Rolling Down the Adventure to My Early Retirement


It’s official. Although I’ve been fighting off encroaching fine lines for several years now, and although I’ve been crochety for far longer than that, I’ve always maintained I’m still “young” (or, more recently, “young-ish”).

But now, the sham has been revealed. Undeniably, I is old.

I know this for sure because, just the other day, I found myself kvetching about “kids these days” and how they have “no respect.” I believe I even shook my fist at the heavens.

In short, at some point when my jowls were sinking deep into a hand of pinochle, and I asked Edna to pass me another one of those hard candies I keep in the jar in my living room (“in case the boys come ’round”), my spirit donned a pair of black knee socks and sandals and went out to mow the lawn. My chi became geriatric.

What caused my sudden heaval into John McCain’s peer group? Students, of course. Or, as we call them at The Home: them bratty ingrates who wouldn’t know proper treatment of their elders if it whupped them upside the head.

Case in point:

For the last few years, I’ve taken it upon myself to create a publication for my college’s English department. The point of this publication is to celebrate student writing–to gather together a representative sampling of the best student work from the year and, after editing it so that it’s actually readable, putting it out in paper (and, this year, blog) editions, with the sum effect being, “Look, random readers: some of our students are able to write in complete sentences!” What’s more, some of them do it with style and intelligence.

So I spend each academic year urging my colleagues to gather the best of their students’ writing (with their signed consent) and submit it to me; at the end of the academic year, when I lay breathless and heaving from grading and reading and administering final exams for my own students, I gather a small committee to read all the submissions and select the best of the pretty-good. We end up with about 150 pages of text, which I then, to signal the start of my “summer vacation,” edit and format. This takes me weeks. I am a sucka that way. Eventually, I send the final proof to the print shop, where we run a couple hundred copies; this year, I also put together a blog site of this publication.

The whole point is to honor students’ efforts, right? That’s what my youthful spirit used to tell me.

This summer, though.


There’s this student–not one of mine. I’ve never seen or met her. It can stay that way. Chosen for inclusion in the final publication, her essay was written in our department’s advanced composition class, which is generally devoted to the finer points of research writing and citation style. However, some instructors also include other modes of essays, in this case a personal interview. So this student–let’s call her Krusty–wrote up a report of an interview she did. It was an interesting read, on a topic that tapped into a modern-day issue of widespread importance. For the purposes of this post, let’s pretend that issue is Prejudice Against Clowns and that she interviewed someone with a bulbous red nose, in full make-up (not Amy Winehouse, interestingly enough).

For me, her essay was simply one of 30 that made the cut…until the trickle of emails began, picked up here midstream:

From: >>> “Krusty” 06/06/08 8:05 AM >>>
is the student web publication out yet?

From: Jocelyn [mailto:happy]
Sent: Fri 6/6/2008 9:25 PM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission

Yes. I sent out the link to the entire campus (students, employees,
and faculty) a few days ago. Here it is again:



From: >>> “Krusty” 06/08/08 6:30 PM >>>
why was the title of my paper changed

From: Jocelyn [mailto: slightly-bewildered]
Sent: Sun 6/8/2008 9:03 PM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission


Okay, I just looked at your paper again to see what you meant. Yea, we added the colon plus the words “An Interview” because it was the only submission from Comp II that wasn’t a research paper, and readers of the Comp II work would be expecting a research paper, so to avoid their confusion, we clarified with stating it was an interview. Basically, your paper was different from the others in that section,and we wanted people to know that; that’s why the title now reads “Sending in the Clowns: An Interview” instead of “Sending in the Clowns.”


From: >>> “Krusty” 06/13/08 9:21 AM >>>
well i really dont like the title… can you change it to “sending in the clowns” an interview by Krusty ?

From: Jocelyn [mailto: just here to accommodate you]
Sent: Fri 6/13/2008 2:24 PM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission
From: >>> “Krusty” 06/14/08 7:45 AM >>>
i am very angry that the title was changed without my consent

From: Jocelyn Pihlaja [mailto: are we serious here?]
Sent: Sat 6/14/2008 10:22 PM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission

I can change it on the blog, but it’s too late on the paper copy, which has already gone to the printers.

