Friday, January 16, 2004

A Perfect Cement

Friday started with two certain plans: open the door for the plumber scheduled to arrive at the house at eight and leaf through the thicker-than-usual Atlantic Monthly issue.  Thick with stuff I won't read about "The State of the Union;" I thinned it by pulling out all of the subscription postcards.

The boss at the plumbing company called at eight to say they'd be 35 minutes late. An employee was out of gas, stuck on I29, waiting for a ride in the light rain.  The blocked sink drain would still be there. No hurry. It'd been there since Wednesday evening, a perfect kernel of gunk cementing the drain pipes. I'll spare you the details, but I should defend my resourcefulness. I tried to plumb the line; I pulled apart the pea traps and drain extensions, splashed murky water everywhere, even sliced my thumb twisting the hand auger a few stubborn feet into the netherworld of the inner wall. Went to Kmart at 9:45 for an extra plunger and a jug of acid stuff made for loosing gunk. No luck.

So when the plumbing boss called I had more time to wait, but not enough time (or interest, really) to undertake an engaged reading of the full-length features. I leafed through, turning pages, then this: "The Other Gender Gap." A short article on the shortcomings of popular education in America for boys. I had no idea.

I was almost at the end of the short article when I read this:

But boys' educational stagnation has long-term economic implications. Not even half the boys in the country are taking advantage of the opportunity to go to college, which has become almost a prerequisite for a middle-class lifestyle. And languishing academic attainment among a large portion of our population spells trouble for the prospects of continued economic growth. Unless more boys begin attending college, the nation may face a shortage of highly skilled workers in the coming decades.

I think the plumber from the highway (the one stranded with an empty tank) was the person who came to the door. The boss picked him up, brought him to our house and parked in the driveway, then waited in the driveway with the engine idling. This job should be quick. The boss waited; the worker unfurled a tool much like the one I had, fed the wire into the pipe, twisted, twisted, and was done. Eighty-three bucks. Fifteen minutes. With the same kind of tools I'd already used. Eye-twitches.

Tidied up the mess before coming back to Poe's article on the other gender gap. I thought, yeah, maybe I'll write for a while about that, even though I'm not seeking formal references for my entries, and I don't think of EWM as a referrent-type blog working by redirection or regularly (necessarily) pointing at interesting matters, out there, over there.

I put off this blog for most of the day, wondering about what else might end up here. Then the Atlantic Monthly listserv sent all of us subscribers a reminder that the JanFeb issue was out. Indeed it was. And all day, I've been wondering what this article means, what inspired it, what Poe thinks should happen. I'm not taking it so seriously, nor do I want to dismiss it, although that's my impulse in this case. I just can't get a grip on the idea that more boys need to attend college or the United States "may face a shortage of highly skilled workers in the coming decades." Guess I'm surprised to read about gender, the economy and the vocational service of educational institutions framed this way, since it challenges much of my own thinking on these issues.

I didn't put the hand auger back where I got it from. I left it on top of the cluttered workbench in the garage.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at January 16, 2004 9:28 PM to Slouching Toward