Month: March 2014

Skindustry Expo Outing: The Art of Bro-ing, Dude-ing, and Man-ing

Skindustry Expo

Skindustry  Expo, http://www.skindustryexpo.com/

Transcriptions

On Sunday, March 23, 2014, Susette (a classmate) and I traveled up to Allentown, PA to attend the Skindustry Expo. The day started off with a kink when we arrived at the Holiday Inn and noticed how barren the lobby was. When we asked the front desk clerk where the tattoo expo was, she indicated that we were at “the wrong hotel” and that where we needed to be was “only twenty minutes away.”

Once we navigated our way out of downtown Allentown, which Susette mentioned looked like “one of those places in movies where you don’t want to get lost,” and found our way onto a main road, we relaxed for the “only” twenty minute drive.

When we pulled into the correct Holiday Inn, our reservations about finding the right place were alleviated: unlike the desolate, leaky parking garage in which we had previously parked (which would, in fact, make a great scene for a horror movie), this parking lot was packed with cars and civilization.

The weather was chilly and the wind blew around us as we walked up to the Holiday Inn Conference Center. The sun was hidden behind the clouds, and a grayish color seemed to splash across our surroundings. As we got closer to the automatic sliding door entrance of the hotel, I noticed that there were several people clumped together smoking.

When we walked inside, two things were clear: my lungs, and the fact that we were in the right place. Besides the countless people milling around holding drinks and bearing tattoos, a big sign read “Skindustry Expo.” To the left was a bar with nice, modern chairs surrounding it. To the right behind double glass doors was a bar/restaurant. In order to get inside the expo, we needed to walk straight ahead and to the left.

Susette and I both paid a $15 entrance fee (after Susette stopped at the inside ATM), and a tall man with lots of tattoos put a neon yellow wristband around each of our wrists. We then walked into the main room.

Immediately, my ears were enveloped in the buzz, buzz, buzz of tattoo machines. The plunge inside was overwhelming. Everywhere I looked, there were people getting tattooed: arms, legs, torsos, back. The room itself was small, and the effect was cramping. I was transfixed.

Each tattoo shop had its own booth, and most shops had signs displaying their name hanging on the cloth dividers between each booth. Susette and I decided that we would start to the right.

Mike & Co. sign as displayed at the expo

Mike & Co. sign as displayed at the expo, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Tattoo/125998317447586

At the first booth we went to (Mike and Co), there were two artists behind the booth: one white male who looked to be in his fifties, and one Hispanic male who looked to be around twenty. The older male had dark brown and gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, and the younger male had thick, black curly hair. We first spoke with the older tattoo artist who, in addition to being in the middle of giving a man in his fifties a shoulder tattoo, displayed black shirts that read “Tattooed and Employed.” The man, who we would later learn was Mike, asked us where we were from. Once we told him the Philly area, Susette asked him if he had any of the “Tattooed and Employed” t-shirts in a smaller size. (All that was there were larges and extra-larges.) He told her that whatever was out was what he had and suggested that she could wear it as a nightgown and laughed.

We continued walking around the room checking out the various tattoo booths set up. There was one man getting a tattoo who was laying on his stomach while a tattoo artist was tattooing the back of his right leg. I noticed that his left leg was completely covered in tattoos. He was wearing dark shorts that came down just past his knee, and there was no skin exposed that was not covered in ink.

Susette and I continued walking around, and we checked out another booth’s display of past tattoos and sketches. We continued this process for several booths. One of the tattoo booths refereed us to a booth across from them, which was a tattoo removal company, suggesting that we “just talk to them because they are awesome.”

Susette struck up a conversation with one of the men behind the booth who explained that he was a doctor. He was of solid build, mid-thirties, and white. There was a video being displayed of the laser removal process and he went over how it works, how many sessions it would take, how much money it costs per session, etc. Susette showed him a tattoo that she was interested in having faded (not entirely removed), and he explained specifics of it to her. We both took his card and continued walking.

Mr. Blue Sky Tattoos - hand-made tattoo machines on display during the expo

Mr. Blue Sky Tattoos – hand-made tattoo machines on display during the expo

The expo was set up in such a way that there were two main aisles and thus three strips of tattoo booths. After we hit the entire first aisle closest to the back of the room, we ventured onto the middle aisle. We came across a booth (Mr. Blue Sky Tattoo) where they had tattoo machines on display that they had hand crafted and painted. It was an impressive assortment. I asked the man if he was okay with me taking the picture, and he encouraged me to do so. We struck up conversation for a little, mostly asking where we all were from, and continued walking after paying him and the machines another compliment.

Susette, at this point, expressed an interest in going back to the Mike and Co stand (where the Tattooed and Employed shirts were) to get a quote for how much a tattoo she was interested in getting would be. On the car ride up, she told me she was thinking of making an appointment for getting a tattoo done this coming Saturday, but, she expressed, she might get it done here if it was a good price.

When we got back to the booth, the younger Hispanic male asked her to write out the exact tattoo that she wanted. He spoke with an accent that was hard to place. She wrote it down, and he told us to give him about ten minutes while he sketched something out. We killed time by walking around and noticed that one of the booths, in addition to having their past work on display, also displayed their 2013 License and a CPR certificate. I looked to Susette on this, and she said that she had never seen booths display those things before.

We then went to another booth and while we were looking at their pictures, one of the artists broke in. He pointed to a tattoo and asked us if we got the joke: it was a picture of a rooster that was being hanged and was around the shin area. The man continued, “It’s a tattoo of a cock that hangs below the knee,” and began laughing. The person who was getting tattooed, evidently, was the wearer of that particular tattoo, and he laughed, too, and pointed to it on his leg. He was currently in the middle of getting another tattoo. We smiled and walked away not long after that.

We went back to Mike and Co. where the design was ready. The young male had gotten one of the words wrong. Instead of reading, “Great writers are the saints of the godless,” he had sketched, “Great writers are the saints for the greatless.” Susette told him the word was wrong, and he asked, “Oh, what should it be?” He got a new piece of paper and redid the sketch.

While he redid the sketch, we both noticed a woman with double sleeves. She was very attractive: she had on bright red lipstick, heavy eyeliner, and short brown hair that curled under. She wore bright red pants and a black top with white pinstripes coming down. Susette commented that she liked how she wore tattoos but was also still really feminine. I agreed. She was with, we later determined, the man with his leg covered in tattoos.

