How I Spend My Summers

As a grad student, I have to find a summer job to make ends meet and keep my tutoring program going. It must be a position that is at odd hours and not full time. I know of others who are grocery clerks, busboys, call center reps, freelance writers and web designers, babysitters, and more. It isn’t always easy to find the perfect circumstances so I have resorted to working as a maid in a local hotel to save for school and provide my immediate necessities. It suits me perfectly.

I am not much of a rabble-rouser but somehow, I got entangled in hotel politics recently, which brought out my aggressive side. The other maids were complaining about the old vacuums and their lack of power. I knew for a fact that they were right. The old-fashioned bagged appliance was a mess to empty and it also lacked oomph like my bagless one at home. I decided to lead a strike. The hotel manager was aghast, afraid of the retaliation of the patrons. He didn’t give in right away and we stood in our little maid outfits in the lobby with a huge sign. We had an artist friend paint a large vacuum so people would know what it was all about.

We then did our research at and found a web site that sold discount bagless vacuums. We printed a list of sizes and prices and how long it would take to be delivered. We did all the homework for the hapless manager. If you thought he was aghast before, it was twice as bad. It took him some time to absorb the information. A strike in his venue had never happened before. He said he would get back to us and disappeared into his office to peruse the document. We tried to read his face to anticipate his reaction, but he was a stone wall.

The next day he summoned the striking crew and pronounced it successful. He would order ten bagless appliances to be shipped immediately. He begged us to resume our work, and as the leader of the gang, I agreed. We would use the old vacuums for as long as it would take for the shipment to arrive. We would no longer complain privately or in public. He wasn’t really angry at me as he realized the value of my leadership and that the new devices would improve cleaning time and save him money.

Thus, I left my mark on this job and hoped I would be able to continue part time. The other maids were highly appreciative and threw me a little party in the hotel basement employee lounge. We had champagne and cake but this is not the end of the story. They had a custom cake made for the occasion in the shape of a bagless vacuum. It was hysterical and we ate it all.

Think Around a Problem

When you tutor high school students, you encounter various requests. I am often asked to skip the usual subject, be it math, science, history, or literature, and cover something that is on their minds. I wish I knew in advance as I could prepare material for the tutoring session. Nevertheless, where there is a will, there is a way. Th good old Internet solves any problem. We can look up the information together and decide on the best explanation or answer.

I had a student for a time who would never ask questions. He listened to me and took notes, but really was out in limbo somewhere. I tried to stimulate him with different techniques I have used over the years, but he remained mute. Then one day, he finally opened his mouth. Oddly enough, he wanted to know how reverse osmosis works. What? I was surprised. He explained that his parents had put in a new water filtration system and they didn’t understand it well enough to let him in on the secret of its success. They had bad-tasting water which was no doubt polluted and listened to a neighbor who had just installed a system. The water was completely transformed and everyone was fascinated with the technology. I was too. We looked it up online and found rather lengthy explanations from sites like this one: Some were highly technical and we had to sort them out. This was a good lesson in research skill building. I didn’t regret the time taken away from our usual subject. I love tutoring, especially if I can teach a child something new and valuable.

We discussed the importance of water as the fluid of life and got off on a tangent about how it operates in hydrating the body. This was physiology pure and simple. We then honed in on the membrane action used in reverse osmosis to eliminate chemicals, toxins, pollutants, dirt, or germs of most any type. Iron and manganese are culprits, not to mention lead in some households. We looked up lead pipes and were shocked at the fact that people still have them. It is a major red flag like living with asbestos in your ceiling. Most lead piping is gone, replaced by copper. Galvanized pipe was used for a time and rejected. Wow, from physiology to plumbing.

Finally, we hit the nail on the head with a simple definition. The technology of reverse osmosis used in modern filtration is used to rid water of contaminants by pushing the liquid through a semi-permeable membrane by means of pressure. My student wrote this out all on his own. Out of dozens of descriptions of the process, he found this the best. I think a great lesson was learned on both our parts. He couldn’t stop talking about his research and how it would help his parents and the neighbor understand what they had installed. He was proud as a peacock. Thereafter, it would speak throughout our sessions like a regular magpie.