Friday, July 01, 2005

School's Out For Summer
The last few days of school are a big joke. The kids are gone. The tests are graded. The books returned. The bulletin boards down. All the crap boxed up. There is not shit to do. We’re supposed to put in six and a half hours—8 to 2:40—but even that is a struggle.

I straggle in late, praying the payroll-witch hasn’t pulled my time-card, sucking it up and marching in to get it when she has. I’ve done my best all year to butter her up, knowing situations such as this would arise, but even I can’t flirt with a middle-aged woman obese and bald with the temperament of a DMV worker. She’s like Patty and Selma crossed with Jabba the Hut.

I once tiptoed into the Payroll office to deal with some insurance paperwork I had filled out improperly (a cardinal sin,) to find the dragon breathing even more fire than usual, because her decrepit old PC was on the fritz. Seizing the opportunity to score some brownie-points, and utilizing my considerable technical savvy I identified the problem and promptly corrected it. (The machine had been unplugged, I plugged it back in).

Since then, I’ve been in her good-graces, such as they are. I still get yelled at, but she doesn’t actively try to prevent me from getting paid or getting the proper things filed or whatever. So this past week I straggled in late those last few days, stood there and took it while she lectured that “teacher-time is eight o’clock,” and then found some way to amuse myself until I deemed it safe to break out for home.

One day I came in over an hour late, turned around and went to the diner for pancakes and bacon, came back and did a crossword puzzle, then crept out two hours early.

The last day I came in around 9:00 and went down to the library (it’s been down-sized and relocated to the basement to make room for more attractively named mini-schools) to chill in the AC and read some Newsweek back-issues or something. Some teachers from the English department were down there playing Scrabble and arguing something fierce, and one guy had the TV out and was watching the “Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 1” DVD. I joined him, and was so caught up in the Bob Odenkirk as ex-porn-star episode (“My life likes to say, ‘it’s the house that cum built’.”) that I was 20 minutes late to our 10:30 department meeting.

Not that I missed anything. We didn’t get our schedules for next year. No room assignments. We don’t even know what classes we’ll be teaching. This end-of-year meeting consisted entirely of our doddering old AP complaining about our office being moved to the basement (this does suck) and then blathering on a tangent about her phobia of mice, roaches, and, inexplicably, frogs. It’s as if she has no plan as to what she’s going to say in these meetings, but just gets up there and rambles, playing up this sweet, old abuela thing and bullshitting until she feels like she’s used up enough time for it to actually qualify as a meeting.

She actually had to be reminded to say anything about all the people that were leaving, including a couple of teachers who have taught at Shitty for over ten years, and two people that were retiring after over three decades on the job. When she did acknowledge their departures it was purely perfunctory. People were visibly hurt by the lack of recognition.

Then the meeting took a turn from the useless and disrespectful into the realm of the truly bizarre. Ms. Wayne, the uptight, overly proper disciplinarian who can’t seem to stop the kids from throwing spit-balls at her, and even had the nerve to complain about my angel-class after it was given to her, wanted to say something. She has volunteered to be excessed and will not be at Shitty again next year.

She said how much she enjoyed getting to know everyone, and how much she would miss us all. I guess sitting in the office filling out referral after referral and bitching about the children being animals (“This will not be tolerated!”) and how the school ought to be shut down was her way of cozying up and making friends. Who knew?

Her little speech was strange enough, but she then proceeded to serenade us with a goodbye song. With many flourishes of the hands, and in an operatic style and a key so high many of the notes were barely audible, she forced out a very long, very repetitive song, somewhere between an aria and a sea-shanty, about God blessing us in our futures and our roads being bright ahead.

It was perhaps the most awkward six minutes of my life. Everyone just sat there, crammed into the little student-desks in the bare-walled, stifling hot classroom, staring at the floor. Despite my embarrassment, I made the difficult decision to look up and watch Ms. Wayne, just because I thought this was not the kind of thing one experiences more than once in a lifetime.

I was wrong. As Ms. Wayne finished and nodded and grinned at our awkward applause Ms. Kuntstein stood up, motioned for silence, and clasped her hands in front of her disturbingly low-cut blouse.

“It’s been quite a while, but okay, okay, I’ll sing one too,” her nasally Bronx brogue was joyous and confident.

“This is a favorite tune of mine from the musical ‘Oliver’.”

What the fuck?

She did it up, Broadway-style, and it wasn’t half bad. Left-field as all Hell and still awkward, but decent.

These people are lunatics.

Summer vacation. So necessary.

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