When the sketch was ready, Susette analyzed it and said that she loved it. She asked if he could add a quill to the sketch, and, when he did not know what she meant (it was hard to hear), she pulled up a picture of it on her phone. He added it to the design and made it look like the quill was writing the sketch. He asked if she wanted the writing in black and red, and Susette said, “I wanted everything black and white.”

While they spoke about the tattoo, I looked around and noticed all of the different hair colors present: there were people with green hair, people with blue hair, men with beards that went down past their chest, gauges, piercings under eyes, piercings on the back of necks, etc. I looked back at the tattoo artist and Susette.

The young tattoo artist, let’s call him A, showed a sketch of what he had done and said, “Mike, what do you think?” Mike said, “What do you think?” A said, “I don’t know that’s why I’m asking you.” “Yeah, I know,” Mike said, “I would say no less than two and a quarter.”

Paperwork Susette signed before the tattoo process began

Paperwork Susette signed before the tattoo process began

Finally, they settled on $200.

While A finished the stenciling, Susette pointed out to me that all of the needles were wrapped and that everything was in plastic bags for sanitary purposes. We looked around the booth and noticed that they had one chair. Susette said that she would have to lie down since she was getting the tattoo on her hip, and we wondered how they were going to work it out. Eventually, A went and got three extra chairs from the hotel and set them up in a row. He put down purple sanitary paper and made a makeshift table.

A sanitized Susette’s hip and placed the purple sheet underneath her jeans to respect her privacy. He set out four ink dips: three were black ink, and one was white ink. A unwrapped everything he needed from its plastic covering. He told Susette as she was laying down that she would need to put her arm over her head.

A white male who seemed to be in his late thirties came over to the booth with his son. His son looked to be about four or five years old and had a shaved head and was sucking on a lollipop. The man admired the “Tattooed and Employed” shirts and asked how much they were. When he paid Mike the $20, the man looked at the shirt and said, “Love it.” They walked away.

 

A working on Susette

A working on Susette

Susette and I had previously agreed that we were dying of thirst. It was taking A a little longer than we thought to prep everything, and when he left to grab some paper towels, I went and got two waters at the bar. When I came back, A was in the process of starting the tattoo.

I did my best to crane my neck and see what was going on without being a distraction for A. By now, the constant buzzing of the tattoo machine had become a familiar sound in the background. Susette had her arm over her head, and she was turned away from A so that he could have the best angle possible.

He continued working diligently: he would complete strokes and rub the excess ink away with a paper towel that was getting continuously blacker. At one point, Mike looked over to check on the tattoo and made a face that seemed to say, “Nice work.” I got the vibe that A was more of an “apprentice” due to how Mike was giving him feedback and, sometimes, instructions. For example, at one point, Mike said, “Dude, if you can’t see her, you have to turn her.” A nodded his head. Mike then said to the tattoo artist at the next booth (who was inches away from Susette), “Bro, turn your light on for him, if you don’t mind, since you don’t have anyone right now.” The man nodded his head, turned his light on, and repositioned it so that the light fell over Susette, giving A a better view.

Susette's tattoo in the works

Susette’s tattoo in the works

As A continued to work, I wondered how Susette was dealing with the pain. She seemed to be doing alright, alternating between tapping her foot and pursing her lips. The tattoo was progressing nicely. A was clearly in the zone and was doing an outstanding job. He did the black ink first and then went back and added white shading in.

When he went to the quill and started shading it in, I knew that A was working on a painful area. Mike had said, Just wait til he gets to the quill area on her stomach. Ouch. A continued to work, rubbing on some type of ointment over the tattoo as he worked.

While A continued working, the next booth over had a customer who was getting a flower design on her right foot. She was in her early thirties, white, and had short red hair. She was with someone who may have been her husband and her son. Her son was about four years old. She hopped up on their bed and the tattoo artist who had turned on the light for A began stenciling in the rose. He kept the light where it was: it was covering both Susette and his own client.

When the man had finished the rose tattoo, which did not take long at all considering Susette was at least two hours in, (hers took perhaps twenty minutes), her son hopped up on the table after the tattoo artist had sterilized it. The woman who had gotten the rose tattoo asked her son if he was ready for his own tattoo. He shook his head yes. The tattoo artist sketched out a tattoo of a shin dagger, and his parents laughed as they told him to pull up his pant leg. He did, and the tattoo artist put the stenciling on his shin, rubbed it with a damp paper towel, and took it off. Someone walked by and said, “Welcome to the dagger club!”

His parents asked him how he liked his “tattoo,” and the boy said he liked it. His mom told him that he could show it off to all of his friends at school. He hopped down, and they left.

At this point, A had been working for about two hours at the tattoo. I stood the entire time trying to get a good view of the work. Occasionally, Mike, who was still working on the man with the shoulder tattoo, had to come out of the booth, and I had to maneuver myself so he could walk by, and then maneuver myself again so that he could get back in.

The finished product! "Great writers are the saints for the godless." Tattoo by A from Mike & Co.

The finished product! “Great writers are the saints for the godless.” Tattoo by A from Mike & Co. Picture thanks to Susette.

Finally, the tattoo was complete. A gave Susette a mirror and showed her the work. The tattoo did look great, and Susette said, “It looks amazing.” He took a few pictures of the tattoo and then covered it with a paper towel.

Susette stood up, and I asked her how she felt. She said horrible, and I told her that she did a great job. She paid Mike, and we walked away. I asked Susette if she wanted any food before we left the expo. We were both okay, so after Susette used the bathroom, we walked out to the car. It was around five-thirty, and the expo was closing at six.

Susette indicated that that was the most painful tattoo she had ever gotten, but she was very happy with the final product. As we drove away, we agreed that it had been an exhausting day. I said that even I was exhausted and I wasn’t the one who got a tattoo! Yawning, I realized that it had been a great day.

 

Jottings, page 1

Jottings, page 1

Jottings, pages 2-3

Jottings, pages 2-3

Jottings, pages 4-5

Jottings, pages 4-5

Jottings, page 6

Jottings, page 6

 

Scene

As Susette and I were making the rounds, we walked over to one of the booths and began thumbing through their portfolio. One of the artists came over and asked how we were doing. After we said we were just looking, he told us that the guys across from them are “pretty awesome” and that we should go over and talk to them just because of how awesome they are.

