More Stuff on Being a Girl in Automotive School

 

There were some things I didn’t cover in my last piece about my school experience so far. (For those who are curious about the academic front, I’m writing this on the day I took my first final and tomorrow I start a new class, and I don’t actually have a clue what subject it will be because the way things are done is that the class lists are pinned up on the bulletin board the DAY OF the new class, and that’s when you find out what subject it is and what classroom it’s in. Bizarro. In other news, I am a spoiled college kid.)

 

[UPDATE FROM THE FUTURE: My new class is Electronic Fundamentals or something to that effect, and we have shop in the morning with one instructor and classroom/theory in the afternoon with a different instructor, which makes zero sense from a student perspective, because the practical stuff we’re learning may or may not line up with what we’ll be tested on, since there’s no way to communicate exactly what each instructor is covering to the other and they don’t really coordinate. Oh well. I’m a smart cookie; I’ll figure it out.]

 

I don’t intend for this piece to be a huge essay, just some quick notes on what wasn’t covered last time, broken down into sections for your convenience!

 

 

Bathroom

 

There is one girls’ bathroom and one men’s bathroom for students. The girls’ bathroom has one toilet, one sink, one motion-sensing paper towel dispenser, and deliciously mango-scented air freshener. It is always locked, so girls have to go get a key from Student Services every day in order to open it. You can keep the key all day and return it after dismissal, but I forgot to do that on my first day, and now I just “forget” to do it, so I basically have my own key that I take to school every day so that I don’t have to constantly ask them for one. (Don’t worry; they have enough keys for the few girls in the program.) And the hassle of having to remember if I transferred the key from one uniform shirt to the other every day is so worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing that that bathroom is a heavenly slice of privacy.

 

It’s no secret that I love my solitude. The few minutes I spend in that bathroom each day are kind of my favorites. It can suck having to come out of it and promptly coming face to face with a dude who’s like, “Hey, beautiful,” which totally kills that wonderful bubble of comfort and privacy, but it’s also a place where I’ve run into some of the other girls in the program who needed to use the bathroom, and that’s great, because sisterhood, yo.

 

 

Clothes

 

We get button-down uniform shirts. Two of them for $46. With iron-on patches that can display our academic achievements.

 

The sizes on the paper that I could choose from at orientation were: Small, Medium, Large, XL, 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, and 6X. So, unsurprisingly, the admissions guy’s immediate reaction to me was, “I can see if they can order you an extra small?” Which I shot down and tried on the small. It’s ginormous and fits my body in exactly no places, but I knew that extra small wouldn’t be any better because in point of fact, no one has yet invented a button-down shirt that fits a body that is as hourglassish as mine. Take your pick: Boobs or waist — you get to pick a shirt that fits one, not both. This one fit neither, being too baggy at the waist and too small at the chest. None of this is a complaint, by the way; by not fitting in any way, shape, or form, my shirt basically serves as a reminder to me about how tiny and curvy I am, which I cannot find a way to spin into being a bad thing. And anyhow, I ain’t going to automotive school to be a fashionista so whatEVER.

Everyone wears shirts or tank tops under their uniform shirts (except one guy who our instructor has dubbed “The Phantom” because of his habit of just disappearing during the school day for hours at a time but that’s another story) so it’s not a big deal that my shirt doesn’t close over my chest and I wear t-shirts underneath every day. It puts my t-shirt collection to good use, that’s for sure.

 

We don’t get uniform pants. This is only a thing of importance to me because I don’t own a single pair of jeans. I have like one pair of sweatpants and a few pairs of leggings, and mostly any other pants I have are pajama pants. Hashtag Orthodox Jewish Girl Problems. I asked at registration and was told that for safety reasons, as I assumed, skirts are not recommended. So I put a post up on facebook asking if any friends of mine had old jeans that they thought might fit me, and some friends responded, but I still don’t have jeans because it turns out that even though I am a 6-8 in skirts/dresses, I am apparently probably something like a 10-12 in pants. Like I said, hourglassish. So if you’ve got size 10-12 ladies jeans lying around, email them to me! Much appreciated.

