Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: School

Sometimes Losers Do Win

I have another sports story to share. This involved my son’s high school snowboard team a couple of years ago. Since snowboarding is not a school-sponsored sport, the team is run by volunteers. I was in charge of the whole shebang, which meant I hired the coaches, collected money from all the members, paid for the buses, processed all the release forms and other paperwork, etc. Plus I went to all the competitions, practices, and state competition. Riding the bus up with these kids 10 times during the season (2 hours each way), I got to know everyone pretty well.

I inherited coaches the first year, but the next year I hired three new ones, keeping only Juanita. One of the new coaches was a pretty fun guy named Justin. He was full of ideas, most of them crazy but the kids thought they were cool. Justin would find fallen trees, pack the tops with snow, and have the kids snowboard across them as a way to practice balance rather than starting out on the metal rails. I didn’t totally approve because I’d ski around the five hours we were there patrolling for kids in the trees smoking pot or doing inverts (front or back flips) or not wearing helmets. Once I watched a string of kids flying across a  “tree rail” as Justin called it that was seven or eight feet off the ground. They sailed off the end of it, landing hard about twenty feet down the mountain. I couldn’t watch for long – I just pictured them falling off sideways and breaking their necks. All of them. They broke plenty of other stuff in the three years I was in charge, but never on these little side adventures Justin took them on.

We were having a kick ass season, and then the injuries started piling on until we looked like the Portland Trailblazers – many of our best snowboarders got sidelined with broken wrists and dislocated shoulders – the most typical snowboard injuries. One girl broke both wrists at one time.

State was coming up, and we needed people who could qualify for the boardercross team – a six man group that races down the hill together and tries to get the best average team time. Only the top four times are used, but you were supposed to send six guys down.

Two weeks before state my son broke his collarbone. Then a couple of other guys got injured. Luckily I had fixed it so that a ton of kids got to go to state because we rented a huge house and I wanted as many people as possible to pitch in on expenses. Plus I wanted the new people to get the experience. We allowed up to three alternates to come along with all those who qualified so we ended up with about 25 kids.

The night before the boardercross, one of our fast boarders said his back hurt too much to compete, so that left us with two fast boarders and the rest would have to be alternates who had shown themselves to be anything but speedy. At first Justin tried to talk my son into doing the run with his sling, but I nixed that immediately. With that hope dashed, there wasn’t any way we could finish anywhere but last, which had the two fast guys bummed, and the slow guys felt bad because they knew they weren’t good enough to make a difference. All our heads were hanging low.

Then Justin came up with an insane idea. “If we can’t be the fastest, we can be the coolest,” he said. When he said it, I didn’t realize he meant that literally. He met with the dejected six and explained that the only way they could redeem themselves from finishing last would be to go down the mountain in style – and by that he meant bare backed – no coats, no shirts, no nothing.

“No way,” I said. “You are NOT going to catch pneumonia on my watch.”

They all gathered around and begged. “We won’t catch cold. We’ll take everything off just as we get ready to load in the gate and Justin will carry our stuff down and be there when we get to the bottom.”

“No. End of discussion,” I said. But I was starting to warm up to the idea. They were so enthusiastic, and I could see that it would build team spirit. Plus it would put an end to their moping around, which was depressing everybody. I let them beg and plead a while longer, and then I grudgingly gave in. “But if anyone gets sick, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“Oh we won’t. We won’t,” they said, adding, “You’re the best!”

The next morning was overcast, windy, cold, and miserable. The boys were beside themselves with excitement, and it had infected all the rest of the kids and the chaperones, too. Someone told someone in the crowd, and before long people were coming up to me to ask if it was true that the boys weren’t going to wear shirts.

“Fraid so,” I said. “They’ve made up their minds, and what can you do?”

When it was our school’s time to go, the crowd was cheering like crazy. I was midway down the course, and since it twisted over hills and through trees, I couldn’t see the starting gate but I had an official two-wary radio and heard the crowd up on top get really loud so I knew they had taken their shirts off. I was bundled up for Siberia and was still freezing, so I couldn’t imagine what that cold mountain air felt like on bare skin.