We were simply trying to honor you with including your work. Editorial changes are part of any publication. I already changed the title to what you suggested (which, basically, consisted of getting rid of a colon and hitting return) on the blog; I’ll be glad to take your paper
off the site entirely, if that makes you feel better. It’s too late on the print copies, but if the title is too distressing, you have the choice of not sharing the paper publication with people you know, at least.

Having two clarifying words added to an essay seems to be overwhelming any good feelings you might have about this honor. I’m very sorry such a small thing has become the focus of your thoughts; I hope at some point you can appreciate that your work was even selected.


From: >>> “Krusty” 06/20/08 9:08 AM >>>
From: Jocelyn [mailto: it’s all I can do to keep from throttling you]
Sent: Fri 6/20/2008 11:11 AM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission
From: >>> “Krusty” 06/21/08 7:47 AM >>>
the paper is a profile… not an interview.

You are a very rude woman. And yes, the title does bother me because the title i gave my work had meaning. and it is too bad that you cant take feelings into consideration without writing an insulting letter. I am not stupid and i do understand why you changed it. But there was a better way to have done it and kept more of the original title. But i suppose i can not expect someone who doesnt deal with being a clown to understand how much the title means to myself and others to have.

Krusty, I’m extremely confused. Extremely. I just reread what I wrote and can’t see what’s striking you as rude there. I was serious–not sarcastic–about being willing to remove the paper from the site, if it’s distressing you. I also was serious that I’m very, very sorry you’re not feeling honored or getting enjoyment out of your paper being selected.

Tone very often gets lost in email, as yours have felt quite aggressive and overly-strong to me, but I’ve been trying to read them as though you’re simply trying communicate your feelings and not attack someone who was putting together a project intended to promote and celebrate
student work. That I’ve become a lightning rod for your reaction continues to surprise me.

As a sidenote, since you don’t know me, it is presumptuous for you to assume you know anything about what clown training I might have participated in or have undergone in my life, by the way. And I don’t mean for that to sound rude but rather corrective of an overstepping of bounds.

As I step back and try to review your concerns objectively, I find myself still stymied as to why you feel the title change impacted its effect. Your paper was titled by you as “Sending in the Clowns.” The title in the publication was “Sending in the Clowns: An Interview.” I guess where we’re butting opinions is that I just don’t see–nor does anyone I’ve asked during this exchange of emails–how adding “An Interview” compromises the meaning or impact of the title. And after you expressed your unhappiness with that title, I changed it immediately on the Web site so that it reads “Sending in the Clowns” An Interview by Krusty. I did what you had asked, yet you’re even more angry.

I can own the fact that I did something that made you angry. But you’re the one who’s in charge of her own reactions beyond that. Truly, I’m not trying to be rude, but I’m also really trying not to let your reaction take over something that was meant very innocently and that I’ve rectified to the best of my ability.


From: Jocelyn [mailto: I can’t tell you how done I am here]
Sent: Fri 6/21/2008 2:34 PM
To: Krusty
Subject: RE: Essay Submission

Oh. I asked your instructor, before putting together the publication, what genre the paper should be labeled, and she said it was “an interview.” I’ll change it on the Website, if you want, to “a profile.”


That has been the last I’ve heard of her (’til she stumbles across this post, and I’m forced to hire Kevin Costner to be My Bodyguard). I’m choosing to take her radio silence as a sign that she ultimately was awed and amazed by my continued calmness in the face of her obsessive and over-zealous pursuit of this issue. At this moment, she is doubtlessly holed up in a wood-paneled basement, below Mom and Dad’s den, scribbling furiously in her journal about the deep regret and shame she feels for the way she dared to communicate with a perfect stranger, one who is, even more, an instructor at the college she attends.

Yea. That’s the ticket. She’s terribly sorry that she turned me into an aged harpie who goes around croaking about “those bobby soxers and their dangerous long-haired music.”

