Birthdays and butt-dialing.


Today is Michele’s birthday. She would be 62 if she were still with us. When she died two years ago of cancer, she left a big hole in our family. After all this time (it seems like it was yesterday), I still miss her terribly, and there are many moments when I ask out loud why she had to leave us, and why won’t she come back. Silly, of course. She’s not coming back, and there are many things I wish I could say to her, to make her laugh, to ask forgiveness, to rededicate ourselves to each other and to our family.

The things she missed out on are many. Things she wouldn’t have missed for the world: the grandkids growing up, Paige’s first child, Paula and Dylan’s wedding. These and more have all happened without her. If there is something after death, I hope she can be with us in some way.

Scantron is that grading system used on standardized tests. The student fills in the appropriate circle on a card that corresponds to the correct answer on the test paper. The card is machine read and saves oodles of time spent on manual grading. When I was a kid, we didn’t call it Scantron (which is a brand name), because the technology was fairly new, but students today all seem to know what it means. They also don’t like this kind of test very much.

As an adjunct “professor” with not a ton of time for grading, Scantron is a godsend. But it’s limited to grading multiple choice and/or True/False questions. If I really want to test a student’s knowledge, I have to add some short answer or open-answer type questions, which takes me back to manual grading of some questions.

Many students are pretty good at guessing on multiple choice tests, but are terrible at pulling up knowledge from nowhere or doing any kind of analysis, much less writing it in any coherent fashion. Even at the college level, most students a poor writers, have little knowledge of history or current news. Which brings up a host of other questions I could discuss, but will leave for another time.

I accidentally butt-dialed Deirdre (Dede) Lovejoy this morning. Dede is a professional actress of some note (The Wire, Lucky Guy, Bones), and the daughter of Marcia Fulmer. She called back. I awkwardly told her it was accidental, and let it go at that.

Accidentally calling someone from your pocket, or butt-dialling, is a completely cell phone phenomenon. It’s not the equivalent of the land-line era “wrong number,” because it’s actually a RIGHT number. Just dialed at the wrong time. What’s the protocol for this issue? Mine is this: If the recipient’s phone has only rung once, I hang up in hopes they will not have gotten a ring at their end, or if they have, they’ll know that one ring indicates it was a mistake. If it’s rung more than once, I will stay on the line and then apologize for accidentally dialing someone.

For some reason, on the iPhone, I’m particularly prone to this. It’s a touch-screen thing. It never happened with physical buttons on a phone. Sometimes progress simply presents us with a new set of problems.