1. On the sidewalk
Excuse me, but do you happen to know what time it is?
Um, yeah. Just a sec…let me find my cellphone. I know it’s in my purse somewhere… here it is. It’s about quarter to three.
Are you serious? I’m supposed to be at an interview across town from here at three. Is there any way I can make it to Hartford Center by then?
Sure, but not by walking or even running. Actually, you need to turn around, head north one block to the subway entrance and take the Orange line to Windsor Street stop. Good luck!
2. A conversation in the elevator
Oh hello Anna. How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while. I hear you have a new position in the company. Congratulations.
Nice to see you too, Chris. Yeah, life has been kind of crazy lately. I’ve been super busy with that technical writing class the last two weeks.
I thought that one looked interesting. Did you take it because of your new position?
Actually, I registered before this new position came up because I thought it would help me with the stuff I used to be doing. But now, I wish I had more time to focus on my new position, you know what I mean?
Oh, totally. Well, sooner or later you might have the chance to use what you learned from class.
3. Finding a babysitter
Hi. Jessica? It’s Mike. Look, I’m sorry to do this to you on, uh, short notice, but the kids have come down with something and I can’t take them to daycare today. I’ve got a big deadline to meet so I really can’t afford to take a personal day. Is there any way I could drop them off at your house?
Of course, Mike. That’s not a problem. What are sisters for, after all? The only thing is I have a bunch of errands I need to run today. Are the kids able to ride around in the car?
Yeah, I think so. They’re not feeling that bad. The daycare’s just so cautious when they have any kind of fever.
Right. If you think they’re OK, I’m sure they’ll be fine.
OK then. I’ll get them dressed up and we’ll be over as soon as possible!
4. At the office
Oh my goodness, I’m shivering. Can we please close the window?
Are you kidding? It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you just grab a sweater?
I don’t have one handy. Please just close it?
5. In the lunch room
Leftover Thai food from dinner last night.
I wish I had something like that. All I’ve got is a sandwich.
6. Sharing news
Hi Anna, you look pretty excited. What’s up? Did you get a raise at your restaurant job?
No, better than that! Listen to this, Brian. Remember how I had that great interview for the banking job in New York, but then the bank changed the requirements and I wasn’t eligible for it anymore? And then they told me they’d recommend me for a position at one of their international branches if something opened up?
Yeah, I remember your reaction was pretty cynical. What was it you said? Something like, “sure they will”? Not that I blame you.
Yeah, I was pretty disheartened. But, I just got a call from the director of the international division! Looks like I may get to use my foreign language skills after all.
7. At a restaurant
Okay. I have your check. You can pay me or at the register whenever you’re ready.
Great. And I have one of your coupon specials to use with that – the “buy one meal, get a second free, Monday through Thursday.”
I’m sorry, that’s good only at our downtown location.
Oh, I see. I guess I should remember to read the fine print.
8. A professor’s office hours
Good morning, Dr. Woodson. May I come in?
Of course, William. Have a seat. What can I do for you?
Well, first of all, I’m sorry I was absent during our last class. I wanted to speak with you about the reading you assigned for the next class. I’m having a lot of trouble making sense of it. Philosophical concepts are just really hard for me to understand. I mean, it’s all so abstract—I never really know what the writer is talking about.
Don’t worry, William. I realize it’s a complex text. I suggest that you look up the unfamiliar terms, make notes on them and then read the text with your notes side by side. And we’ll be discussing the text at length in class next week and I look forward to your contributions.
Part 2: Longer Conversations 9-12 – Buying a car M:
Hi Anne, how was your weekend? Did you end up buying a car?
Hey George. I’m still thinking about it and taking forever to make a decision. I know I began talking about replacing my current one when it hit 160 thousand
kilometers, and here I am still talking about it. I really don’t want to be in a position where I’m forced to buy a new one just because the one I’ve got needs an expensive repair.
Yeah, timing it right is really tricky. I had to buy my current car when I found out my old one needed repairs that were actually a lot higher than the real value of the car.
Right! That’s just what I want to avoid. So how did you decide what to buy?
Well, I went to the same dealership I went to before and bought a newer used car. The irony is that I found out later it would have been a better deal to buy a brand new one during a special sale that happened a month later.
Yeah, that’s my dilemma - new or used. Everything’s got its pros and cons and evaluating all the information is just paralyzing.
You know, I just started reading a book that my brother gave me called Stop Getting Ripped Off. The author actually talks about used versus new cars in one of the first couple chapters. He says buying a used car is like buying antique furniture. Both are basically one of a kind. If you’re interested in a specific one, there’s a lot of pressure to act right away.
That’s true. And it takes so much time to compare everything. So does the book recommend new over used cars?
It doesn’t really say, but it does emphasize that you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to buy a car unless you absolutely have to—like I did.
Thanks, that’s really helpful. I think I might look for that title at the library on my way home tonight. Maybe there’ll be some other good ones there too.
