Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Magical Chariot

Close your eyes. Conjure up the image of wherever you wish to go from within the deepest region of your mind. Hold the image firmly in your thoughts and don’t let go. Within seconds, a magical chariot will appear at the curb. Once you have recovered from the shock of seeing the seven to eight-feet long behemoth of metal and glass, you must approach it with confidence, knowing that this bizarre aberration is here at your behest and will convey you to the very destination you have telepathically requested.

“How far away do you live?”

I hesitated. The question seemed innocent enough.

“Well I live in Salem,” I told my supervisor. “So, probably four or five miles give or take.”

From the way his jaw dropped, you would believe that I had told him that the house where I rented a room was located in the Sea of Tranquility. Like a skilled mentalist, the subtle twitches of his ordinarily oblivious face told me that the question I had been dreading was on his lips before he even opened his mouth.

“Why don’t you take the bus?”

“Because I can’t always afford the bus,” I replied, patiently.

“Really? The last time I took the bus it was only seventy-five cents.”

If this were the only time in my entire life that this conversation had ever taken place, you might be justified in thinking that the incredible urge to remind him that the foot-powered bus of the Flintstones-era was still popular the last time he took the bus, is just me making mountains out of molehills. Unfortunately, the first twelve years of my adult life are punctuated by such conversations by people who find out I don’t drive and seem to be amazed that I can find my ass with both hands.

I don’t drive. I never have and never will. People insist that I will, whether or not I have invited their opinion. But this is not a democratic decision. The only driving I will ever do will be with the six controls and two small joysticks attached to the X-Box controller as I play the latest Grand Theft Auto. That’s not entirely true, I might play the PS4 version as well.

On one of my days off, when I was working at Target, they called to see if I could get to a store at a different location in a few hours and cover a shift there. There was no way I could make it back to my house, change and then go all the way to where this store was located in that amount of time so I politely refused the shift. The next day, I explained myself to the human resources manager.

“Well how are you able to get to work on time if you don’t drive?” She asked.

At that time I was living close by, but you could probably still understand her confusion. Maybe, because I sure don’t. Did I wake up one morning, the last person on Earth in possession of the two lower extremities upon which I have transported myself from place to place every day without fail? Perhaps this is a bizarre alternate reality that I have lived in my whole life and shows like The Walking Dead aren’t so much about zombies, but about another kind of otherworldly creature that roams the Earth and somehow did not emerge from the womb in the front seat of an Escalade.

Joking aside, yes, driving is a convenience. The ability to drive offers advantages that the pedestrian life cannot provide and I can’t claim that my inability to overcome the fear associated with driving has not bitten me in the behind more times than I can count. But that doesn’t excuse the immediate assumption that not driving makes me some sort of imbecile. Not when there are plenty of people out there who made getting their license a priority at sixteen and should be forced to wear an ankle bracelet every time they get behind the wheel.

My mother didn’t officially have her driver’s license until I was a sophomore in high school. We didn’t have a car until slightly later. Growing up, I can actually count the grades where my house was on or near the bus line in the three separate counties where I went to school on one hand. Since we didn’t have a car and both parents had jobs, how do you think I managed to avoid postponing graduation until my 30th birthday? Do you think that same careful planning and discipline that got me to school on time without the aid of a horseless carriage might carry over into my adult life, living and working in South Western Vermont, where the local bus company is about as reliable as using a cocktail umbrella and a strategically placed tea cozy to prevent sunburn?

Yet this logic continues to elude the allegedly educated individuals that I have encountered in my life. It’s important to note that I am not, nor have ever been a member of the one percent, unless that one percent refers to the number of grown, able bodied men living in this country who do not possess a driver’s license. So where does this confusion come from that leads to questions like, “How do you get to work on time if you don’t drive?”

I could understand if my job was deep in the mountains or on an island accessible only by boat or by freeway. I could understand if my job required me to carry several tons of supplies on a daily trek across miles of barren landscape. I cannot understand the confusion when my job is a simple retail position in a shopping mall that is surrounded by pedestrian sidewalks and traffic lights at crosswalks. Even if my job were not that easy to get to, if it was clear that I didn’t drive, you would expect that a person who is smart enough to have an influential position of authority, or to have earned a series of university degrees, to at least come to a reasonable conclusion about one’s natural mode of transportation without making themselves look like fools for even opening their mouths.

