ever hope to be, I checked out. This is something I tend to do. I am a fantastically awful liar. And I am an expert eye-roller. If you ever want to know what I think, how I feel or my reaction to anything, just look at my face. I am truly incapable of controlling what it tells people. Which was mentioned to me when I was fired.

"If someone is mean to you, it affects your mood," I was told. Well, yes. Not to the point that I can't get over it. Not to the point where I will be mean or rude back to anyone. But if you are mean to me, I will most likely do one of the following:

1. I will flash a sign of shock, followed by a sad face.
2. I will flash a how-dare-you teacher-glare.
3. I will raise one eyebrow and clench my jaw.

Not only will I do one of these, but I won't even know that I did it. But, if this sounds fairly tame to you, you are probably not in the sucking-up-to-people-so-they-will-buy-things-from-you business. Because to me, post-teaching, post-yelling at anyone who disrespects you, post-working in violent circumstances, this is extremely tame. But it is also a sign of how far I have come in the realm of standing up for myself. Before teaching, if someone was mean to me, I would most likely have done one of the following:

1. I would cry.

So, in an effort to not be completely rude to someone after I have involuntarily displayed one of the three reactions, I now check out. I shut down. I have no expression whatsoever. And this is really for everyone's good.

Anyway, on the whole, being a fantastically bad liar has served me well, with a few notable exceptions. Like being fired. But, if I receive a present and I am excited about it, you will know. You will also know when I am excited about giving a certain present, because I can't hide it. One of the other great things about care packages is that I usually send them in the mail, which lets them be a surprise. I can't ruin it with my over-excitement.

Every fall, I send a Back To School care package to my brother. This year, he became a Resident Advisor for his dorm. Naturally, I used this as the theme for the gift. I found post-it notes in the shape of quote bubbles for him to use in bulletin board displays and on residents' doors. I packed up some tissues for upset students, candy for any meetings or student drop-ins, and some Sharpie markers. And of course, the obligatory tiny notes extolling the virtues of all these items. I really wanted to find some ear plugs for him to use when he just doesn't want to talk to anyone, but I couldn't find them anywhere. And by "anywhere," I mean CVS.

I also included the present I brought back for my brother from Paris this summer. I went back to France for the third time this summer for a wedding, and my brother stayed at my apartment while I was gone. If you ever need someone to housesit, he is the one to ask. He is so much cleaner than I am. Not only did he keep things clean, he even cleaned my floors for me before I returned. Which I totally did NOT do for him before he got there. So, as a thank you, I bought him Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" from Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, the little English bookstore across from, you guessed it, Notre Dame. They even stamp any books you buy there with their logo, which proves that I didn't just get it from the airport.

Adding this to the care package made me extremely excited about this gift and I almost blew it a few times when talking with my brother after I returned. Skype is probably not a good tool for someone like me. But at least I'm not a liar.

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