On silence

At some point during the school day yesterday, some young-dumb-full-of-cum dipshit (or, hell, maybe it was a girl, so just young and dumb) decided that it would be a good idea to scrawl an unspecified (as in I don’t know details, and frankly wouldn’t share them) “threat” against the building in one of the bathrooms. Whatever the threat was, it was apparently going to happen today. A letter went out to all the parents and, unsurprisingly, attendance was abysmal today.

Did I take it seriously? Not really. School shooters and teenage bombmakers (and, again, I have no idea what the details of the threat are) are wealthy white boys whose parents don’t secure their guns, and that’s not the demographics of my building. My wife asked why they didn’t simply switch to e-learning for the day, and the answer is frankly that if we were to do that we’d start seeing these things weekly, and that’s not a thing anyone is interested in. I remember when I was in high school a neighboring district that did quite nicely match the “we have school shootings” demographic went through a similar thing– their kids learned that bomb threats meant they got to go home, and they were averaging a couple a week for a while there.

At any rate, nothing happened. If they know who made the threat (and they probably have a good idea, as there are cameras near every bathroom entrance in the building) I haven’t heard about it yet, but nothing happened. No real surprise.

I have to say, I could get used to the idea that my classes are only nine or ten kids. One of my students commented to me on my second day back that he thought I must hate him, and when I asked him why he said that he was so squirrelly and talking all the time and had such a hard time focusing. And, like, first of all, no, I’m not even remotely close to “hate” for any of my current students and I think there’s only maybe three or four in my entire career that I’d apply that word to, and second of all: dude, yeah, you’re a handful, but there’s only one of you. The rest of the kids in that class are fine, and I can deal with one kid bouncing off the walls if he’s not one of half a dozen. That’s no problem at all.

(Truth be told, I genuinely like all of my kids this year, or at least the ones I know. That doesn’t happen terribly often, but I can manage a kid I just don’t click with just fine.)

At any rate, I didn’t get the impression that the kids today were especially scared or nervous, although I did send an email to the boss before school started suggesting that maybe they think about rescheduling the planned fire drill to next week sometime, a piece of advice that was followed. What I got was six class periods of silence. Maybe not the entire period, but definitely once they got settled down, each of my classes today had at least 10-15 minutes of complete and utter quiet. Which would make most teachers happy. Not me. I actually really don’t like quiet from kids that are working, although I need it during instruction. I prefer a low buzz, where I can keep half an ear open at all times and have an idea what everyone’s doing. It was too quiet today, spooky-quiet, and it’s interesting to think that this year might be the last time I have in my career where something like that happening again is likely.

And now, having dodged spoilers all day successfully, I’m off to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. See y’all tomorrow.

In which I exist outside time

This was one of those days where I was perpetually being surprised by what time it was; the boy has started Spring Break, which means I can sleep in a little bit because I don’t have to get up early to get him ready for school (he starts 45 minutes before I do) and as a result I was sitting in a chair and enjoying my coffee this morning when it hit me that I actually did have to go to work today and I had about twelve minutes to be showered, dressed, and in front of my computer– an achievement I somehow managed.

This is all just to say that I sat down to play Oblivion for “a little bit” after dinner and it is now somehow 8:25 PM and I have not blogged today. Luckily, tomorrow’s assignment is done already … or at least I think it is.

In lieu of an actual post, allow me to present you with this email, which I received during dinner:

Not “When is Spring Break?,” a question I’d have answered without a second thought. This person is asking are they out for Spring Break right now.

This does explain her kid’s grade somewhat.

In which cell phones ruin everything

We are all, I think, familiar with the idea that modern technology has managed to degrade our abilities to do things that we used to be able to do and now no longer need to. The most common casualty of this for most people, I think, is the ability to easily remember phone numbers. I used to know phone numbers for at least a couple dozen people at any given time, and right now I know four– mine, my parents’ home line, which has been their number for my entire life, my dad’s work phone number for some reason, and on a good day, my wife’s, which keeps getting interfered with by something else and I can only recall with some difficulty. It’s just not necessary any longer to commit random strings of ten or seven numbers to memory. Could we recapture this ability if we needed to? Sure. Our brains haven’t actually degraded, there’s just a very specific skill that we used to need that we don’t anymore, and so we don’t have it.

I got caught by surprise by something this morning, though. I was at my mom and dad’s house and the land line rang and I answered it. And it took me a few seconds longer than it probably should have to realize that it was my brother on the other end of the line, especially since he 1) recognized my voice, 2) commented on how he was surprised that I was there to answer the phone, and 3) referred to Mom and Dad as “Mom” and “Dad.” For a split second I thought he was one of my older cousins who it would not be completely unreasonable to hear use those words, and then the world kind of snapped back together around me and I realized what was going on and felt a little stupid.