You might even see the examples I’ve provided and think, “Well, people in retail aren’t all that smart and I should know. I’m a professional *insert title here*” accept your reasoning would fly in the face of the fact that I have encountered this confusion in session with a number of therapists throughout my life.

“How do you get to work?” A therapist working for Northeast Behavioral Health once asked me.

“I walk.”

“Does getting on the bus make you nervous?”

“Yes,” I said, with a heavy sigh. “Getting on the bus makes me nervous, because I’m overcome with the fear that the bus driver will discover that I have no money and will then make me walk to work.”

The sarcasm often falls on deaf ears, which is puzzling since these people are apparently trained in analyzing human behavior. But that’s another subject to rehash for yet another blogpost that will ultimately be ignored when someone with an anonymous screen name decides to give me the third degree.

An Emergency Double Post, Or, Sometimes Nothing Is Better Than Something

In a blizzard, internet access can be limited for a number of reasons. So it’s important to stock up on essential supplies like Tylenol, blankets, batteries and extra blog posts.

Last week, I audited an American Literature course at the invitation of the professor teaching it. I outlined my reasons for not wanting to go again in this post, but after careful consideration I have decided to follow through and audit another class for as long as she will allow me to do so.

The first reason is obvious. Even auditing a class generally costs money. So even if American Literature is not my first choice of classes, how stupid would I have to be to turn down the opportunity to sit in on the class for free in the school I desperately wanted to attend over ten years ago.

Secondly, I don’t need to actually do any of the classwork or the tests. I can simply absorb the knowledge through osmosis and in the process, maybe make a few solid contacts among the students who are there and might share the same goals I have. I know the mistakes I made in the past in regards to social interaction and while I’m far from finished making new ones, I can at least build on experience and maybe even just offer a physical body in the room to bounce ideas off of.

Today, I got up early and did a few chores. The professor, hereto referred as Ivy for my fellow Pokémon fans, called to let John know that classes would be on as always. Since the original invitation was to myself and John, this was particularly thoughtful.

“It’s going to be in the McMurdo building,” John called down, when he got off the phone in his bedroom.

I paused. Where was McMurdo building?

“Is that in the same part of the campus?” I asked. “Because there are other parts of the campus spread out and I just want to make sure I get there on time.”

John proceeded to give me directions to the room that we went to last week and I had to resist the urge to face palm. I would have gone straight there anyway, but when he told me the name of the building, I had thought the class was moved to another building and if I hadn’t asked before leaving the house, there would have been an entire day devoted to finding this mysterious facility.

In this case the confusion was minor. John was just making sure I knew where to go and everyone needs a reminder now and again. But it might have been more helpful if he asked me whether or not I remembered where the building was before proceeding to tell me where it was.

An example of a time when very similar confusion led to disaster happened on two separate occasions in my life and both in relation to a sheet of math problems. The first of these instances was in the sixth grade and the second happened during my first and only year of college at Lyndon State.

Because they’re so similar, I don’t feel the need to differentiate too much or to explain what went wrong. Essentially, I had a sheet of math problems that I had made some mistakes on. I was given the chance to redo the problems, but I didn’t want to make a huge mess on the worksheet, so I began to copy the problems onto a separate sheet of paper so I could work on them this way.

The two separate teachers in two separate classes, separated by almost six and a half years, were confused by my actions. But instead of asking me what I was doing, said something very similar in both instances. “It’s all the same.”

I got confused both times, which is understandable because these two events happened so far apart and I have not encountered this confusion before or since either incident occurred. I thought they meant that there was no point in redoing the problems, so I handed the sheet back in. Instead of trying to clarify my obvious confusion by their statements, both teachers snapped at me and took that as my refusal to correct the problem and they graded me accordingly. All because of their assumption, which would not have been a problem if they hadn’t caused confusion in the first place.

What I’m trying to get at is that sometimes you may see someone and think to yourself, “I must say something.”

I’m guilty of this as well. When I was at the pizza party for the Autism Asperger’s Network, I found another “reveler” wandering in the hall way, glancing in rooms. Thinking he was looking for the bathrooms, I presumed to tell him where the bathrooms were, only to receive a well deserved glare from the individual and a declaration that he knew where they were and that he was not looking for them.