13-15 - An injured ankle F:
Well Doctor, I woke up this morning and my ankle was all swollen. It hurts to walk on and so I called and made an appointment to come in.
Yes—I can certainly see it’s swollen. So how did it happen?
I don’t know. When I went to bed last night it didn’t hurt. Could I have done it in my sleep? Sometimes I have nightmares and I know I toss and turn a lot then.
Hmm. It’s possible I suppose—people can hurt themselves thrashing around in bed-- but the amount of swelling you have—ah… it would be unlikely for this serious an injury to occur without some kind of trauma. You didn’t fall or slip or anything yesterday?
No—I think I’d remember if I had fallen. I walked my dog, went to work, exercised after work—
Normal stuff. I ran on the treadmill and did some weights, along with stretching and ab work.
Hmmm. I’ll bet that you injured it while exercising. Probably while running—through the repetitive motion rather than a single injury like a fall. If you were intent enough on the exercise, you might not have noticed right away, and if it happened late in the day, it’s possible you wouldn’t have felt any soreness or swelling until after you fell asleep.
Well-first we’ll get an x-ray, just in case, even though I doubt that anything’s broken, given how mildly it first presented itself. So no crutches or cast. I’ll get you set up with a brace. Then you’ll need to ice it every few hours and give it a few days of rest.
16-19 - A great find M:
Hi, Mark. It was fine. We were at my parents’ house to clean out the closets. The goal was for my brother and me to sort out all their clothes and stuff that we’ve been sorting at my parents’ place.
Sounds pretty boring. Sometimes my dad asks me to come sort out my stuff. I told him at this point, he could just give away anything that belonged to me.
It’s funny, we thought so, too, but it turned out to be pretty profitable. My brother found a ten-dollar bill and an old coat he’d forgotten about, but still wanted to keep. And then, I found this rare art poster that my uncle used to have that my parents don’t want. It’s this French guy named Jean-Michel Folon. I don’t know what it’s worth, but I’m thinking about getting it framed.
Folon you said? Is he famous or something? I’ve never heard of him.
Yeah, he was a well-known Belgian artist. Umm, he started as an architect and then switched to drawing. He originally worked in Paris but didn’t have much success, so he started sending his work to New York. It turns out the New Yorker and Esquire published some of them, without even meeting or talking to this guy.
That’s cool. How did your parents end up with the poster? Are they big fans of his or something?
No, not specifically, but I kind of like this one. It’s a cover from a New Yorker magazine advertising a show of his work at a gallery in Manhattan in 1970. It’s really bright and colorful, with simple, basic shapes—just what my apartment needs.
But you said your parents aren’t fans of his, right? So why did they have it?
My uncle used to work for someone who owned an art gallery. When the gallery closed, he took some of the extra artwork to his apartment. Then when my uncle passed away, my parents inherited a lot of stuff, and never really looked through it much.
Huh! I may reconsider cleaning my things out now, although I’m pretty sure it won’t be as cool as your cleaning weekend.
20-22 – Health concerns F:
John, what’s going on with you? You really haven’t seemed to be your usual self lately.
You mean it shows? It’s that obvious? I haven’t been sleeping well---I can’t seem to sleep through the night anymore. I start the day feeling drained before my feet even hit the floor. I get to sleep OK, and then I wake up intermittently during the night. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.
Do you feel stressed? They say that a lot of us go to bed with our minds still churning, too wound up to sleep. Maybe you just need to unwind before going to bed. My husband, for example, takes his laptop and his phone to bed with him. That’s unhealthy; you really have to bar your work life from the bedroom!
Mmmm, I’m not particularly stressed. I mean, work always stresses me out a bit, but no more than usual. Besides, I usually have a hot bath before I go to bed and I’m fine.
What about coffee? Coffee is a real sleep wrecker-- that might be keeping you up. You know, caffeine stays in the system for a long time--much longer than you’d think. I know it makes me wired.
No, I only have coffee for breakfast, some of the time; I’m not really a heavy coffee drinker.
Well, it’s not just coffee and tea. Did you know that chocolate is notorious for causing sleep problems? And soda! People tend to assume that soda has to have a dark color to be caffeinated, but that's a myth.
Well, I must admit, I am a chocolate lover, even more so now that they’ve come out with the findings that dark chocolate is actually a health food. My intake definitely has gone up, especially after dinner.
Well, I’m guessing if you’re more careful about your caffeine intake and you don’t drink any alcohol or take your work to bed with you that you’ll manage to get back to getting a good night’s sleep.
