Door Handles Are Evil

They look harmless enough. But appearances lie. Door handles are evil. Or rather, became evil.

About a week ago, I started getting extremely frequent bouts of being shocked by static electricity. At one point, it was so bad that I would get shocked opening the bathroom door, get shocked again turning on the faucet, and yet again opening my room door. Static shocks never bothered me too much, since apparently I’m too insensitive or something to really feel pain from them, but this was ridiculous.

What was even odder was that it just started out of nowhere. I didn’t change my outfit to something heavily wool- and nylon-based; I didn’t suddenly start vigorously rubbing my derriere on chairs whenever I sat down; I didn’t walk any more than usual. (Although, considering the fact that I probably walk more during a week in college than during a whole month at home, it’s probably a miracle that I never got shocked before.) (Also, if you’re wondering what walking has anything to do with it, a major cause of static buildup in your body is the charging of insulating material in your shoes. I had to look that up.) (Also, here’s another consecutive parenthetical statement.) There really was no explanation that I could think of  for this new, annoying phenomenon. Therefore, I reached the conclusion that the door handles I kept touching had suddenly turned on me. Yes, inanimate objects can be and are innately biased against people. Take the following as examples:

  • Headphones: It doesn’t matter what you try to do. Once the things go in your pocket, before you take them back out they’ll happily contort and tangle themselves in ways you didn’t even think physically possible.
  • Weed (the umbrella-term-for-undesired-plants kind, not the marijuana kind): Their lives delight in making mortal enemies of homeowners and gardeners everywhere.
  • Weed (the marijuana kind this time): Hemp could have become pretty much the most useful plant of all time. But cannabis decided it was too cool for that, and instead cultivated THC in itself so that it could become illegal. What kind of sadistic behavior is that?
  • USB drives: When’s the last time that you tried to stick one in in your computer and it would go in the first time? You always try to do it the wrong way first.
  • Coins: There’s too many of them when you don’t need any, but they magically disappear when you need to use some.
  • Digital cameras: They only run out of battery when you’re taking that all-important group picture. As well as just costing you a fortune in non-rechargeables in general.

I could go on. But the point is, some things just have it in for you. I don’t know what made the door handles decide that it didn’t like me after all. But there isn’t much I can do: I’m not going to stop wearing shoes, and I’m not going to wear totally anti-static clothing. Oh, sure, there are easier ways to reduce or eliminate static shocks. I could touch door handles with my keys before I touch them with my fingers; I could rap my knuckles on them first. I don’t know about you, but if I saw someone fishing out their keys and touching a door handle with that every time, or rapping their knuckles on one, I’d think there was something wrong with them.

Fortunately, most handles have regained their senses and have stopped shocking me in the past few days. But the huge stainless steel handle at UW’s Physics/Astronomy Auditorium that I must use to get to math class has been rather stubborn. We’ll see how long it takes before it succumbs. Until then, I still say door handles have become inexplicably evil.

[Note: while researching for this post, I ran across a BBC article that listed some ways to avoid shock. One of them read: “You could try driving completely naked. Going out in public unclothed is not recommended though, and liable to get you arrested. It’s doubtful the police would believe you’re trying to prevent static build-up.” Really, BBC? And no, I didn’t insert that link. It was there to begin with.]

Learning English May Be Hazardous To Your Reputation

Learning English is serious business, in case you didn’t know. I got lucky since I got to learn the language immersively by living in the States, but that’s not to say that it didn’t take a few years of bumbling around and trying to figure stuff out. Unfortunately, that first part means that I embarrassed myself a lot while I learned. Actually, that second part too. Since they mean the same thing. But the point is, my early years here were filled with language-related incidents, most of which my memory back then must have decided to suppress. They were all part of a learning process, and I can have a laugh over the memories now. But you can imagine that it wasn’t so jolly for little me at the time.

