Beating the Line
The bathroom situation in the teacher’s lounge consisted of adjacent men’s and women’s rooms. I’m pretty sure the decision to make them sex-discriminatory was made by either a gay man or a tidy woman. While the majority of women may have liked this idea, the men secretly disagreed with it. On several occasions, there would be a three-person line waiting to use the men’s room, even though the women’s room was vacant. Superior to my male colleagues in pooping and peeing, I always took the initiative and ditched the line to use the women’s room to ensure optimal bathroom usage.
One time, I had to poop badly, and there was no line for either bathroom. I rounded the opposite corner simultaneously with another math teacher in his early forties, beating him by a step. He was a squirly-looking motherfucker with light, parted hair and an earring in his left ear. He’d probably been cool back in 1992 when Vanilla Ice started the whole earring-in-the-left-ear-to-let-everyone-know-you’re-straight thing. But then 1993 happened, and the fashion died out with a whimper. This foolish man had not yet made the adjustment. When I approached the door, I smiled and said sarcastically, “Haha, beat you to it.” I entered the restroom, locked the door behind me, frantically and unnecessarily put toilet paper over the seat, and exploded. While it is distinctly audible to hear the women’s room door open and close, this time there was silence. The women’s room remained vacant. The fool was waiting for me. About nine minutes into my poop, the warning bell rang. Two minutes later, there was violent pounding on my door–five malicious thuds. I finished a minute later to find an empty lounge. I did not feel guilty for taking my time; he should have used the women’s room.
I ran into the guy the next day while walking to my teacher mailbox. In an attempt to diffuse any hard feelings that may have come from yesterday’s event, I said, “Sorry about yesterday. Just use the woman’s room. I do all the time.” His face turned red, and he replied, “What? Uh, what are you talking about?” I searched his face for signs of sarcasm but found nothing except for apprehension in the form of rosy cheeks and a sparkling ear decoration. I waved off his reply and returned to my classroom. Did he really think I wouldn’t think it was him who did the door pounding?
“Dude, I know it was you who pounded on the door. Just take your shit in the women’s room. You don’t have to be ashamed that your poops smell bad. So do mine. If there are chicks waiting when you’re finished, who gives a fuck? Just tell them that it was the architect’s fault for not making both of the bathrooms coed.” This is what I should have told him but didn’t. I pussed out. Either way, speeches like this should be given to defensive guys who suck at taking small risks with bathroom situations. Even if they’re teachers, middle-aged men with parted hair and earrings in their left ear are deceptive liars. Steer clear of such folk.
An unspoken obligation of the teaching profession is making the short walk to the office every morning to check our mailboxes. I detest this walk. First, the invention of email in the previous century was meant to make things easier in the workplace–faster communication, the elimination of physical memos, and fewer inane walks to an inane mailbox. Secondly, I have to cross paths with all the other teachers, the masters of small talk. I hate small talk. I hate awkward greetings, forced smiles, petty comments on the weather, or, worst of all, contrived attempts at pleasant conversation. It never ceases to amaze me that my middle-aged colleagues prefer these empty interactions over silence. I hate to sound unpleasant or aloof, but all early-morning exchanges with elder teachers look like one of the following:
Teacher 1: “Morning.”
Teacher 2: “Morning.”
Teacher 1: “Morning. Nice day, huh?”
Teacher 2: (Fake chuckle) “Heh, yeah, I heard it was supposed to be cloudy (A lie).”
(Sometimes) Teacher 1: “So how are your classes going?”
Teacher 2: (Stops walking because he/she is doomed to waste about 1-2 minutes of life so Teacher 1 can feel like he/she is a polite, positive, or sociable person) “Good, how about yours?”
Teacher 1: “How’s it going?”
Teacher 2: “Good. And you?”
Teacher 1: “Good.”
Teacher 2: (Fake smile)
Teacher 1: “How’s it going?”
Teacher 2: (Rolls eyes in fake exhaustion) “I’m tired.”
Teacher 1: “Yeah, I hear ya.”
