by Snezana Zabic
When I got home this afternoon, I made myself some instant miso soup, a salad of mixed greens, and I microwaved the mushroom- and ricotta-filled pasta from yesterday. For dessert, I tried a matcha cream mochi which, once out of the container and bitten into, didn’t look like the morsel pictured on the package, which lured me at Seafood City earlier today, and it didn’t approach the taste I had imagined. When I see pretty pictures in aisles lit with fluorescence, I forget I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth.
My hunger satiated, I was free to do whatever I pleased. It being the first day of class for one of my online courses, my first thought was that I’d check out the discussion board. Then I remembered my resolution: no teaching or grading at home. So I got up and filled a canvas tote–a book, a notebook, a pencil, my phone, and a very old and seemingly indestructible 100% polyester serape I bought at a Goodwill back in my grad school years–and headed to Loyola Beach to wait for the dusk there. After a short walk down my leafy street, I was face to face with the lake, the red sun hanging low and warming my back. It took me a while to realize that the seagull a few feet away from me wasn’t a contemplative loner, taking a few steps here, a few steps there, but that his or her wing was deformed, most likely out of commission.
Just a week from today, all of my other fall courses will have started. In addition to the online course for the University of Maryland, I teach in physical classrooms at Loyola University Chicago, Malcolm X College, and at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, a private high school. I’m a part of the statistic that says that about 75% of higher ed faculty are non-tenure-track, usually not full time, and usually with no benefits (check all three for me). Most of us patch together a very busy working schedule out of several very part-time gigs.
At the moment, I am content. My spousal comrade does have a full-time job with benefits, and that includes our health, vision, and dental insurance. I have to pay the full price for my part of the insurance premium, but the coverage is still cheaper and more comprehensive than Obamacare would be for someone like me. We even enjoy what we do more than most workers in today’s economy.
As an adjunct, I don’t get an office at any of the institutions where I teach, I just get access to a desk for a few hours a week, so I used to take it for granted that I’d do most of my prep and grading at home.
But I decided to no longer let my precarious work invade the 600 sq ft Nick and I share. At home, I’ll work on what I call my own stuff, from editing Packingtown Review to writing my poetry, prose, and songs, to playing guitar. No money is involved in these endeavors, no employers or employees or customers, just friends making something out of nothing.
I have a small, light laptop, and the city will be this adjunct’s office from now on: I’ll prep and grade in libraries, cafes, and museums. It’s where you’ll find all of us gig-economy, service-industry, get-your-hands-dirty, “creative-industry” lumpen proletarians: making you drinks, checking you in and out, cleaning your public spaces, grading your papers, answering your emails. Today, after my eye exam, I went to City News Cafe where Donna makes the best pour-over in the city, served with two of her famous truffles. Tomorrow, it will be the Museum of Contemporary Arts, free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays.
Let’s see how long all of this will last.