Were hers the only example, I could put the story to bed and muse on it there, as I rub Ben-Gay into my aching joints. But the truth is, she’s one of many. College teachers are regularly receiving inappropriate communication like this…all…the…I-spent-how-many-years-in-graduate-school-and-now-put-in-50-hours-a-week-holding-nervous-hands-and-being-supportive-of-students-who-complain-when-they-receive-a-9/10-on-an-assignment-just-to-have-you-crap-on-me-like-this? time.

Fortunately, 84% of the other students redeem the lot and give me faith that there’s something to this slagging away in the Inspiring Minds Mines. However, when it’s 2 a.m., and I’m up leafing through my albums of WWII (the good old days), I start to think


early retirement can never be overrated.

There’s a bit of a rub, of course, since I’m our household’s breadwinner. Someone needs to eat the sh** so we can eat the bacon, right?

Behold this joyful noise, though:

Inspired by my grumblings about ruff-necked performers who cram into VW’s and have Internet access, Groom has determined to up his unicycle training and infiltrate the circus…

…where he will not only earn us a glittery paycheck,

but where

he’ll also be perfectly positioned


roll some serious treadmarks onto the clowns.




29 responses to “Rolling Down the Adventure to My Early Retirement”

  1. flutter Avatar

    might I please scan the reports of UFO sightings over your area to see if there has been anything in relation to her enormous ego?

    That is not a case of your crochetiness, it is a case of her being a rag.

  2. lime Avatar

    perhaps krusty has moved from having a duff beer or two in the evening to hitting the hard stuff heavily. perhaps someone put s**t in her rubber nose. perhaps her suspenders chafe. perhaps it’s a case of clown rage at not being taken seriously lo these many generations. it’s nothing a seltzer enema shouldn’t take care of.

    what a nutjob.

  3. Hammer Avatar

    Seems the evil clown forgot their meds.

  4. Claudia Avatar

    Oh, see now I want to know just exactly how much clown experience you have had.

    PS – Krusty needs to get laid. The End.

  5. Maddy Avatar

    Yeah for the old guy with the broken bike!

    The student – she’s on holiday that’s why she’s not replied.

    With any luck she’s gone to England – that’ll wipe the smile off her face.


  6. Her Grace Avatar
    Her Grace

    I was just thinking to myself the other day, “That Jocelyn, she sure is one rude woman. And she knows absolutely NOTHING about being a clown.”

  7. Claire Avatar

    See, your first mistake was being nice to the little twit. Second mistake was responding in a lengthy reply because that made her think she might be right about something so completely stupid. So she’s going to continue being a pain in the ass for the rest of her life and it’s all your fault!
    (just kidding)

  8. Princess Pointful Avatar
    Princess Pointful

    The unicycle was the perfect end touch.

    Seriously, though, now I know where my double chin has come from. Even my meagre TA experience, with its associated
    “did i miss anything today get back to me ASAP” emails at midnight must have added a few wrinkles on.

  9. Jazz Avatar

    My brother is a teacher.
    A friend is a teacher.
    You are a teacher.

    And I think y’all must be saints, because what you put up with would make me go postal.


    Yeah, I’m old now too.

  10. AmyTree Avatar

    I love love LOVE the willfully patient and polite responses you gave to her particular brand of kerrazy. That’s all that can be done with some people – I like to think of it as passive agressive kindness and I find myself doing it alllll the time (working as I do with a lot of self-obsessed creative-types). Idiotic ingrate.

    Wishing Groom good luck with the unicycle! New hobbies are always amusing (particularly ones with a danger of hilarious mishaps…)

  11. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Ah, Sweet Angst of Youth!

    I especially liked the progression toward violence of your email addresses, followed by offering Krusty hugs.

    Can you post the link to the publication? I would love to read her “profile.”

  12. steppingoverthejunk Avatar

    wow. you’re nothing like my professors! heh heh. krusty. i know some krusties.

  13. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Oh, and shouldn’t her name be spelled “Krusti” with an “i?”

  14. Amy Avatar

    Ahhh, the joys. I once got an email from a fellow student who wanted to convey to me that even though she felt the strong and ill-advised desire to write about her genitalia (in iambic pentameter)–which often caused in me the strong urge to vomit at the task of group edits–she was NOT to be trifled with as a SERIOUS WRITER and just because I was SO MUCH OLDER than her didn’t mean I knew more than her because, she’d like me to know, many people tell her she has an old soul and is likely God’s vagina, reincarnated.

