False start.

I was dreading today because I have to turn in my dissertation. I defended it over a month ago and wanted to give myself time to revise it and format according to my university’s arcane and bizarre requirements. First and foremost is the fact that it is to be “published” on microfilm. I have to pay a $100 fee for this privilege. Have you ever used a microfilm? I have a few times, but only to read old newspapers from the 19th century, certain rare books, and so on. As if academia weren’t obsolescent enough already. At least I don’t have to do an index.

Anyway, I have had some formatting issues. Actually not with the formatting itself but with the printing. Sometimes printers automatically scale pages to paper size and mess up the preset margins. Usually, this isn’t a problem. Who cares if the header is 0.45 or 0.5 inches from the top of the page? Now I know someone does. I had already printed out 2 copies of the diss before I realized the margins weren’t exactly 1 inch and that I had wasted over $50 worth of “thesis paper.” After that experience, I tried to post an FML but I don’t think it was published. I have a feeling Staples and Office Depot are in cahoots with graduate schools to sell this stuff (20-lb. stock, acid-free, all cotton, etc.). I’m also informed that these Byzantine guidelines have been in place for about 40 years. Don’t think they haven’t been updated a bit, though, since if you submit images on a disk as a supplement, you have to supply a description of software or other applications used to create the floppy (!) or CD-ROM disk. How inclusive would that have to be? I’d have to include things like the following:

  • Microsoft Word: the word processor nearly everybody uses as a form of penitence and self-flagellation. Apparently also doubles as an ecclesiastically-approved indulgence that lessens your time in purgatory by the number of hours you use it. (Catholics take note: Indulgences are cool again).

Anyhoo, thank Cthulu I’m not doing that.

So I’ve been dealing with that bullshit for a couple of weeks and in a few hours it will all be over. But perhaps in a cosmic synchronicity, all of my dread magically materialized into a banshee hellcry this morning when the building’s fire alarm suddenly went off at 7:30 a.m. I was already half awake since there was some kind of domestic dispute across the street. The first thing I heard was “GET OUT!!!” then, apparently, a skillet or related cooking utensil was thrown. There was some arguing, then “GET OUT!” a few more times, then quiet. Ah, the joys of city life. Maybe the guy who was kicked out pulled the fire alarm…

I was about to get back to sleep when the alarm resounded. I tried to ignore it at first since false alarms happen all the time. After about 10 minutes, I decided it might be real enough and went outside in my bathrobe and slippers. There were a bunch of people already outside so I’m sure I looked like a total douche–these people were ready for work already, while I often get up at the crack of noon. Anyway, of course the door slammed behind me and I didn’t have my keys. But there’s a code box on the other door so I went back in and got my special ladyfriend and dog out safely. I saw a few other people had grabbed pets etc. just in case of a fire, so I decided to salvage something as well, and put my laptop and my dissertation in my backpack. Then I started debating whether the dissertation was really worth saving. And if my renter’s insurance would cover the loss of 3 years’ labor, with pain and suffering included. At least half a mil, I reckoned. After a few moments of this I realized the roof could come crashing down if there were, in fact, a fire, and I should get the hell out. I finally decided to bring my papers If only because of all the time spent formatting the damn dissertation.

A few minutes of standing outside and the fire department says it’s ok to go back in. Probably someone burnt their breakfast or doesn’t know how to use windows. I thought that it might have been a vagrant cooking sausages in the abandoned building next door. Or some lummox decided to play an April fool’s joke and forgot that there are 31 days in March.

Speaking of that abandoned building and windows, there’s one that’s always open right next to my building. So one Sunday we’re watching a movie or whatever and we hear a loud CRACK. I suspected gunfire and sure enough, there’s a guy sprawled out on the ground. But apparently he was high and decided to defenestrate himself from the 2nd-story window I just mentioned. You have to be on crack to think you can end your miserable life by jumping out of a second story window. Ok, I just looked up ‘story’ in the OED and it turns out it’s from Anglo-Latin historia used in an architectural sense. Weird, huh? I’m sure the guy had a story to tell.

So I take a shower and resign myself to suffering from lack of sleep for the rest of the day, which has already gotten off to an incredibly false start. I brew some coffee, and as soon as it’s ready and poured, I feel like going back to sleep. Thus began another quandary: the coffee is going to taste better now, when it’s fresh, so do I drink it even though I know I can get back to sleep if I try right now? Or do I drink reheated coffee later and try to sleep now? These are the kinds of ethical cruxes I face on a daily basis. The harsh realities of life.

I managed to start dozing around 8:30, and was about to get back sleep when the alarms go off again. My dog’s getting all up in arms but we decide to ignore it–he sleeps in late as well–and it stops 5 minutes later. About to get back to sleep again, the alarm goes off a third time. 5 minutes into the third alarm and I’m getting angry at someone who isn’t informed as to the finer points of proper ventilation. I’m in the bathroom and getting real frustrated, so I scream “Fucking STOP!!!” and the alarm stops immediately. So I inadvertently discovered I have a unique ability today. Please let me know if you need my services next time there’s a false alarm in your building.

So here I sit, drinking my reheated coffee. I just hope the false start to the day isn’t a bad omen for how the rest of it will go…

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One Response to “False start.”

  1. […] So my dissertation’s all done and turned in, despite the false start I had the day I submitted it. I’ve decided to publish the whole thing online just in case […]

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