The phone rings.
It’s Clyde Overcash.
Will it be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Clyde today?
Not surprisingly, he’s calling to register a complaint and generally push my buttons. I’ve gotten used to it. Like T.S. Eliot’s Rum Tum Tugger, Clyde will do as he do do, and there’s no doing anything about it. But I have to admit, he pitches some good story ideas.
Today, he’s taking me to task over a story I wrote about Frank Selby, a talented young artist. He points out I have not explained the local connection very well. And a glance back at the story reveals that he’s right. I should have told readers that Frank works in a home studio on Sherrill’s Ford Road, and that he used to work at Waterworks ó facts that made it into one draft but not my final revision.
So Monday, after I hang up, I am ó predictably ó annoyed. At myself, for not writing the story better, and at Clyde, for being right.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Clyde’s complaints are not always justified in my book. A few weeks ago, he told one of my colleagues he was offended (offended!) by a column I wrote on strange but real products. I’m not sure if he objected to the references to flatulence or to wedgie-proof underwear, but I didn’t see any good reason to get huffy over that column.
After Clyde, it’s on to the …
I open an e-mail and shriek so loudly a co-worker hustles over, possibly thinking I have accidentally opened some naughty spam. The e-mail is from a student I taught in 2001 during a short, disastrous high school teaching stint.
Before that time, I’d spent some basically happy years teaching college students. Ready for a change, I got the brilliant idea to teach high school.
Which is kind of like the wildebeest saying, hey, I think I’ll go hang out with the hyenas.
A whiff of tentativeness from an inexperienced teacher, and some teenagers will circle in ó if not for the kill, at least for a gleeful maiming.I felt like a huge failure when I quit in the middle of the school year, but I was so obsessed with trying to turn my experience around that I had stopped being a good parent. I was also afraid that because I had turned into a zombie who no longer slept, I might accidentally drive my car into a telephone pole and leave my kids motherless.
I don’t know if the student who e-mailed me ó I’ll call him Bart ó is working the 12 steps or what, but he said he happened upon a column I wrote that he related to.
And that prompted Bart to apologize for any disrespect he’d shown me all those years ago. And ask my forgiveness for theweeks of terror.
For the record ó and I told Bart this in my response ó he was not among those who actively and consciously sabotaged my classroom. I doubt I will hear from any of those.
Bart’s e-mail doesn’t change anything about those dreadful three months, but I was happy to get it. It’s a nice reminder that high school kids do grow up and turn into civilized people.
And so I dragged that e-mail into a folder titled…
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