this morning i ate my brunch next to a shaggy old man, who was studying the paper's week-ahead weather forecast, going over and over again the illustrations of suns and clouds, taking notes and commenting to himself. on my other side sat a couple with their daughter, almost four years old. my neighborhood diner services a clientele of nicely triangular character: the families intersect with the bums and the hipsters.
i tried to mind my own business, to read a hardcover copy of elizabeth costello by balancing the ketchup on one side and the sugar on another, but the pages kept slipping out from the hold of the condiments, returning to each other, resisting the split. choosing to focus on marmelading my toast rather than fight my book, i turned attention towards the trio near me.
the mother encouraged her daughter to order french toast. "eww mommy." "but have you ever tried it? it's just like a waffle, but only better." better for you? daughter refused. "so you want pancakey?" before their waitress returned, she tried again to persuade her daughter to select the french toast, but had no success. father ordered her multi-grain pancakes. the mother continued to speak of every food item with this kind of diminutive language: "want some eggy? can i have some toasty?" even to her husband: "how's your juicey?"
her daughter refused the offer of "eggy", but mother speared some on her fork, pointed it in daughter's direction, looked away, and said "i hope no one steals my eggy" and, playing into the reverse psychology, daughter took on role of egg thief, biting the food off the fork. "where'd my eggy go?!" daughter opens her mouth and shows mom the partially chewed remains. "oh there it is!" haha ha.
i thought of work, and my own silly tactics of tricking my students into doing things that they don't think they want to do. that is, any kind of work. is that all my teaching is? a sale by trickery, a lesson in the form of a game? it's a strange alternative to coercion, this means of getting folks to open up. needless to say, the same play would not work with my book.