give me five minutes

I’ve been leading up to telling the story of my final days at St. Clement School , where I began my illustrious  rewarding teaching career . They couldn’t get rid of me for 35 years , until that day came when I finally decided to jump ship . The State of California , with whom I had eventually made my devil’s bargain , is paying me a pension for the 25 years I spent in their school system .

I was with the Catholic Schools before that . I loved it there , but the money and lack of retirement benefits at the time made it impossible to stay . Had I listened to my mother and left earlier for the public school , I’d be rolling in dough about now ; but : One must make one’s own choices , no matter how tall your grandfather was . The Irish said that .  (Unless it was Mark Twain , who said everything else .)

Well , here goes :

One fine day I got in a shoving match with a fellow teacher , Steve , in the parking lot at Saint Clement School . I don’t do that sort of thing , as a rule . In fact , it was the only physical altercation of my adult life , as I remember things . Steve was a friend and colleague of mine , but he had gone way over the line with his repulsive behavior .little boy blue

He was secretly harassing another teacher , slipping stress pills into her school mailbox on the sly  , for example . This woman was wound a little too tightly as it was , and she made a vulnerable target . Steve thought the whole thing was funny . Maybe he thought it was innocent mischief ; but it wasn’t . He had to brag about his childish prank to someone , so he told his buddy , Dan .

I didn’t rat him out , but I suggested to him several times as he continued his thoughtless prank , that he cut it out . He didn’t , of course .  Then he began hinting to the principal that maybe Kathy , the Second Grade teacher , was the culprit ; or maybe Tony , another teacher , was doing it . I was Steve’s only confidant , I think , and he was informing me of his latest moves in the matter .

So I had a responsibility in stopping the nasty activity . I went about it the wrong way , no doubt ; but , hey , it is what it is . Thus , the shouting and shoving in the parking lot . It took place hours after the end of the school day , by the way , and no students were anywhere close by . Just so you know .

I was just about to leave for work that Monday morning when the phone rang . It was the principal .  ” You are not to come to work until further notice , ” she said . Then she hung the phone up .

Here’s where the whole thing gets good .

What you should know is that I had been teaching 8th Grade that year , and at this school the 8th Grade school year ended a week before the First to Seventh Grades . My school year had ended on the Friday of the altercation in the parking lot with Steve , so I was already done . I was planning the 8th Grade graduation ceremony , however . Graduation would take place on the following Saturday .

I told my wife that the principal would be calling back as soon as it dawned on her that , since I was the only person planning Graduation  and that the plans were not yet finished ,  that she would need me finish them . Three rough copies of a printed program , for example , were sitting on the otherwise empty top of my classroom desk waiting for a final edit , before  typing  and reproduction ( 500 copies were needed ).

I told my wife to make up a story .

About an hour later , sure enough , the principal called .  ” He’s not here , ” my wife said .

An hour later she called back . ” He’s still not here , ” my wife said , ” and I’m beginning to get a little worried . ”

An hour later she called again . And then an hour after that . My wife got into the excitement of the day . Her stories went from  ” He seemed to be upset when he left ,” to  ” Now I’m getting worried . I think he might have taken the bottle of whisky from the cupboard with him  ” to ” I’ve called the police but they can’t do anything for twenty-four hours with a missing person . At least there haven’t been any traffic accidents in the area today . I’ve called all of the hospitals in the area but none have a record of……….. ”

And on it went throughout the day . My wife acted the drama out superbly , her voice intensifing a phony  sense of dread and panic with each phone call . And then , finally , after the 4:00 call , I told her that I’d take the next one . At 5:00 the phone rang again . Right on time . I answered . Tried to sound gruff.

” Come in at 8 tomorrow and we’ll talk about what happened , ” the principal  said . And then she hung the phone up . Okay . I had extracted my pound of flesh , and  I’m willing to do my time in purgatory for that .

When I was driving down to the school the next morning I had fully expected to discuss the matter with the principal , as she had indicated we would . The reality of the situation , however , turned out different , to be a horse of a different color . Such is life .

There I was at the subservient side of the Principal Desk again with the principal looking across at me . She had a pen in her hand with her arm extended off to the side , ready to write on a blank piece of paper .

” So , tell me what happened with Steve , ” she said . Stern , officious voice . As she spoke  the words , her pen wrote the same words on that paper off to the side  .  It was weird . Her eyes stared straight ahead at me but her hand away off to one side wrote  as if I weren’t supposed to notice it .

” We had a discussion , ” I said , and the words  ” We had a discussion ”  she was writing on the paper just below  the words ” So, tell me what happened with Steve “.

She said , ” That’s all ? ” as her pen wrote  ” That’s all ?  ”  just below  “We had a discussion”.

Well , you get the picture .  That old inmate- at- the -insane- asylum joke goes :  I may be crazy , but I’m not stupid . This was by no means intended as a forum to talk things out , as I had expected . This session was simply her opportunity to document the incident . Document , document , document !  Why she thought that I wouldn’t see through her little  You’re not really seeing   my  documentation procedure  routine , though , I’ll never understand .

That , more or less , in my way of thinking , was the end of the conversation .  ” I called my supervisor , ” she said , ” and I told her what happened . She advised me to fire you right away . ”

” Then you do it , ” I said .

I had not planned to return to the school for the next year and I had informed her of that a couple of months before that and my school year had already ended . It didn’t matter to me whether she fired me or not .

” I’m not going to do that , ” she said .

” If your supervisor told you to fire me , I think you should do that ,” I said . Maybe it would have been better for her . I wasn’t being a wise-ass .

” And , by the way , ” I added , ” I find it interesting that you say you told your supervisor what happened ; but since Steve and I were the only ones there  and you haven’t heard my side of the story , I wonder what you told her . ”

Then she said , ” How soon can you be out of here ? ”

That stung . I had been working at and doing a good job at that school for five years . That one hurt .

” Give me five minutes , ” I said , and I stood up to leave .

” No , I didn’t mean it like that , ” she said .  ” Take as much time as you need . ”

” Give me five minutes , ” I said .  I was seething , I have to say .

I walked to my classroom to retrieve a couple of personal items  and then I carried the classroom keys to the office . I had a short conversation with the school secretary on the way in . She said she had been told by the principal the day before to make five hundred copies of all the graduation papers found on my classroom desk . She showed me stacks and stacks of neatly piled mimeographed papers on the floor beside her desk .woman boxer 1890

I had to tell her that none of the three versions that she had printed were the final product , that  all of them were rough drafts  . She drooped her shoulders .  ” I’m so tired , ” she said .

And then I went in and dropped the classroom keys on the principal’s desk and walked out .comedy cruickshank 1791


Filed under humor

2 responses to “give me five minutes

  1. I always wonder why people don’t seem to want to know the whole story. Maybe they like the easy ending. I can imagine your anger on this one. Good you were moving on. Chalk it up to lessons learned, I guess.

    • Yeah . I was already moving on . Long story with this principal. She had been an excellent 1st grade teacher , but when she became principal she got paranoid , was insecure , blamed her mistakes on others ( often on a teacher ; as if we didn’t talk to one another and compare notes ) when , all the time , we ( there were only 8 of us ) would have worked things out , otherwise . At the end of that school year , all 8 teachers quit . That might be a clue . Anyway , it was a long time ago . One of the lessons learned. You’re right .

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