A safe mantra to remember is that sometimes, Nothing Is Better Than Something. This is useful in any situation where you think you might have to offer someone advice, whether or not they have asked for it. Failing that, there is a simple way to avoid confusion like this in any situation.

“Why excuse me good sir or madam, might you explain yourself to me that I may be informed as to whether or not my assistance is required?”

Walking in a Witless Wonderland

This post is in some small way inspired by Sarah and Steve Hate People. Although regular readers are well aware that I don’t need much inspiration to show how much people and their behaviors tend to get under my skin, especially when that skin is already covered in extra layers of warmth.

The blizzard of 2015 has struck the North Shore in Massachusetts. I spent most of Monday in a nice warm house with John, going in and out to both keep the falling snow from totally overwhelming us and to give Dicky, John’s dog, a safe place to poop and pee.

One of the things I love about a blizzard is the near apocalyptic effect it has on a town. Only one or two utility vehicles are on the road, people struggle to keep their houses from becoming death traps and they also warn you that robberies are more likely to take place at this time. As someone who spent all day yesterday trying to keep the snow from piling up to the full six feet that it was trying for, I say, bring it on.

What I hate about a blizzard are the people who act like they never saw it coming.

Blizzards are the easiest to disaster to spot. Having no real experience in meteorology I can only assume this is the case because in my lifetime of growing up in a state where winter fuels the primary aspect of our tourist industry, I have rarely witnessed a freak blizzard that wasn’t advertised a few weeks ahead of time.

I can understand if you have an erratic pay schedule without a lot of hours at work and maybe you really had to wait until the last possible minute to get those necessary items like food and Advil. But what I don’t get are the doomsday hoarders who rush the grocery store literally a full day before the actual disaster as if that extra role of toilet paper is really going to be the difference between life and death.

In 2013, when I experienced a nor’easter for the first time, I was still working at Generimart. My shift wasn’t until 3:30 and I busted my ass walking to work in the nastiest conditions, making it to the parking lot by 1:00. That’s when they called me to tell me that the store was closing in an hour due to the governor declaring a state of emergency.

I quickly thought “fuck that”, went into the store anyway and punched in. This way, I could spend the hour getting customers checked out in a timely fashion and the store would be required by the state of Massachusetts to pay me for four hours.

You would not believe the totals coming through my line. Several customers had over a hundred dollars worth of food and other winter supplies were coming through my line and this blizzard had definitely had a good week or so of advisory warnings preceding it. Add to the fact that many of them would have to be on the highway to get home, even though those roads were being closed very shortly. This was not a freak disaster biting us in the ass, but something that these people obviously had the time and money to be better prepared for.

The next big thing that irks me are the people with little to no consideration for others. This is annoying any time of year, but it becomes particularly grating in the aftermath of a blizzard.

Last night, I spent some time trying to keep a path cleared from the doorway to the road. This way, heaven forbid, if someone in our house needed an ambulance the EMTs wouldn’t be risking their own safety trying to climb over mountains of snow. Then, later in the evening as the worst of the blizzard started to die down, I shoveled the sidewalk in front of our house to the adjacent driveway, so that people passing by our house on foot would not have to take risks walking in the road.

A part of me really wanted to at least dig out the front porches of my neighbors, but I did not do this for two reasons. One: In the town of Salem, people have a way of mistaking a good Samaritan for a looter and Two: It’s not my job to shovel every sidewalk in Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, the people living next door to us hired someone else to dig their own house and driveway out of the snow. The homeowners had only returned to their home late in the evening but were not supervising the contractors who started working after dark. The idiots proceeded to throw the excess snow next to our house, blocking the gas vent that I had worked hard to keep uncovered. The sad thing is that if we had died of carbon monoxide poisoning because of their stupidity, we would be the ones who would get blamed for negligence.

All I’m saying is that a little teamwork and consideration goes a long way in times like these. Speaking of consideration, let me end on a point that I’m sure I’ve written about before.

I have come to accept the fact that my body reacts to the cold a little differently than others. Maybe it’s my weight. Maybe its environmental conditioning or a hiccup in the genetic makeup, or any other number of reasons that I have neither the time or the energy to list. The point is that I have an unusual tolerance for the cold.

