Meet the Old Boss

So I waited and I guess at the end of January I got a letter from some official body or other saying Congratulations.  You have received a 3 step merit increase.  A strange letter, with no acknowledgment that an error had been previously made and since there was no acknowledgment of an error there was of course no explanation of the unacknowledged error.


Well, I was happy to get the merit increase, and when I checked with our highest level secretary, I was told that I would get the money I hadn’t gotten for the six months they had taken to ok my merit raise.  So I would get retro pay, and starting in March my check would show the new adjusted amount.  At this point, though, I haven’t seen a penny of it since some mistake was made and instead of getting more money my check for February was completely cancelled and some strange accounting had to be done to get me my salary that couldn’t account for my raise or the missing money.

Someday I will see it. 

So I had my merit review last February and at the end of March I went to a convention of college writing teachers in Chicago I think it was and, of course, because it happens every time, I got sick about a week after I got back with some stuff that settled in my lungs and just wouldn’t seem to go away for the whole stinking quarter. I hate conferences.  I hate airplanes.  I hate airports too.

And then around in there maybe April or June we all get an out of nowhere email from our boss saying that she was retiring.  This was like completely unexpected and out of the blue, and in itself a cause for tension and concern.  This boss was the first boss of the writing program who a real tenure track professor.  In fact, she had been hired in as a Full Professor, which is a pretty big deal.  And now out of nowhere she was going.

We had one other Professor in the program but she didn’t have tenure and the rest, well, we were all top to bottom lecturers, and we felt—or at least I felt—that it had been good to have a full real professor as our boss since she might be able to talk with the guys up in the administration in a way that a lecturer, such as myself, could not.

So that was upsetting: to have the boss split like that after five years.  She had been a pretty decent boss, I think.  Nothing really had changed for the better in terms of our pay or workload or anything substantial like that but she was not nuts for one committee meeting after another and having been for years at another institution a full senate faculty member she brought with her a senate faculty ethos.  She treated us more as if we were professors and that meant, most importantly, that she mostly expected us not to be in our offices, which is the case with most Senate faculty—they are not in their offices. 


That’s my office again.  Part of a bookshelf featuring one of those singing fish.  I don’t know why the hell I bought that.  But I actually bought it.  It sings "Splish Splash, I was taking a bath."  I don’t think it sings now though because the battery is dead. 

Slighted Again

I thought about taking the rejection of my three steps to the union, but then I thought that maybe I should look into whatever official channels for redress or reconsideration there might be.  My boss said that, according to the academic manual, I had the same right as anybody else to write a letter to the appropriate parties asking for a copy of the official report upon which the rejection of my merit increase had been based.


So I wrote said letter and waited.  Throughout the summer.  When fall came I asked my boss if she would ask for me at the end of September, then I asked if she would ask at the end of October and finally, some time, in October I got a copy of the official report.  It didn’t make any sense.  For one thing, my boss had said that the committee had whole heartedly back my three step merit; but the person writing the report remarked that the backing could hardly be considered whole hearted since one person had voted against my getting an increase.

This clarified one thing right off.  Different people over in the administration building had reviewed the different merit cases. How could one vote against me be taken as a sign that I didn’t deserve my three steps when one person who had three votes against him or her had received the three steps? This could only mean that one person had approved a three step for a person with three no votes, and another person had reviewed me and taken one no vote as a sign that I didn’t deserve the merit.  Not only had two people done the review of the cases, but clearly these two people had never sat down in the same room or talked to each other to standardize the criteria they were using to evaluate the merit requests.

Second, and glaringly, the author of the report said that he or she didn’t see why I should get a three step merit for this last four year period of review when I had done at least as much, if not more excellent work, in the three years before that and yet I had not requested a three step at that time.  So why should I request and get a three step this time, when I hadn’t requested or gotten one before.  This was a major gaffe indicating that the person writing my review had not been given much information about lecturers and their contract or he or she would have known that the last time I was reviewed it was not possible, according to the then existing contract, to ask for a three step merit.