“They’re on their way,” one of the officials said over the radio, “AND THEY’RE NOT WEARING ANY SHIRTS!” We could hear the wave of cheers coming down the mountain. When the first guy rounded the corner, he had his hands over his head, pumping his fists and yelling, “Woooooooo.” The people loved it. I got my camera ready and snapped a few shots as they flew by. They were scattered – the fast guys passed in a streak and the slower ones came into view like they were just moseying along. They all had their arms up to show what tough guys they were, and I got chill bumps when they went by – and not from the cold.

Soon after the last guy passed, two of the coaches snowboarded down, arms loaded with coats, shirts, and fleeces. “Hurry,” I yelled, “they’re going to freeze to death.” Justin grinned like a mule eating briars. “Don’t worry. Those boys are SMOKIN!”

The team came in a distant last, but they did it with style. If any of them got colds, they had the good sense not to tell me about it. When I got home I wrote up a play by play of the race for all 90 kids and their parents and emailed it to them with the pictures. I called it, “The Bareback Boys Win the Crowd’s Hearts at State.” I got a standing ovation at our end-of-season banquet – all because I let those boys turn a bunch of lemons into lemonade.

Powder Puff Power Play

I promised I’d tell about the powder puff football game. Last fall the junior girls were pitted against the senior girls, and it was pre-determined that the seniors would win.  That’s only fair, my daughter explained, because next year when she was a senior she’d get to win.

“How do they manage to guarantee the seniors will win?” I asked.

“Oh, the refs give the juniors a bunch of extra penalties and stuff,” she said.

At first my husband tried to get out of going to the game. “I don’t want to watch a bunch of little girls playing flag football,” he said with disgust. But my friend Gina had a bunch of us over for dinner and we went straight to the game, so he came along.

While we were scrunched in the stands trying to keep warm, waiting forever for the game to begin, one of the dads called out, “Did anyone bring a boda bag?” We all laughed (and secretly wished someone had yelled, “Over here!”)

My daughter’s prom date, Johnny, was the junior’s head coach – chosen by the school’s football coach. It looked like he had gotten eight or nine of his friends as assistants.  They were all wearing the forest green t-shirts with “Juniors Rule” scrawled in sloppy white paint on the front that the girls had made for them.

When I compared the size of the junior girls lined up next to the seniors, and saw all the talent on the junior team, I thought, those poor seniors don’t stand a chance.

The juniors got the ball first. My daughter’s job was to call everyone into the huddle. They plotted for a few seconds, then the two teams faced each other on the line and squatted down just like real football players except they weren’t wearing shoulder pads. The junior’s center picked up the football and stood up, saying, “Hey, they gave us the wrong ball.  Look at this, it’s the wrong ball.”  She turned and handed it to the quarterback.

The quarterback hollered, “Yeah, hey this is the wrong ball.” She looked at Johnny on the sideline and bellowed, “Hey, coach, you gave us the wrong ball.” She started walking toward him, calling out, “We can’t play with this ball, this isn’t the right one, there’s something wrong with this ball.”  Everyone else just stood there, waiting for someone to fix the screw up. I thought, this is going to be one long game.

The quarterback was almost to the sideline, still ranting about the ball, when Johnny yelled, “RUN!” She took off flying down the field, chased by a befuddled pack of seniors, and scored a touchdown on the very first play of the game.

You’ve never seen such carrying on.  Girls were bouncing up and down like they were on a trampoline, ponytails flying in the air, hugging and flailing their arms and squealing with delight.

“Was that legal?” I shouted above the cheering parents.

“Johnny found it online,” Gina shouted back.  “He ran it by the athletic director first to make sure it was legal, and he said it was.”

The seniors sulked and accused the juniors of cheating, and even though the athletic director/referee squelched their grumbling, it’s probably the reason the game got a little rough.  It was supposed to be flag football, but juniors were getting tackled, especially Gina’s daughter, Julia, who was like a cheetah on the field.  She has broken school records in track. The quarterback kept handing the ball to her, and she’d run toward the sideline, gaining several yards before literally getting knocked out of bounds.

Once my daughter ran off the field crying and holding the splinted finger she’d broken in gymnastics. Another time Julia limped off, crying, after being tackled. And several girls stayed down on the field after plays. When it happened, both teams got down on one knee, but since it would take awhile for the injured girl to get up, some of the juniors started whispering. If it went on for a few seconds my daughter belted out, “SHUT UP!” loud enough for all of us in the stands to hear. She later told me that Johnny thanked her and finally told her he’d call the game if the girls did it again.

