The pink panties story

I have been reminded that I owe you a story, and now that I’ve totally fucked up the SEO for my site for the rest of time I may as well tell it. I have two Honors Algebra classes, one first thing in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is a high school class that they’re getting actual high school credits for. My morning class is quite possibly the most chill group of kids I have ever encountered. I’ve never seen anything like them. No drama. They come in, they do their work, they ask questions if they have them, and when they’re done they just sit and relax and chat. They’re one of those classes where if I needed to I could just leave and everybody would still be in their seats doing whatever they were doing when I left when I came back. I love them.

I’m at my desk doing something or another and the kids are working at their seats. The word panties floats into my ears, and I hear what sounds like vaguely horrified noises and some relatively uncharacteristic teenage giggling. I look up.

Now, I am perhaps twenty feet away, but it is still fairly clear that there is a pair of pink panties on the floor next to one of my boys.

“Please do not tell me there is underwear on the floor in my classroom right now,” I say.

“There’s underwear on the floor, Mr. Siler,” they say.

I stand up to go look closer. There is indeed a pair of lace pink panties on the fucking floor in my fucking middle school math classroom. There should not be panties on the floor. I take a moment to regret every decision that I have ever made in my life that led me to the point where I had to ask a room of thirteen- and fourteen-year-old children “Does anyone want to claim the mystery underwear before I throw it away?”

(Fun fact about me: I detest the word “panties” for no reason I have ever been able to enunciate, and I have already used it far too many times in this post. I do not say it out loud unless I absolutely have to, and that is not a condition that occurs often.)

I look around at my girls. Roughly half of the kids in the room, maybe a little bit more. I note two things: first, they are all wearing pants, and second, none of them appears to suddenly be having the worst day of her entire life. Most of them appear entertained; a couple look scandalized, but not in an oh my god those are mine sort of way.

No one wants to claim the underwear. Someone suggests that the boy it is sitting next to is responsible for them. This would not be enormously surprising, to be honest. I give him my firmest Teacher Look, and he fails to wither under my glare. I think there’s no earthly way he could keep a straight face right now and go to get a pencil, which I use to pick up the underwear.

At which point something equally horrible becomes clear: there is not just a pair of lacy pink women’s underwear on the floor in my classroom. There is a pair of lacy pink women’s underwear on the floor in my classroom and it has been worn. Several days in a row, from the look of it. Soiled would perhaps give the wrong impression, but crusty? We can go with crusty. There are no obvious signs of blood on them; with girls this age the immediate suspicion would be some sort of menstrual disaster but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

I look around again. Each of my girls makes eye contact. There’s no way they would be willing to make eye contact with a male teacher holding their underwear by a pencil in the middle of math class. There’s just no way, right? That’s a literal nightmare.

I throw the underwear in the trash and forbid any of my students to ever speak of this again, a promise that all of them make and I’m absolutely certain that not one of them intends to keep. Two minutes later, my boss wanders by, because of course she does, and I tell her the story, mostly to gauge her reaction. She is horrified but thinks it’s hilarious, and having been a middle school principal for more than ten minutes, volunteers to take my trash bag out of my room so that the boys in the next class don’t go digging to find anything, no doubt to start throwing them around the room.

As of this moment, several days later, I still have no suspects.

It was a weird day.

Just a thought

A warning: this post has the potential to start out sounding kind of grandiose, like I’ve got a Big Point to make and I’m Going Somewhere; don’t be fooled, this is just an anecdote that is a bit too complicated for Twitter or Mastodon. Calibrate your expectations accordingly.

My wife does the grocery shopping every week, on Saturday or Sunday morning. This started out as a Covid thing where it made more sense for just one of us to be out in the world being exposed to people and has more or less solidified into What We Do Around Here since then. While she’s gone, I clean up the kitchen and get the dishes washed. This involves emptying and refilling the dishwasher, which means I’m putting glasses and cups back into the cabinets.

How many of you put your glasses upside down in the cabinets? Is this something everyone does? An Indiana thing? I have no idea, because it’s not like I’ve paid attention in other people’s houses, and when I *am* in someone else’s house and getting a cup out of a cabinet, it’s likely that it’s someone related to me, so they have the same practices. I have no idea if this is “normal” or not.

Anyway, as I was putting a glass into the cabinet this morning, it floated through my head that the reason I have always done it this way is that it keeps bugs out of the glasses. That’s why you put them upside down. It’s so bugs can’t get in. That’s the reason.

And that thought kind of stopped me short for a minute. Like I literally froze, glass in hand, thinking about that belief that I’ve harbored, unexamined, for my whole Goddamn life.

Because you know what I’ve never had a problem with, not one time, in my entire life, from growing up in my parents’ house, to a couple of college dorms, to various apartments and now the whole-ass house I’ve lived in for the last twelve years? Bugs in cabinets. And one of those apartments had an ant problem for a while. I have probably at some point or another found a stinkbug in a cabinet. One. Because during stinkbug season those fuckers get everywhere. But that’s it. And this belief, that you keep glasses upside-down in the cabinet because that’s how you keep bugs out of them, has been hard-coded into me for my whole damn life.

Which got me wondering how many generations back you have to go, to find the ancestor who had cabinets and had a bug problem, one bad enough that decades later that person’s descendants are still automatically following this rule they– well, she, let’s be real– created. I know it came through my mother because when I was a kid mothers did all the housework, but my grandfather on Mom’s side had a lifelong, solid, post-WWII Silent Generation union job in a factory and if they were ever poor enough that keeping the bugs out was an issue I have never heard about it. So we’re talking probably at least three generations back.

