Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Big Pepsi Machine Incident

Note -- apparently the ampersand (that little symbol above the 7 on your keyboard) is not allowed. So I am using the plus sign instead. Sorry, A+S professors.

I'm taking Reading 100 online as a student in preparation for teaching it online. One of the assignments is to find 10 vocabulary words that I don't know or am not sure about and look up their definitions and use them in my own sentences. Ehrenreich's 221-page book netted me a total of eleven words I didn't know the definition of for sure. Some of the words were ones that I had seen before but just never really looked up (like "chartreuse" and "apotheosis") but there were some I had NEVER seen before -- words like "postprandial," "cineast," and "hortatory." All this looking up the words reminds me of the Big Pepsi Machine Incident.

First you gotta know the situation at work. I work for the Division of Educational and Career Advancement at CNM (Central New Mexico Community College). ECA is only the third name for where I work. It used to be call "Prep," because the classes taught there are preparatory to college. Then when I was hired, it was called Developmental Education, in contrast to the Adult Ed Dept. that taught Basic Literacy, GED Prep and ESL. Then the two departments were merged to form the Department of Adult and Developmental Education, or DADE. So at the time of the Pepsi Machine Incident, we had teachers who taught everything from the alphabet to high-school-level math and English. Our full-timers' offices occupied the south wing of the fifth floor of Max Salazar.

On the other side of the building, in the north wing, were the Arts and Sciences professors' offices. The A+S professors tend to think they are better educated than we (not true) and more intellectual than we (may be true). In the center of the building was a teachers' lounge, with tables to sit at, microwaves, refrigerators and sink -- in essence, a breakroom.

One day, a huge Pepsi machine appeared in the teachers' lounge. Oh, boy, was the reaction of my colleagues in DADE. Now we don't have to go down to the soda machines on the third floor.
But just as quickly, email complaints -- addressed to ALL DADE and ALL A+S -- spread like wildfire through the ether.

How crass! the emails complained. How commercial. The teachers' lounge was our refuge from the crass and commercial world, and now we can't get away from it. It's just so, so . . . intrusive. (These emails, by the way, seemed to come mostly from the A+S teachers.) It ruins the decor of the breakroom. (Decor?)

We laughed and shot emails back, at first trying to point out the positive, explaining that the machine's proximity is at least a nice thing for all the secretaries of our two departmental offices -- now they can run for a soda without taking a whole break. And now we wouldn't be dependent on the machines downstairs that tend to run out about mid-morning. And besides, isn't it a material world?

In response to each positive email, someone else added their own negative perspective, and the complaints built in passion and fury. Finally someone on our side wrote, "Sheesh. Take a Prozac." Someone else responded, "That's not funny." And he went on to describe his son who's depressed and has to take Prozac just to stay on an even keel. And we laughed. Not at his son, but at the all the professorial solipsism that seemed to say, Everything we do is important; how we feel is important; why won't anyone listen?

And we laughed.

But the pinnacle of this email exchange occurred with the English chair of A+S writing about this "corybantic moil." I don't even know what that means! my colleagues laughed. So we got out the dictionary and looked it up. So there you have it. A+S professors are better than we DADE teachers because we don't understand the words they use. That was the last time I looked up the definition of some vocabulary in the dictionary (short of thesaurus sorties for my writing) until this Reading 100 class. (But I tell you what -- I don't think I'll ever use "corybantic moil" in honest discourse.) And if you want to know what it means, look it up!

1 comment:

Carol Anne said...

Ah, when I hired on must have been about the tail-end of this debate. I remember being puzzled to receive an email referring me to a survey over whether that Pepsi machine should be allowed to remain.

My biggest complaint about the machine was when the company that operated it removed the iced tea and replaced it with Sierra Mist. But I don't know that such a substitution would really be worth a corybantic moil.