Thing is, though, when was the last time I needed to recognize someone’s voice over the phone? It basically never happens any more. I see who’s calling before I answer the phone to begin with– and, for me at least, if I don’t recognize the number of the person calling I don’t answer the phone. So this scenario where someone calls me and just starts talking and I need their voice to tell me who they are just never happens any longer.

I mean, it was my brother. I should have recognized his voice, obviously, and I’m going to blame a combination of my head being in a weird place at the time and my first time being on a land line in a while for my sudden weird phonagnosia, which is a word I just learned. But still. Before cell phones a solid majority of my phone calls didn’t involve anyone saying their name; folks would just start talking and we’d know who it was. That doesn’t happen anymore. Makes me wonder what the next ability that I have now that I won’t need in twenty years will be.

Probably something involving surviving in a world with electricity and air conditioning, because climate change will have ensured the collapse of society, but hey! It could be something else, right?

On my other kid

Pictured: not my kid, my kid

I just dug through a month’s worth of posts from five years ago to determine that, probably because she was a minor at the time and isn’t actually my kid, I didn’t mention that a former student stayed in my house overnight before the last Washington D.C. trip I chaperoned way back in the day. Technically she probably shouldn’t have been on the trip, but she’d signed up before moving to Arizona and I literally had her mom assign me temporary legal custody of her and just didn’t tell anybody about it.

I took a picture of her sitting on my couch, and I remember posting it to Facebook with a caption something along the lines of “Why is this in my house?,” which entertained a number of her other teachers who I was friends with at the time.

She is 19 now, and is back in town again, and I picked her up at the airport last night, and she’ll probably be here tonight too before spending the rest of the week with other family and friends. And last night, as we were driving back from the airport, she got a text message from one of her friends directing us to visit her at her job at Arby’s. The friend is also a former student.

So were two other employees at that Arby’s, including another kid who had been on that same DC trip. All four of them were in the same class, which was hands-down the best group of kids I ever had. And I had them twice, first in 6th grade and then when they were 8th graders. So it happened that I, a grown man less than a month from his 43rd birthday, found myself in an Arby’s at 10:15 on a Friday night, after the lobby had closed, at least nominally hanging out with four nineteen-year-olds, three of whom were at least technically at work (and one the manager) and none of whom seemed to think it was remotely weird that 1) I was there in the first place or 2) I was the person who had been assigned the duty of picking this kid up at the airport, a job that one might think would have gone to, like, actual family, but we all have our priorities where they should be apparently.

And I spent about twenty minutes bouncing back and forth between this is at least a little creepy and hey, Hacienda is right across the street, do you guys want to go over there for a while after you get off work? Because age difference or not this really was a great group of kids and it turns out they have not gotten less interesting as they’ve aged into young adulthood.

And I’m just gonna leave that thought there, because I’m not sure I have anything else to add to it, but yeah: last night was kind of surreal.

(About the picture: the boy didn’t remember her from her last visit, which wasn’t surprising, but as soon as he discovered she was wearing Psyduck socks she became his favorite person ever.)

On unclear relationships

1179px-CousinTree.svg.pngThis isn’t so much a customer gripe as a WTF moment that could have happened anywhere.  I had a pair in last night that appeared for all the world to be a dad and his, oh, I dunno, 10-year-old son.  I don’t know for certain that I ever heard the boy call the man “dad,” but they were very clear that they were looking for barstools for the kid’s mother as a Mother’s Day present.

I leave aside the question of whether barstools are a great present for Mother’s Day.  It’s perhaps an unorthodox choice.  But they were convinced she’d be happy, so whatever.  They ended up picking some red stools that were available in several other colors, mostly because red was Mom’s favorite color and were definitely the color she wanted.  Okay, cool.  $58 each, bropeople, thanks.

An hour or so later, the phone rang.  It was Mom.  I recognized who she was from her name immediately because their name was one of those hyper-Polish collections of consonants that are thirty letters long and somehow phonetically identical to “Smith” when pronounced.

And then something really weird happened.

“My husband and my…”

two second long, uncertain pause

“…friend were in there earlier, and they bought some bar stools for me?”

Now, I immediately can reconstruct what’s going on if it’s her “…friend” and her son.  That’s a somewhat uncertain relationship between two adults.  Cool.

But in what world is your relationship to the ten-year-old, a kid who calls you Mom, weird enough that you pause before describing him as a “friend” to the furniture salesman who you have never met on the other side of the phone?  Especially when she’s just calling to see if they’re returnable for another color (they were) and you don’t really need to go out of your way to name your relationship to these people in the first place unless you want to?

Creative writing assignment, guys:  figure this nonsense out.