Office of Dispute Management

In this asynchronous environment, I have managed to log on every day of every class for eight and a half years. Even when I went camping, and I had to drive fifteen miles each way to the public library in the small town to work on their dial-up Internet crap computers. Even when I was dead-sick with the stomach flu in bed and Bruce had to bring me the laptop. Even when I was in the process of moving to Spain, where I found WiFi hotspots in the airports, in McDonald’s (once we arrived), in the dark hollows of hope that this pathetically-paying job offered me.

So, Ashleigh with an -l-e-i-g-h, from the Office of Dispute Management, I do not need an email reminding me of the repercussions; of the staff handbook; of the possibility of my “solicitation schedule” being disrupted.

I do not need your solicitations. I am not a prostitute, though you treat me like one. Truth is, like everything else in this low-paying, work-to-bones economy our country has set forth for us to stampede through, I didn’t have a class for four months. No extra pay. No vacation fund. No back-to-back classes like I had in years past. So when one started?

I forgot. I simply forgot. It was my daughter’s thirteenth birthday party, and we were swimming in a hotel pool and ordering pizza and arguing with the front desk about double charges and pretending our lives were different lives, if only for a weekend. It was my middle child’s thirteenth birthday, the child I have who adapts to every situation such as, “Mythili, your birthday is tomorrow, and is an ice cream cake OK, and brownies for this weekend?” (because honestly I hate baking cakes), and her easy and immediate response? “Yes, Mama,” before dashing out of the room.

I forgot. Because I have six extra people living in my house and two jobs at the one job I already have, where I’m supposed to be a teacher and a teacher coach, and I mostly suck at both.

Ashleigh, head of the Office of Dispute Management, I have a dispute. I think, that with fifteen years of teaching experience and more than a master’s degree and eight years at your company, I should be paid more than $1300 for a six-week course. I should be guaranteed a course whenever a student registers. I should have some point of human contact, besides generic “no-reply” emails that I have received for all these years, to ask questions about what to do when my students make every excuse in the book, when my students threaten to sue me, when my students display a level of incompetency that makes me question our entire society.

Because you know what, Ashleigh? This is the first “human” email chain I have participated in since I was hired in January 2009.

I would like a little humanity, rather than a vague threat of losing this fake job. I would like to put a face to a name, Ashleigh. I would like, for this time in my life where every moment feels like a failure, to think that, after eight years and not a single lapse in logging on, you could just. Fucking. Trust. Me.

It won’t happen again. Just like it never happened before.

There is no dispute. There is no management. There is no office. There is just a screen, the divider and diviner of our lives, bringing us closer and tearing us farther apart with each and every day.

Would you agree? Or would you dispute it?

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