Part 3: Extended Discourse 23-30 Urban farming Good afternoon, My name is Sam Delwynn, and I’m in both the Education and Anthropology departments at Cantwell State University. As an educator, I’m constantly looking for ways to expand and extend learning—I’d really like to see education—well, learning really, because I don’t think they’re exactly the same thing—become a lifelong process that takes place during childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood, be something that isn’t just confined to a classroom, Ok, that’s me as an educator. As an anthropologist, I’m really interested in the idea of community—how are communities formed? Where do they come from? And, how can we make them stronger and more healthy? And one of the things you notice, when we look at urban areas, is that they can almost be considered food deserts, and what I mean by that term is an area with no green space, and no easy access to supermarkets because they’ve all moved out to the edges of cities and suburbs and you can’t get there without a car or a long bus ride—sometimes several bus rides. So what happens is that there are really no healthy food options anywhere near the neighborhood, and this is a real problem in poorer areas of cities. And as an educator you see this in the food that children are bringing to school—lots of sugar and empty calories like soda and chips--or the fact that a school lunch might be the only nutritional meal that some kids get all day, and school lunches aren’t always all that nutritious.
What we did is worked with the administration of Carter City and we found some unused land. This land was basically abandoned, the original owners stopped paying taxes on it, and then just up and left, and as a result, the city technically owns the property now. So we made an agreement with the city—they retained ownership of the land, but we could use it to help neighborhood residents create “edible gardens,” where they could grow fresh, healthy food. So, how did we do this? First, we found volunteers to help clear the land. There was a lot of trash, broken glass—there was even an abandoned car that we had to move, and luckily we had a volunteer who had a tow truck to come and drag that out of there. So after we had the land cleared, we had some training sessions for community members, and various professionals and volunteers came in and talked about growing and taking care of different types of fruits, vegetables, and grains. And the great thing is, it was really successful! We saw more people coming out of their apartments—you know, three, four different generations were out there. Moms, dads, kids, grandparents, everybody. And when the crops came up, you saw a lot of benefits to health and household economics, but also an increase in pride and a sense of community that was really great to see. So, to wrap up, I just want to quickly point out that this was done with minimal money, a few small grants but that’s it, and with a relatively small amount of land. Really, we used half an acre and it completely transformed, well, not completely because I don’t want to oversell it—but you could see a major change certainly in a four, maybe five block area. And it’s a very exciting way to effect change in urban environments and build community. [repeat passage]
31-40 Paying for education M:
Finally, we have some time to sit down and think about this. I’m really proud of Laura for getting into such a good university, but how can we afford it?
I know! With Michael heading into graduate school in a year, it’s not like our expenses are going to decrease. Even if he can get some help from the university.
Okay, so what’s our best scenario? Mike has already been accepted by two graduate programs, and he may have more possibilities, right?
Right. He also says he has a job lined up for this summer, so he can save a little money for fall. One program may offer him a part-time research assistantship. He told me, too, that the electrical engineering program at Georgia Tech can often help students find jobs related to their field at some of the local factories. But that would demand a lot of his time.
No. I don’t like that idea. Mike needs to get through his program and into a Ph.D. program where he’ll probably get full support as soon as possible. Working and going to school just takes too much energy! Remember our graduate school days?
Do I remember? Living in a two room apartment, and feasting on sandwiches for lunch AND dinner? But we had a great time – we had so many friends in the same situation – it never really seemed hard.
We had a good time, it’s true, but we both had to work night shifts at that restaurant to make ends meet. I don’t know how we survived on five hours of sleep a day. But let’s get back to Laura’s situation. Dartmouth is a private school.
The tuition is twice as much as we’ve been paying for Michael. How can we do that?
Well, we still have enough in our college savings account to fund her for one year at Dartmouth. After that we’d need student loans.
Which means she would be nearly $200,000 in debt when she graduates. That does not sound like a good option! Is she still set on studying anthropology? I thought she really enjoyed her science classes this year. She has top grades in all her classes; I just wish she would choose a more marketable major.
Well, Jim, we always told both our kids that we wouldn’t dictate what they studied, as long as they dedicated themselves to whatever career choice they made.
And I think that’s the best thing parents can do for their children – let them find their own passion. The old myth that the parents know what their children are good at better than the children themselves was never true! My father wanted me to be a doctor. He was furious when I told him I wouldn’t pursue medicine. It’s funny though– he was quite happy when I finished the doctorate in chemistry. He said I’d be twice as smart as an MD like him, anyway. The point was that I was never comfortable seeing people injured or sick – I could never have been a good doctor.
But you know what? Recently, Laura has been talking about how much she would like to work to prevent the spread of disease in poorer countries.
Is that right? Well, let’s have her talk with her grandfather. He might steer her in the right direction.
I think that’s where she got the idea – didn’t you see them at Christmas? Your dad spent a good hour chatting with Laura that day. What do you think of that?
I think we have two brilliant kids; that’s what I think. And thanks to my more than brilliant wife, I know we’ll figure out how to get both our children through college without breaking the bank!
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We conclude the Megillah reading every year by singing "Shoshanas Yaakov." One would experience difficulty in finding a more appropriate poem to conclude our recital of the Megillah – the chronicle that epitomizes so many aspects of our miraculous history in two-thousand years of exile. "The rose of Yaakov was triumphant and joyous." But, ironically, the perfect concluding note