 

Obama will give you a thumbs up. Cross my heart.

 

But this hasn’t really been a problem so far. The first few days, I came to school wearing sweatpants or leggings underneath one of those ankle-length black skirts that I almost never wear in real life, and after the classroom portion of the day (i.e. all morning) I pulled off the skirt and went to the shop in pants/leggings. But then one day I forgot to change and no one noticed and the instructor didn’t care, so I stopped wearing the extra layer underneath (because it is NYC in the summer, gah) and just wear the same ankle-length black skirt every day for class and shop and no one gives a hoot. If we ever do something that’s physical enough to require pants, of course I’ll wear them, but for now I’ll stick with skirts because they are way better in summer heat and most of my non-skirt bottoms are not fit to be seen in public. And they totally don’t match my uniform shirt. (One of my pairs of leggings is like purple and shimmery. Went with the oversized navy button-down shirt super well. Not.)

 

Also the shirt has pockets. They’re breast pockets but it’s not like the shirt fits me so stuff in the pockets doesn’t actually look weird; it’s just part of the overall sloppy-mechanic-mess-look. Which means I carry stuff in my pockets all the time. This is awesome.

 

POCKETS! *drool*

 

Despite all this lack of anything resembling fashion, I get looks and I get hit on with regularity, simply because I am female. This really hammers home the fact that there really isn’t that much you need to do, looks-wise, to get a guy’s attention. They’ll probably notice you exist just because you’re a girl. If you want to hold that attention (which I don’t in this case), that’s where personality comes in. (I know I am saying this from a position of body/overall attractiveness privilege, because I fit into certain conventions of beauty, and that’s unfair. But I do think that being female has a lot more to do with it in this situation than being attractive. I’m not that attractive, especially not in school; I’m just an object of curiosity.)

 

More about this in . . .

 

Makeup

 

I have this policy of wearing makeup for the first few days of any new class/semester, in college and now in automotive school. The theory is that if that’s how I make my first impression, whatever glamour that first impression creates will cling to me for the duration that those people know me. This is a theory that I completely made up and is entirely unscientific because I have not attempted to research it in the slightest, but I don’t need to, because confidence is a head game that you play with yourself, so whatever works will work if you let it.

 

The biggest issue with this is that during each semester/course, you get to what I have internally dubbed the “band-aid day” — meaning, the day I rip off the metaphorical band-aid and show up with no makeup on. And Buzzfeed can tell me all they want that no one notices if you don’t wear makeup, but that is baloney. The first day I showed up without makeup, B. (of my previous post) did a double take and said, “Did you forget—” and stopped.

 

“Did I forget what?”

 

“Nothing. Never mind. You look great.”

 

Because nothing is so utterly transparent than giving a girl an unsolicited reassurance about how she looks after you just looked at her like she showed up wearing mud in her hair. Good one, B. And he proceeded on a few subsequent days to say things like, “You don’t get much sleep, do you?”

 

To which I was always tempted to respond, “None of your business but I get plenty of sleep; I’m just a pasty white girl with no consistent skin tone and I don’t feel like wearing makeup every day just so that I don’t look like a zombie.”

 

SM without makeup, an approximation.

 

But note that this did not deter him from continuing to hit on me, ask me to the movies, offer to take me places “if you’re good” (ugh). He has definitively used up all my goodwill at this point. Persistence is not sexy at all when it ignores and disrespects other people’s clearly-drawn boundaries. B. is fortunately not in my class right now; he’s in the diesel program and I’m in the automotive program, so we had that one intro class together but now we have separate classes. He still comes to find me during breaks and is like, “Can I get a hug??” and I’m like, “No.” And he laughs and says, “Handshake?” and so I shake his hand instead of telling him to get lost, because I’m super polite like that.

 

And similarly to how it works with the clothes, plenty of the other guys continue to hit on me and attempt to chat me up whether or not I am wearing makeup.

