On Your Mark …

I can’t get into the details because doing so would cost several people their jobs and their good names. But suffice it to say that a recent and riotously funny incident at my place of employment reminded me of a story of yore. I know, I know, my last post also relayed a tale from the childhood crypt, but people, just suck it up.

My first-grade teacher – let’s call her Ms. B – was really, really mean. To me, at least. According to Jan, Ms. B had been a “bitch on wheels” to begin with, but happened to be going through a bitter divorce at the time, which sure as hell didn’t help her mood. Furthermore, according to Jan, I was a nervous kid who talked a lot (SHOCKER!) and Ms. B was emotionally ill-equipped to deal with someone like me. (Many people are.) 

Being nervous made me chatty, but it also made me a frequent bathroom visitor. (Not much has changed.) So at any given time, thoughts of the little hall pass made of two paper plates that were stapled together and Magic Markered yellow were never far from my mind.

The medium is the wrong message

Each morning, Ms. B would write a few of our vocabulary words on the chalkboard, with one or two key letters missing. We’d receive an 8×10 piece of manila paper, which we’d fold into six small rectangular sections.  We were supposed to figure out how to complete the chalkboard words and then draw a picture of their meanings in each of those sections.

Our reader at the time featured a very Wonder Bread brother and sister by the names of Janet and Mark. (I had a lot of trouble finding them on Google, but here’s something from 1970.) As you might imagine, many more of our vocabulary words came from the stories we read than from Ms. B’s divorce proceedings.

There I was, dressed in my rust Jet Set corduroys and a striped shirt that I’m pretty sure was meant for boys, with Buster Brown shoes, eagerly beginning another day of hard work at school. I read down the list of words and found none I couldn’t complete with grace and aplomb: D_G.  TR_E.  BOO_.  I was purdy smart, I had to admit.

But this one struck me as odd: MA_ _. 

I looked around to see if any of the Jennifers or the pair of (naturally conceived) twins noticed what was going on.  There was no indication that they did.

They must just not know how to spell it.

Which was odd itself, because the twins could spell “from,” and that was HARD.

Could that REALLY be the answer? I felt a little weird about it, but what could I do?

I went for it. I wrote, in my best handwriting, M-A-K-E. And I drew a very realistic stick boy on a stick toilet.

I had heard that everybody pooped, even mean people, but I didn’t really believe it. Obviously Ms. B – herself a questionable pooper – was trying to help us come to terms with this topic.

When Ms. B collected the manila sheets and was out of hearing range, I turned to Jennifer 3 and commented on the answer I’d just filled in.

“Wasn’t that strange how ‘make’ was one of our words today?”

Jennifer 3 stared at me as if to say, “WTF are you talking about buck-toothed T?”

But she was nice, and instead of saying that, she pointed out that the correct answer, she suspected, was actually “Mark,” as in, the little red-headed boy from our book.

Jennifers 1 and 4 nodded in agreement.

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On Your Mark …