Updated: Jul 20, 2019
Well, it happened. I got tagged as a "Grandparent" by Google. It was a perfectly nice picture, too - Sophie and I had matching salmon shirts on, both clearly purchased by Janette, so the snap went into the phone, got docked into the mother ship, and along with the suggested keywords "People," "Face," "Human," "Skin," Fun," and "Smile," Google Photos came up with "Grandparent." What's next? "Bald Coot" and "Bags Under Eyes"? Why not go all the way with "Depressed" and "Peaky"?
This is not the first time Google has lied about me. As I write, three Bexley mothers are uncertain about letting their young children take piano lessons from me because of the other thing that comes up under my name. Don't Google it - it just improves its SEO (Search Engine Optimization, for you non-bloggers). I have a troll who does that for me anyway. It would be helpful if someone could add keywords to that piece of mischief, like "Lies," "Never Happened," "Administrative Overreach" (that's not mine, it's the lawyer who was Chair of the Department at the time - she was so incensed by the information she was given by the University that she agreed to write on my behalf), or "WTAF?" (don't Google that either). In Bridge of Spies, the U-2 Pilot is inconsolable, having had his release engineered by the person played by Tom Hanks. "No one will ever forgive me for what they think I've done," he sobs in the empty cargo plane. "It doesn't matter what other people think," says Tom Hanks magnificently. "You know what you did."
I know in my deep heart's core (that's an Easter Egg for you poet types) that I didn't create an unsafe work environment for anyone. I sometimes fret about the Bexley Moms and their ilk. But it's not as if I'm going to lose much - lessons are only $10 an hour for children. And if they are the kind of people who can be turned off by googling a worthless piece of rubbish, they aren't people whose children I would enjoy teaching. If everyone reading this could go over to my website and hit a few links, that would be super. There's a link to Sophie's Offensive Player of the Year video that needs the sound on to be properly appreciated. Click away to your heart's content. Build a firewall for truth and decency. Once that shit goes to page 2 no one will ever find it.
Interviewing for a job as a Care Specialist at Riverside, I was asked the definitive trick question: "Have you ever failed at anything?" I laughed hollowly. "Me?" I said. "I'm the poster child of failure." They didn't give me the job, probably because I then proceeded to give them an account of what actually happened, right down to the bit about being "high on Oxycontin at the time." (Pro tip - that's not a good line when interviewing for a job in the hospital system.) I rather enjoy being a pariah - you get far less e-mail, and you know immediately who your friends are (props to the first one, who came straight down in a motorcycle from his house in Smith Place and took me out for a drive in the country). But sometimes, like when I'm mistaken for a grandparent by a photo service, I wish I could have those years of torment back. I know they've made me stronger. I know that I couldn't have written At Fault without them. And I know I wouldn't have left my University if it had believed its precepts and tried to discover a truth deeper than the dawn of Title IX. (Another Easter Egg!) I got a lovely review of At Fault the other day. It said "he indicts the current pusillanimous academic ethos" (go! go!) that is "responsible for the scourging of a friend." Not quite.
So, yes, I've failed at some things. I failed to have my moral center cauterized by a turn of events that would make a black swan look like Snow White. I failed to fight for my reputation when the University went full-on Crucible. (Adeleke Adeeko gave me the best advice at the time: "When the colonialists have you," he said, "the first thing to realize is that you cannot win.") And yes, I would really like to be a grandparent someday. Hint, hint...