It’s back-to-school season. Yay.
Our poor young people. One day, when their children whine about walking to school, today’s youth will be ready. They will speak of 105-degree walks in the middle of worldwide super-viruses. They will speak of sanitizers, masks and temperature checks whilst trying not to shrivel into a pile of dust. And when their children ask them what school was like, they’ll reply, “Have you ever run naked and blindfolded through an enclosed fish market without air conditioning?”
I remember school, though I try not to. And though I sometimes stretch the truth in my column for comedic effect, I don’t have to for these memories. For my experiences are terrifying enough on their own.
Let’s go back. I’ve arrived on time for my 10th grade geometry class, which is kind of a miracle for me. My teacher isn’t here. Like a pebble making ripples in a pond, I see this singular fact flash through the eyes of my classmates. There is blood in the water. There is going to be trouble. Barry Langenstinker is trouble.
Barry smiles devilishly as he saunters to the classroom door with its requisite window and shade. Once there, Barry twists the lock. Our teacher arrives and tries the door. The rest of us gape in awe as Barry faces the hapless teacher and stares right at him. Through the door, we hear pleading, “Barry, unlock the door.” Barry pulls the blinds.
“Mr. Langenstinker, you are in huge trouble! Let me in, or may all the gods help me, you’ll be spending the rest of your high school career elbow-deep in backed-up toilets as the new janitor’s apprentice!” I’m making up the dialogue here. Sadly, our teacher is a pushover who doesn’t know how to talk to a Barry. Instead we hear, “Barry, let me in or I’ll … I’ll … well, I might send you to the principal.”
Barry listens. He waits. Barry walks to his desk. He sits just long enough to show his sociopathy. Then, Barry gets up, bows, and drifts to the door. He opens it.
Through the door, we hear Barry pleading with our teacher to let him off, which, unbelievably, he does. Barry does not return the favor.
So let’s add a little super-virus to this drama. Barry has just locked out our poor, subservient teacher. Barry takes a bite from the teacher’s apple. Barry begins licking random objects upon the teacher’s desk. Barry finds the teacher’s mask with these words written on it: “I love math enough to teach it.”
Barry picks it up and, with a deft flick of his wrist, reveals the mask to his audience. Barry blows his nose on it. Next, Barry slides the mask inside his shirt and wipes his armpits. Then, Barry proceeds to do all sorts of unprintable things with the mask for the class’s enjoyment. All the while, the class flatters Barry with appreciative oohs and ahs.
Any high school classroom, anywhere in the world, finding itself in a situation like this, will take on a spirit akin to a naughty colosseum crowd in ancient Rome. The more humiliating, degrading and solicitous, the better.
Or let’s say I’m in biology. I’m lucky enough to be dissecting a pig with, you guessed it, Barry Langenstinker. For some reason, he is keen to do way more dissecting than I’m comfortable with. Well, now that I think of it, it isn’t as frightening as it could be. The only thing that seems a bit odd is Barry’s repeated request to get into the brain – not part of our instructions. He’s actually behaving really well.
Now, I’ll add a dash of worldwide super-virus of doom to my memory. Barry starts muttering to himself about an added experiment. And, as we dissect, he starts squirting sanitizer upon each organ. Barry chuckles softly to himself while he peers at the organs and prods them with a scalpel.
My pulse quickens as our teacher, Mr. Jones, a dopey and goofy kind of guy, trips over to try a joke, “Barry, I see you’re taking the virus seriously. How thoughtful of you.” I cannot believe my teacher’s idiocy. Never joke with a Barry. Barry looks up through his fogged goggles and shouts, “My creation, it lives!”
Now, with the class’s full attention, Barry is awake, sensing their bloodlust. He grabs two handfuls of intestines and squishes them together, evilly eyeing the classroom. Using the intestines as makeshift sponges, he begins wiping down a nearby desk.
“Barry, I don’t think you should be doing that,” says Mr. Jones.
Barry’s head turns, “I know what you need Mr. Jones. You need an organ cleanse.”
I cannot continue the narrative.
With these sorts of memories crawling through my cranium, I know that if I were young again, I’d opt for distance learning. And I’d take learning in a galaxy far, far away.