We looked and saw that they were a tattoo removal booth, and since Susette was interested in getting one of her tattoos faded so that a new tattoo could go over it, we walked over.

go! tatoo removal logo

go! tatoo removal logo

The name of the company was “go! tattoo removal.” Their slogan was, “Kids are forever. Tattoos don’t have to be.” There were two workers behind the booth, and there was a television showing the laser removal process. There was a thick crowd of people when we first got there, and we waited off to the side. When the crowd thinned, we moved in, and a man of solid build came over to us. He was in his mid-thirties, had short, brown hair, no tattoos, and was attractive.

He indicated that he was a doctor and that this was his laser (he pointed to the screen). Susette showed him her tattoo that she was interested in having faded. He informed us that black and red ink fade out the fastest, and after analyzing her tattoo, he told her that it would take about 2-5 sessions to fade. He said each session could take anywhere from 35 seconds to one minute.

Susette showed him a small tattoo on her finger that she was interested in getting removed, and he said that he could do that, too, at “no extra charge.”

The man was very informative and told her that he thought her tattoo would fade very nicely, but he said, “I believe in planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” While he thought maybe two sessions was all she might need, he said, “I would never want you to put that in your expectations.” He continued to explain that the fact that she was young and thin was working to her advantage to having the tattoo removed faster. He also said the fact that the tattoo was mostly black was working in her favor, too, since black fades the fastest.

He continued going over how the laser works, saying “Our laser doesn’t damage skin” since heat can aggravate the skin.

Susette was happy that the price was so good. She informed the man that her doctor had told her that it could cost about $500 a session to get her tattoo removed. The man professionally disagreed saying that her doctor needs to do his research. He was charging $125 a session (if she were to get it done today), but a typical session cost $150. He encouraged her to get a $50-off coupon for when she decides to come up and get it done.

We thanked the man and walked away, agreeing that he was very knowledgeable and had a great price.

Reflection 

During the outing, I learned what it was like to be, what felt like, the only person without a tattoo in a room. As the sounds of the tattoo machines buzzed away, I tried to gain familiarity with my surroundings. As Susette and I walked around, I absorbed the wide variety of people: green hair, blue hair, gauges, men with beards down to their stomachs, etc. I’ve seen it all before, but not housed together in one room. It was quite overwhelming at first.

I think I mentally clung to Susette. She was my link to the people in the room. If anyone asked, she was my friend with the tattoos. See? I belong here.

I learned a few things about tattoos from the outing. For starters, from speaking with a doctor at a tattoo removal booth, I learned that the ink color that will fade the fastest and is, therefore, the easiest color to remove during tattoo removal is black. I would have thought a lighter color would be easier. I also learned that tattoo machines can be hand made. As crazy as it sounds, I assumed that factories turned out tattoo machines, picturing them sliding out on a conveyer belt. One of the tattoo artists had several of his own hand-made tattoo machines out on display, and they were impressive. He was proud of them, and he should have been. I was surprised to see that there were children attending the event with their parents. A venue like this, where profanity and crude language swirled through the air, was not a place where I expected young children to be, taking it all in. Yet, they were there, and I did not judge their parents, but I made a mental note that this would not be an event where I would take my children.

It wasn’t until I returned from the expo that I realized how many times I heard “bro,” “dude,” and “man” used over the course of the day, mostly when men were speaking to other men. It was to the point that I did not write it down in my jottings, but from re-visualizing the event, these terms came to the forefront of my mind.

Questions that I still have: I am still trying to discover the motivation behind putting something on your body that is so permanent. Is it the meaning behind the tattoo that drives people or is it the look and what it says about you that drives people? I hope to find out more about this during my research.

Next, I will be visiting a local tattoo parlor in South Jersey. I hope that speaking with a tattoo artist one-on-one (even though I did this at the event, there was a lot going on, and it was hard to have a real conversation) will help illuminate some of my questions.

The outing was successful in that it was full immersion: it does not get any more interactive with large crowds of people getting tattooed out in the open for everyone to see. At first, I was scared to look at the people getting tattooed simply out of respect. I wanted to give them privacy. It became quite clear, though, that they did not care at all about this. You don’t get tattooed at an expo for privacy, I quickly learned. It was interesting to see the different places people were getting tattooed—on the foot, arm, hip, back, shoulder, calf, etc. It was great to see all of these people getting tattooed in different places and the different positions that they had to have their body in to get the tattoo completed.

If I went to an expo again, I would make it a point of talking more with people. While we struck up conversation with different tattoo artists, I would like to get the chance to talk more with them. (Of course, that was hindered because they were busy either tattooing, working on a sketch, or speaking with customers.) It would have been great to speak to someone getting a tattoo and getting down to the motivation behind it. My shyness crept over me, and I did not want to do anything but observe. Now that I’ve warmed up to the overall atmosphere of tattoos, I think I would be more willing to step outside of my comfort zone and strike up a conversation.

The portions of the reading that helped guide my field notes were from Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. The book indicates not to write down opinions of people (such as the scene where the man was “crazy”), but, rather, writing down objective details, like the color of his shirt, his beard, etc. Throughout the entire experience, I made sure I wrote down facts and not opinions. This helped my fieldnotes because when I reviewed them, I was able to clearly picture the person and was not influenced by my feelings at the time when I wrote them. Had I had formed an opinion about someone early into the outing without really knowing anything about the culture, I would be portraying an inaccurate picture. Had I seen that same person at the end of the outing, I may not have written down such an opinion with a new awareness in mind. So, not wanting to jump to conclusions, I wrote down only the facts, and when I looked at my notes later, I had a clear image without opinions clouding my vision.

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Online Preparation Post

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

For my online interview, I will be sending Carol a list of questions via e-mail by Wednesday, March 26. I am interviewing Carol because she has tattoos and is not an educator. Since my two in-person interviews are both of people in the education field (a teacher and an administrator), interviewing someone in a different career will provide a new perspective on the issue.

Carol has tattoos of her own, and her son is a tattoo artist. I posted the following Facebook status: “Tattoo lovers! If anyone knows someone with tattoos who would be willing to answer a few questions for my research on tattoos for grad school, please let me know  Thanks!” A colleague of mine saw the status and referred me to a friend of hers, Carol, and Carol’s son, a tattoo artist. My colleague provided me with Carol’s e-mail address, and I e-mailed Carol explaining the circumstance. Carol was all too happy to help and recommended I interview her since her son is extremely busy.

