Thursday, June 20, 2013

And then...

Mercifully, the school year ended right before I voluntarily fed myself head first into an industrial grade wood chipper. Obviously I refrained from doing this. Instead I met a bunch of my teacher friends for a Hallelujah!!! happy hour where some of us didn't leave until 11 p.m. and I may or may not have roofied myself with a combination of margaritas and extreme happiness bordering on delirium.

It was a l-o-n-g year, people, and I was one lunch duty away from Nutcase Ahoy! The Cloverfield Monster had nothing on the homeroom class assigned to me this year. The little blessings! *cough*

The day before the 5th grade promotion a student whose mother saw fit to name him after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle accused another boy of "tea bagging" him, which turned out to be nothing more threatening than one fully clothed kid gleefully jumping over the seated body of another fully clothed kid who was trying to watch a movie. How happy I will be not to feel the need to take a Silkwood shower after work every day, which probably happens a lot when you suspect you're fighting a losing battle teaching subject-verb agreement to the next generation of Menendez brothers.

So... it's on to middle school in a completely different part of town. More Ellen Degeneres and less Jerry Springer.  I get to dust off my adolescent psychology notes and try to reach my inner teen. That's the awesome one I wanted to be who could blow everyone's minds with her new crocheted vest,  Love's Baby Soft-scented skin and mad spelling skillz,  but whose "cool" was hamstrung mightily by the unforgiving trifecta of glasses, braces and white knee socks. Plastic framed glasses because the parents of yours truly believed only hippies wore wire framed glasses and wearing panty hose gave one the mistaken impression one was a grown up and--believe me young lady, being grown was apparently something that only happened when your parents decided that it happened. Until that time I was doomed to live out middle school as an AM girl in an FM world. A used plastic poncho in a roomful of London Fog raincoats. The lone can of Cheez Whiz next to the plate of gruyere. A lamer episode of McMillan & Wife when the world is all about Sherlock Holmes (Both Rathbone and Downey Jr. varieties) You get the idea.

So yeah....*whispers* it's summer. I've fantasized about this so many times I'm afraid of talking about it too loudly for fear that it's really just a dream.  A dream where I awaken to find myself explaining for the eleventy hundredth time why wearing red pimp shoes is not part of the dress code and then attempting to sweat a confession out of a kid who is a destined to be a first round draft pick for Leavenworth and who will steal anything that isn't locked up claiming that he "found" it.

 I've been rededicating myself to running sprints and practicing yoga because Spanx can correct only so much when you are pregnant with a 9-month old food baby which I can only blame on my stress diet of candy corn and alcohol.  I am grateful for the available time to give birth get fit.  I've also dived head first into the Jenga tower of books on my bedside table, the best part of which is that no characters in any of these volumes tries to axe anyone else a question and none of them are on the Newberry list.

In unrelated news I'm also cleaning out my bedroom closet in anticipation of the new duds I'll be able to buy with the 4% raise teachers in my district are getting after three years of bupkis and a crapton of excuses as to why insurance and cost of living continue to rise but our paychecks do not. I did the math and if I start buying my bras and underwear at the Dollar Store I'll j-u-s-t be able to spring for some new blouses from the 4th of July discount rack at CrackerBarrel. Or something equally classy.

Try to contain your jealousy.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Competitive Talker

My last gig as a 5th grade teacher at the end of year promotion is this coming Friday and since my feet will be on display I scheduled a pedicure today and reveled in the fact that it would be relatively quiet there, thanks to the post-finals/pre-summer lull. The salon--much like the nearby university-- was completely empty, save for one woman who was deep into her book and getting a final coat of red on her toes.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until I had already secured the chair next to her that I realized the woman was not a stranger. It was Sheila Walton. Seemingly harmless, albeit every-so-slightly-shrill, elementary school teacher by day or evening with a penchant for animal print jackets and chunky jewelry. (An affectation that makes it almost impossible for me not to think of Audra Lindley in her seminal role as Mrs. Roper) Once you were forced into a conversation with Sheila you would shortly realize with fresh horror that she was (and remains) a competitive talker.

You know the type. Competitive talkers can never be wrong about anything, but this is only the tip of the conversational iceberg you're up against. Nothing in life will ever happen to you that is as wonderful or as death-defyingly tragic as whatever has happened to her. At first, conversation with a CT seems normal, but it quickly devolves into a frustrating game of one upmanship where the only means of escape is to look for the nearest window and then jump through it. Or to pray for the sweet and unexpected mercy that only the Seven Horsemen of the Apocalypse can provide. And so it has always been with Sheila.

She started in by asking me if it had been a difficult school year and I said that it had been especially so. This was familiar and dangerous territory as we had talked about our jobs during a wedding reception a couple of years ago where I told her about some of the criminal activity of my young students and where she assured me that the children at her charter school were equally--if not more-- delinquent than those at my public school. Today I regaled her with the Reader's Digest version of a student being pulled out of my class on Tuesday (never to return) because he chose to honor our men and women in uniform over the Memorial Day weekend with nefarious actions resulting in a charge of Felony Breaking and Entering. Also--our school as twice been the target of "friendly fire" of the arson variety, the second time during which current and former students' images were captured on the school's security camera. Sheila responded that kids at her building set their fires in the 1st grade. Because they are so advanced at being bad, I'm guessing.

And it all came rushing back like a bad acid flashback because Sheila Walton is the Michael Phelps of Competitive Talking, minus the all those medals. I could sooner teach my cat to dial 911 than convince Sheila  my day had ever been worse-- or better-- than hers. You have a migraine? Sheila just diagnosed herself (Thanks to the assistance of WebMD) with a brain tumor.

If I know someone with six toes on each foot, she knows someone who has an entire hand growing off of their foot and it has six toes growing off of it.  If I tell her my kid has earned a college scholarship, she would be quick to let me know that her precious dumpling had not only received a free ride to the college of his choice---but had also been crowned the newest ruler of a small principality. Know someone who has been attacked by a shark? Sheila knows a woman who was skin diving while having her period, which attracted the unwanted attentions of an amorous Hammerhead who then forced her to have interspecies sex....and then promptly ate her. You tell her a story about accidentally burning yourself while scrambling some eggs and you will be held captive while she tells you about the time she was so distraught over a bad color job at the salon that she set her own hair aflame with a BIC lighter and half a can of sterno she had left over from an unsuccessfully catered birthday party.

It's exhausting, friends. And because the Apocalypse didn't happen while my feet were soaking and we were unhelpfully located on the first floor of a building, there was nothing for me to do today but just stop talking. Just. Stop. Talking. Feigning a coma would have probably aroused her suspicion, so I focused on the pedicurist's graphic scraping of my leathery feet and begin chatting with her even though her strong Vietnamese accent made it practically impossible to understand what she was saying to me, but I did not mind in the least. NOT IN THE LEAST! The alternative was just too much to endure.Naturally, Sheila Walton is not her real name, but if I did use her real name and the real Sheila ever read this, she would promptly corner me at the store and tell me about the trials of her own personal Competitive Talker who makes mine look like such an amateur! And then one of us would be going home in a body bag.

P.S.- This is the part where you pull a Sheila and tell me about an encounter with a Competitive Talker near you. Ready, Set....Go.