 

So to end this on a positive note, I can tell you that when it’s not incredibly annoying or creepy, the inane male attention has actually been a decent confidence boost/reinforcement for me. Like, if I can look like crap and get hit on constantly, then when I finally do get all gussied up and wear makeup and put on clothes I like that actually fit my body, I feel, like, super sexy. Like turbo-charged sexy, to use a car metaphor.

 

Va-VOOM.
Va-VOOM.

 


____

 

Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post 🙂

You can subscribe and get email updates by using that widget thing on the sidebar! Ain’t that neat?

 

 

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Why Cars?

 

Ah, the question everybody’s been asking ever since I, of all people, announced my intention to become an automotive technician/mechanic.

 

I could give you a lovely, oversimplified answer in the words of Roald Dahl:

 

“A gasoline engine is sheer magic,” he said to me once. “Just imagine being able to take a thousand different bits of metal — and if you fit them all together in a certain way — and then you feed them a little oil and gasoline — and if you press a little switch — suddenly those bits of metal will all come to life — and they will purr and hum and roar — they will make the wheels of a motor car go whizzing around at fantastic speeds . . .”

~ Danny the Champion of the World

 

But let’s be real; that’s not really why I’m doing it.

 

My reasons are far more nefarious, of course.

 

There were two major legs of this journey thus far: (1) deciding that I didn’t want a white collar job, and (2) deciding that out of the various blue collar trades I could choose, I wanted to try auto mechanics.

 

Why not white collar?

 

For years, literally years, possibly a decade or more, when people asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, I’d say, “Well, I write, but that’s not very lucrative, so at some point I’ll have to get a real job.”

 

Same answer from the time I was 14 until now. I probably even used the word “lucrative” in my answer back then too. People interpreted it jokingly (a 14-year-old with that much foresight about the ways of the world is always amusing), and I may have even meant it jokingly at first because I was young and surrounded by people who had no knowledge of what writing for a living actually entailed and so always told me that I could do it because I was talented. As if talent alone buys health insurance.

 

Yup.

 

As the years unfolded, my statement about having to get a real job that did not involve writing stayed the same, and people heard it the same way, as a joke, but I started to mean it more and more seriously. By the time I was in college, even though I had no qualms about majoring in Creative Writing, I knew that I did not want to write for a living, that I did not want to have to write book after book or article after article knowing that if I didn’t, I’d have no money and no food. I wanted writing to be something that I did because I wanted to, not because I had to. And the common supplemental jobs that even successful writers tended to have so that they wouldn’t have to depend solely on their writing for income were things that I had little interest in, like office work and teaching.

 

[I have had enjoyable office work experience, for the record, and if I like my coworkers and I like the atmosphere, I’m sure I could be quite content with it. But it feels like a backup, not a Plan A. As for teaching, being the daughter of two teachers has taught me that it is largely the most thankless job you can have, aside from perhaps umpires and referees, and I respect everyone who goes into the profession, but if I’d had a list of possible jobs, “teaching” would have been the very first one I crossed off.]

 

Early on in college, I also realized that I had zero interest in going to grad school. There was nothing I liked enough to study exclusively for two or three or four or five additional years while paying tons of money for the privilege. Medicine, law, business, philosophy, psychology, education, social work, math, engineering — I’d never even wanted an undergraduate degree in any of those; why would I suddenly want a Masters or a PhD? As for an MFA in Creative Writing . . . I knew I didn’t want to write for a living, or get a Masters degree in order to teach, so spending all that money and all that time held little appeal. It seemed like an obvious, conventional path that didn’t really lead anywhere that I personally wanted to go. (No disrespect meant to anyone who does get an MFA or two — you guys rock!)

 

Jesus approves.

 

I concluded in those early years of college that if I was in fact going to get “a real job,” it would be something that did not center on writing, or editing, or sitting in front of a computer screen, or even words at all. I didn’t want my job to tap into those particular creative juices and sap them, using them for the benefit of some company or corporation or publication, and not for my own.