The seniors scored, then the juniors scored, then the seniors scored again and it was a tie game with a couple of minutes left on the clock. My daughter rushed two times in a row and snatched the senior quarterback’s flag, which led to them turning the ball over when they missed getting a first down.

A couple of quick plays got the juniors in field goal position with two seconds left on the clock.  To make sure the juniors didn’t score and win the game, the referee put the ball way off to the side of the field so it couldn’t possibly go through the goal posts. Nobody could make such a kick.

Aleeta, the six foot tall soccer queen, got in position to kick. We were screaming in the stands, blowing frosty steam and jumping up and down. Aleeta ran up to the ball and gave it a good solid soccer kick at an impossible angle, and it flew like a homing pigeon right through the middle of the goal posts to win the game.

The whole junior class raced out on the field like kids on the last day of school – jumping, screaming, and waving their arms. Parents went down on the field too, though we were totally ignored for the longest time until our daughters came tearing out of the massive hive of kids and nearly knocked us down with excited hugs,  “WE WON!  WE WON!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, WE WON!!!!”

“Did you like the game, daddy?” my daughter asked when she caught her breath.

“Best game I’ve seen in a long time.  Beats most college games I’ve seen,” he said.

The next day my daughter was still pumped up.  She was so hoarse from screaming that some words didn’t come out. She showed me all her bruises, and there were plenty because she had played both offense and defense.  “This one senior hit me right in the face,” she said, “and she hit Hannah, too.  And they were pulling girls’ hair from behind when we were running with the ball.  I’ve got this giant bruise on my thigh, and feel this one here on my arm, it’s sticking up.  And one of them grabbed my splinted finger and twisted it. They were really mean, mom.”

After school on Monday my daughter reported that the seniors mumbled the word, “Cheaters,” a lot.  “They need to just let it go,” she said.  “It wasn’t our fault we won.  We just did our best.”

The juniors had a secret weapon. It was Johnny who won the game for them – with that incredible first play. That’s the kind of guy he is. Smart and clever and sweet.

Yearbook Quotes

It’s that time of year when kids are getting their high school yearbooks. They go around and have their friends sign them. I like reading the comments.

We used to get these nice little notes from people saying what a nice person you were and how fun it was to have you in class. Of course people elaborated, but it was pretty standard unless you had done something memorable in which case there’d be an inside message like, “be sure to call me next time you want to lay on the runway,” referring to times we would sprawl on our backs and watch planes soar a few feet over our heads.

The comments in my daughter’s book are from girls just gushing with enthusiasm. “You ROCK girl! You are so sexy and funny. I hope you will be my bff!!!!!!!!!!!” In your head you can hear their breathless exclamations, and you roll your eyes.

Why the girls are telling their girlfriends they are sexy I haven’t quite figured out, unless that’s the new compliment, like we used to say, “You’re so cute!” to each other. Girls are definitely more sexy than cute these days – I was at the school tutoring today and saw shamelessly short shorts, strapless dresses, plunging tank tops. There’s no question these girls are sexy.

What I liked about my high school yearbook were the ads in the back. Nice businesses around town took out quarter or half page ads to help sponsor the school, and we paid absolutely no attention to them except if they could give us a chance to be creative. Everyone’s favorites were the funeral homes. Why funeral homes advertised in books being thumbed through by teenagers is beyond me, but I didn’t question their motives at the time. I was delighted because you’d give your yearbook to some guy and he’d open it straight to the funeral home and start writing little poems:

You kill ‘em

We chill’em.

You slice ‘em

We ice ‘em

You stab ‘em

We slab ‘em.

You break ‘em

We bake ‘em

You marry ‘em

We bury ‘em

You squeeze ‘em

We freeze ‘em

Good stuff. The other ad I can remember was some business with a picture of a big mousetrap. Apparently they were trying to show that their business was preferable to the competition. The caption read, “Build a Better Mouse Trap…” Vince Quinn got a hold of my yearbook and drew a large, belly-up rat with x’s for eyes with the caption, “Catch a Better Mouse.”