I came to Washington during the summer of my third grade year, which means third grade had already finished across America. So I skipped half a year, totally without my knowledge, and started in the fourth grade in autumn. I remember feeling pretty cool for that. The first day of school was going well enough–my mom walked me all the way (we lived about five minutes’ walking distance away) and even sat in during class with a number of other parents. I liked my teacher, a kindly lady named Mrs. Ault, and thought the classmates were okay too. Then we had a little icebreaker (though I’m sure you never use that word with kids. What ice is there to break?), and during the instructions I heard the word “birthday”. I knew that word! It seemed that she would say all the months in order, and everyone who had a birthday in that month would raise their hand. (My birthday’s in August, so I had a little time to figure this out.) Then she would point to each person who raised his or her hand, and the kid would reply with some number. I was able to conclude that they were replying with the actual date of their birth. So I raised my hand when the teacher called “August”, and when it was my turn, I was able to triumphantly say “one” and feel good about my abilities of inductive reasoning.

My teacher didn’t seem so impressed, though; her expression turned rather curious, instead. If I had paid a little more attention to the numbers that everyone else was saying, I’d have noticed that they were all either nine or ten and thus realize that they were saying their age. I wasn’t embarrassed at having proclaimed that I was one year old to the class, though, because I didn’t figure it out until I thought about it at home later.

Things improved a little after a year of experience under my belt. Fifth grade was still dotted with a number of incidents, though, the most memorable of which is probably the rice debacle. The class was divided up into groups for a project that I can’t remember anymore. But it must have been some kind of crafts thing, because each member was assigned materials to bring from home. My material happened to be rice, and I was instructed to bring enough for the whole group to use. Oh hey, good news right? Not like I didn’t have tons of that at home.

At this point, I should tell you a couple things. First, the Korean language differentiates between two words for rice: “쌀” (pronounced “ssal”) and “밥” (“bap” with a long ‘a’), where the former is the grain in raw state and the latter is in cooked state. Second, the English language does not. Third, while I was learning English, I had this thing where if it was possible for me to understand something the wrong way, I generally would.

I went home and told my mom that I needed to bring, like, half a ton of bap on the next day for class. She thought something here was more than a little weird, but I was adamant that that was what I was told, because it was true. (Even though I thought that it was a tad bit odd too.) So mom ended up cooking a significant amount of rice that day, and it had to be packed into a plastic picnic basket for transport.  I walked into class the next morning with that big thing and set it down next to my desk for the first couple hours, until it was time for group work. Some of my friends were curious and asked if that was for lunch or something; I didn’t feel like explaining that it was for a project, so I just told them no. In retrospect, that must have have been confusing.

Imagine my groupmates’ surprise when I show up with lots of cooked rice and none of the raw rice that we actually needed. I don’t really remember what happened afterwards, but I think it involved a lot of languid laughing and kids trying to make me feel better. Oh, and that rice took a good while for my family to finish.

By the time I graduated from elementary school, I was fairly well versed in conversational English and most everyday expressions. What took a little more time to master, though, were cultural nuances. That was the reason for what happened in sixth grade. It was a Lion’s Quest class period: correct me if I’m wrong on this, but I believe it was sort of a citizenship development thing. The class took turns giving short presentations about what kind of behavior they would like to see and not see throughout the year. One of my “don’t want to see” things were hurtful gestures: for example, giving the finger. (Which, being in the sixth grade, one did see a respectable number of.) At that time, my understanding of the middle finger was that it was certainly an undesirable expression, but not quite at the level of taboo. I did my presentation, and when it got to that part, I thought I would show them an example of what I meant by hurtful gestures. What I mean is that I basically flipped off the entire class while my teacher was standing right next to me. Silence fell over the room for a few seconds, and to her credit, my poor teacher ended it with a terse “Thank you. But don’t actually show that, even as an example.”