This was like more than annoying.  It was damn disheartening.  I couldn’t help but feel, while of course there was nothing personal about it, that my case, and probably the cases of other lecturers as well, had been handled in a cursory, offhand, and desultory manner.  But I screwed myself up, and sent a copy of the report off to my boss, along with my analysis of it, and more or less agreeing with my analysis, she wrote off a letter to the appropriate parties requesting that my case be re-reviewed.

So again, I waited.  Till the end of November, when I ask my boss to send off a letter asking what was happening with the re-review.


The photo shows a slightly different view of my office.  That’s my official campus supplied computer there, and the viewer will note that it has been adjusted to the proper height by the very latest in phone directories.  Next to the phone directory sits my modern up to date touch tone phone that will not allow me to phone anybody outside my immediate area code.

Three step

I have been a lecturer in the UCSB Writing Program since 1980 and that’s all I have been.  I have not moved up in any way shape or form.  I have not, for example, become senior lecturer or super senior lecturer or anything like that because there are no such things.  Part of a career, as I understand the concept—and possibly I don’t—involves moving up.  But that didn’t happen so I guess I didn’t have much of a career.


About the only way to move up was to get a raise.  For whatever reasons, my bosses have never told me I was doing a super job or expressed how grateful they were that I continued to exist.  So getting a raise was about the only way to get a pat on the back.  But it was a sort of private pat on the back because none of us ever talk about how much we do or don’t make, maybe because we make so little.  So a raise was not really a social status thing; you don’t go around bragging about how much you make.  It’s better to have something by your name that says “Super Senior Lecturer.”

So some time, in this last horrible year, February or March, I guess it was I was up for a merit review and a possible pat on the back.  It had been four years since my last chance at a merit increase.  And at that time I got a two step merit increase which was the most a person could get according to our union contract.  But the contract had changed and I made sure that the boss knew that people could now get three or even four merit steps depending on degree of accomplishment.

I wanted to get a 3 step because, well, that would be like a super pat on the back and also I am close to retirement and wanted to get my salary up as high as I could because my retirement benefits are based on my 3 most highly paid years of service.  So this one was a big deal for me.

I felt I deserved a three step (heck, I felt I deserved a four step), and after the review, which is always just awful, like a beauty contest or something and you are wearing no clothes, I got a nice letter from my boss saying the committee had approved a three step increase for me and congratulations.  So I got the pat on the back and some money too.

But, whoa!  These merits aren’t automatic; they go from the program up to the Dean’s office, and I got a letter from the Dean’s office saying I had received a two step and not a three step. And of course, this is the university and no reason whatsoever was offered as to why I got two instead of three.

 Well, that hurt.  Screw it, I thought.  I will just suck it up.  But that didn’t seem right, so I went to the boss and told her what I had been told and ask her if anybody else had received a three step because I figured that if I hadn’t gotten one that the Dean’s office had decided not to give a three step to anybody.

But, no, my boss says that three of my colleagues had received three steps, and that one of them at least, as my boss remembered it, had received fewer votes than I for those three steps.  I tend towards paranoia and this didn’t help.  Not only had I not received my secret pat on the back, I felt as if I had been slapped in the face, for what reason, I knew not.

And to top that off, because of my fatigue no doubt, I sent an email to my boss discussing my not getting a three step and pushed the wrong button I guess and sent the email to all of my colleagues.  So my slap in the face went public.

That was back in March and February, not long after WB died.


That’s a picture of my office at UCSB.  It must be from a few years ago because that’s a lexmark printer amid all the junk there, and now I have an HP.  That’s my trusty scanner to the left of the Lexmark.  Jeez, I must have gotten that thing back in the mid 90’s.

Mobile Storage Experience

Well, the year that refused to die finally did.  And two days before it went off its final rewards, escrow closed and the money from the sale, minus paying off the equity line and back taxes, showed up magically in Joan’s checking account.delridgepod

Maybe a couple of weeks before escrow closed—I can’t remember—I ordered another one of those huge dumpsters deposited on the Delridge property, and Dave and Dave and Dan and Dylan went up to Delridge and cleared out the final stuff.  They filled up that dumpster too with more stuff from outside the house and also with stuff from inside.