Ah, those were the good old days. There were other drawings and captions in there – anything at all that could be made naughty, funny, or trashy, the guys were all over it, and I loved seeing their creativity.

Kids today may use the f-word like it’s the only adjective in the English language, and they may be scantily clad, but they got nothin’ on us when we were that age. We had Hot Pants and Mini Skirts, after all. When we cussed, it meant something and sounded shocking. And, as demonstrated above, we were quite the poets back in the day.

Your f-word

Is simply absurd

We laid on runways

Those were the fun days

College Barage

My daughter got a decent score on a practice SAT test, and now we’re being bombarded by colleges wanting her to attend.

I always thought it was so competitive to get into a college. Everyone says to fill out the applications early and write an excellent essay. Yet the Ivy League schools and some of the most prestigious universities in the country are sending very colorful spreads trying to lure her to come to their college.

One private Catholic school in California that I’ve never even heard of offered her $20,000 to sign up at their school.

I’m quite proud of her good test score, of course, but I think this is ridiculous. If they are sending these things to her, they’re sending them to thousands of other kids in the country – kids who take the tests when they’re sophomores and the only thing they’re thinking about is being a junior next year and getting to park their beater in the school’s parking lot instead of miles away on the street.

One college called me a couple of days ago. A bright young student tried to tell me what a great place it would be for my daughter to attend. I said, “She hasn’t given any thought at all to college.”

“Well, when she does, would you please tell her that we have a great school?”

All I keep thinking is no wonder college tuition is so high all over the country. Those brochures they’re sending us cost a fortune to design, another fortune to mail, and still another fortune to keep revising each year. They also send us emails that have to be designed. I used to forward them on, but now I just hit the delete button. They sound so desperate: “We’ve sent you three emails already. We’re beginning to wonder if we have the correct address. Please let us know at your earliest convenience. And by the way, we are a great school.” And now there are people calling. I’m certain as taxes that these students aren’t volunteering to call high school kids.

My daughter hasn’t responded to any of these lavish attempts to get her attention. She likes opening the envelopes and looking at the pretty pictures, then she tosses them into a grocery sack. Sometimes her friends go through them, so they’re all tossed together like a jigsaw puzzle.

If any of you colleges are listening right now, I’ve got some words of advice to you: SHOW ME THE MONEY! You could send checks and money orders in those envelopes and it will make a much better impression on me personally. If you decide you don’t want to do that, then please quit sending us these expensive fold-out brochures the size of posters and glossy flyers that cost as much as a textbook. Because I know that they’re driving up your tuition, and trust me, sophomores aren’t going to make up their minds about college yet. Not in this house, anyway.

Olympic Fantasyland

Tonight I’ve been watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics and I’m much more impressed with Canadians than I used to be.

It’s not that I have ever not been impressed with them, I’ve always liked Canadians. They seemed laid back and easy going and good hearted. I just didn’t realize they had so much spunk.

They’ve also got a sense of humor. On opening night, there were four athletes who were supposed to light four pillars leading up to a giant torch. These pillars rose magnificiently from beneath the floor – except for one. So tonight they did a little skit where a clown coaxed the fourth pillar out of the floor and then the 4th athlete came out of the floor and lit the pillar. I like that they owned up to this blight of the opening night and turned it into entertainment. Smart, those Canadians!

I always enjoy the Olympics in the same way I enjoy Disneyland. You pay a huge fee to get in the door, but then you leave reality behind and have smiling giant mice greeting you at every corner. The employees blend into the fantasy, and when you see them, they’re always super nice. People walk around singing and happy. Everything is colorful. No one knocks you to the pavement and steals your purse. I always hate leaving Disneyland and going back into the cold, surly world where Californians blow their horns at you simply because you have Oregon plates and you go a tad slower. Sheesh!

The Olympics give me that Disneyland high because everyone is a good sport – no one is getting into brawls like in regular sports or yelling obscenities that have to be bleeped out. People play fair (except perhaps Chinese gymnasts who like infants in leotards), and greet each other kindly, congratulating each other. This is definitely a fantasyland compared to a lot of the sports I’ve seen, and I like it a lot.

