Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fun With Phones

UNR just got a new phone system: not just new physical telephones, but entirely different phone numbers. The English Department, for instance, used to have one main number, with extensions for individual faculty. Now we all have individual numbers.

Multiply that by a fairly large campus, and you can imagine how much work it was. (Although in the English Department, at any rate, we were perfectly happy with our existing phones, and would have preferred to avoid the changeover.) Today the IT people sent out an e-mail thanking everyone for their cooperation during the switch. Most campus mail is pretty dry, but somebody had a lot of fun with this one:
Perspective is everything. In a remarkably short time, NEC completely replaced the phones in the equivalent of a small city. And, ours would not be considered a normal city. We had over 100 different types of phones. Moreover, ours is a creative environment where over the past 25 years, many individuals had developed some wiring wonders with the help of Radio Shack and a credit card. In some instances, numerous devices shared a single line. Sometimes, those devices shared the line or had even replaced a connection to a long forgotten alarm. Just finding some phones in a relatively small office was, on occasion, an Easter Egg hunt, where we found the jack in the wall behind a desk and reeled in the phone, which was buried under mounds of journals, papers, old sandwiches, and a variety of other items too numerous to mention.
Wow. You mean there are professors with messier offices than mine? I specialize in dustbunnies and lots of paper, but no old sandwiches!

The phone memo reminded me of one of my favorite passages from E.B. White's Stuart Little. This is one of the paragraphs I give my writing students to demonstrate beautiful prose rhythm:
“Following a broken telephone line north, I have come upon some wonderful places," continued the repairman. "Swamps where cedars grow and turtles wait on logs but not for anything in particular; fields bordered by crooked fences broken by years of standing still; orchards so old they have forgotten where the farmhouse is. In the north I have eaten my lunch in pastures rank with ferns and junipers, all under fair skies with a wind blowing. My business has taken me into spruce woods on winter nights when the snow lay deep and soft, a perfect place for a carnival of rabbits. I have sat at peace on the freight platforms of railroad junctions in the north, in the warm hours and with the warm smells. I know fresh lakes in the north, undisturbed except by fish and hawk and, of course, by the Telephone Company, which has to follow its nose."
In other work news, today I got syllabi and class handouts photocopied for one of my two classes. I'm still working on the other one, the Women & Lit class, but after struggling with some dead space in the class schedule, I realized that there was room to add another book. We'll now be reading Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, in addition to the other six. They're all great books, so it should be a fun semester!

I had a very productive and pleasant day today. I woke up at 7:00, went to the gym at 8:30 and did forty minutes on the elliptical, and then came home and ate lunch before Gary and I went to see Children of Men, which we liked and recommend; we had a few plot problems with it, but it's very stylish and well-crafted and doesn't look like every other movie out there, which is incredibly refreshing. When we got home from the movie, I dashed to work and did photocopying; lo and behold, sitting on a shelf in the photocopy room I found my clip-on sunglasses, which had been missing for weeks! Then I came back home and worked on the Women & Lit syllabus.

I even ironed the Magic Shirt for tomorrow, but that brings us to today's sad news: the Magic Shirt has begun to fray along one seam. Gary was unable to get me another for Christmas, because the company doesn't make that pattern any more. I'm bummed. I hope I'll be able to find a new Magic Shirt before this one becomes unwearable!

Because I'm farther along on teaching prep than I expected to be tonight, Gary and I will be able to watch some ER on DVD. A colleague at work has been giving me a hard time (only half joking, I think) about watching DVDs to relax, instead of reading: evidently I'm being insufficiently intellectual. But hey, it's all narrative, right?


  1. Thank you for that excerpt from Stuart Little. You think you're doing a good job with words and then you read something that makes you fell like a dolt with a big, fat crayon clenched in your clumsy paw.

    As we're preparing to move, I've recently found photos of me in 'my' old shirt - see the blue fading over the years. I'm reminded of Mary-Chapin Carpenter's song of the same name. Never a bad thing.

  2. I liked it too. And since I didn't know the name of the song Martyn was talking about I went looking. Instead I found her website. Mary Chapin Carpenter

    If that link works you can hear her singing in a stream on the web site. Awesome!

  3. Why don't you read to relax? Because it's what you do for work, that's why! After I left Avon I didn't begin to read for pleasure again for I believe the better part of a year.

  4. I find that if I'm not insufficiently intellectual from time to time, I'm much more likely to be spontaneously combustible.

  5. For the Magic Shirt - have you looked on eBay?? You just might find one there!

  6. Anonymous2:51 PM

    Googling "1700 ENEV" reveals a store in Sweden ( which has what looks like your Magic Shirt listed -- worth an email at least.


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