There had been talk of selling some of the furniture.  Really, though, it didn’t look like we could get much for any of it.  But we couldn’t throw the furniture out either.  So Dave decided that maybe the best thing to do was to rent one of those storage PODS and have it deposited on the property.  So we had one of those delivered to the propery and they filled that thing up too from stuff in the house—furniture and other smaller items.

For a few weeks, Teresa had been sorting through Joan’s clothing to pick out and save what might prove useful, and Steve had made several runs through the house with garbage bags cleaning out the refrigerators and drawers in what seemed an endless supply of chest of drawers.

WB and Joan had always had trouble—especially WB—with throwing anything out.  But during the last couple of years in their stay at Delridge things had just gotten out of hand.  They hadn’t thrown anything out, but stuffed every nook and cranny with old bills, paper work of all kinds, and just plain assorted junk.

 I now believe that if one is old and feels death approaching that one is responsible for cleaning up one’s mess before leaving this earth.  Sort of like picking up after yourself in a final sort of way. Because going through your parents’ stuff is hard, not just physically but emotionally.  

They ended up filling the POD completely up because Dave didn’t want to have to tell Joan, should she ask, that we had thrown out such and such an item.  The POD is now in a storage facility down in Escondido not far from where Joan is staying.  I expect it will stay there, unopened, until such time as Joan is no longer around to ask where such and such an item might be.

Then, who knows, what we will do, but we will do something.


Above: a POD, sometimes referred to as the “mobile storage experience.”  They come in all shapes and sizes.  When the economy completely collapses we will probably start living in those things.

Grey Eminence

Carol thinks I could have died from that pneumonia, had it been viral.  At the time she said, you look terrible.  I didn’t pay much attention, but one day I looked in the mirror, and I went out and asked her—pointing to my face—is this what you mean when you say I look terrible.  Yes, she said.


I had thought that when a person got old and grey that the grey applied to hair color.  Not so.  One can also get old and grey in the face.  I didn’t know that till the pneumonia.  The color of my face was beyond white; it had gone over into slate grey.  Now if my face isn’t positively ruddy, I think I look grey. 








Grey is the color of sick.  I saw this man about my age on campus.  I think he was down and out and had probably come unto campus from the bus stop to use the restrooms.  He had grey hair, a grey beard, his jacked zipped up to his neck, and he was grey. He was the color of sick.

I was getting back to my sort of normal color around the time the Delridge place went into escrow.  The buyer was a Native American; she had grown up in wretched poverty and never owned her own home.  It was a big step and naturally she hesitated, but she had money having become involved in some capacity with the local Indian run casino.

Apparently, she had, according to Suzi, felt spiritually drawn to Delridge.  Maybe it was the privacy and the brush all around.  She seems to have liked that it had been made out of the very earth upon which it stood.  She came up to the property a couple of times at night to check out the spiritual vibes in the moonlight.

We got through escrow somehow.  I made a mistake and wrote on some official document that the place had mold somewhere.  That’s what I had been told after they did the termite inspection.  They charged a pretty penny for that inspection; how many termites can there be in a house made out of mud?  But they had mentioned mold in their report, and so I checked yes next to: does the place have mold question. 

That scared the buyer apparently.  But Suzi managed to straighten it out.  I don’t know how she did but she did.  Also we had to get the propane gas turned back on, and there was some sort of 250 dollar problem with the septic tank. 

My sister in law, Teresa, Dave’s wife, thinks maybe selling the house helped to cause me some stress that could have led to or helped along the pneumonia.  Maybe so.  I had never sold a house before and didn’t know anything about how to do it, and I was doing it long distance.  And I have to say, it seemed, that when I wasn’t thinking about something else, and was just getting a little relaxed that damn house and trying to get it sold would pop into my head.  I couldn’t wait for it to be over.


The picture shows the living room of Delridge. 

Pneumonia is Serious

Finally, the summer of ought-six came to a close and it was back to school again, but about 2 weeks into the ten week quarter, I began to run a low grade fever.  It was strange.  I don’t run low grade fevers.  But I did this time.  I kept doing the school stuff but one weekend morning—a Saturday, I think—I woke to a temperature of a 104.  I felt crappy and a little scared.  I hadn’t had symptoms of a cold exactly, more just plain fatigue.


