Table of the Damned

I’ll admit it was a last resort.  I have never had a desire to teach.  Let me rephrase that.  I’ve never had a desire to teach WITH the expectation of mandated learning.  I could see myself as a college professor who doesn’t particularly care if students present the same attitude that I possessed in my days of higher learning.  Certainly, I would champion the student who displayed the maturity and drive necessary for success.  I would dismiss, with the greatest of ease, the kid who invest minimal efforts at best.

Still, I found myself sitting in a waiting room at a temp agency contemplating life and the training of which I was about to engage.  I was early.  I was instructed to have a seat after signing in at the front desk.  Modest, sterile office surroundings…the kind of surroundings that makes one question if any modem of fun ever occurred in the place.  The corner of the room that constituted the waiting area contained 5 chairs.  Three chairs on one wall.  Two chairs on the other.  I chose a seat among the two. 

Four minutes later:  A gentleman in a wool trench coat walks in the front door carrying a folder.  He inquires if he is in the correct place for the Substitute Teaching training.  His inquiry confirmed, he is told to take a seat in the waiting nook, my term, after signing in.  He sits across from me.  Our knees almost touch.  Removing his hat I observe that he is follicle impaired.  We sit in silence with emotionless faces. 

Another four minutes:  A second gentleman walks in and observes the registration process.  He wears a short winter coat but is equally bald.  He finds a seat in the now cramped nook.  Both men face me.  I’m yet to be entertained, but I am soon to be amused. 

You guessed it.  A third bald guy walks into the room.  He has a brief case with him, which makes the rest of the group question his motive.  Who brings a brief case to a Substitute Teacher training?  Bald guy three now joins the other two.  All sit in the three cramped seats across from me.  All remain emotionless…all remain quiet.  I, on the other hand, fight back a grin.

None will look me in the eye.  Since no engagement of conversation is possible, I choose to make up stories about them in my head.  Bald guy one is an accountant.  He recently lost his job when the CFO where he worked was accused of embezzling funds.  Though quite innocent himself, the company did not recover from the accusations and was forced to lay off people.  Today is a stop gap measure. 

Bald guy two inherited several million dollars from his Father-in-laws novelty business.  Their most creative endeavor…the Chia pet…made them millions but eventually went the way of the pet rock.  Efforts to resurrect the company have only placed them on shakier grounds.  Today is a stop gap measure. 

Balk guy three is a…

I am interrupted in my creation of fictional biographies by the receptionist.  We are instructed to follow her to the training room.  We silently fall in line and follow…and this is where it gets interesting.  We are led into a board room…a large table surrounded by 12 chairs.  Five people are waiting for us in the room and a quick survey surmises they are here for the training as well.  I am confused.  Having been quite proud of my early arrival, I now realize that others have somehow undermined my prompt impression.  I take a seat on one side of the table.  The three bald guys take a seat opposite me…quite like our waiting cubby experience.  We are all handed a sheet of paper asking us for basic information.  We’re told the paper is two sided and to fill out both sides.  Reading the paper and answering the questions takes 3 minutes max. 

I finish my paper and lift my eyes to survey the room again.  Everyone in the room remains fixated on the two-sided worksheet.  I wait.  No one looks up.  Another 3 minutes goes by and everyone continues to stare at their sheet of paper.  I grow concerned.  Did I miss something on the sheet?

I review my answers…search for questions I have missed…hypothesize how these questions might be troublesome…and eventually resign myself to my initial answers. 

No one looks up.  No one speaks.  And it continues this way for the next 10 minutes. 

Such things amuse me and confuse me.  I propose in my mind a conversation starter…an ice breaker…anything to break the silence.  I then proceed to argue with myself.  Why must I be the one to initiate a conversation?  Why can’t I just sit here like everyone else looking like their waiting on an organ donor?  I’ll never see these people again.  What’s wrong with silence?

I relent. 

I turn to the woman sitting next to me and ask her if this is her first time subbing?  My voice seems to echo in the room, though that is certainly an exaggeration.  My question is met with a torrent of words.

“No, I’ve subbed on occasion several times in the past…though it’s been a while.  I think this will…”

Bald guy one, the former accountant, interrupts.

“I’ve never subbed before so this should be an adventure”. 

I look at him in astonishment.  Where did that come from?  Did you have the floor?  Why didn’t you offer that earlier? 

Just as the room was about to become interesting, we are met by the young lady who will be training us in all things substitute today.  The room grows quiet again.  We all return to our previous state of unease. 

As for the training…well, I’m certain it wasn’t anything different than corporate America embraces on a daily basis.  “Don’t touch anybody…don’t say anything personal…don’t comment on anything visual…don’t act human in any fashion and you might stand a chance”  After signing our names and indicating we have been trained, we were equipped for success and had simultaneously prevented the company we work for from any further litigation. 

Two hours later and we were official…ready to educate our future generation. Stay tuned…this should be interesting.  chet

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