Seven years later, I’m certainly bumbling around a lot less. Though sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be totally caught up. I’m sure that there’s something, some aspect of Americana waiting for me to mess up somehow and learn it, but that’s okay. I’ll just tell myself that I’m Americanized enough, I’m okay, I’m good to go. And that I’m still Korean at the same time. What an idea. If it feels like this conclusion is rushed, it’s because I took a whole another post and crammed it into the last two sentences here without a sufficient transition. So don’t worry, it’s not just you. I’ll write about that someday.

Dorm Move-In 101

Moving into a college dorm is an easy process. Just follow a few simple steps and you’ll be all set!

1. Totally neglect to do anything about the process until a week before move-in.
2. Frantically try to buy all the stuff you’re going to need during that week. Multiple visits to the same store are to be expected.
3. Pack your newly acquired stuff along with your old stuff. Grossly underestimate how much stuff all this actually is.
4. Pack some more.
5. Realize that you’re never going to get this done in time, and end up making your parents do most of it.
6. Keep thinking up of crucial things that you forgot somehow. For example, a razor. Or a calculator. Scramble to find these things.
7. On the night before move-in, pick out what you’re going to wear the day after so that it won’t be buried in a pile of luggage with the other clothes.
8. On the day of move-in, wake up and see that it’s pouring rain.
9. There will be stuff that you haven’t loaded on the car at this point. This is always true. Go ahead and load all that. In the pouring rain.
10. Realize that the clothes you picked out from the pile last night are not prepared for this kind of flood.
11. Go back to the car and search for more suitable clothing. Destroy all semblance of order and organization with the loaded luggage in the process.
12. Find your hoodies, which happen to be at the very bottom of the pile. Taking everything out is not an option, so wrestle with pulling one out without ripping the sleeves to shreds for upwards of several minutes.
13. Win the struggle with the reluctant hoodie. Feel triumphant as you put it on.
14. Step outside the car, where it is now raining about twice as hard as before.
15. Resigning yourself to the fact that there will inevitably be something that you forgot, leave for school.
16. Get on the freeway, which at this point it would be very possible for people to waterski on top of. And if they really were you wouldn’t know, because you can’t see anything on the road.
17. As three freaking trailers swerve to get in front of you and spray half a ton of water on the windshield, watch as the limit of visibility as x goes to I-5 approaches zero.
18. Come up with a nerdy way to say that.
19. After getting off the freeway, stop by a Safeway because you need to buy milk for breakfasts as a poor college student and the local places were somehow sold out that morning. Pay twice as much as you would at home.
20. And after a long time, arrive at school.
21. Learn that every car coming into the parking lot must be guided, directed, and zigzagged by an army of helpful volunteers. Find that you can’t really be angry at the volunteers, but still feel like you’re wasting a royal amount of time.
22. Remember that you’re here, like, an hour early and don’t really have a say.
23. Slowly advance to residence halls.
24. After about five minutes, reach the main university entrance.
25. Realize that you missed the path to your hall a while back.
26. Backtrack.
27. Arrive at your hall. Be directed to a temporary unloading spot in the fire lane.
28. Get your keys and a mandatory, charged emergency pack from the desk.
29. Learn that while you thought “first floor” meant, like, first floor, in reality the ground floor is the third floor.
30. Take your stuff to your dorm room with parents and a volunteer.
31. Attempt to open the door with your mailbox key.
32. Unpack and get settled.
33. Realize that you forgot to bring a desk lamp. This is the beginning of several such revelations.
34. Open that emergency pack from earlier and be momentarily amused by the contents.
35. Attempt to go back up, and find out that the stairs are the only way up and down while people are still using elevators to unload.
36. Later, be frustrated at the stubbornness of the heater to blast at full strength even though it’s really hot in the room with the window open.
37. Be more frustrated that there are no controls.
38. Seriously consider going Greek.
39. Remind self to at least blog about this or something so that the experience won’t be lost.
40. Remember to write the blog post two days after moving in.

(The dorms themselves are fine, if you’re wondering. And I have it better than, say, people who need to go upstairs just to go to the bathroom. But that’s not the point of this post.)