I chose to use e-mail because it works well with both of our busy schedules. After I posted my Facebook status, I had four people (who I knew) respond that they would be interested. Even though I knew them already and could not use them for the online interview, I thanked them and sent them questions via Facebook messaging. I included my e-mail address and gave them the option to send me the answers either through Facebook messenger or through e-mail. Three of them e-mailed me back (I have yet to hear from one person), and I was impressed with how freely they spoke to me about their tattoos. I, therefore, felt very confident in e-mail as the medium for divulging information. As such, in an e-mail, Carol will be able to tell me as much as she wants, and e-mail gives her time to construct her answers as well as the freedom to have some control over her responses.

Courtesy Google Images

Courtesy Google Images

When thinking of the interview in terms of Postmodern Interviewing, the chapter “From the Individual Interview to the Interview Society” points out an interesting concept: the interviewer needs to have a “caring and concerned attitude, expressed within a well-planned and encouraging format.” Much of the research I have done thus far has not necessarily had a “format.” I knew a focus, but there was not an outline. E-mail will lend itself to crafted questions that clearly display a well-planned format. There will still be room for “going where the wind takes me,” in regard to follow up questions.

The following are the questions that I will be sending to Carol. (Depending on her responses, I will also send follow up questions via e-mail.)

  •          Tell me about your tattoos (how many, location, what they are, the meaning behind them, etc.)
  •          Tell me about your experience while getting tattooed (painful, were the tattoo artists friendly, etc.)
  •          At what shops have you gotten your tattoos? How did you find your artist?
  •          What is your career? Has having tattoos affected your professional career? How so?
  •          How do people typically react when they see your tattoo(s)?
  •          Do you ever feel the need to hide your tattoo(s), and if so, in what type of circumstance?
  •          Please tell me anything else you would like that were not included in the questions.

I am asking these questions to gain insight into many different things. First, the question I have asked throughout all of the interviews (online, in person, or during conversations during outings) is how tattoos have affected their professional careers. Using this as an anchor question helps me to see a spatial relationship of tattoos in the workforce. As tattoos in education is a focus for my feature, it will be beneficial to get a plethora of answers on the issue. All of these questions will provide an insight into a topic where there is still much to learn.

Tattoos: Areas to be covered

…Information wise, that is. The following is a list of events and interviews that will increase my immersion in the tattoo field:

  • Interview teacher with a tattoo (in-person): completed on Friday, 3/21
  • Interview tattoo artist via e-mail: questions sent Saturday, 3/22
  • Attend Skindustry Expo in Allentown, PA: attended Sunday, 3/23
  • Interview administrator with a tattoo in person: Wednesday, 3/26
  • Interview online found tattoo-bearer: questions to be sent by Monday, 3/24
  • Attend a local tattoo shop (not including the name until I get their permission to use it): tentative date, Wednesday, 4/16
  • Other events to be added

Stay posted!

The Happiest Place on Earth

Cinderella's Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit,

Cinderella’s Castle behind a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. Picture from my 2007 visit.

Minnie and Mickey. Donald and Goofy. Cinderella and Prince Charming. And a…neon-haired Disney worker?

Walt Disney World’s website “The Disney Look” clearly outlines appropriate appearance for all cast members, prohibiting several “’cutting edge’ trends or extreme styles.” Some of these extreme styles include nail polish that is black, silver, gold, or neon. Prohibited styles also include shaved eyebrows, women’s finger nails exceeding a quarter of an inch, and, aha! Tattoos.

According to their website, tattoos “must be discreetly and completely covered at all times” as “costumed cast members are a critical part of enhancing the experience of our Disney show.” Their website indicates that taking pride in your appearance conveys the “attitude of excellence that has become synonymous with the Disney name.”

And I could not agree more.

While I am all about self expression and personal choice, I firmly believe that Disney workers need to maintain a professional demeanor. Despite the fact that some of their restrictions sound just as extreme as the styles they prohibit, (such as: “mustaches must not extend onto or over the upper lip and must extend to the corners of the mouth, but not beyond or below the corners.” What? I needed to reread that to make sure I got everything.) there is a reason that Disney made $5.7 billion in 2012.

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal palace

Talk about the little things! Eeyore and me, from my 2013 trip in the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom

Having been to Disney World seven times (not counting a trip planned for this July), I have experienced first-hand the truly magical feeling that sweeps over you for the entire Disney trip. Whether or not Tinker Bell has sprinkled you with pixie dust, their website suggests that it is often the little things that make the trip meaningful, and it is often the little things that can take away from the experience.

Never have I seen a worker on a cell phone, chewing gum, or anything else that takes them out of their character. Could you imagine Goofy telling a five year old to hold on while he takes a call from AT&T? “Yeah, sorry about that, big guy. I was on hold for half an hour.”

Tattoos would be no exception. There’s nothing wrong with tattoos, but any worker (costumed or not) displaying a tattoo would shatter the bubble that separates visitors from reality. Why? Because it goes back to the idea of permanence. It reminds them that, at the end of the day, the workers are actual human beings, too, with lives and responsibilities and commitments.

Visitors know that their trip will not last forever. They know that, at some point, they are going to have to round up their souvenirs, pack their bags, and say good bye to their hotel room, dragging their suitcase sluggishly behind. There will always be bills to pay and appointments to keep, but for those magical days, visitors do not want a reminder that the “real world” exists. (Unless you’re John Mayer.)

Truly, the Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.

The Happiest Place on Earth! Main Street USA. Picture from my 2007 visit.

Post Interview Reflection: In-Person

As a teacher, I know that I can plan the best lesson possible. I can plan a lesson with all the bells and whistles. I can plan a lesson with frills and thrills and anything in-between. And the lesson can fall flat on its face.

I expected the interview to flow freely. I thought that once we started the conversation, ideas would come spewing out and thoughts would zoom around the room. Looking back, I had grandeurs plans about the amount of information I would acquire.

