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Times at School
Elementary school for me was one of the richest, most well lived, times of my life. It was there I spent endless hours creating different techniques that proved most effective to pass time whenever the teacher began to lecture in some very droning voice. It was there that I learned valuable life lessons that, insofar, have proved more useful in life than any other math equation, scientific method, or Spanish verb. I learned all of the swear words at school, I learned what the word ‘sex” meant, and most of all, I made the types of friendships that are meant to last forever.
Endeavour Elementary, my school, was perhaps the finest school ever built. It was a large, one storied building that was painted blue and white; in a ribbon type fashion and had a quaint little garden in the front and back of the building. In obverse was a towering American flag that danced in the windy air of Washington; towering over the roof of, what seemed, an infinitesimal school. But of course, to the developing body of a grade school kid, Endeavour seemed to be the largest building I had ever seen.
Through the opening doors at Endeavour there is, to the immediate left, the office and a little ways down the hall, the lunchroom and gymnasium. From there the halls branch off into a canal of separate passage, each connecting to some classroom or meeting back up at the lunch room sort of like a giant loop whose distance seemed unfathomable to cross with childish legs.
And of course here is where I met my first obstacle at grade school. Just a few days into my grand second grade career I had somehow managed to become lost a few times, in which I was forever retracing my steps and then finding myself in a seemingly forgotten part of the school; the type of place I would end up in generally had one guillotine machine, a few shackles on the wall and nothing short of skeletons lumped into a ball against the wall. Perhaps, I thought, I would someday wander onto a room full of treasure and pirate skeletons. But it never happened, and, as a general rule I will say that the world is just about out to get me, the hallways managed to get the best of my unconfident mind.
The hallways were not my friends. They wanted to confuse my little, still developing, brain; turn my sense of direction around so rapidly that I would be forced to lay down in the middle of the hall and weep to myself, thinking I would never be found again. (Only after a few minutes of lying down would a teacher happen upon me and escort me back to my classroom where all weary eyed students would focus their attention and ask me questions like “Where were you?” or “You just missed Miss. Fickle Brain fall out of her swivel chair and spill coffee all over her shirt! What took you so long? ”)
So imagine my grief when one day I had fatally eaten a breakfast burrito and came to school feeling ailing; my stomach taut like it was being squeezed and pulled from every direction; my face a greenish-multi colored brown, colored like a dying grass in summer, or so I have liked to imagine. Anyway, the breakfast burrito was not holding well in the depths of some acidic body fluids, and as the teacher stepped out of the room to copy some papers, foolish by any meanings since the class would undoubtedly break out in an unstoppable chatter, my stomach managed to send some messages to my brain, saying things like “Help! Crisis in stomach! Mexican food not holding well, abort! Abort! Upchuck!” I like to imagine my little nerves relaying a series of messages from the stomach to the brain on a little vessel type freeway, weaving in and out of traffic made of millions of other nerves carrying messages telling me to move my leg here and there. Well I couldn’t necessarily do anything about this situation, not merely because I was lame or incompetent, but truly because I had an internal fear of becoming loss in the hallways and knowing that even if I made it out the door, the nearest bathroom was a good mile or so away.
When the message did finally reach my brain, which was quite fast, the brain then sent another message back to the stomach giving a thumbs up to release the Mexican food. By that time the message telling me to move my legs towards the door had just arrived, and, sadly, as I was getting up, I opened my mouth and lavishly divested myself of a breakfast burrito, some milk and the dinner of roast beef I had the night before that day. It would be another two years before I dare ate a breakfast burrito.
Lunchtime at Endeavour Elementary always moved fast. Kids bought food fast, lined up in the lunch line as if they’ve never been fed before, and ate even faster. To some effect the only noise present for a good minute was the shoveling of food to the mouth, which created a rather overpowering whir sound, like that of a motor on a boat. Then there was the table I sat at. I sat at a proud to be table, the kind of table where any type of pariah might join, where the weirdo’s and wannabe’s sat, this was my table, where my four best friends sat. My friends at the table where all Asian, since any of us were either to anti-social to mingle with any race but our own, or that we all just had no other friends, either way is a pretty obvious guess as to how we became friend’s in the first place. (By means of slowly figuring out who wouldn’t mind if we all of a sudden jumped up and recited a few lines from the best Calvin and Hobbs comic book to be printed.)
Among some of the most treasured lunch items, the following are but the highest:
-Lunchables, a small tray that contained crackers, meat, and a block of horrendous processed cheese in which it was always thrown away. Lunchables also came with a small juice pouch and a candy the size of a thumb, but nonetheless, these mini meals were the one thing that could make someone popular in one day.
-Chicken O’s, a ring of seriously artificial “chicken” that, when bitten, brought to mind a sponge mixed with bologna, this at the time appealed to just about every kid’s palate, and was a treasured lunch item.
-Popcorn, saying that is that you could afford it. The popcorn came in small, appealing little bags that were striped vertically with red and white, and always filled to the brim. One bag costs 25 cents, actually quite a lot for a kid who got ten cents for his report card.
But lunch was special at Endeavour. If you forgot your lunch combination to buy food then you could simply ask the lunch lady what your combo was by telling her your name. So I suppose, if worst came to worst (and it did), if you were to run out of money then you could give the lunch lady another students name, say the school geek (whose father was undoubtedly an engineer or some other occupation with a high salary) or the kid who’s father owned Starbucks, and you could get away with identity theft, lying, stealing, and a free slice of pizza. Then, on particularly sunny days kids weren’t only encouraged to sit outside undercover but more so pushed out the doors by a teacher. What this meant, eating outdoors that is, was that if someone like me, an allergy sufferer, had forgotten his medicine to prevent him from having an uncontrollable fit of sneezing, then within minutes a small but enlivened crowd would form around me and enjoy the spectacle of snot flying out of my nostrils in a rather lively manner. However this happened every year, and when we were pushed outside to eat undercover the doors to the cafeteria were locked from the inside, so as we were not able to enter the building if we needed tissue or anything like that, young kids would be soiling their pants as there were no bathrooms outdoors (that is saying there were no trees available) and a line of anxious kids would form by the doors; eager to get in and head for the bathroom or something else comforting. But the teachers were all to oblivious with the line of kids forming outside as they were relieving stress with a cigarette or a shot of gin, so to speak, well actually, I have no idea what would go on inside, but that is what it came to as far as speculations go.