    Oh, and her email was something like: goddess(name of girl who will remain anonymous)ATbananasluguniversityDOTedu

    NEVER trust a person who puts “goddess” in front of their name. Ever.

    P.S. I am now on dial up, even though I’m not commenting, I’m still stalking.

  15. veits Avatar

    Yipes…but can you imagine what it is like in my world? 7th graders! (Luckily, most of them don’t know my email address!)

    Loving you from Montana!

  16. Shelley Avatar

    Boy, technology gives kids balls, no? Back in he olden days, you know, when I was in college, we didn’t have this whole email/Internet thing. We had to register by standing in line for hours and hours. I remember a lot of standing in line. If we wanted to talk to a professor, we had to actually go to his/her office, during “office hours.”

    I’m sorry, I’m old and tend to go off subject. Point is, email somehow allows people to say things that they would never, ever say in person. Lovely girl, that Krusty. This is the entitlement generation, and wow, it’s ALL about them.

    I’m going back to my rocker on the porch now, and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

  17. Pam Avatar

    As a teacher I know that in 2008, Krusty can appear on the roll as Crusti, Kr’sti, Crusty, Krustay,Kerustai, Crusti-Lee ,til you think, is no-one called Jill anymore?Small joke. Know you made the name up to go with the post, but I’m just saying as a relieving teacher the looks of disgust and comments I get at a mispronounced name would rival any email annimosity you (you poor thing) have suffered at a missed colon or sentence twiddle.I am still beside myself with laughter at Gorm on the unicycle – you go, you good thing, go!!

  18. Pam Avatar

    …er make that Groom. Jeez, I really do have a problem with names…

  19. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    “You are a very rude woman.” I nearly spit out my coffee on this one! You couldn’t have made up that exchange if you’d tried. Hysterical. Nope, nothing to do with your age, she’s just got an enormous chip on her shouder. I had her twin in a class I taught a few years ago who was so in-my-face belligerant that I was rendered nearly speechless. Nearly. I was fortunate that she was also unable to finish anything on time or show up for exams, so I was able to fail her. Ha!!

  20. Diana Avatar


    Send her a present of foil-wrapped candy kisses made of Ex-Lax and Ben-Gay dipped Tootsie Pops.

    Kids, these days. No sense of gratitude and no sense of humor.

  21. geewits Avatar

    Man, the nerve, the gall, the chutzpah of people these days. That whole empowerment self-esteem thing of the 90’s lead to our society becoming a whole sack of entitlement assholes. I’m truly sorry you have to deal with that. We are going to be paid back in spades for forcing self-esteem on our kids.

  22. Jazz Avatar

    Maybe an award will make you feel younger? There’s one at my blog awating you

  23. steve Avatar

    Yer gonna make me go the the blog now! I think I know Krusty from the Simpsons, right? How lucky Groom has the unicycle to distract you.

  24. rak Avatar

    I’m so happy that you closed the series of emails with “hugs”…I do believe she needed that 🙂

    They will never allow Groom into the circus if he insists on wearing a helmet.

  25. Dory Avatar

    boop boop boop
    Boop Boop Boop

    WHACKNUT alert.

  26. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Jesus H Christ. Does that ignorant girl not know what a salutation and complimentary close are?

    You’re a better woman than I, Jocelyn. I’d have stuck a flea in her ear for addressing me so. Rude, rude, rude. When did we teach the younger generation that they are not our equals – I blame the parents….

    And now I’m off to mutter into my cocoa.


  27. mrs. tioli Avatar
    mrs. tioli

    Well, I for one can see her point. A profile is sideways and in an interview you’re facing someone. Big difference there. It would be rude to look straight at someone when you want a profile.

    Wait, we’re talking about writing?

  28. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    Here’s the problem: your school should stop forcing kids to take “How to be an Ungrateful Whippersnapper” during their freshman year. They need to slow down and appreciate the taste of butterscotch.

  29. Say It Avatar
    Say It

    I am past retirement age in terms of disdain for todays spoiled rotten brats and my kids haven’t even reached the college years.

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