Five Things that Never Happened at Work that Happened
By Grape Areeww
In the spirit of lists and work, the lifeblood of The Clerk Manifesto, I would like to share five things that happened only once in my 25 years of teaching at the elementary, high school, and college levels.
1. Grade six: David forgets his shoes!
The kids run in, throw their backpacks on their desks, tell Captain Underpants jokes and mill about. I say my good mornings, but stop at David’s feet, at the bright white tube socks.
“David,” I ask, “where are your shoes?”
He looks down, his jaw drops, his face reddens. “I guess I forgot to put them on,” he says.
2. College: A bird hops into the classroom!
Every session, around twilight, there’s lovely tweeting in the hedge outside. I often stop the class so we can listen.
This evening, the door’s open. I can’t recall what we’re discussing—perhaps the use of the dash—when in hops a small bird. Hop, hop, hop between the desks and the whiteboard. What could we do but stop and watch? The bird must have hopped a full thirty seconds before hopping back out.
3. Grade Six: Sam vomits!
Sam is a quiet, shy boy—a good, attentive student, and so I should know something’s wrong when his hand’s raised throughout my stirring, remarkable, glorious lecture on the Boston Tea Party.
“Just a minute, Sam,” I say.
His hand remains up until, just as the tea is thrown into the Boston Harbor, Sam cups his hands beneath his mouth and vomits. I rush over with the trash can, then help him to the bathroom.
4. High School: The teacher wears a pager but dramatic irony strikes!
The pager is a pod-like device, smaller than a garage door opener, that hooks onto my belt loop and is set to buzz and vibrate. My wife and I rent it for the last few weeks of her pregnancy. I feel a bit, well, 007 wearing it around.
“What’s that?” Mr. Grape Areeww, my students ask.
“A pager,” I say. “But please don’t touch—it’s a very, very valuable piece of equipment. Practically top secret.”
Fast forward a week or so. We are at the heart of Gilgamesh, just after Enkidu’s death and our hero’s inner quest, when Patty, the office worker, walks into the classroom.
“It’s time!” she says.
“Time for what?” I ask.
“Baby time!” she says. “Your wife just called.”
The students erupt with shouts of encouragement. I gather my belongings, head to my car, checking the pager on my belt loop. The pager’s still there, but that’s it. No vibrating, no lighting up, no nothing.
5. Grade Six: The teacher loses a sense of time and self, and his students watch him from afar!
I am in the habit of walking the oak grove at the far end of campus while the students attend Art class. I make a loop that lands me back with a few minutes to spare, refreshed and ready for the afternoon. Today, though, after a night’s rain, everything shines brightly. The oak limbs reach out like shelters, the fallen leaves still wet. The trail through the grove is like a happy dream. My body moves through it, towards the playfield. I stop at a particularly loamy section of the path to feel its soft depth—in fact, I step on it repeatedly, enjoying the give-and-take of the soil, when all of a sudden, laughter from across the field. The kids are there, all of them, mimicking my steps, pointing at their watches.