It was not that the interview was bad, or even disappointing. When I walked in the room, my colleague was in the middle of grading homework. This grading continued throughout the entire interview, so right away I felt that I was intruding on her time. Right off the bat, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. Even though we have had thousands of conversations in the past while she was grading homework, this time it felt different. I expected us to sit down together and have a conversation, a sharing of thoughts and ideas.

I respected that fact that we both have numerous assignments to grade, so I did not take it personally. After all, contrary to what the youth of America thinks, teachers do not, in fact, live in their classrooms and actually do have lives of their own. So, when I saw her grading, I did not take it in the least bit personal. I did not want to ask her to stop grading and come and sit with me because, after all, she was doing me a favor by allowing me to interview her. I attributed her grading during the interview to how busy teachers’ lives are and how much we need every ounce of free time to push through the heavy workload that, contrary to what several adults of America think, is not that much.

Despite the grading, I learned several things from the interview. First, I learned the significance of Krista’s double sleeves: one arm represents a nature inspired theme, and the other arm represents a contemporary Asian theme. When Krista did not further articulate this description, I did not press her, thinking that perhaps it would come up later in the interview. Thinking back to Postmodern Interviewing, I thought that once she felt more comfortable talking about her tattoos, she might share that information with me later on.

During the interview, I found that it was not turning out to be a back and forth conversation like I had planned. Rather, I opened with a question (“Tell me about your tattoos”) and got a very short answer and a long pause. A few students walked noisily by in the hallway, and this reminded me of an incident that had happened earlier in the day that I had wanted to tell her about. As I was approaching this interview with the reflexive dyadic interview in mind, I went ahead and shared my personal feelings (even though it was not on the topic of tattoos, it was still sharing nonetheless). After we exchanged thoughts on the issue, I went back to the topic of tattoos. (In order to maintain professionalism, I am not writing about the conversation we had.)

From knowing Krista as a colleague, I knew that when she first stated teaching, she kept her tattoos covered, the complete opposite of what she does now. I, therefore, asked her what prompted her to keep them covered then but not now? She responded, It was a personal thing. I liked to keep my personal and professional life separate, and keeping them covered was a way to do it. She continued to inform me that, at the time of keeping them covered, she did not yet have a full sleeve, and therefore the tattoos were more “manageable” to conceal since her sleeve was not as progressed as it is now. As her sleeve grew, she found it more difficult to hide. (I noted that today she was wearing a zip-up sweatshirt as opposed to her usual short-sleeve shirts. I was still able to see the bottom part of both sleeves by her wrist.)

I then asked her how parents tend to react to her double sleeves. She indicated that several parents give her compliments on them. She expressed that she has never received a “derogatory” comment about her tattoos and that the parents who are clearly alarmed by them tend to sit and stare but never say anything about them.

I then asked her how students react to them, and she said that typically one of two things happen: either the students are scared stiff about them and do not say anything, or her tattoos make her more accessible and relatable to students, as several of their parents have tattoos, as well. Krista indicated that administrators in the district have never given her a hard time about tattoos. We agreed that there was nothing in our contract under the dress code policy about hiding tattoos, and therefore it would be inappropriate to raise the issue.

At this time, the conversation hit a standstill, and I found myself, again, expressing teaching stories of the day to both break the silence and get the conversation going again.

We spoke briefly about how Disney workers are not allowed to cover their tattoos with a band-aid but must, instead, cover them with make-up. This reminded me of an article I had skimmed through the night before about a new military tattoo rule, and I asked her how she felt about it. She indicated that tattoos are “such a part of our culture” these days that she was surprised that the mindset (of both tattoos in the military and in the workforce) has not become more flexible with it. This prompted me to ask her what she would do if she ever had to interview for a job now that she has double sleeves. She responded that she would keep them covered and wait until she had the opportunity to ask questions and would inquire about what the company’s policy was about tattoos.

We chatted briefly about the age restriction of tattoos. While the legal age to go alone is 18, I told her that I had a student two years ago (he was around fourteen) with tattoos on his wrists, and she indicated that some students will go with their parents, who approve the tattoo.

I then asked her about her husband.  I knew that he had tattoos, but I was not sure how many or of what kind. She informed me that he has one full sleeve and a half sleeve (in the making). I then asked her how she got started with tattoos since she did not have any when they met. She took me though the order of her tattoo artists (three total, including one scary first tattoo artist) and how she found them. I learned that most people find tattoo artist through a friend recommendation or from asking a person they see with a tattoo that they admire.

Despite the fact that each question got a quick response, I am left with one question: Krista had indicated on an earlier day from a conversation that she enjoyed the process of getting a tattoo, pain and all. I want to know more about this idea of pain/pleasure during a tattoo. I am also left with questions for teachers who work in districts where tattoo revealing is forbidden. How do they feel about that? What preparations must they take in order to adhere to the regulations? For a teacher without a tattoo, would he or she consider getting a tattoo knowing that he/she would have to keep it covered for the majority of the day? Speaking with a parent of a student who had a teacher with tattoos would also help gain a different perspective on the issue.

Next, I am hoping to interview a teacher in a different district to get a fresh perspective on what they have to go through. Even if they are allowed to show their tattoos, they are still dealing with a different student/parent population, and it will be interesting to learn about how their tattoos are perceived.

In regard to what I might have done differently, the timing of the interview falls at the top of my list. Perhaps taking a period from the day was not the way to go. Instead, it may have been better if one day we had stayed after school. As we only have one common prep period (third period), there were no other periods during the day to do this. Plus, I did not want to take extra time away from her day, so I thought third period would be a good alternative. I think, perhaps, a period after the grading was done would have changed things. Or, perhaps, a day other than Friday, when most homework assignments are turned in, may have been a better choice. I think, too, that Krista’s personality is not one that jumps out with information. Though she has double sleeves, she can be shy and I think this contributed to the lack of flow, as well. While I tried to keep things flowing with my personal stories, perhaps I could have done things differently. Overall, I learned a lot about her thoughts on tattoos and am incredibly grateful for the time that she dedicated to me to conduct this interview.

 

Can you repeat tat? Preparation Post: In-Person Interview

Just a typical day! Courtesy Google Images

Just a typical day! Courtesy Google Images

Friday, third period, is typically a time when thoughts are flying across the room. “What standard do we need to cover? How long do we think that will take? What resources can we find for this?”

