Thursday, September 22, 2005

The $3 ID
I’ve never cried at work. I’ve never even cried about work.

I don’t know why, considering I’ve been known to get all misty reading the last chapter of Friday Night Lights or watching pretty much any movie about a boy and his dog, but that’s just not how I deal with my workday stresses and emotional gut-punches.

I’ve had pregnant girls, jail-bound boys, kids with severe learning disabilities who might never read. It’s terrible and sad, but it’s never brought on the water-works.

I know a lot of female teachers (and I’m sure some men too) who’ve been known to break down in tears just from sheer exhaustion or frustration at the kids not listening. Me, I usually just come home and kick the dog.

I imagine that if I taught younger kids and they all came up and hugged me and said they loved me at the end of the year that might be a little tough, but the way high-school is set up with Regents testing and all that, there’s really no big goodbye, things just sort of peter out.

I lost it the other day though.

I had to cover a class of beginning ESL students. They were all sweet and cute mostly, but then a few minutes after the bell this kid named Jorge Valdez walked in escorted by a Dean. Jorge is, along with the raging asshole who kicked my trashcan last year, pretty much the most notorious jerk at Shitty high. I’ve never had him in my class, but I’ve seen and heard him screaming and spitting and hurling obscenities left and right, sometimes even in my doorway, his eyes ablaze with blunts and rage.

It’s not just that he’s loud and obnoxious and rude, though, the kid just has a real nastiness about him. He actually set a fire in a locker in a classroom in the middle of his 2nd period class some time last fall.

I was not thrilled to see him in my coverage. He came in yelling in rapid-fire Spanish and immediately refused to sit down. When I gave him his worksheet (the “lesson plan” kindly provided by the class’ regular teacher) he sneered and let it float to the floor.

He eventually settled in and spent most of the period chatting with another young punk. I made a half-hearted attempt to get them to work, but mostly just let them be and helped out the kids that were working.

As required for coverages, I passed out an attendance sheet for the kids to sign and give back to me. When the sheet was returned Jorge had failed to provide his 9-digit ID number. I asked him to fill it in.

“I no got ID.”

“You don’t have an ID? Why not?” I didn’t believe him.

“No got it. Puntapinchemariconependejo, blah, blah, blah…

We went back and forth like that for a minute before Jorge looked me in the eye.

“Gimme three dollar, I get the ID.”

I’m pretty sure Jorge lives in a shelter. I know that for awhile last year he had been sleeping in a stairwell until some man took him in under what I can only assume were not the most wholesome of conditions. This all came to light last year sometime after he set the fire, so, hopefully, somebody got him into a shelter after that. I really don’t know. He still smells terrible.

“It costs three dollars to get an ID?” I hadn’t known that. I left unspoken the second half of the question, “and you don’t have three dollars?”

He nodded, and went back to screwing around with his friend, and I went back to helping the other kids with their worksheet.

When class ended I called Jorge over and told him if he wanted an ID I would take him right then and get one for him. He followed me up the stairs and through the halls in silence.

Near the metal-detectors I found the desk where the ID photos are taken and as quietly as possible told the school-aides sitting there that Jorge needed an ID but didn’t have the money.

“Oh yeah, right!” one of the women snorted. “Please. He doesn’t have three dollars!? Hah! I know this kid, he and his friend were in the office the other day cursing at the secretary. He’s playing games. Playing games.”

“Wha? I no have ID, I need…” Jorge blurted.

“He lives in a shelter,” I stepped in front and quietly interjected. “He’s not playing games.”

“Oh, we know these kids, it’s all a game to them…”

I stuck my three dollars in the woman’s face. I couldn’t listen to her shit. I'm sure she deals with some real ingrates on a daily basis, but she couldn’t stop power-tripping for thirty seconds to help out a homeless teenager, because he lacked manners?

Finally, one of them grudgingly took the money, handed Jorge a printout, and told him to come back the next day for the ID. I said thanks, none too friendly mind you, then patted Jorge on the shoulder and walked away.

Poor kid. I’d be a real dick too if my whole miserable life nobody had ever bothered to give a shit about me.

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