That’s not to say that I’m immune to the effects of the cold. I have had frostbite before and it hurts like a bitch. And obviously I need to be warm enough to avoid a certain medical condition known as death. But when I’m too warm, I start to feel physically sick. This is especially true when I am engaged in any kind of physical activity that has the effect of burning calories.

Depending on the actual temperature in the air, could be just warm enough wearing a light t-shirt or a sweatshirt. No coat. And someone just has to stick their overly bundled nose into my business.

“Aren’t you cold?”

“You can’t be warm enough in that.”

You’re right. I can’t be warm enough. Yes, I am cold. Now fuck off and mind your own business. Or that’s what I’d love to say, but I’m usually performing some kind of job with a paycheck on the line. It’s not that people aren’t being considerate by asking me if I’m warm enough, but the line to cross is when someone presumes to tell me that I need to put a coat on.

If you were a vegetarian and some random stranger walked up to you at a restaurant and said, “Aren’t you hungry? You can’t be getting enough nourishment from all those vegetables and tofu. God, order a steak.”

It’s your body. It’s no one’s business what you put in it and that’s all I ask during any portion of the winter where my personal temperature is concerned. Don’t presume to tell me how cold I must be, just because your body would be wolf meat in a survival situation.

My First Downton Abbey Essay! Alternative Title: Get Bunt(ing)!

Please keep in mind that I have only recently begun watching Downton Abbey. I saw one episode of Season 4 and I’ve started watching season 5 from the start. Experienced viewers may have more knowledge of the back story of this particular character that I am about to rip a new one, so please feel free to chime in.

I should also go ahead and add a spoiler warning here.

The main problem as I see it is that Bunting is the kind of teacher who has an “I Touch the Future” mentality. She is confident and intelligent in a time when single, independent women were beginning to find a lot more opportunities for themselves that had not existed in the early 20th century. These are excellent qualities and to be frank, the only time I appreciate her presence is when Daisy Mason, the young cook, is becoming more and more confident in herself thanks to Bunting’s tutelage. But people like Bunting often carry themselves with this arrogance that refuses to be proven wrong. It leads to a mentality that I encounter all too often in real life and can be summed up in three words:  Ignorance is Fact.

When I went to college, there was a professor who had some considerable experience in the world. This is my diplomatic way of saying that he was the one who told God, “You know what, it’s kinda dark in here.”

After a particularly lively, yet apparently uninvited, round of debate between him and a student who was writing about the accusations of pedophilia in the church, the professor loudly declared “Pedophiles are homosexuals!”, ending the discussion once and for all.

Whether this observation was based on actual experience or not was not important. This was what he had come to believe and there was simply no arguing with him on the matter. Similarly, Sarah Bunting maintains the opinion that all men and women of noble or aristocratic heritage must be corrupt tyrants living on the backs of the poor.

We the audience are well aware that Robert Crawley is certainly proud of his heritage. But he is a complex individual who cares deeply for the well being of his servants, as proven by the fact that he agrees that Mrs. Patmore’s nephew has been wrongly maligned as a deserter, but refuses to abuse his authority by insisting that his name be included on the memorial. Similarly, spending any time with his daughters shows that he and Cora have raised them to be strong and compassionate individuals who go out of their way to help the less fortunate among other things.

If Bentley would take the time to get to know Lord Crawley and his family, she would probably come to the same conclusion that the majority of us have come to. But instead, she takes every opportunity to piss off their guests and then spout her ignorance at the man’s dinner table, leading me to believe that she would actually improve her position if she blew her nose at the table and wiped it on Violet’s dress.

Voice Mail Melee

There is a phone game I really hate playing. Phone tag. You don’t need to download an app and it’s absolutely free to play, but the main problem is every player thinks that the other player is having more fun than they are.

There was a writing workshop that I showed interest in a couple months ago. The woman running it posted her phone number on the flier and I called. The first time, I left a message. Then she called me back a couple of weeks later to see if I was still interested in signing up and at the time my situation had changed drastically and I wasn’t sure I could show up. Fast forward to the 23rd, a day before the workshop.

By now, I have a lot of free time and I’ve been trying to get back into the discipline of writing regularly. I had a meeting with the director of volunteers for the Salem school district at a coffee shop where I saw the flier for the same creative writing workshop. I saw the date and thought, “Oh, that’s tomorrow” and after the meeting, I called. Nothing.