My grade level partner Krista and I meet during our prep period to collaboratively plan our eighth grade lessons for the following week. This week, however, we are ahead of the game and have already mapped out our game plan for tackling, and rocking, our test prep unit (gotta love the New Jersey ASK).

So, Krista has agreed to allow me to interview her about my topic of tattoos. Just like a typical planning period, tomorrow during third period, we are going to meet in one of our classrooms where we will share ideas and partake in a relaxing conversation, except this time, it will have nothing to do with the Common Core.

Krista has double sleeves that she sports every day. Yes, even in January. She has been a teacher for eighteen years and continues to commit herself everyday in the classroom so that student achievement occurs. And it does. Every time I walk by her room, her students are diligently working, many times with their heads bent over their work, furiously writing. I admire her as a teacher and have always appreciated the help she has given me, as I am “only” in my third year of teaching. (When I was a first year teacher, looking ahead to having three years of teaching experience seemed like the Garden of Eden.)

As an educator, I am interviewing Krista to gain her insight on tattoos in education. Since she has been in a district for quite some time where teachers are allowed to expose tattoos, I am anticipating a great deal of information in this area and look forward to hearing what her experience has been like. While there are other teachers in the district with tattoos, I am interviewing Krista in particular since her tattoos are exceedingly noticeable.

In regard to Postmodern Interviewing, I will be approaching this interview with the reflexive dyadic interview method in mind. One of the initial findings that drew me to this approach was the fact that the “interviewer typically shares personal experience” (162). Treating this interview like a conversation, I plan on articulating and sharing just as much with Krista as she shares with me. I also plan to focus on the “communicative process of the interview” (162). Even though Krista and I have shared many conversations thus far, I have never gone back to my room to analyze the process by which we spoke. This focused evaluating will be a new experience for me and one to which I am looking forward since it will be quite different from other conversation experiences.

Thus, “the final product includes the cognitive and emotional reflections of the researcher” (162). After the interview, I anticipate that I will scrutinize the thoughts and ideas shared as well as the emotional implications divulged during the interview process. This is an essential component of reflexive dyadic interviewing because it requires me to think of the topic both in terms of how the information was told, but also in terms of how I internalized it. Several readings suggest that information that the researcher chooses to include in various writings reveals a larger picture of the interviewer herself, so during the reflection process, I will discover more about myself as a person based on how I see the information and what I choose to include.

The main topics that I wish to cover in the interview include:

  • Krista’s experience in the field of education bearing double sleeves
  • Reactions from parents and students when they notice her tattoos
  • What type of circumstances arise where she feels like she needs to cover her tattoos (both professionally and personally)
  • If she ever feels the need to defend her tattoos and how she goes about doing so

Made in the Flesh: What I’m Learning

I am a tattoo virgin.

There is still much that I have to learn about tattoos, but I’m gathering information and learning new things each day.

nfl-refs-meme1-600x369I’m a Philadelphia sports fan. Nothing gets under my skin (get it?) more than someone who barely knows anything about football who asks me how many Super Bowls the Eagles have won. Ha, yes, that’s funny. Tell me, what’s a pick six? Didn’t think so.

I’m venturing into this new territory carefully. Never would I want to be the person who clearly lacks knowledge about tattoos who inadvertently comes across as a snarky headache. There is a wonderful possibility that my findings below are the equivalent of someone saying, “Hey! There are nine innings in baseball!” Even if that is the case, I am happy about what I have learned and look forward to grasping even more knowledge.

Having established that tattoos are a new domain for me (other than looking at one and thinking, Ohhhh, that’s pretty!), there are certain aspects that I have learned. They are:

Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo by Terisa Green

Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo by Terisa Green

According to Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo, by Terisa Green, as soon as the skin gets penetrated with pigment, the body does everything it can to rid itself of that pigment. This, of course, makes sense because it is a foreign item entering the body. That bit of information made me realize how complicated getting a tattoo can be in that your body is trying to fight off the very thing the bearer is trying to keep. Still, it reminds me of how fascinating the body is at self-healing and self-cleansing.

Much in the same, I learned that the actual pigment passes through the epidermis and eventually resides permanently in the dermis. Green offers a “Goldilocks” method for this: “So, like Goldilocks, you don’t want it too shallow and you don’t want it too deep. You want it just right” (84). Being a novice, I appreciated the elementary analogy. The precision required here indicates how nervous I might be

Diagram of Epidermis/Dermis, courtesy https://www.google.com/search?q=dermis&biw=1280&bih=666&tbm=isch&imgil=9hSxWokZktRdgM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9GcS4k8OnUVC31rwKbeeFHz_sFvdwnxlvwlTozY-HEwX22bOi2QyrzA%253B435%253B504%253Biev0U8gBeQvNsM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.medterms.com%25252Fscript%25252Fmain%25252Fart.asp%25253Farticlekey%2525253D2958&source=iu&usg=__xIT2nmsXmpeFOBvZUlfpTmd0iMg%3D&sa=X&ei=av4gU7ywG-LQ0gGqqIG4Cw&ved=0CDwQ9QEwAw#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=9hSxWokZktRdgM%253A%3Biev0U8gBeQvNsM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimages.medicinenet.com%252Fimages%252Fillustrations%252Fskin.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.medterms.com%252Fscript%252Fmain%252Fart.asp%253Farticlekey%253D2958%3B435%3B504

Diagram of Epidermis/Dermis, courtesy Google Images https://www.google.com/images

if ever in the chair, seeing as I eye my hairdresser like a hawk when she’s trimming my bangs.

Embarrassing as it is to say, I learned…that a hockey game has three periods. No. I knew that. But, I learned that UV rays are damaging to a tattoo. (Stop laughing!) I had no idea how many precautions those with tattoos must adopt when venturing out to the beach or out for a run when the sun is out. If UV rays are dangerous to skin, why wouldn’t they be dangerous to a tattoo? Trying to keep a tattoo out of the sun as much as possible reveals a new respect I have for people with them. It takes a lot of responsibility for tattoos to remain vibrant and bright.

I also learned that people could become allergic to their tattoo ink and that the most common colors to be allergic to are red and yellow. In certain cases, ointments may be enough, but I was shocked to see that some people (though rarely) have to get their tattoo removed because of an allergy of the ink.

5 Odds and Ends Facts about Tattoos

1. According to 10 Fascinating Facts about Tattoos, the classic star logo of Macy’s was taken from a tattoo of the founder R.H. Macy’s forearm from his earlier days as a sailor.