It really makes me wonder what other things I do without thinking about it that can be traced back to, like, the Depression or something like that.

Free advice

If, after a reasonably relaxing six-and-a-half hour sleep cycle, you nearly die on the highway on the way to work because 1) somebody parked their car in a really shitty place on an offramp and oh also 2) you’re honestly fighting falling asleep for basically the entire drive, and then you get to work and, bleary-eyed and brainless, try to open your classroom door with your keycard badge, which, uh, doesn’t work on those kinds of doors, just go home. The day is not going to get better.

I also screwed up solving a problem on the whiteboard for my first hour class, only not only could I not find my error, neither could the entire class, and we sat and stared at it as a group for probably ten minutes. Turns out that, while 1.5 is half of three, that doesn’t mean that 3/1.5 equals 1/2! It equals two.

One grown adult, fifteen honors students, and it took me until lunchtime to figure out what I’d done wrong. I definitely should have given up and gone home after first hour.

I read NONA THE NINTH

Sort of. Maybe. I saw all the words.

I have read and reviewed the first two books in Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb series, Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. There will be a fourth, supposedly this year, called Alecto the Ninth. That will apparently be the final volume. This one, Nona the Ninth, only happened because apparently Nona’s story got a bit out of Muir’s control and she had to make it its own book; early printings of Harrow actually say that Alecto will be the next book, an error that I don’t know if they corrected in later versions.

You might notice that the word “review” does not appear in the title of this post. This is not a review. I am functionally incapable of reviewing this series any longer, and I can only barely apply the verb “read” to the process my brain was attempting while my eyes were roving over the words on the page. If I had read the book, I would have understood more of it. By the end of this book, there are so many characters who are not in their own bodies that I feel like I need a fucking spreadsheet to understand what is going on. Some characters may — or may not, no one is clear– be in more than one body. My wife loves these books unreservedly; I keep asking her questions and she begins to answer them with “Well, do you remember when …” and my answer is invariably no. No, I do not remember that happening. No, I do not remember that character, who was apparently mentioned six hundred and thirty times in book two. No, the back cover copy on this book describes several different events in the book and I don’t remember any of them. Blue thing in the sky? What blue thing in the sky?

I only just found out, in conversation with her before coming in here and writing this, that not one but two of the characters are apparently planets. I missed that! I feel like a character being a planet should have been something I noticed. Two of them I definitely should have noticed. I did not. The main character, Nona, is physically nineteen years old but has the mentality of a six year old and is in some unclear way only physically six months old; the book is fairly adamant that she, Nona, is not Nona, but is in fact one of the two main characters of the two previous books, possibly in one of their actual physical bodies and possibly not, and by the end of the book I am literally unsure if any of the three of them are alive, in any sense of the word. I think Gideon’s actual physical body is running around, but someone else is in it, I think, unless we were supposed to realize that the other person who is in Gideon’s body now was always in Gideon’s body and this is not a change of the status quo but a reveal. I have no fucking idea.

Also, there are other Gideons, and at least one of their bodies is still running around, also not occupied by the spirit of that Gideon. I think. I saw a reviewer on Goodreads refer to that Gideon as G1deon to help distinguish them.

There is one person who is actually two people, but not at the same time, until they get into a fight with someone else and win it by the second person in the body shoving the owner of the other body out and taking it over, so then the one person who is actually two people is actually two people, until later, when one of them catches fire for, as near as I could tell, no fucking reason at all, and then suddenly both of them are back in the same body again only now both of them are one person. Whose name is Paul.

There is a character named Hot Sauce. Another named Pants of the Undying. A third’s name is Awake Remembrance of These Valiant Dead Kia Hua Ko Te Pai Snap Back to Reality Oops There Goes Gravity. I made one of those up. I dare you to figure out which one.

I swear to God, I’m literate. I really am.

In which I make a new rule

I did not go to work yesterday, and I left early the day before, and apparently my room did not get vacuumed either day. As such, there was a bit more debris on the floor when I came in this morning than I’m generally used to, both because 1) my kids are pretty clean for the most part and 2) the room does generally get cleaned every night. However, I keep a dustpan and a broom in my closet for just these situations, and as I was cleaning up I discovered something that I don’t normally find on the floor of my classroom.

A tampon wrapper.

That’s new, I thought. Not necessarily alarming, or anything, but … new.

What did prove alarming was when a couple of minutes later I found the applicator. That’s what it’s called, right? This thing?

It had been, uh, discharged, so there was nothing inside it, which actually was kind of alarming, because I’m pretty sure you generally don’t keep those when you’re done with them, right? So somebody either put in a tampon in the middle of Math class, which even in 2023 seems kinda unlikely, or they put it in in the bathroom, brought the wrapper and the applicator back to class with them, and then dropped it on the floor? Or was there a tampon floating around the room somewhere as well?

I didn’t find the tampon.

Fast forward to 6th hour. One of my Honors groups. My favorite class, but I will deny it if you tell them that. They are fucking obnoxious, but they’re somehow obnoxious in exactly the right way? I’m not sure how to explain it.

Anyway, after hearing someone saying something about “the tampon yesterday,” I investigated, and … well, now there’s a new rule in my classroom. No one who does not possess the proper body parts to successfully use a tampon is allowed to use, distribute, touch, throw, or taste tampons in my classroom, nor are they allowed to say the word “tampon,” given that I heard it more in class today than in the entirety of my teaching career up until today. And those verbs? I needed all of those verbs.

Also, I discovered that one of my boys was unaware that there was a difference between a tampon and an IUD, and in fact thought both were contraceptives.

Anybody else wanna teach middle school?