So I went to the walk in clinic with Carol and when they heard they had a sixty year old guy with a 104 fever they took me in almost immediately.  I had a doctor I had never seen before.  But he seemed to know his stuff and said we should get an x-ray.  So I walked down the corridor, sat, got an x-ray, walked back to the little room I had been in before with the doctor and he came in and said I had pneumonia.  He gave me a shot of something and a prescription for anti-biotics and said he was sending me home, rather than to the hospital because going to the hospital, with all the crap floating around in those places, was more dangerous than just going home.  Sleep, the doctor said, and don’t let yourself get dehydrated.

Of course pneumonia comes in both a viral and a bacterial form.  The antibiotics would help with bacteria but not necessarily with the virus.  I don’t know what kind I had, but the temperature went down in about 24 hours though it still hovered around 100.  Maybe the temperature had peaked on its own or maybe the anti-biotics helped.  Funny, but even with the fever I still had an appetite.

When you say you have pneumonia people look at you funny because pneumonia is serious business.  I didn’t really know what kind of serious it was.  I managed to have to cancel only one day of class, in the middle of all this; on another, I had a colleague show a video for me.  So I missed two days over two weeks I guess.  And slowly I understood why pneumonia is serious.  It just knocks the stuffing right out of you.  I had no energy.  Period.  I would drag my ass over to teach and as soon as I was done, I would drag my ass back and lie down.  It was like I needed a fork lift for my ass; it was dragging so bad.

And the crap just wouldn’t go away.  I had made an appointment—as I was told do—with my pulmonary doctor before the pneumonia hit.  So after I had seen my regular doctor about the pneumonia, we planned out that I would see the pulmonary guy to have a final check.  So I went and they x-rayed me again.  The doctor said I had pneumonia alright; the lungs were still a little inflamed.  And then he told me I had a bit of asthma.

Well, damn.  He had a doctor in training in the room with him, and he said to her, “Now what is the one thing Mr. Tingle can do to most improve his pulmonary health.”  Before she could reply, I said, “You mean other than stop this damn smoking.”  So one thing led to another and I was actually up and pacing the room on a rant about all I had tried to do over the years to stop smoking.  And I wanted help I said.  And the doc said this and then he said that, and I said I have tried all of the things you have recommended and that I didn’t understand why if cigarette smoking is as horrible as it is supposed to me why the hell couldn’t I check into like a Betty Ford clinic for three weeks to have a running chance at getting off the “shit.”  And I apologized for my language.

And then I apologized for my rant.  Thank goodness, the doctor, who himself looks like a stroke ready to happen, said my rant had been funny really.

Carol—who was there—said, yea it had been sort of funny, like watching a person ready to burst into tears at any second, and walking right up to the edge of the cliff and then veering away.

I don’t have a pneumonia picture, so here’s one of WB’s one good shed up on the Delridge property.

Condo Law

When we got back from taking WB’s ashes to Ora, SC, I stuck my head into this closet pantry we have right under the stairs to the second floor of the condo and right adjacent to the kitchen.  And man—when I stuck my head in—did it stink.  We had been gone back to SC at least a couple of weeks between the end of regular school and the start of summer school, so I figured maybe I had left something in there, an onion or possibly a potato, that had gone bad.





But I couldn’t find anything and when I started really looking I noticed that the wall of the little closet pantry was wet and covered with mold.  That’s what was stinking.  The damn mold.  So we took all our foodstuff that we had in the pantry closet—pasta and cans of stuff and rice and well just about everything we ate (except meat)–and put it all in cardboard boxes and piled them in the little corridor that runs from the main corridor to a little half bath.  The washer and the drier are in that little corridor.  So what with those and the boxes of food stuff it was hard to get to the little half bath and hard to get to the foodstuff too since it was all stacked on top of itself.

Finally, we figured out that while we had been gone there had been a major leak, more like explosion leak, in the closet outside our closet.  We have an end unit—our condo, I mean is an end unit—and at the end of our end unit is a communal closet that houses the water heaters for the whole building our little condo is part of.  So an explosion leak had occurred involving the water heater that had saturated the wall of the communal closet.  They fixed that, putting in new sheet rock.  But nobody had the sense to check to see if the sheetrock that was the wall of our pantry closet and was about four inches from the sheetrock they replaced had been damaged at all by the water explosion.