Macy's Star, courtesy Google Images www.google.com/images

Macy’s Star, courtesy Google Images http://www.google.com/images

2. On April 12-13, 2003, Chris Goodwill tattooed Kevin Budden for a record-breaking 33 hours at the Electric Pencil Tattoo Studio in Plumstead, Greater London, UK. Goodwill tattooed eight designs on Budden. (Green 142).

Chris Goodwill tattoos Kevin Budden, courtesy Google Images

Chris Goodwill tattoos Kevin Budden, courtesy Google Images

3. Wanting to sound like an artist and not a plumber, Sutherland Macdonald, a British tattooist, used the word “tattooist” over “tattooer” (Green 117).

Sutherland Macdonald, courtesy Google Images

Sutherland Macdonald, courtesy Google Images

4. Sailors would commonly get a cross tattooed on their back in order to avoid being flogged (Green 28).

5. According to NBA Tattoos, 56% of NBA players are tattooed.

Andre Iguodala, former Philadelphia Sixers forward

Andre Iguodala, former Philadelphia Sixers forward

Despite the fact that I may have stated the obvious for some, the information is new to me, and I appreciate having learned it. Tattoos continue to intrigue me, and this tattoo virgin is excited to continue learning more about them.

As a final thought, according to Green, the indigenous Yurok of Northern California had a saying that a woman without a tattoo looked like a man when she grew old. So there you have it—I look forward to the aging process.

Green, Terisa. Ink: The Not-just-skin-deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo. New York: New American Library, 2005. Print.

Hair and Reflection: Post Three

In the final post about my first fieldnote experience, I describe a student’s hair (in about 350 words) and reflect on my fieldnote taking experience (also around 350 words).

HAIR

Stu Lou Who, courtesy Google Images https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=709&q=Who&oq=Who&gs_l=img.3..0l3j0i3j0l6.594.865.0.2341.3.3.0.0.0.0.77.208.3.3.0....0...1ac.1.37.img..0.3.207.1vqSdZRUZvE#q=Stu+Lou+Who&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=xt5RacK_LSJ5KM%253A%3BDz5q9-jtvT0xGM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.julienslive.com%252Fimages%252Flot%252F6297%252F62971_0.jpg%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.julienslive.com%252Fview-auctions%252Fcatalog%252Fid%252F36%252Flot%252F11042%252F%3B800%3B432

Stu Lou Who, courtesy Google Images google.com/images

When my eyes fell on him, I thought I was looking at a Who. He was with two other people, a white female and a Hispanic male (both of normal, un-Whoville descent) and they were making their way over to the art section. They all seemed to be around college age. He was a white male, aged around twenty. The bottom portion of his hair was cut shorter than the top portion, not quite a buzzed-cut, but not much longer. If the definition of a mullet is business in the front, party in the back, his hair-style was a Remix Mullet: business on the bottom, party on the top: the top portion of his brown hair was heavily gelled, and for good reason. Without it, he would not have been able to achieve the full effect. The top portion of his hair resembled a blow-out and was combed down in thick portions with visible streaks coming down as if in layers. His hair toppled over his forehead in a slight curl, much like that of a Who. The way it came over his forehead reminded me of the sloping mountain tops from The Grinch – curled at the top in a slight wisp, almost

Whoville Mountain, courtesy Google Images https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=666&q=Whoville+mountain&oq=Whoville+mountain&gs_l=img.3..0.630.2416.0.2671.17.8.0.9.9.0.97.456.8.8.0....0...1ac.1.37.img..0.17.495.KxnUv-jsr_0#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=aNXY8Yh-qKqR8M%253A%3BVq4XCB6U9NSq5M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hollywoodjesus.com%252Fmovie%252Fhow_grinch_stole%252F18.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.hollywoodjesus.com%252Fhow_grinch_stole.htm%3B480%3B288

Whoville Mountain, courtesy Google Images google.com/images

resembling the way icing curls at the end of each stroke. Adding to his Whoville appearance, he had a short, upturned nose. Combined with the outlandish hairstyle, his nose sealed his place in Ron Howard’s film. As stated, two other people accompanied him. The female that he was with seemed to be the leader of the pack. They were all crowding around the art section of the bookstore, and she seemed to be calling the shots, telling them what to do and where to go. Her own hair was a reddish-brown, and the Who did not leave her side. The other male with them stepped away for a bit, coming back a minute later. He seemed as though he wanted to give them space, leading me to consider the possibility that he might be a friend or third wheel. The Who’s outlandish hairstyle caused me to wonder about his personality: it takes a certain type of person to have a hairstyle as unique as that, and I wondered what other parts of his life he treated with as much charisma and spunk.

REFLECTION

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5: Reflection

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5: Reflection

Reflecting on the bookstore fieldnote experience, there are some things that I need to work on and some things that I did well. First, it is clear that I need to be more assertive in approaching people. Even though there were two moments where a single student was browsing the shelves, I did not feel comfortable enough to approach either one and start asking questions. When there were groups of two or more students, approaching them was completely out of the question. I do think that a large part of my shyness was related to the fact that my classmates and professor could see me. I would have felt more confident approaching people if I were totally on my own. In being on my own, I would not be worrying, “Am I doing this right? Do I look okay?” I would just be able to get out there and do it without feeling like I had an audience. I do feel that when I get out into the field, I will be more confident and assertive, for many reasons. One, this was my first time actually going somewhere to take notes. I will be able to build on this experience with growing confidence. Second, when interacting with someone in a setting that is not artificial (that is, this field note taking experience was limited to the parameters of class and therefore did not feel like “my own,” natural experience), I will feel freer to express myself. (Ironically, I do not know for sure that my classmates or professor were looking at me, but because I could see them, I automatically became the insecure teenager who walks into a room and feels that everyone is staring at her,)

One of the things I felt I did well was the way I took down information. That is, my area included dorm items and

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 6: Reflection

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 6: Reflection

school supplies. Lots of small, little odds and ends. Rather than taking down every little thing, I summarized somewhat by mentioning the larger categories such as “electronics” and “school supplies,” and then wrote down the “stand out” supplies from each category.

