Saturday, September 20, 2008

Question 3

Assume you are going out to lunch with some close friends. This group of friends meet every Friday at the same time as part of a weekly tradition. There are four people in the group and each week a different person gets to choose where you go. For the most part the variety and quality of the chosen eating establishments keeps things fresh and enjoyable. However, every fourth week one member of the group, Steve, insists on going to Subway. Unwilling to try anything new, Subway Steve is completely unbending on this issue. His love for the long sandwich is only matched by your hatred of it. And as much as you’d like to miss Steve’s Friday you can’t because the group is governed by a few strict and unbending rules. If you don’t join them on Subway day AND eat a sub you will be permanently excluded from the group and you will lose these friends forever. There is no explanation for the rigidity of the rules. That’s just the way it is.

On Steve’s next Friday, with dread in your heart, you meet your friends at the local Subway. But this day is different. As the Subway sandwich artist completes your order and hands you your twelve inch meal you turn around and see a lone women enter the establishment and at that moment you are endowed, from some unknown source, with the certain knowledge that if you will but unwrap your sandwich, approach the woman, and then deliver the most vicious sandwich beating that your muscles can muster, you will magically develop a sincere and lasting affinity for sandwiches. You will no longer dread, but rather, look forward with fondness to Subway day. She will collapse and shriek with terror as you deliver blow after fresh baked blow. In the end the physical damage done to the victim will be minimal as the weapon was only a sandwich. However, the emotional damage will be significant and acute as this woman has never been beaten with a foot long sub in her life and will never receive any explanation as to why she received one that day. And that is the catch. You can never tell a soul why you attacked that poor woman that day. If you attempt to explain yourself to anyone, especially the victim, your new found love for the sandwich will be replaced by a bitter hatred even more powerful than before. Your friends who were shocked by your behavior will have to settle for the explanation, “I just felt like beating someone with a sandwich.”

Question: Do you continue to suffer every fourth Friday, or do you beat an innocent stranger with a sandwich?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Got Fired

"I Got Fired." Possibly the most pride swallowing three-word combination in the English language. It ranks right up there with "she dumped me," and "I've got herpes." It must be one of the worst phrases to have to utter to friends, family, and acquaintances. But invariably, we, or someone we know, will have to say it sometime in our lives.

I've had to say it to friends and acquaintances since July and each time I do it feels as if a little bit of the light, that was my dignity, is snuffed out. Now, the circumstances are such that I am not really ashamed of my recent dismissal, but I know that even when I try to explain the circumstances to people, they are still judging me on some level. "Sure, your boss was wacko," they say out loud, without sarcasm. But in their minds they are saying, sure your boss was wacko... with sarcasm.

Now, most people would think that a sense of humor would be an asset to a high school teacher. At least, that's what my students and many of their parents told me. In fact, the only person who told me otherwise just happened to be the person who held my tenuous position at that school in her dry, bony hands. Let's call her Skeletor. Skeletor was the school director and ran the show with carte blanche authority. She was one of those people who compartmentalized human emotions into different sections of life. Sure, humor had its place. But a school full of teenagers certainly wasn't it. I mean, c’mon.

Skeletor was supposed to be my mentor. She told me, in not so many words, that under her guiding wing and strict tutelage I would someday make a fine teacher of youth. Ironically, she was the most uneducated person I'd ever met. (That's not true. I once knew a homeless guy named Polaris that used to bathe himself in the sink and eat his lunch on the toilet of a public restroom. What I meant was, she was the most uneducated person in the field of education.) It wasn't unusual for her to be confused by words used in everyday conversation, like "ironically".
Skeletor actually only came to my class and observed three times the whole year. (Where was the guiding wing of knowledge and power, I cried from within as I struggled through each class alone.) After the class ended and the students walked out she pulled a seat to my desk so we could go over her meticulous notes and the real training could begin. The only thing I remember from those enlightening conversations was that my humor made me both unapproachable, and un-relatable to the students. I think you've let your life as a stand-up comedian cross over too much in to your teaching career, she would say. I never was a stand-up comedian, I explained. Well, I understand you did comedy, she persisted. I didn't understand what she meant, but the idea conjured images of a man who had a physically intimate relationship with comedy. I laughed to myself and when I did, I realized she was right. My two lives had crossed over. I was laughing at school.

In one breath she would say, I know the kids are having fun in your class, but are they learning anything? And in the next breath she would tell me I'm requiring too much. I was stuck between a rock and a dumb place and wasn't sure how to proceed. In the end she decided that a personality like mine wasn't fit in the world of education. And maybe she was right. If anything can be said of the youth these days, it's that they're studying too hard and laughing too damn much.