 

And I also did not feel that doing something like that would be satisfying enough for me to do day in and day out. To sit at a desk, type on a computer, fill out paperwork, or work in a lab. Perfectly worthwhile and necessary occupations, and something I could probably be content with, but again, not something that felt like Plan A. And I didn’t want to do something that required me to be in constant contact with people, either, like a therapist or a social worker or an activist or anything like that. It’s not that I don’t think I have people skills, but I’d rather not have a job where that is 80% of the job description. That’s too emotionally exhausting. My emotional energy, like my word-related creative energy, is something I’d rather reserve for myself.

 

I wanted something totally separate, and very tangible. Something that would be gratifying because the accomplishments were visible and measurable and involved getting my hands dirty. I like working with my hands and fixing things, especially when other people can’t. And to me, that all added up to blue collar.

 

 

Why cars?

 

If you’d asked me two or three years ago, I’d have told you that when I finished with college, I was planning to go to trade school to become an electrician. It was an option arrived at mostly by process of elimination because being a plumber would involve poop and being a construction worker would probably require a lot more heavy lifting than my temperamental back can handle and there weren’t many options for carpentry training. Plus, I like wires, and electricity is pretty exciting.

 

I did a lot of research on electrician training in the New York City area, had a lot of tabs open and a lot of webpages bookmarked, and even decided on a school that I wanted to check out. I even called to find out their tuition and enrollment dates. This was back in the summer of 2013, after my graduation from college in June earlier that year.

 

But then I stalled. I was warned that it takes 8 years to get an electrician license in New York. I was warned that there was a lot of heavy lifting involved in being an electrician, too. But mostly I felt that the lack of specificity of “electrician” didn’t make me feel excited about all the possibilities therein, but rather, frustrated by how broad and unfocused and open-ended it all seemed. I started thinking back to other options I’d considered, like in my Hollywood hostel room on my January 2013 trip to do research for my book, when I’d curled up in bed with my laptop and spent a few hours looking into Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning programs and curriculums. HVAC didn’t really hold much interest for me, and the only local program I could find wouldn’t accept students with above-high-school-level education, but still, I felt a pull to invest in something more specialized.

 

this showed up when I google-image searched for “specific” and who am I to argue with google

 

I decided to put things on hold for a little while. Give myself time to mull it over a bit more. And so I decided to work on my novel for three months, see if I could finish it, see how far I’d get, and put trade school on the back burner.

 

This didn’t go 100% as planned. I kept getting distracted by the constant pressure my mother started putting on me to get a job or decide on trade school, and I spent more time surfing the internet doing research and looking at all my options and bookmarking more sites about electricians, HVAC, plumbers helpers, etc, than I spent writing.

 

My mother had also spoken to our appliance repairman, and he’d suggested looking into the field of home automation because the cables were thinner and lighter and would be less taxing on me physically. So I looked into that, but not with the utmost enthusiasm, because it felt to me like the kind of people who are automating their homes — installing security cameras, motion sensors, remote locking/unlocking systems that can be accessed from your phone — are a very particular niche, and of a fairly high socio-economic class, and I didn’t want my services to be SO specific, limited only to moderately wealthy people who want to protect their stuff. I totally support them wanting to protect said stuff; I’d just rather let someone else do it. I wanted to be specialized, but not that specialized.

 

I can’t really remember at what point in the process did it first hit me that, “You know what’s really cool? AIRPLANES.” I’d always thought airplanes were pretty awesome, but I’d never really considered them a possibility, careerwise. Why? No real reason, honestly. Just that the idea seemed so huge and out there and absurd, even more so than working in other trades, especially for a woman, that my brain didn’t really acknowledge the concept.

 

But apparently I’d reached a point where I said to myself, “Self, just let the ideas run wild. No idea is too stupid, too crazy, too impossible. Don’t dismiss something offhand just because it’s huge or you don’t know anyone else who does it or because everyone’s going to tell you that it’s no place for a tiny little girl. There’s never going to be a better time to try something. Life is only going to get more complicated from here on out, so the time is now.”