I called a second time, no more than an hour later thinking she was just away from her desk and that I could maybe catch her. Nothing.

On my way home from the library, I stopped at the Salem Anatheum where the workshop was going to be held, to see if the woman in charge of the workshop actually worked there or if anyone who did work there knew more about the event. Unfortunately, this woman was an outside party and the staff at the Anatheum only knew for certain that she used her own personal number on the fliers.

So when I got home, I saw that I had a message. Because I wasn’t busy, I checked my voice mail and there she was again, the woman who called me originally to ask if I was still interested in the workshop. Only this time, she was acting like I was some kind of creepy stalker because, to quote her, “Your number showed up on my Call ID TWICE and I don’t know what you want because you haven’t left a message.”

Let’s get this thing out of the way. If I see a phone number on a flier, I’m going to assume that’s the number to call in order to partake in the service that’s being offered. Just like a pizza place has their phone number listed, I assumed this woman was putting a business phone down and that she was simply away from the desk/office at the time. I had no way of knowing that this was her personal cellphone number and no incentive to leave a message on the answering machine if she wasn’t going to set up her voice mail to even make that clear that it was one or the other. I just kept getting the standard automated voice message which, by the way, is now the standard default message on land lines as well.

Here’s the other thing. Every time I make a phone call, once that line connects, my minutes start slowly slipping away. So if I leave a message, it’s usually an emergency, or it’s a potential employment or volunteer situation, or some other instance where I need or would like you to call me back. I didn’t absolutely have to go to this workshop and I could understand if there wasn’t any space left, so when I couldn’t get a hold of her, I stopped calling.

Then I saw her number and since I had only missed the call by a few minutes, I thought I would try calling her to see if I could catch her before she left the desk again. When she didn’t answer, that was when I checked the voice mail where it was revealed that the fabulous power of mind reading was apparently bestowed upon me sometime in the last month or so. For the same reason I don’t like to leave messages unless I have to, if I see someone’s number on my call ID, I would rather try to call back and have a real conversation as opposed to listening to a voice mail that I can’t directly respond to.

I’m sure there are many schools of thought regarding voice mail ettiquette. I’m sure someone will chime in to tell me how wrong I am to assume that someone who puts a phone number down on a flier that they have put up all over town, will probably expect to get calls from people wondering why the voice mail message is generic and not very professional. But at least I won’t have to worry about whether the workshop was a waste of time now.

Another Go Fund Me Campaign

Three Non-Credit College Courses

One of the hardest aspects of education is being pigeon holed in a certain line of study that the experts allegedly believe is the best course of action for every single student who walks through their doors. This Edwardian approach to education is a part of what makes people shy away from going to and staying in college and until recently, there weren’t that many options for people like me, who do not wish to have to suffer through the inconvenience of being forced to take classes we don’t want to take.

North Shore Community College  (NSCC) offers a wide selection of noncredit courses in many unique and exciting areas. For example, in 2013 I took Amy Tee’s course on stand-up comedy. You would be surprised how often the skills required for stand-up are essential in day to day activities, such as public speaking, customer service, and just waiting at a bus stop late at night while timid college students send you nervous glances.

The goal of this campaign is to raise money for three more courses offered by NSCC that I feel would be essential to giving me certain skills and opportunities that can also be put to use in both professional and casual settings.

Below are course descriptions (paraphrased) along with the dates and times I plan to sign up for, as well as a brief description of what I hope to gain from each class. The name of each course and course code is written exactly as it appears in the NSCC catalogue/website so you can follow the link provided for clarification purposes.

CSW103 Creative Writing – $179

May 21 through July 9

6pm to 8pm

A creative writing class will give me the opportunity to sharpen and polish some of my promising ideas. While I consider myself a creative writer, it can be very difficult getting the necessary feedback to make my work presentable for publication. It is my hope that the supportive and constructive environment that a professionally taught college course can provide will lead me towards profitable publication opportunities.

This class will go perfectly with the next course.

CSA836 – How to Deliver a TED-Worthy Talk – $169

April 7 through April 28

6:30pm to 9:30pm

For those of you who are not familiar with TED talks, essentially these are lectures given by people from a broad range of backgrounds and areas of expertise. They are thoughtful, engaging, and they bring unique perspectives to a large audience of people.

You can find any TED talk on Youtube. My recommendation is to follow this link to listen to Daniel Sloss ’ TED talk about how stand-up comedy as a form of storytelling. See it and understand that I feel that I also have a point of view on many topics that I would like the opportunity to present to a wide range of people.



April 11

10am to 12pm

This is course is only one day, but it teaches students the basics of doing voice overs and how to go about finding the right opportunities in this particular field. Voice Over work is very lucrative and this could be a useful skill.

Once again, for the obvious reason of not wanting to be sued for plagiarism, I have given my own description of these classes and what I hope to gain from them. But if you go to the NSCC website and type in the course name and/or the code, you can learn the official description of each class if that is a deciding factor on whether you decide to assist me.

What else… oh, right. Why these three classes specifically?

One Hand Washes the Other

There are several common threads in TED talks, Creative Writing and the Voice Over classes respectively that may not be apparent right away. For example, to have a career in voice over work, I have to have a certain level of presentably and confidence, which the stand-up comedy course did provide to an extent. However, the TED talks course will teach me how to maintain that confidence and stamina over the course of twenty minutes. The building blocks for delivering a TED worthy talk are just as essential in convincing a director to give me a job describing a movie in a concise, confident, and sexy voice. Similarly, the subject I choose to address in the TED talks class could be developed in the creative writing class and perhaps the fresh perspectives of students from different classes could help strengthen my work in either course.

These are just a few basic ideas. You may agree, or disagree, but what I hope you will understand is that I do feel that all three courses will be beneficial.

Each course is held at the Cummings Center in Beverly, which is easy to get to by foot or by public transport.

How Can You Help?

The goal amount is $500. Because of the nature of GoFundMe, anything you donate is readily available to me and I offer you my complete assurance that the money raised will only go towards the courses and the additional expenses listed below.

407$ will go towards the tuition of the noncredit courses. As you can see by the times and dates I have provided, there is plenty of time to raise this money before the registry deadline. The milestone Goals are as follows:

59$ Voice Over
April 11

139$ How To Deliver a TED worthy talk
April 7

179$ Creative Writing
May 21st

The remaining 93 dollars will be used to cover the percentage GoFundMe will deduct for the campaign and the remaining total from that amount will be used towards bus fare as needed.

Respectfully Submitted by
Nathanielle Sean Crawford

Auditing My Education

Fourteen years ago, an ignorant guidance counselor from Mount Anthony Union High School took an action that prevented me from going to Salem State University. I have chosen not to name the asshole in question but I have no problem in naming my alma mater, because I feel that accountability for failing a student is a life long condition of a school until the day students are no longer gracing the hallways.

Yesterday, I audited an American Literature class in Salem University. It’s not the same thing as attending, but it’s close enough that I relished the moment. Then I thought about it. That was where I went wrong.

The professor is a friend of John, the man with whom I am living. She had invited John and I to audit her class a few months ago. He had taken it at one point and thought it would be a good opportunity for me and I readily agreed.

It seems like a good group of students. Some of them are transfers from other schools, others are trying to change career paths by going for a new degree. For my part, I really did pay attention as if I were a student and I realized why going the standard college route is no more for me now than it was fourteen years ago.

The professor launched into the opening lecture. Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom, etc. Because this is Salem and she is using history as a parallel to the development of American Literature, of course the brief lesson included Salem and the Puritans. The thing is, a lot of what she was telling us was something I had heard often in high school. And in the intervening years between my one year at Lyndon State and today, I have heard varying opinions and interpretations of historical events that almost led me to speaking out of turn and debating what she was telling me. This would have been utterly disrespectful on my part if I were a student. How much worse would it have been if I had spoken up as a person she invited to be there for free?

Whatever I might gain out of continuing to audit this class, I know for certain that trying to follow the prescribed path that a college education would entail is not right for me and never will be. For now I am going to stick to the self guided education that taking the non credited courses at North Shore Community College can provide, as well as the workshops and events that are held throughout the year in Salem and anywhere else within my range.

I am starting another GoFundMe Campaign to raise money for the tuition on three non-credit courses with North Shore Community College. If you would be so kind as to either donate, or share the link with others who will be willing to donate, your effort will be fantastic.

Three Non-Credit Courses