Tuesday, September 4, 2012

#10 Running Down a Dream (1st. Day)

The memory can be like an unreliable little time machine, but on good days it does allow us to
visit distant places.  We tend to hang on to our best and the worst memories, but are quick to
discard the mediocre ones. As I’m driving home today I realize it should be a special day for me;
it is the end of the beginning, and beginning of the end of my career.  This realization leads me
back to my very first day as a teacher. Now that was a memorable day! Today has been
uneventful, but that other first day is still fresh in my mind.

    Nearly three decades ago, we are stuck in the hot, humid days of early September. Most would
agree that these conditions are too uncomfortable to be locked up in a building with no AC and a
thousand plus adolescents. However, none of this matters, I am consumed with nervous energy
and the possibilities in front of me.

   I’m wearing black wing tipped shoes, grey flannel pants, a white button down shirt and a navy
blue blazer. I even sport a new haircut and a tie my girlfriend chose for me. Before I leave my
apartment to greet the world, I look in the mirror and conclude, ‘I am looking good’, she thinks
so too.

   When I arrive in the lobby of the school, the staff are socializing, and a frumpy old teacher
feels compelled to announce ‘You’re wearing a board uniform!', 'Are you moving up already?’ It
embarrasses me a little, but not enough to blush. I’ve negotiated too many obstacles to get here; I
am here to make an impression on everyone, including myself. 

   On this first morning, I have lessons prepared, textbooks are in my room, class lists hand
written into my paper attendance book.. I’m in the school and ready to teach at 7:30 a.m.; I
proudly attend a staff meeting in the library at 8, then a departmental meeting at lunch. I meet all
my students. We discuss the summer and the future. They are rested, keen to socialize, but
reluctant to get right down to work.  I like them.

    At 4:30 p.m. I bounce out of the school tired, but energized and feeling very full filled. On the
way home I generously wave to a cabbie that he is welcome to cut in front of me at the
intersection. Then I detour to the beer store, grab a pizza, and walk up the three flights to my
stuffy downtown apartment. My girlfriend is already there, opening windows in an effort move
the stuffy air. We strip off the uniforms and we crack open a cold one. It feels good to sit at the
small kitchen table with nothing on but the stereo. The cold beer comforts one hand and pizza
sags in the other. Sweat is dripping from our bodies like we are in a different kind of heat, life is
wonderful! Then my eyes widen, I remember tomorrow I will receive my first pay cheque, not a
bank deposit, a real paper cheque!  After the first piece of pizza, she asks me about my day. I
burp and pronounce  ‘It’s great! I can do this job forever!’

   Almost three decades later and my memory of my first day is so fresh in my mind. I can’t
remember most of the other first days, those memories have evaporated.

    Today, I’m wearing sandals, shorts, a white short sleeve cotton shirt and no hair cut. I am the
old guy now.  My basic lessons are etched in my memory, textbooks are in my room and class
lists entered into the computer. We don’t have a morning staff meeting anymore and I skip the
lunch time departmental in favour of a Shawarma with a friend.  I meet all of my students, we
discuss the summer and the future. Kids are rested, keen to socialize, but reluctant to get right
down to work.  I still like them.
   The traffic at my intersection is heavy today and I am surprised by a cop car racing up beside
me, siren screaming. She cuts in front of me, I give her the finger and mutter something like
fucking asshole!, I think she reads my lips, but I know she is too busy to tangle. Finally, I return
home, the central air is on and I plug in the kettle while I check the mail. My feet are sore, my
back is stiff, my voice is raspy, my brain hurts and I say ‘holy fuck!’ a lot. Later I’ll eat a Julian
salad and fruit. I don’t drink beer much anymore, preferring good Irish whiskey, lightly bruised
with two ice cubes.

  It's difficult to believe, but it really is end of the beginning and the beginning of the end of
my career. It has been an alright day, nothing memorable, I have a lot of those, I’ll forget it
soon enough. I have grown to accept the fact that nothing is forever and I am good
with that fact.