I really enjoyed everything except for one thing. What happened to Bob Costa’s pupils? His eyes are solid blue without any black. Very strange.

The Olympics ending is always sad for me, but thanks to NBC we’ll get three more days of enjoying our Olympic heros, so I’ll be able to look forward to that. Jay Leno, who ousted Conan O’Brien to return to the Late Show because he couldn’t make it in prime time – though I was the one American who actually liked his show – Jay is going to have Lindsay Vonn, Apollo Ohno, and Shaun White on his show to try and woo viewers back.

Oooo – I just had a great idea. Someone needs to open an amusement park and call it “Olympic Fantasyland.” It could be an escape from reality like Disneyland, except have rides that are Olympics inspired for those of us who like our sports dangerous but virtual. Wouldn’t the Bobsled Ride be a thriller? And a rollercoaster fashioned after a downhill course where it lunges toward gates and makes hairpin turns. Then you could have the Halfpipe Ride where you shoot straight up in the air and get rotated around like Shaun White’s McTwist before coming back down and going up the other side. And there could be ski jumping where you could glide down a long ramp and launch out into space. And virtual skeleton rides and snowboard cross. I’m getting really excited about this idea! There could even be curling where people get to sweep frantically with brooms and nothing happens. Well, maybe not.

So I’m going to go to bed tonight, not with a heavy heart from the Olympics ending, but with a head dancing with ideas for my own Olympic Village Amusement Park. By the way, If you are an investor with a lot of money, please email me and let’s get this baby started.

YouTube Homework

I was at the high school tutoring today, and I’m nursing a headache from all the noise in the library. I sat at a table situated behind a bank of computers and helped my favorite student with his economics assignment. He left for a few minutes to key in the changes I suggested on one of the computers.

As I waited, I could see ten computer screens, and most of the kids were surfing the net. One kid was looking at different cell phones on Verizon. The rest were watching YouTube videos. Kids started gathering around one of the screens to watch a video game. They started getting pretty animated, and I saw the librarian get up from her desk and head toward their direction. Just when she was almost close enough to see what was on the screen, up popped a writing assignment. She looked at the screen and made a very educated guess that they were probably not getting all that excited about a Word document. She shooed everyone away, and kicked the kid off the computer. He gave her a bunch of lip but got up and left.

We didn’t have computers in my library, but we did our share of goofing off. We entertained ourselves with looking at naked people in anatomy and medical books, passing notes, or doodling—anything to avoid homework. These kids have a different medium for wasting time, but it’s still the same typical high school behavior.

As soon as the librarian walked away, YouTube magically appeared on the kids’ screens. One guy had a game on. The game made it appear that you, the game player, were walking along looking down the barrel of a machine gun hunting for people to shoot at. You were wearing an army camouflage shirt. Someone popped out from a doorway and fire flashed from the end of your gun while you repeatedly blasted them. A bunch of boys gathered around the screen, mesmerized. They weren’t actually playing the game; they were watching a demo video of it.

I was waiting for my student to get back, so I got up and went over and stood with the crowd. “What on earth are you watching?” I asked. None of them looked up, but they all answered, “a video game.” How they knew I wasn’t the librarian, I don’t know. I guess they could still see her out of their peripheral vision. “Are you actually playing the game?” I asked. “Naw, it’s just a demo.”

There was a pretty good crowd forming. You, the video soldier, continued to blast people. Although it was definitely animation, it had a fairly realistic look to it. One time the blasted guy was pretty close to the “camera” and the screen got splattered in fake blood. “Oooo that’s gross,” I said, but they were murmuring, “Cool!”

“Doesn’t this make you want to go out and kill people?” I asked. “Naw, it’s just a game.” I persisted. “Don’t you feel anything watching this?” And they responded like zombies, “Naw.”

“We used to play Pac Man where you blasted little alien things,” I said. “This is Pac Man 2” one of them quipped. I went back to my table after a couple of minutes, bored and scared the librarian would come over.

I’ve decided that it isn’t much different than when kids pretended they were in the old west and made their fingers into guns so they could blast each other. This was the high school version of that. I don’t approve of it, per se, because it’s violent and I don’t like violence. On the other hand, I remember reading that book, “All Quiet on the Western Front” when I was in high school and I could visualize those war scenes as if they were real. I can still see them in my head. At least you knew this was a game.

