I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a cold or because of our weird, windy weather but petty stuff has been getting on my nerves this week. Actually, it could just be because I’m kind of a petty bitch. Once again I’ve proved that the Catholics won’t be breaking any rules to make this Methodist a saint any time soon.
Yesterday I called in sick, which I have rarely done. I just had a bad cold, hadn’t slept well and wanted to nap and blow my nose in privacy. That wasn’t to be. About an hour after school started, my boss’ boss called me. I thought it was nice that she was checking to see how I was. Actually, she wasn’t. She was calling to say she needed some typing done. I told her to send it over with some kids and I’d type it then print it the next morning when I came to school. Two kids arrived with a letter to be typed.
An hour later, the same kids arrived with several documents and the message from my boss that he needed them typed and printed in 20 minutes. I called him and explained that it would take at least two hours and that I was sick and in bed. He said he had to have them and told me to come to school. I did, although in hindsight I shouldn’t have. He got his documents but they were served with a side order of pissy palagi. While I typed (and helped two teachers with copy machine issues), the teachers moved off to have tea, leaving me at the computer. When they finished, they came back to say that I was not working fast enough. I finished the documents, turned off the computer and my boss said I was allowed to go home, since I was sick. He did not say thank you. He had known for months, by the way, that the documents I typed for the Ministry were due today.
This morning my day started with laundry, which had been soaking for a few days since I just hadn’t felt up to doing it. I did change the water, though, since leaving things to soak in the tropics can result in seeing and smelling things that should only be seen in scary movies. When I dragged the bucket of clothes and myself out to hang them up I realized there were no clothespins. My wooden clothespins have been hanging on the line for months. I have no idea who took them, or why. I’m assuming that the family used my line (and pins) while I was in Apia and just collected them when they took in their laundry.
Missing clothespins is petty. It truly is no big deal. But in that moment, feeling unwell and unappreciated, it was huge. The proverbial straw. I considered firebombing the family compound and the adjacent school. I considered obscene graffiti. I considered long, passionate speeches about appreciation and respect. But I was too pooped. Instead, I went inside, had a sip of tepid tea and sat down next to the fan for a few minutes. Then I scrounged some pins from my indoor clothesline and did a truly inelegant job of hanging multiple panties and other items from a very few pins. At least no one seems interested in stealing granny panties. And then I walked to school.
Where there were no teachers. There were kids. Lots of kids. They carried my bags. They rallied around me, touching, hugging and yelling in delight that I’d returned after (almost) a day off. I’d deliberately dawdled, since I’m usually the first to arrive and since I didn’t have the keys there was no since in me getting there early. Others were better dawdlers. After 45 minutes, just after the bell rang for assembly, the teacher with the keys arrived. She greeted me from behind during the first hymn, kissing one cheek and squeezing one boob.
Today one teacher was on maternity leave, the principal was absent, and three other teachers were AWOL. I was asked to take three classes. I politely refused. Instead I sniffled and sneezed my way through the day with over 50 kids from two classes.
During interval, the teachers gathered to eat and gossip. Mostly the gossip is about who’s sleeping with whom or about money. Happily, the speculations on my love life have dropped significantly, since it’s pretty obvious that I have no plans to get busy in Samoa. They don’t even often suggest I sleep with every man who visits the school anymore.
Today one of the teachers was talking about me. She was sitting two feet away and knows that I can understand her. She was commenting on how I hate Samoan food. That was evidenced by the fact that I turned down a package of ramen noodles and pankeke (donut holes) to just eat an orange. I’d explained before she arrived that I wasn’t hungry because I still have a bad cold. Just an orange was perfect.
I found her comments annoying for a couple of reasons. Mostly, because she didn’t refer to me by name but as “the palagi”. Palagi is not usually used as a pejorative term. It is used for outsiders. And at school, we call ourselves a family so I find it somewhere between annoying and offensive to be referred to that way. I also found it annoying, although humorous, that she was mad because I wasn’t eating Samoan food. I think a few Asians would beg to differ when a Samoan claims ramen noodles as their own. And donut holes? What she didn’t realize is that before she arrived in the room there had been a fast and furious discussion about the amount of food available. Had I not turned it down, she wouldn’t have been eating.
Petty, trivial crap. Visions of sainthood for my patience and virtue down the crapper. Tomorrow is another day. Another opportunity to be a better, less petty, person.