My Cat is a Mob Boss, and Why I’m Optimistic About My Students

My smirking psychopath

I started my day with a twitching lizard body writhing on my bedroom floor and my cat looking up at me and meowing in a tone she normally reserves for other cats just before she assaults them. I looked down at this furry murderer, and all I could think of was how much like a tiny mob boss she was. She had brought to my room, my sanctuary, an artifact demonstrating the brutality she is joyfully capable of, and she did it because she wanted something. Normally, when she comes into my room, I snatch her and drag her into a blanket coffin for groggy cuddled, but I couldn’t do that today. Who could smush their face in the fluffy belly of a beast that had eaten the legs off another animal on your bedroom floor moments prior. She didn’t care how much I wanted to scratch the nice place behind her ears; she cared about murder and breakfast. I got up and fed her, scooped the lizard up with my patented Lizard Scoop-O-tron 5000 (a used up paper towel roll with one end stapled closed) and started the day half an hour earlier because this kitty didn’t care at all about the extra nap I had planned.

 

One of my students emailed me to reschedule his appointment with me which is a pretty normal thing to happen. Scheduled change or life happens or maybe he just wanted to nap like I did. The unorthodox thing is how this particular student is going about rescheduling his appointment. Normally, I’ll either offer a time to meet again or they will propose one. That is not how this student wanted things to go. Instead of setting a time to meet like a person who respects another person’s time, he emailed me telling me he’d “get back to me” and “it should be around 11ish.” It’s an interesting feeling when a student openly treats me like I’m supposed to wait on them. The only thing I can compare it to is if a parent were trying to get their child to eat their broccoli, and the child said something like “I’ll get to it when I get to it, but first I’ve really got to tackle this ice cream and I might be drawing on the wall later. I’ll keep you in the loop.”

“I also have an appointment with Amanda R. that simply cannot wait. Plan accordingly.”

Normally, I would be infuriated by the audacity of this student to assume I have enough spare time to work around his schedule, but I’m not, and that is because I started my day with a dying lizard on my carpet and a cat who cared as much about my intention to nap as this student did about my plans to actually eat lunch in my spare time today. My cat had her own plans, her own priorities, and she made sure my life bent to what she needed to happen. Though my student is not a cat with teeny tiny paws and adorable little tufts on their ears, he does have priorities that have nothing to do with the work I’ve got him doing. My comfort is that I know what those priorities are because I gather information about my students like Google does about every living thing. I know how hefty his workload is, and I know how demanding his part-time job is, and I know the town he has moved to for the Summer is expensive, and I know he’s old enough to drink in a town that has a brewery for every 10 people. 

This is just how the sidewalk looks when every other street is a bar

His email was presumptuous and my first impulse was to forward it to his supervisor and write an ice-cold response informing him that not knowing your schedule is not a good enough reason to ask me to waste my time. But I didn’t do that. The terminal wriggling of the lizard reminded me that I should probably acknowledge the different priorities of people who aren’t me which is difficult because there is a massive flashing neon sign in my head that says “I’m very important,” and it’s hard to ignore. Luckily, it’s also hard to ignore dying lizards and psychotic cats. So I’m annoyed that my student was rude, and I’d love to throw something at him, but I won’t do that. Instead, I have to remember my adorable murderer and how low on the list of priorities I probably am for every living thing except me. Damn cat, making me humble. How dare she.

15 Replies to “My Cat is a Mob Boss, and Why I’m Optimistic About My Students”

  1. Cats really do keep life in perspective…Years ago I was woken up by a racket at the end of my bed. When I turned on the lights, I discovered that Lily (our family’s beautiful tabby whose gentle name did not fit the fearsome huntress she hid behind that knowing cat smile) had brought me a half-dead bird and was batting it around by my feet in the torturous way that only cats can. When I sat up and yelled at her to take her prize off my bed, she grabbed it and continued with this activity under my dresser (my tennis shoes, which I kept under the dresser, bore a splotch of bird blood stained on the side until the pair wore out and I finally threw them away). When I went to grab Lily she had the audacity to growl and swat at me. Eventually I got her to pick up the bird and I picked up Lily and then I threw both of them out the back door. Nothing like murder and mayhem at 2 am…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I had to work like you did (being a TA) I had similar experiences in my mind about how I shouldn’t think of myself as all that important. However, once I stopped questioning this and started writing longer syllabi with thousands of details (like, “if you wish to change an appointment, suggest at least three alternative days and times, otherwise I won’t pay any attention to your email expect the part that says you need to cancel”) I took back some control of my life. My solution was to just keep a running list of rules to add to my syllabi in a file. Every time I had to write a new one, I’d copy and paste my special rules into the document. Every student is a mini Donald Trump who respects the syllabus and also tries to find loop holes in the syllabus. If you word your syllabus well and turn its rules into your personal preferences for how you wish your students to communicate with you, you can spend more time with your murderous cat, who is much more worthy. I mean seriously, the students should be killing mice and lizards and bringing them to you. That’s respect. Anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to manipulate the students into acting civilized. My way was to write a huge syllabus with all my rules about how to not act like an insensitive turd.

    Liked by 1 person

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