The librarian came back over and the kids scattered like a bag of marbles dropped on a concrete floor. Up came the Word documents just in the nick of time. She walked over to me and shook her head. “They watch a lot of YouTube,” I said. She glanced at the screens, “I’m going to get some monitoring equipment so I can see what they have on their computers,” she said.

She’s going to get an eyeful.

Mr. Thomas, Part 3

The school year was drawing to a close. We had gotten through the annual spring fight, an all-school affair that took place in the cafeteria. We were not allowed to go off campus for lunch, which was fine by us because the food was really good back then. Everything was homemade right in the cafeteria. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, yeasty rolls, green beans cooked with a ham hock. We all waited in line every single day to get a plate of cafeteria food and a box of Borden’s milk.

With so many kids in one place, and spring in the air, and testosterone so thick you could practically taste it, someone would start a fight just to relieve the tension. I saw a guy pick up a chair and hurl it across the room into an empty area, and before you knew it people were jumping off tables and punching each other, spilling out to the smoking section on the patio. No one ever got seriously hurt because we were tough – we meaning the guys, us girls were in the glass hallway watching from a safe distance. People got in fights back then. Even white trash girls would start shoving each other and end up rolling around on the grass, pulling each others’ hair in the middle of a ring of students egging them on.

But all this has nothing to do with Mr. Thomas, who was back in the library keeping an alert ear open for alarm clocks. We could have told him that those hooligans and their friends would not pull the same prank twice. I’m not saying they were real hooligans, they were actually the most popular guys in school, but they were at the root of everything, including the spring fights.

As I said a couple of blogs ago, everyone who went to my school lived in the city. We could get to the “country” where the hicks lived by driving three miles in any direction. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the country. Somebody, and none of us was sure who but rumor had it that it was Rick Piercy, must have known someone with a farm, because he put a piglet in a canvas sack and smuggled it under his lettermen’s jacket into the library. He turned it loose, and it took off squealing across the room. Furthermore, it was greased. The reason you grease a pig was strictly for entertainment value, so that whoever is chasing it will not be able to hold on to it even if they catch it.

Unfortunately, I was not present when the greased pig went on a rampage through the library. I heard it described so many times, however, that I think I might have been there. Mr. Thomas chased it, bent from the waist and arms outstretched, all through the library. There were plenty of tables and chairs for the piglet to try and seek refuge, and it was absolutely determined not to be caught. Kids chased the pig to keep it away from Mr. Thomas, which prolonged the fun. Finally someone opened the library door and the pig ran down the ramp to temporary freedom. From there it was either caught, dissected in biology, or became the next day’s pulled pork sandwiches, depending on who was telling the story.

Mr. Thomas wasn’t the same after that. He got jittery, and who could blame him. Crazy thing is, that the last day of my junior year, and I can’t even remember him in my senior year. That would be just like kids, run the poor guy off and forget about him.

Now I feel bad for the poor guy who was only trying to do a good job and help us learn. We were such brats!  If you’re reading this, Mr. Thomas, you must be about 110 years old. We’re sorry, really we are. RRRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGG.  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Mr. Thomas, Part 2

We had a love-hate relationship with Mr. Thomas. We loved him because he entertained us. We didn’t really hate him, but we didn’t appreciate that he wouldn’t let us talk, throw spit wads, chase each other around the room, and otherwise put that lovely, carpeted library to some practical use.

That’s why people liked to torment him. You couldn’t do it openly or you’d get detention. There were a couple of seniors, Ricky Kendall and Billy Nurenburg, who existed for mischief.  We relied on their expertise in these matters.

During my library period, as Mr. Thomas was busy keeping it like a soundproof room, an alarm clock went off. Everyone turned toward the noise, which was from a wind-up clock that actually had a metal bell inside and something, maybe a small elf, hitting it with a miniature sledgehammer. The sound filled the room like a fire bell.

Mr. Thomas jerked to attention, then floated rapidly toward the noise. Just then another alarm started ringing on the opposite end of the library. He spun around, forgetting the first clock, and headed toward that one looking like someone pretending to be a choo-choo train. Two more clocks starting clanging, then another. It got really loud as more clocks went off. Mr. Thomas started spinning like a top n the middle of the library, jerking toward each new noise, putting his hands over his ears, starting toward a sound then changing directions.

