Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grading Jail

I took my car in for an oil change yesterday.

You know how when there's something wrong but it's just so stupid you haven't mentioned it before (for YEARS) and it's embarrassing to mention, and besides, you're not sure you can afford to get it fixed, and it doesn't really keep the car from working, so it's not a big deal?

Yeah, for several years, my driver's side window has had just enough of an air leak to make an irritating noise at anything over 17 mph. This past winter, my friend noticed it while we were driving to go skiing. And other people have noticed it. I've noticed it, of course, and when it gets irritating enough, I jamb the fingers of my left hand up into the place where the window and rubber meet near the top of the window and stop the noise until my fingers start to hurt more than the noise is irritating.

But since I'm heading out to Montana before long, I decided to ask about getting it fixed, with an asterisk about how if it were a lot of money, I'd rather just keep jambing my fingers there. The very nice car repair manager just wrote it down, like it was nothing, like I hadn't been too embarrassed to ask about the stupid thing for about five years, like I wasn't red with embarrassment.

And then I sat in the waiting room and graded. I graded through an older woman who's taking a trip to Kansas soon, and I graded through a retired NWU librarian. And every time the very nice car repair manager walked through the area, I looked up hopefully.

And then another woman came in, and turned up the TV, flipped open her magazine, and started talking on her phone, loudly, so she could be heard over Dr. Phil. So I graded through her, and finally the very nice car repair manager came and gave me the nod, and told me my car was ready, and they'd fixed the window, an easy adjustment of something called a "gusset."

Meanwhile, though, in a miracle of grading, I'd finished most of the stack I'd brought (which had already been partially graded).

So I came home, and there, on the deck was a bird I'd never seen before, a biggish, tawny bird with a long, pointy beak and a longish, sort of squared off tail, and a really speckled breast, brown on off-white. It was taking its turn on the suet feeder, and came back a couple times, long enough for me to be pretty sure it's a Brown Thrasher, but not long enough to take a picture. (I know, every birder in the eastern US is wondering why this is my first Brown Thrasher, but that's just the barest hint of what a minimaly-skilled birder I am.)

And while I'm looking at the Thrasher, on and off, I'm also noticing the cluster of small, goldfinch-sized birds hanging onto the thistle feeder. I'm pretty sure I've seen these before, and that they're female goldfinches, but I had the book open anyway, so I looked, and no, they're way darker than the female goldfinches, and their breasts are strongly striped. Fortunately, on the same page as the goldfinch in my Petersons, are a couple of Pine Siskin pictures, so I'm pretty sure that's what they were. And I'm pretty sure they've been around before, but this is the first time I've identified them.

The Brown-headed Cowbirds are back, too, as are the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

I'm beginning to think it's spring, and if I get busy today, I may make it out of grading jail for the weekend!


  1. I'm in grading jail, too! And since I was really sick last week, I'm behind. On top of everything else, I'm trying to finish an article. Ye gads... will it ever end? (Yes - on May 29, I guess, when grades are due. It feels far off.)

    I'm really glad you got your window fixed though. That's great.

  2. Where in MT? That's a beautiful part of the world! We'll be there in July.