Lastly, my area did not get a steady amount of traffic. The entire time I was there, there were about seven people who entered, vastly fewer from the amount of people downstairs. Therefore, despite my lack of approaching people, there was less of an opportunity for a conversation to take place. Looking over my field notes, I took down a lot about the environment, but did not get a chance to try to capture a conversation other than the male who thought I worked at the bookstore. I am eager to test out taking down dialogue in a full conversation that lasts longer than a few seconds.

Knowing my goals, I am ready to go out into the field and put those goals to work.

Setting the Stage: Post Two

In the following post, I have taken my fieldnote jottings and have created two scenes from the bookstore.

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 3

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 3

SCENE ONE

Once I got up from the seat, I decided to work from left to right. I headed over to an area marked “Dorm Supplies.” “Dorm Supplies” was situated on the left hand side, and the rest of the shelves spilled out to the right. At the “Dorm Supplies” shelf, there were several bedding needs, such as cheap comforters ($69.00). I noticed that there were zebra-print throws on the shelf, indicating the young, college-level age group for which the bookstore is designed and was in the middle of writing down that “throws” were an item on the shelf when a black male with a red backwards hat approached me. He asked me, “Do you have any iPhone 4 chargers here?” Having never seen this person before, I thought it was inappropriate for him to ask to borrow my phone charger. Then, I realized that he was under the impression that I worked at the bookstore and that he must have mistaken my fieldnote jottings for store inventory. I smiled and shook off the surprise by saying, “I don’t work here.” He took a step back, smiled, and put his hand up to his mouth saying, “Oh you don’t? Sorry.” I smiled and replied, So I don’t know if they have them here. He smiled and walked away, and I turned back to the shelf, feeling relieved that I would be able to create this funny moment into a scene. The same male passed by a few seconds later to head into the restroom. It was then that I noticed that he had red socks with yellow designs that came up past his shins that complimented his bright red shoes. He was also wearing a red backwards baseball hat, and I wondered if there was a reason he was decked out in red. I saw him a few minutes later when I was in a new section of electronics, and he was talking with a Hispanic male and laughing. He was giving off the same easy-going, happy-go-lucky personality he had exhibited with me moments earlier.

SCENE TWO

As I was walking back through a row filled with folders, three students came up the steps and went over to the art

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 4

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 4

section in the back of the store. Two were male, white and Hispanic, and one was a white female with medium-length sleek brownish-red hair up in a ponytail. She was attractive and was smiling and saying, You guys need to not be with me right now, though her smile let on she was not being serious. One of the males had a haircut that made him look like he had stepped out of Whoville: the bottom portion of his brown hair was cut very short, not as short as a buzz-cut but not much longer. The top part resembled that of a blow-out but was not as intense. His hair was heavily gelled and the top of it hung over his forehead. The other male had a greenish-gray loose beanie hat over his dark hair. They stayed in the area for a minute, the girl looking at the supplies and the boys grinning, until they headed back down the stairs.

Once they had left, I walked over to the art supplies but was distracted by the science section next to it. It contained lab aprons, safety goggles ($12.98, I had expected them to be more expensive), and then I noticed the lab notebooks. They were spiral bound and intimidating. When I opened the cover, a Periodic Table of Elements was staring back at me, the different blocks in different colors like a labyrinth to my Language Arts-accustomed eyes. I turned the plastic, shiny Periodic Table of Elements page and was met with pages of carbon-copy texture, although it indicated it was “carbonless duplicate sets.” Each page contained, in serious red, type-written font, a box for recording each of the following: “Experiment #, Experiment/Subject Date, Name, Lab Partner, Locker/Desk, and Course/Section #.” The paper underneath was a copy of the first.

As I rested the lab notebook down as though it were a grenade pin, I realized that to science majors, these notebooks

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5

Bookstore Fieldnotes, Page 5

are the norm. For them, this is one of the items they pick up when school starts again in late August. For me, picking up a thick Shakespeare anthology or several novels are my norm. I realized how “bubbled” my schooling experience has been. Without a real sense of what else is out there, I was overwhelmed with the supplies in this science section. It indicated how much about other majors I was ignorant of, and, to be honest, quite pleased that I did not have to buy any of those products. I walked slowly away.

Fieldnote Extravaganza: Post One

Bookstore Field Notes, page 1

Bookstore Fieldnotes, page 1

Here we go. The following is my first attempt at translating my fieldnotes (taken at a bookstore) into full, descriptive sentences.

There were three total students sitting at the tables on the second floor of the bookstore. There was one student per table. Out of the three students present, two were white females, and one was a white male. Out of the three students, one of the females and the male were on laptops; the other female was working out of a notebook. The chairs situated at each table (two per table) were old-fashioned looking. They had double arm rests and, in the middle of the backing of the chair, a distressed Rowan crest was visible, giving the area in which the chairs resided an “old, cozy library” feel. The fact that each table housed only two chairs made me wonder about the traffic the upstairs portion accumulates. That is, two chairs per table does not lend itself to practical group work. Though groups could rearrange chairs, it seemed, based on the frail, antique quality of the chairs, rearranging anything would be frowned upon. Thus, it would be logical to assume that students interested in working individually would come to this location. After taking in the desks, chairs, and people, I realized I had taken in enough of the area to get a general feel and decided to start walking around.

Bookstore Field Notes, page 3

Bookstore Fieldnotes, page 2

I continued moving through the area from left to right. I made my way over to a shelf that housed calculators, pens, highlighters, and other basic writing needs. I saw a white male around twenty years old with blond, honey-wheat hair that was spiked up in front and who was meandering through the aisles silently. He was wearing a blue zip-up sweatshirt. He was walking around silently, and I wanted to approach him, introduce myself as a research student and ask, “Can you tell me what you are doing here?” Unfortunately, I could not will myself to do it. Though he looked over a few times, I stared at the pens as though they were very interesting. When he walked away, I felt a mixture of disappointment and relief.

I walked through an aisle completely devised of binders on both sides of the shelves. Half of the binders had “Rowan University” stamped on them, and the other half were plain, colored binders. The row looked very neat and stacked.

As I continued walking, I hit a row marked “Study Aides.” There were books on the ACT, AP 2014 Exam, LSATs, GREs, and GMATs. At first, I wondered why there were AP exam books, as everyone who goes to Rowan has already passed high school and then realized that the bookstore is open to the public, as well, and anyone living in the surrounding area interested in these subjects would be able to access them.