Thursday, May 25, 2006

heavy-handed metaphor

I haven't done one of these in a while, but the time is right.

Sometimes life in Texas is like that feeling you get when you've been pulled over by a cop, or maybe even like living under the Bush Administration. You can't do much about it except jump through hoops, and eventually you know you'll collapse under the pressure.

What I mean is this: things that should be simple, people that should be helpful and friendly, situations that should be fairly straightforward and managable, are not.

For example: teaching in the band programs out here. You get the go ahead to call one band's students, set them up for lessons, and off you go. That's easy. Then you start to have some problems with being paid on time. You make the necessary calls, some pay you, some still don't. So you talk to the band director. He can't help you out at all, because he's too busy/it's your problem/he doesn't feel comfortable. So you keep bothering the person in question and eventually you get paid.

Then one or two of your students quit lessons, citing lack of funds or interest or just plain distaste for the trombone. You ask for more students and they say they'll work on it. Students never materialize.

Throughout all of this you're friendly, capable, and honest, and you'd kinda hoped that maybe you'd have the kind of relationship with these band directors that your high school lesson teacher did- grab a beer after classes, maybe start a brass quintet. But they're just barely friendly, succinct and distant.

Eventually maybe you decide to go back to school, or start another job, and you don't have quite as much time to teach all the students at this particular school. You take the ones you want and set up a schedule, only to find that you're never informed of when students will be out of school, not have their instruments, etc. So you set up an email relationship with the parents, which helps you both with communication and getting paid on time, and start to feel pretty good about yourself. Things are moving. The system is working for you.

Little things about the program bug you, then big things. You can't change it so you try it grassroots style: teaching your students valuable information, making sure they get an education beyond what they get in band. That's what private lessons are for, right? You stop speaking to the band directors about all but the biggest issues because you're tired of being blown off and made to feel useless. Eventually you get this feeling like you're not wanted, like you're the wrench in the gear, and you start to think about moving on.

And then you get an EMAIL saying they no longer want you to teach lessons for their students, even though they really should have very little say, being as the parents, not the school pay you. You hash it out, just trying not to go away quietly, and you contact your parents to make sure they don't really have any problems with you. You want information as to why exactly this turn of events has taken place: does it have to do with the way you teach, how the students progress, how you handle things financially? But all you get is weak, 'go away' answers. No honesty, no help.

You're okay for now, because you still have that other school you teach at and you're positive the band director there things highly of you. But you also remember that in the fall the high school band program that middle school feeds into is being taken over by one of the assistants at the high school you had the falling out with, and you know there's going to be bad blood, especially considering how much control the high schools in this district exert over their feeder schools. You email the director who likes you, feeling desperate, and remembering that she might be leaving for a job closer to home in the fall. You're starting to feel like you're being blacked out of your livelihood, and you're getting a little worried about how you're going to be a full-time graduate student with a shitty part-time job and still pay the bills. With teaching at least you got a fair amount of money in a short amount of time, and it didn't cut so quickly into your practice or homework time.

All through this you can't help but feel like that higher power, The Man, is getting out his strap-on, purple sparkled dildo, polishing it, and just waiting for you to crack and pull down your pants.

I've never felt this way in any of the other places I've lived. I've always thought that the job market was rough, you had to be careful what you said and how you acted, but it was easy to succeed if you were competent and confident. People made room for you and helped you out, were friendly and were often friends. They took time to appreciate the work you did and congratulate you for moving on to bigger things. But in Texas, maybe especially Dallas, and the band programs in particular, it's so cutthroat and ridiculous. I can't stand it. I can't believe how unprofessional and demeaning these people can be, and I can't believe how they get away with it.

I've also gotten this feeling with:
-car repair shops
-airport employees
-lifeguarding jobs (which by all accounts should be enjoyable and challenging, but never frustrating)
-driving on the highways
-making friends

and so on and so forth. I guess it just seems like all of these things should be somewhat easy. You'd expect a certain amount of headaches from some of them but never terrible. Out here it seems just tenfold as bad. Shit happens, and you pay for it. Try to get a job, and you'll wind up being patronized, ignored, shafted, and fired for no real reason other than that they don't like you much. Try to convince a police officer that your impending ticket was a mistake, or a foolish thing, and you'll fight an uphill battle that will wind up costing you more than it's worth. Try to convince the Bushies that there's global warming, women's rights, and the UN to be dealt with ASAP, and you'll be involved in another uphill, morally frustrating and intellectually demeaning war. They want you to give up, and you're starting to realize how nice a nap might be, maybe some weeding in the garden, a nice walk...