 

“The way I figure it, we are all entitled to one really big, incredibly stupid screw-up in our lives. Maybe this is one of those. We’ll see.” ~Michael Garibaldi

 

So I arrived at: “Airplanes are coooooooool.”

 

Then came: “You know what’s cooler than airplanes? FIXING airplanes.”

 

And I looked into training options for that and couldn’t really find anything in my area, although there were a number of posts on job sites for “entry-level mechanics” at the local airports, JFK, Laguardia, and Newark. But they required knowledge of tools and other basic experience, not to mention a driver’s license, so while I considered applying, it didn’t seem like the best idea.

 

Then: “What makes airplanes so cool?”

 

“It’s this big giant machine with a bajillion moving parts that all add up to basically magic.” (This is where that Danny the Champion of the World quote comes back around.)

 

“You know what else are big giant machines with a bajillion moving parts that all add up to basically magic?”

 

“CARS.”

 

So I started looking into that, and lo and behold there were trade schools for it within commuting distance from my house. I researched them online, requested information, talked with them on the phone, arranged campus tours, got free swag, waffled some more (I plan to write a future post about how I chose between the two programs I was looking at), spoke to graduates of the programs (male and female), decided that I wanted to enroll in May, and finally did it, student loan and payment plan and all.
 

*

 

People have told me that they find it inspiring that I’m following my dream. That’s kind of awkward to hear, because I don’t know if cars, and potentially ultimately airplanes, are my dream. I don’t always know why I’m doing this. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it for the same reasons a lot of people go to law school — they don’t what else to do.

 

But I know it’s certainly not anyone else’s dream for me, given the number of people who’ve told me outright or implied that they’re disappointed that I’m not pursuing writing, or radio, or whatever else brilliant college-educated young women are supposed to do. And if it’s not anyone else’s dream, it must be mine, right?

 

All I really know is that 1) it’s the first stage of my education that I have had control over from start to finish, because no one else would ever have chosen this for me, and 2) today I assisted with an oil change and checked a car’s hoses and belts and fluids and got my hands covered with grease and I feel fantastic.

 

I’ll keep you posted.

 

____

 

Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post 🙂

 

Just designed the coolest free business card. Because I CAN.

I mean look at it. Aside from the pixelation of this image, it is perfection.

FIIIIIIIIRE.
___
Think this card is the bomb? Like my posts? Consider donating and commissioning more of them, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading!

Project “Help SM Keep Writing While She Becomes an Automotive Technician”

(honk if you turned your head sideways to see this pic better)

As you may or may not be able to see from the picture, I am a petite 24-year-old Jewish girl with a degree in Creative Writing, who wants to pursue a very different sort of career. I considered many options and decided that I want to work with cars and/or airplanes. Not designing them or engineering them, but actually working on them with my actual hands. And my research to this point leads me to believe that my best option for getting started building those skills is to enroll in one of the Certified Automotive Technician programs in my area. Since I know basically nothing about cars except for some socio-cultural connotations of certain brands (humanities major ftw!), this will be an adventure.

The thing is, once they stop laughing, most people who know me and hear about this plan are concerned, some for my sanity, some for my safety, but overwhelmingly they are concerned about my writing. “How can you not pursue writing as a career? You have such a gift!” and “Please promise me you won’t ever stop writing” are fairly common reactions. (For context, here’s my Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/smrosenberg, my blog: www.smrosenbergblog.wordpress.com, and various  other posts of mine around the interwebs.)

So to accommodate that concern, I’ve set up this campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive and this email address: smautomotive00@gmail.com. The idea is that if you donate, you are eligible to send me a topic to write about, which I will post on my wordpress blog. This way, I will have an influx of ideas and inspiration AND a reason to write. (Only nonfiction requests; I want to keep my fiction juices geared toward the novel I’ve been working on.) You are free to donate as much or as little as you want, although of course those who donate more will get priority. If you do donate and make a request, PLEASE use the email address and not facebook or any alternate method of communication; it will be so much easier for me to keep track of things if they are all in one place and not scattered across communication platforms.

