Life as a Grammar Janitor

Before our hamsters ate each other up and my Mom left the remaining cannibals out in the garage to die, I was fascinated by the little animals’ routines.

It went like clockwork. Wake up, pace on the wheel, drink from the water bottle, stuff cheeks with nutritious pellets, explore cage’s fun plastic tubes, bite owner’s hand when it reaches in, gather sawdust into comfy bed inside plastic house, curl up into ball and sleep. Repeat.

Years later, I would realize that I was just like the hamsters, only in a bigger cage without fun plastic tubes. It’s mildly depressing to wake up after noon, wash up, dress up, go to work, plow through abysmally written copy for 9 hours or more, go home and do the whole thing all over again the next day. Notice how I don’t run on a wheel.

Weber would be so proud of this self-conscious despair.

Just like any animal unhappy in its prison, I look for an escape. I read a stack of books on my dresser, as if the growing pile were an achievement. I watch an average of 30 films a month just to break the monotony. I make friends to feel relevant. All this because I have to combat the creeping feeling that I’m digging my way into an increasingly larger hole in which I’ve buried all my dreams — fulfilling relationships, graduate school, a stellar reporting career — for the moment.

What will I do with selective knowledge of currency agreements and cricket batting averages? What will I do with this increasingly formalistic view of texts? What will I do with the skill of writing around holes in a story? What will I do with this acute sense that I’ve failed to accomplish anything thus far?

Confronted with the same realization, I wonder if that’s why the hamsters decided to eat each other and their jelly-bean shaped rose-tinted babies (other than a lack of protein). Just that urge to destroy everything or self-destruct because you’ve stopped making meaning. But I’m not quite there yet. Almost.

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