Man, what a mess.  I can’t explain condo law.  But because the explosion that saturated and ruined and molded up our wall was the result of a condo failure, the condo association had to replace the wall which meant the condo association did the hiring of the people to fix the wall and we consequently were at the mercy of the condo association to make sure the job was well and expeditiously done.  Well, I think it was well done, but it sure as hell wasn’t expeditious.  Damn, the repair drug clear into August what with people coming and going to do this and that.


 First, they had to dry out the wall.  I thought they would just knock it out, but no, because of the national mold scare, they insisted on drying it out just in case some of the mold might escape up the wall, mold apparently being very fast on its feet.  So they stuck this monstrous heat-a-lator thing in the closet that made a terrible racket and heated up the closet to about 120 degrees to kill off the mold.  And then there was this and then there was that and it just drug on and on getting the wall knocked down, getting it put back, getting it painted, getting a piece of carpet for the floor.


I was hoping to quiet down a bit and get some rest after the strenuous months before but, no, here I was teaching summer school—that was my mistake—and having to deal with the constant aggravation of people coming in and out of the condo at all manner of hours to fix that damn closet.


Our renovated pantry closet is now the best organized closet in the entire condo.

True Adobe

Boy, my memory is just plain going.  Maybe not.  Seems to me you have to remember something before you can forget it.  So maybe my remembering is going.  Things go in one ear and out the other leaving no traces on those brain synapses.


In any case, the house sat unmoving on the market all through the summer.  I never thought about changing realtors.  I guess Suzi and I bonded.  She dropped by the Delridge house the day we were all there cleaning up.  She kept saying awfully nice things about our parents, until I said, well, frankly, we boys did not feel all that positively towards them.  And finally she had to say that she really hadn’t liked the way Joan had treated WB in her presence.  She didn’t go into details, but she didn’t need to.

Also, she told me that last year on almost the same day as the one we were sitting there at that table in the Delridge Kitchen, she and her husband had been topping a hill and were struck head on by a drunk driver.  Her husband was killed instantly, and she was in the hospital a long time.  You couldn’t tell to look at it, she said, but they had remade her whole face.  If I wanted, she said, I could tap her cheek and feel metal or maybe it was plastic.  In any case, I didn’t tap.  And she seemed to know her job very well, and be damned if I was going to start complaining to a woman, now a single mother, trying to make do after the sudden death of her husband and the remaking of her face.So I followed her lead and didn’t say anything as the house sat and didn’t move at 620K. 

 Carol and I belong to a club where we go to work out.  All the members there drive lexuses or Mercedes, or BMWs or some form of those monstrous SUVs.  My 84 Volvo with the paint coming off is always the oldest and rattiest car in the lot.  But I got to talking to a real estate guy in the locker room.  He was a real nice guy.  I haven’t seen him for a while but every time I saw him over the summer and into the fall he would ask about the Delridge house.

As we were coming up on November, he said one day that he didn’t think the market had bottomed out yet, and that maybe we should withdraw the Delridge House from the market for a while and then put it back on at the start of the new year at a reduced price, maybe 600K.  That way the listing would catch the eye of the realtors again and at the lower price it might move. This made sense to me so I called Suzi and suggested the move.  She wasn’t sure about withdrawing it but she did think, the way things looked, that the price should be dropped.

So we dropped it—I forget to what exactly—maybe 590K or 600K, and within two weeks Suzi called saying she had a buyer.  Turns out a person had been interested in the house for some time but hadn’t been up to the 620K, but she would be up to 585K, plus some of the fees normally paid by the buyer not the seller.  So we took it with one contingency.  Escrow had to close before January 1; then we would still be able to claim WB’s capital gains exemption and save ourselves an additional loss of 25K or thereabouts.

