Here's what I do: I stand behind a computer and a massive Scatron grading machine in a room with about seven other people doing the same task. Most people sit behind tiny Scatron graders, they do not stand behind massive ones because they have done this before and know which machines to grab. It also does not help that I get there a few minutes late. The room we are in is a corner of the twelfth floor whose windows look out onto the Hudson River, the New Jersey skyline, and way downtown Manhattan. It is a gorgeous view. I watch an insanely large cruise ship, looking large even with skyscrapers foregrounding it, make its way down the river. I see the sun sort of set even though it is pretty gray. And I do this while I let the machine eat Scantrons until a message pops up on the computer saying that there is no birthday, or no ID number, or no test code. Then I look at the sheet and see that the kid is an idiot and bubbled in about five numbers in one column, or that they didn't put the year they were born. Do some kids not know this? Why was this was so frequent, bubbling in the month and date, but not the year? Then I look up their information in the database and complete the missing information, or fix the wrong information. Some of these tests make me giggle so much, the completely insane bubbling habits. Kids write their names out and then bubble letters that do not correspond at all to what they had wrote. And the thing that entertains me to no end is that their is a kid, a fifth grader, in Philadelphia whose real name is Somemore Love. Another kid's name is Eros. What the fuck is wrong with these parents? Were they high when they decided this? Somemore Love? Isn't that a joke from the Simpsons where Bart calls Moe and asks for last name Love, first name Somemore. Moe yells to the bar: "Uh, I'm looking for Somemore Love! Somemore Love!"
When I am leaving, I get my headphones out of my bag while I wait for the elevator, and this guy asks me what I am listening to. He is European, if that makes any difference, and I think it might. I hate small talk and meaningless questions, of talking about how glad you are to be out of work. I think it is really cool when people brush aside all of that or even introductions and ask you what they are curious about. So waiting for the elevator and riding down it, we talk about Le Tigre, about jumpy music vs. lounge music, and I leave really happy to have had a non-artifical encounter with a stranger. I resolve to make my own conversational habits more earnest, less plastic, even with strangers - especially with them.