This is the program I’ve selected: http://www.nyadi.com/portfolio/certified-automotive-technician/  The tuition and fees come to about $16,000 ($50 registration fee, $14,800 tuition, $1000 for tools, $75 for books, $46 for uniforms, $3 ID tag) not including transportation and living expenses, so rest assured, I can use any donations you can spare. Be aware that GoFundMe takes 7.9% of the total + 30 cents per donation, so I’m not getting everything you give.

RULES:

You can pick any topic you want! You can ask me to write about why I decided to do this, my top ten TV shows, or about how I do my hair — I don’t care! I am the final arbiter of what I am and am not comfortable with and if you email me a topic that I won’t write about, I’ll ask you to pick another. I can’t guarantee length or word count (except in specific instances of $15 donations and $150 donations – see reward levels on the GoFundMe page) or time frame, but I will try to write at least 100 words on whatever topics you choose, no matter how ridiculous. I will notify you by email when your topic has been posted. ALSO: Let me know in your email if you want to be credited in the post by name or by a username as the donor of the topic, or if you want to be completely anonymous.

You can ask me to watch and review an episode of television if you donate $25 or more! (I’ll let you know if I think your requested episode is too spoilery for me to watch and let you pick an alternative.)

You can ask me to review a movie if you donate $50 or more ($65 if the movie is currently playing in theaters, because theaters are expensive)!

You can ask me to read and review a book if you donate $75 or more! Be nice, though; try to make it something I might like. And around 300 pages or less? I can be flexible! But I am gonna be in school, you know.

If you donate $100 or more. . .*drumroll please*. . . you can pick a song that I have to sing at least one minute of (if it’s not too filthy) and upload to my SoundCloud account: www.soundcloud.com/floatingspirals. Seriously. I really hope nobody does this.

At $150, I will write you 1000 words on whatever topic you pick (provided that it’s something I’m okay with writing about)! Some of those words may wind up being nonsense words, but still, they will be words!

At $500, you get whatever you want, basically.

The first topic request costs as little as $1, but if you’re going to request multiple topics (which you totally can; go for it!), I ask that you donate more than that. $5 – $10 per topic? Use your best judgment.

If you have any further questions, email me at smautomotive00@gmail.com or tweet at me @FloatingSpirals on twitter.

And if you can’t think of anything to request, donate anyway! I will accept your money! ALL YOUR MONEY. You can always request a topic later. Every dollar counts! If you never got me a birthday present — this is it.

Look at the cute little widget I set up! How cool is that?

Links to the writing samples I linked above, in case you’re curious:

http://boylanblog.tumblr.com/post/34574365681/currently-eating

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sm-rosenberg/on-no/10151777996233186

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/10/teen-fiction-knowing_n_1870971.html

http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2014/01/27/pinch-hitting-sm-rosenberg/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sm-rosenberg/heavy/10150827187218186

http://boylanblog.tumblr.com/post/49763062122/intern-magic-hat

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL: Donations are a gift. As such, I absolutely do not expect donations from any of you, so I don’t want you to feel guilty if you can’t give or don’t want to. Guilt is a powerful motivator, but if it means people start feeling awkward around me because they haven’t donated, or if they start feeling resentful of me for putting them on the spot, that’s obviously really really bad. I’d rather have your friendship and your respect than your money. (Of course I’d love both, but if all you can/want to give me is words of encouragement or support, or sharing it around to others who might be interested instead, I will be touched nonetheless.) I will try not to be a jerk about this, and if I do ask you, “Hey, did you see the GoFundMe I started???” please understand that I’m not trying to pressure you into donating; that’s just me being really excited about this whole project, the automotive school and the writing. Because I am PSYCHED. Also terrified. But psyched.

Hugs to all of you.