Killer Bees

I ordered over the phone and put on my credit card one of those huge dumpsters you see behind stores.  Maybe 5 feet high or so.  The waste management company dropped it off and later picked it up at Delridge for around 800 dollars.  Carol and I drove down to Delridge on the Saturday when Dan, Dylan, Dave, and Dave gathered to try to pick up stuff from around and about on the property.




WB had three sheds and two of those had to be knocked down they were in such ill repair.  They were full of junk.  In addition to the tractor and the trailer previously mention, there was old cement mixer, the one used to mix up the adobe block, and more than one beat up and mutiliated wheel barrow and all sorts of other litter all over the place.  The guys filled that dumpster right up to the brim and overflowing in about four hours. But it looked like they had only made a dent and the inside of the house was hardly touched.

But things were getting into shape for eventual sale.  Suzi got a guy named Jose and his crew to come out and cut back all the brush a legal distance from the drive.  I don’t remember what he was doing but he was out at Delridge one late afternoon and was attacked by a swarm of bees.  This had to be looked into because Jose said he wouldn’t go back out there until the bee business was attended to and usually bees don’t attack people.

So I had Suzi call an apian—or bee specialist—who went out to Delridge and found that a swarm of killer or Africanized bees had taken up residence in one of the pillars on the wall around the court yard.  We hadn’t seen them because apparently they swarm only at certain times of day, late afternoon, it appeared, and indeed they would go after a person en masse if disturbed.  So the apian guy came out, located the hive, and wiped out the bees, lord knows with what.

I don’t know.  I just hadn’t expected to encounter killer bees as part of selling the Delridge property.  I had this quasi comic picture of poor Jose fleeing the Delridge property pursued by a pack of angry bees.  I guess we stepped in just in the nick of time because what with the bees and the rats it seemed the Delridge property was very rapidly ceasing to be a human habitation and becoming more a part of the local ecosystem.

The picture shows that portion of the wall where the bees took up residance, in a pillar I believe either directly adjacent to or under the bougianvillea.

Those Rats

What about those rats?


Those rats disturbed us.  WB and Joan had purchased four acres of Southern California savannah covered with mesquite, scrub oaks, and all manner of sticky bushes and grasses.  If a body got off the drive in and try to push a path through this brush it was a hard go; a machete might have been in order.  Certainly, bare legged one would have been scratched repeatedly and probably have given up any attempt at forward movement after a few minutes, and even with pants one would get scratched on the arms and sometimes even the face by a low lying branch.  It was pretty thick stuff with an occasionally bare space afforded by a protrusion of rock.

When WB and Joan first moved there in the early 80’s that brush was all there was in the area.  Higher in some places, lower in others, but mostly brush, a habitat: home to a variety of beasts and bugs.  Deer were seen migrating through the property when they first moved in.  Coyotes were spotted, and even as I recollect an occasional mountain lion.  It was not a good place to keep your domestic cat since they would end up coyote food.  Rabbits abounded and other small rodents.  Birds chirped; I especially liked to catch sight of your crazy looking road runner.

 But over the years more and more people moved in and, sometimes for aesthetic, some times for safety (mesquite goes up like a torch), folks cut back the native brush.  Deer no longer came through; no bob cats were spotted.  Dogs appeared and horses.  But Joan and WB did not cut back the brush, except such as necessary to protect the house from fire.  One of the effects of this ecological alteration appears to have been the mass migration of field rats from the brush where they had been to the brush on the Delridge property.

Those buggers were everywhere.  They had gotten into the attic at one point and then somehow removed.  But we worried, as we tried to sell the house about their having moved back in.  I want to call the rats field rats.  Field rats do not seem so alarming; they live in the fields and frolic about like free range chickens.  But a rat that lives in a house becomes, ipse facto, a house rat and that is another sort of rat completely.  A mean, viscious creature that eats wiring and leaves rat poop all over the premises and is generally a menace to society.

On the day we gathered to clean up the property,  I was inside when I heard shouting, yelling, cursing, rocks being thrown, and “Did you see that thing?”  For in their picking up of junk they had unearthed one of those rats which they described variously as being one huge sucker and as large as a small cat.  I failed to see it sadly.  And while we worried throughout the sale of the house about those rats, we never were required to bring in a rat exterminator.

Thank god.