Teacher 1: (In fake excitement) “Yay, it’s Friday!”
Teacher 2: (Fake smile and chuckle) “Yep.”
Sadly, I’ve played the role of both Teacher 1 and 2, many times. I know: I am pathetic. Although I’m not the most polite person in the world, I do play the part to please others. I just wish people could find other ways of feeling good about themselves besides artificial conversations with coworkers. Go exercise. Stop being mean to people you love. Apologize when you know you were wrong. Keep your promises. Eat healthy food. Forgo fast food and junk food. Stop wasting my time with your pathetic attempts at being a good person.
It reminds me of drivers who decide to be a “good person” and let me, the pedestrian, cross the street in the parking lot when I’m not even close to crossing yet, and it’s clearly their turn. I hate this because I’ll look like an ass if I don’t increase my speed and trot like I’m walking in front of a TV. Your dumbass should have just driven through. There was plenty of room for you to go and no risk of hitting me. Now you made me speed up for no reason, and I wanted to continue my leisurely stroll. Thanks for being a good person and disrupting my leisure time. When it comes to parking-lot drivers and early-morning coworkers, this world needs more assholes.
Towards the end of the first week of my teaching career, I made the trip to my mailbox. In my box I found a half-dozen memos and flyers, and on top of them sat a medium-sized snack pack of animal crackers–the ones with the white and pink frosting with the sprinkles. Mine was the only box with the crackers, so they must’ve been a gift of some sort. Not a fan of such a treat and already irritated by the notion of a mailbox, I left the crackers as they were. Two weeks passed. The crackers still remained in my box. I reasoned that since they were a gift, I couldn’t give them away; I wasn’t raised that way. But if I threw them away I’d be wasting an unopened item of food, which is against my personal rules. I concluded that my only option was to leave them in my mailbox and hope someone would steal them. Midway through the third ongoing week of untouched animal crackers, I walked up to my mailbox and found an empty box. Finally! Someone who actually liked them became hungry and stole them. I was at ease with my conscience.
A week later, while eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge, one of the elder female math teachers, Mrs. Crow, sat across from me at a crowded table of twelve. She brought her blue lunch pail, and before she even took out her main entrÃ©e, I saw them. They were pink and white and sprinkly, and they were piled amply inside a Ziploc bag. Shit! She was the one! To welcome me to the school, she had decided that I would greatly appreciate a happy pack of animal crackers, and I had disrespected her gift, big time. She knew. Upon busting out her valued treat, she went slowly around the table and offered everyone at the table a cracker. Everyone was accepting them! I was seventh in line for the offer, that is, if she didn’t skip me in the rotation. If she did offer me one, I obviously had no choice but to accept. The other teachers clearly had the upper hand in knowing that you do not turn down animal crackers from Mrs. Crow. When she got to me, she changed her offer routine. Instead of simply smiling and holding out the bag, she said in an attempt at sounding neutral to prior events, “Would you like a cookie, Dave?”
“Sure,” I said. I reached into the bag and grabbed one. It was pink. Wanting to make it seem like I was cherishing her offer, I only took a small bite. If I had popped the whole thing in, she may have snapped. She watched me for five seconds, an underlying fury brewing within. Then she offered the next person in line without saying a word. I received several glares over the last five minutes I remained at that table. After that day, three things never happened again: I never sat at that table again; I was never offered any more animal crackers; and I never received another gift from Mrs. Crow.
Now because I’m a good person, I can appreciate Mrs. Crow’s altruistic spirit, but even so, I shouldn’t be obligated to eat a bag of fucking animal crackers if I don’t feel like it. People shouldn’t conjure inauthenticity by carrying out their own self-righteousness. For example, if Mrs. Crow could feel good about herself without handing out a bunch of animal crackers, I wouldn’t have to feign appreciation. I guess, in a way, my stories are like my own little animal crackers that I feel compelled to hand out, but at least I don’t hover around you monitoring your consumption, making you feel bad for not reading them, or expecting you to pretend you like them.