24 February 2013

Shoppers Grocery Store

Along with a move comes a lot of newness- I need a new barber, a new gas station, a new video rental store, new running paths, new driving routes to my favorite destinations like The Container Store, a new grocery store, and a new library. Many of those places I will probably have to abandon with the move, much like all my doorknobs which I graciously left behind. But that penultimate location is the one I'd like to focus on today.
Within a mile of my house is a Giant grocery store (In the Northeast Giant is known as Stop & Shop; they carry the same logo but different names). I don't mean it is a particularly large grocery store, but the actual name and business plan is Giant. They have a bouncer there and I once saw him reject a vertically challenged man because he wasn't 'giant' enough. Their slogan is "If you're not six feet tall, get your food at the mall." Their slogan in Southeast DC is "Shorties need not apply." I sort of felt like the this whole idea was a little bit discriminatory, and even though I felt honored to be included in their elite clientele I wasn't sure I wanted to support an organization with such biased opinions. I considered my alternate options for food consumption:

  • Eat two meals a day at my school cafeteria, and just eat party food over the weekend from the various events I attend.
  • Eat my roommates' food. I have five of them so if I distribute my eating habits in the right way I'm pretty sure I could pull it off long enough for a new grocery story to be built in my area without them noticing.
  • Catch my own food. I have seen many birds out my window, though none of them chickens. I have berry trees in my front yard, but not strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
  • Go to a different grocery store.
After trying options 1-3 this past week I ended up with a bruised jaw when my roommate punched me, having to get my stomach pumped after eating what was definitely not just a new variety of red blueberry, and getting questioned quite severely about whether I was a friend of the bride or the groom at the Olyveskiannaruki-Martinez wedding I crashed on Saturday.
So I did what all good Boy Scouts would do- I drove an additional mile down the road to Shoppers. Shoppers is a discount grocery store with a reputation for attracting people who like to shop. I don't entirely fit that description but they let me in anyway- the first good sign. When I walked through those sliding glass doors I immediately felt a sharp pain in my nose. A fellow shopper asked if I was alright, helped me wipe the blood away, then showed me where the sliding door was actually located, one panel away from where I had distractedly walked.
Once I finally made it in the store I was still in pain but the joy of finding a solution to my starvation far outweighed the thoughts of nose reconstruction surgery swirling in my head like a jetty. Shoppers is a great grocery store. And frankly I consider it even more giant than Giant, if that's possible. I am now more tempted to stop and shop at Shoppers than I am at Stop and Shop. I now consider the safest way to my stomach to be via Shoppers than through Safeway. After oohing and aaahing at their low prices, clean floors, and incredible selections, I checked out the beauty products. I will not go into detail regarding my reasoning- just know that men like to look beautiful too. But let me show you what I found:

Yep, apparently Hispanics and people with ethnicities need different products to look beautiful. I could never pass off as Hispanic so I bypassed that section, but I do feel that I have an ethnicity so I checked that row out. I debated a new weave, but ultimately decided when it's time to switch mine out I'm going to have it done at a barbershop and not a grocery store.
I'm not an employee of Shoppers and they aren't paying me anything to advertise for them, but I will definitely be going back. Sure I got a broken nose, but at least I didn't have to get my stomach pumped or get arrested for crashing a Bar Mitzvah in Bethesda. It looks like I'm going to be okay with the new move after all.

18 February 2013

My New House

I moved this month. I have nothing but fond memories from living with my aunt and uncle for two years, but I finally felt like the time had come to accept some responsibility and go out on me own. I considered a walk-about instead, but decided the ticket to Australia and the consequential loss of my employment would be more financially distressing than beginning to pay rent... And then I paid my security deposit, first months rent, and furnished a room and thought twice about my decision.
My Mother came into town this week for various reasons, among them assisting her first-born son (Holla!) with his new residence. He will no longer refer to himself in the third person. We were trying to find a time to go to Ikea together to buy some furniture so I wouldn't have to sleep on cardboard boxes with a cereal box for a pillow anymore, but we just couldn't coordinate our schedules. We had evening plans all week and my day job totally got in the way of a trip to Ikea. Having a job once again reminded me that perhaps the Australian walk-about would have been a better option. Thousands of young, single male adults have been in this same situation before, but I can nearly guarantee you that none of them found the same solution as me. I am a pioneer in the field of male room furnishing. Here's what I did:
Me: "Mom. Take my credit card. Please buy me enough furniture to make my room look presentable. Do whatever it takes. Please don't spend more than $XXX."
Mom: "Okay."
Isn't she the best? I mean really, the Best. Actually, she had done extensive research previously, and even came down to DC with a to-scale model of my room drawn. She had cutouts for the different pieces of furniture she intended to recommend. She had print-outs of different chairs, desks, dressers, night stands, rugs, and lamps. We worked for over an hour trying to put the whole thing together while fitting in my budget. And then I sent her off with two other grown women- my sisters. They went to the store, bought a room, and brought it home for me to assemble.
I began the assemblage with only a tree stick and a rock. I used the rock for hammering and the tree stick as a screwdriver. When the screwdriver/stick broke I used my teeth until I got dizzy from spinning around in a clockwise fashion repeatedly. As I built my desk my hands were splintered, bruised, and then most surprisingly, cloned. Yes, at the conclusion of the contractor work I ended up with three hands. I'm still not sure what to do with the third hand, but I imagine it'll end up in  a third world second-hand shop one day.
My mother/sisters' selections were fantastic. In fact I dare say they are an improvement on what we had drawn up with the diorama. Because I share the house with 5 other men my room is really the only space that is actually mine. As such it's very important to make sure it Hollas, if you know what I mean. I think I've succeeded at making it uniquely mine. You are welcome to come by and see it anytime, unless your name is Gertrude.
I had a request from some people to join my blog, so in attempt to make it easier I have attached a 'Followers' widget on the toolbar on the right. If you become a follower you get all sorts of goodies like a Holla Atchya! derby hat (not really), a Holla Atchya! tracksuit with gold trimming (just kidding), and a pair of monogrammed Holla Atchya! sneakers with the initials DHAB inscribed (I wish). In actuality if you sign up as a follower you get an email anytime I write a new post (I think).

05 February 2013

My Greatest Prank Ever

As you faithful readers know, my appearance changed this weekend. I don't like to let a good opportunity go to waste, so I decided to use my new facade for humor. Truthfully, I've been planning a little joke for several weeks and I have known for awhile that Monday, February 4th was going to be the day of action. On Friday I told my five classes and homeroom that I had a doctor's appointment on Monday (2/4/13) and would be absent. I informed them that I had asked my cousin, Mr. Johnson, so substitute for me. I didn't tell a single other person at school about this. When I left work on Friday, 2/1/13, I immediately went to work. I shaved, got two haircuts (see previous post), and went out and bought new clothes. I searched three stores and asked many kind souls for non-prescription glasses. I knew that something more had to be done besides a shave, haircut, name tag and new clothes. I surveyed my options, and narrowing things down to a butt enhancer available at the Mexican bazaar I went to (ask me later) and a pair of reading glasses, I went with the glasses. The enhancer wasn't made for men and I just didn't think it would be effective for me. So I went looking through my house and eventually found a pair of very weak reading glasses. The glasses were made for and borrowed from my great aunt; needless to say they weren't perfect for a whippersnapper teacher like myself, but they added a difference I couldn't achieve otherwise. My look was complete.
I was surprised how nervous I was to actually pull this off, but then I realized what a Herculian feat it was going to be and my anxiety felt justified. Essentially I was trying to achieve something truly fantastic- Convince 97 seventh graders who stare at me for 45 minutes a day that I was someone entirely different, while simultaneously teaching a math lesson, and without any other teachers or the (gulp) principal finding out (in case they didn't approve).
The very first student who walked in my room on Monday morning almost blew my cover. I was sitting at my back desk reading The Economist (two things I never do at school in the morning) when my student walked in. He looked at me and said, laughingly, "Mr. Bennett, what are you wearing? Are those glasses?" It was at that moment that I almost cracked and said, "You got me! Do you like my haircut?" The pause was noticeable, but I decided not to cave. I replied, "I'm sorry, have we met before?" He said, "Mr. Bennett, come on. You don't wear glasses." I countered with, "I am Mister Bennett's cousin, Mr. Johnson. These are my reading glasses. You must be in his homeroom. What's your name? I'll mark you on the attendance." This kid gave me the most quizzical look ever offered by a 12 year old, paused for minute, said his name was Mike, and then walked out of class. Not more than 8 seconds passed that I had four more students poke their heads in my class. They stared at me as if I were half-man-half-dog. They all seemed bewildered and very interested. I could see the wheels spinning in their heads thinking "Well Mr. Bennett did say he was going to be absent, but that guy looks exactly like him! Is it actually him?" When I took attendance I purposefully mispronounced many names, and then showed a TED talk video so they would be distracted from the issue I was seeking to avoid. I made it through the 20 minute homeroom with them pretty convinced. Then my first period started, and word had already spread in the hallways. Again I mispronounced names, said names in full (as opposed to their preferred nicknames), and asked questions about the normal classroom procedure. I asked them how Mr. Bennett usually starts his lessons, and they told me truthfully. There were a lot of whispered comments like, "He sounds exactly like Mr. Bennett!" and "Did he say they were brothers or cousins?" My original plan was to speak with a Boston accent the whole time, but I got nervous and decided I couldn't pull it off before the day started. After first period word started really spreading, and everyone was curious about my true identity. Everyone wanted to believe that it had to actually be Mr. Bennett, and yet they just couldn't get themselves to abandon the notion that I was Mr. Johnson. Second period got really suspicious, and commented that my handwriting looked exactly like Mr. Bennett's and that they had seen Mr. Bennett wearing the same boots before. I brushed these off and kept a stone face. I knew my expressions would give me away so stayed as stoic as possible. I tried to teach a little differently, used phrases like "Please be quiet, kids" and gave as few body gestures as possible. I stood in different places of the room, folded my hands differently, and referred to students as "You in the red sweater" or "Hey. You. Hollister. Come up and do this problem." I have a student in my second period that I normally let sit at my desk during class. When he  came in and sat there I said, "What are you doing sitting at the teacher's desk?" He said, "Mr. Bennett always lets me sit here. Ask anyone." I replied, "I highly doubt he lets you sit at his desk. Please take a seat with everyone else." For the rest of the class anytime I got near this kid he would stand up and peer into my face, trying to figure me out. He was seriously so confused. Hilarious! I had to avoid laughing on many occasions. When second period was over word had really spread. I could hardly believe the attention I was getting. I had students I don't even have poking their heads in my room because they'd heard about the sub-who-looks-exactly-like-Mr.-Bennett and they wanted to see for themselves. My third period has a lot of foreign students in it- students from Iraq, Brazil, Columbia, and Pakistan who have only been in the country for under four months. They really bought into it. I almost felt bad deceiving them in such a way when they have just been introduced to the American educational system, but I couldn't let up now! A few of the American students asked to see my license, at which time I got short with them. "Excuse me. I am Mr. Bennett's cousin. We know we look alike. I'm not blind. We get that all the time. But I am a substitute today and I ask that you please treat me with respect. Please do not ask to see my identification again." Two of my troublemakers switched their names when I was taking roll, so I had to remember to switch their names anytime I had to speak with them in class. I was worried that students would get more suspicious as the day went on, so I planned some distractions. I brought a soda and opened it in class because that's something I (Mr. Bennett) would never do. At one point during third period my heart stopped when the door opened and another teacher came in. It was a resource assistant, and she had to take a student out for testing. She gave me a quick glance, didn't recognize me, and called out the name of a student in the class. Only problem was, the wrong student got up to leave! I have two Susan's in that class (all names except my dual identity have been changed), and the other Susan went out. I was fully aware, but I chose to do nothing about it. At this point I was wondering if my job would be on the line when the whole prank came to light, but I was too deep and thus far too successful to go back now. And, truthfully, I knew it wasn't a big deal that the wrong Susan went out. Sure enough, a few minutes later she came back in and said, "They actually wanted you (to the other Susan)." Dodged that bullet.
 When my third period ended I had my team planning period. The amount of students that came to my door was so overwhelming that I had to lock the door and then hide behind the closet door because they could still see me through the window (no lie). I took my name tag off, and hurried off to my team planning meeting. When I walked in there were the usual comments about my shave and haircut from the teachers, but then they started making comments. "Mr. Bennett, the kids are going crazy over your new appearance today! I don't know if you were in there or not but they were banging on your door a minute ago. It's all they're talking about." I kept mum and just said, "Well, what are you going to do?" I wasn't going to tell any of the other teachers about the whole experience, until the team leader said to me, "Did you tell them you were someone else? All my students can talk about is if it's really Mr. Bennett or some other guy." I was caught. In my team meeting, with the team leader, the guidance counselor, and the assistance principal all listening. Luckily these people all know me, so I came clean, and downsized the whole thing. "Oh yea, I told them I was my cousin, Mr. Johnson. Apparently they actually believe it!" They all laughed (including the asst. principal) so I figured I was safe. Even still, three teachers had complained that they couldn't stop the kids from discussing my sub, so I debated ending the prank and just telling my afternoon classes who I was. As I walked back to my room I felt like a celebrity; kids honestly turned and whispered as soon as I passed them. They pointed, and acted as if I had just risen from the dead. I just walked straight and did my best not to turn around when they yelled 'Mr. Bennett.' I thought about this all during lunch while I hid in the corner with the lights off and my room locked (once again, no lie. Kids were coming by for much of lunch). When I finally emerged after lunch the whole thing came to a tipping point.
The first student who came in after lunch told me I looked a lot like Mr. Bennett. I gave her the same spiel I'd given all morning, but she was especially curious. She just couldn't tell. She left, and soon thereafter my room was filled with at least 15 students, most of whom weren't in my afternoon class. They had all been at lunch discussing the situation and wanted to see for themselves what was up. While they were crowding into my room and I was doing my best to rebut them, the phone rang. The phone. It rang.
Answering the phone with a quivering "Hello?" the voice on the other line was the office secretary, who said to me, "Is this Mr. Johsnon?" Yikes. With 15-20 students all looking at me on the phone, I had to reveal to the office staff (for fear of my job!) that I was in fact, Mr. Bennett. Luckily for me the secretary thought it was hilarious. All the students in my room burst out laughing and said things like, "I knew it!" or "How did you do that for so long!?"
My two afternoon classes were seriously bummed that they missed out on the prank. They said things to me like "What would Mr. Johnson do with this problem?" and "You should be Mr. Johnson for your last class! You have to!" They felt so cheated to have missed out on the prank the whole school was talking about.
The next day (Tuesday) was quite entertaining as well. I was shocked at how many kids didn't get the memo that it was a joke. They came to class the next day and were surprised to see that Mr. Bennett was back but that he had shaved and received a haircut. They cocked their heads to the side in disbelief that I was actually Mr. Johnson and Mr. Bennett. There was one particularly absent-minded child in my second period class who still hasn't caught on. On his work, under the justification part, he wrote, "Yesterday Mr. Jhonson taught us to do it this way." In class on Tuesday, with a straight face and no hint of a joke, he told me that I looked a lot like my cousin. I didn't have the heart to tell him in front of everyone that we were one and the same. Also on Tuesday the principal came by to chat with me... She said she'd heard a buzz around school and as she walked by my classroom she didn't recognize the teacher. She took a double take through the door window, and then decided it must have been me. Whew. She wasn't mad. The (other) asst. principal asked me if I ever did any modeling, and my janitor gave me a cat call and said "Looking good" to me as we passed in the hall. It appears this look is here to stay...
I really can't believe how big this joke got, and how well it worked. It was a fascinating experience to be in front of all my kids without a physical mask on and pretend to be someone different. I think I may have to do it again in a few years. What a week it's been...

03 February 2013

Another Haircut or Two

The calendar signified February first, and with the flip of a wall datebook it became time for another haircut. Recently I've been getting my voluminous locks quartered thrice a year and no more. They were last shortened on October 1, so being February1 they were begging to be hacked, as confirmed by all those with eyes to see.
I went to the TL Barbershop one time, and, being pleased with the result, ventured back on Friday afternoon. This barbershop- similar to the Rosslyn barbershop- is owned (presumably), operated (presumably), and staffed (definitely) by those of Asian descent. I can't say there is a higher concentration of Asians in the area than any other ethnicity, but they most definitely have a corner on the barbershop market. TL's was hopping on Friday, three men in their chairs, and three men waiting. When it became time for me I was pleased to be sitting in the back with a view of the local news and an attractive woman to cut my hair. The attraction was purely physical, however, as it quickly became apparent that the verbal attraction would be diminished by our lack of common language. I said to her "I am going for a new look. I want my hair much shorter. Could you buzz the sides with a 3 and then blend the top to be as short as you can go with scissors?" She said "So you want buzz?"
"Well, just on the sides. Then scissors length on the top."
"Buzz or scissors?"
Given those two options, and not really wanting a military cut, I opted for scissors. She turned my face away from the mirror, I closed my eyes, and she went to work. About a half hour later she asked me if the sides were done. I looked, didn't notice a difference on my head, wondered what she had been doing for 30 minutes, decided not to close my eyes for the duration of the haircut, and then said "A little shorter please." She again turned me away from the mirror, and started cutting again. At least I think she was cutting. A few minutes later she had me face the mirror and again asked, "Good?" I suppose the complete lack of hair on the floor should have been evidence enough that she wasn't actually cutting anything, so I said, "Still shorter please. You can go much shorter." She giggled at that, a reaction I'm still flummoxed by. Now, this next part is not an exaggeration (I don't know why I feel a need to clarify, I never exaggerate on my blog). I had to tell her six times to please go shorter. Six times. As in the all the fingers on one hand, plus one additional one on the other. Six as in how many cans of soda come with a six-pack. Six as in the second largest factor of 12, after 12 of course. By the last time I said to her, "Please go shorter. You cannot go too short. I want it to be really short." But we just weren't speaking the same language...
After an hour in the chair I was getting death stares from the men waiting for their own hair cuts, and I still wasn't even sure if she had begun with mine. I like moderately drastic changes in my appearance and this appearance change was about as noticeable as if I just had cut my fingernails or applied lotion to my left hand palm. But I felt it wasn't going to go anywhere else, so I told her it looked great and paid the price. I was conflicted about the tip protocol in such a situation. On the one hand, she did a very poor job and I literally went and got another haircut the next day, but on the other hand I was that whiny, never satisfied customer who took a lot more time and attention than anyone else. I decided that she probably was doing her best, and as she may be fired soon will probably need some extra cash, so I have her a healthy tip.
I then went to my friend and asked her to cut my hair. My friend did an excellent job and I think I'll be going to her from now on. It's the first time I've ever received two haircuts in two days, but it was necessary. Sorry for the selfies, but the transformation has been chronicled below.
Friday afternoon. Pre-shave, pre-haircut.
Friday night. Post-shave, post-first haircut.
Saturday night. Post- second haircut