My friends and I came out of the conference room to be a part of the action. Everyone was laughing, which added to the chaos. For a fleeting second I felt sorry for Mr. Thomas, but who knows where that came from, and it left me quick, with a “whoosh.”

Finally he went over and found an alarm clock. He turned it off and put it down, hard, on top of a bookshelf. He found another, and took it over by the first. When he went toward the back, somebody ran over and put the clocks back on alarm.

“Who did that?” he shouted. “Who did that?” It startled us, and we got quiet. “Someone is going to be in big trouble.”

Within a couple of minutes, the clocks had all wound down and the library got still.

“When I find out who did this, you’ll be out of this school,” Mr. Thomas said quietly, his chest rising and sweat starting to form at his hairline.

He never did find out, which is what led the guys to do the second huge prank of the year, which I’ll tell about tomorrow.

Mr. Thomas, Part 1

Volunteering at my daughter’s high school library reminds me of Mr. Thomas, the librarian at my alma mater located in otherwise Hicksville East Tennessee. Many of the students had dads who worked at “The Eastman,” a sprawling chemical complex whose location could be determined anywhere in a 200-mile radius by massive clouds of chemicals spewing from smokestacks, or, on foggy days, by the smell.

People working at this plant made lots of money, so the rest of us got to enjoy the fruits of their labors by being the recipients of a sparkling new, state of the art high school with carpeting, closed circuit TV’s, a “Little Theatre” that rivaled Broadway, and a library with…CONFERENCE ROOMS.

All you had to do to get one of those rooms during library period was dispatch your fastest runner the second the bell rang to fly up and down the ramps (no stairs), knock down anyone in her path, explode into an empty conference room, slap down her three-ring binder on the table, and yell, “Dibs!” to save it for the rest of us.

My group of three or four friends landed a room nearly every day, and from there we could look through the glass walls at Mr. Thomas as he harassed all the other luckless smucks who didn’t have a bruiser for a friend.

I’m going to describe him because his appearance was half the fun. He stood about 5’6” and weighed a couple hundred pounds, but he was evenly proportioned all over, and had the posture of a ballet dancer. He wore a white shirt, maroon tie, and black suit every single day of the year, had dark brown skin and graying hair cropped close to his head, and had no inkling of a sense of humor. Plus he kept his arms folded across his chest all the time, the ends of his mouth turned down, he took very short, fast steps so his head never moved when he walked, and he could cover great distances with the speed and stealth of a cheetah.

One of Mr. Thomas’s few talents was his ability to spot chewing gum at distances equal to a runway at a major airport. He could sense a jaw movement, invisible to the naked human eye, and be beside the student in a tenth of a second flat, clutching a small wastebasket.

He ran a tight ship, so the least little whisper and he’d come out of nowhere, put his finger to his lips and blast out, “SHHH!” It blew homework off the table at seven feet.

We in the conference room used our library study time to observe and comment on Mr. Thomas’s skills at keeping the library an almost holy place to learn. “Look, look, he’s streaking across the library, who’s he after? Oh! Oh! He’s got the garbage can. It’s Priscilla Abbott. Oh my gosh. Can you see that look she’s giving him? Is she going to spit it out or what? Oh my gosh. I can’t believe she’s just hanging her head over the garbage can and no gum’s coming out.”

Alas, all good things come to an end. I’ve got to go volunteer for an all day and most of the night gymnastics meet, as if vacuuming the whole gym on a Friday night wasn’t enough. Fuzz and little strings stick to those carpeted mats like Velcro. It took me two and a half hours, which is why I didn’t finish my blog yesterday until after midnight, having procrastinated all day thinking I’d write it after finishing the one hour of mandatory set-up time I’d committed to against my will, leaving me plenty of time at 9:00 when I got home, which ended up being 10:00, and then having to shower off all the chalk dust that got sucked into the vacuum and blasted out the back all over me, but since I’ve already written about my complaints on the subject of volunteering, I won’t repeat myself here, but only because I have to stop RIGHT NOW. More tomorrow, maybe.

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen