Poor Bastard on a Plane
Like a lamb to the slaughter…
Last night I was with my family in the Minneapolis airport, waiting for a flight back home to Washington, DC. Of the many people milling about, waiting for our delayed flight, one in particular still haunts me.
He was a young man in his early 20s. He wore a dark green, light cotton shirt, jeans and flip flops. He was standing next to me in the crowd of hopeful travelers as we both listened to the nice lady tell us that there would be no boarding of the airplane anytime soon.
Lowering my head in despair, participating fully in the collective heavy sigh and grumbling, I noticed the book tucked under the young man’s arm and it made me shiver. How To Ace Your Teacher Interview. I panicked. But it was only for a moment, like waking up when you think you’re falling; you figure out quickly that you are not.
The flashback-shiver was soon overtaken by relief. My breathing and heart rate returned to normal. That was the past. I’m a new man now. But this poor bastard…he has no idea what he’s about to step into.
I felt something like survivor’s guilt mixed with an almost parental impulse to protect him; to tell him what I known so he won’t make the same mistakes. I wanted to give the boy a hug. But I knew that could have seemed weird.
After the announcement of further delay, everybody sat back down; me and my family on the floor, eating the last of our beef jerky as my wife hid the chocolate-covered almonds deep in her purse. I kept my eye on the man in the green shirt as he read the book, underlining and taking notes with a fine-point felt or Sharpie-type pen, green like his shirt. He has to make his own choices, I thought to myself. I only wish his choices could be informed by my wisdom. I’m too late.
We finally boarded the plane about three hours late, but not without incident. My family had run out of food and went scavenging. We found a small deli and bar, ordered some snacks and sat feasting. Suddenly our names rang over the intercom, loudly requesting that we speed to Gate E1 as it is the last boarding call and the plane is about to depart. In a split second my wife and I froze, our eyes locked, and we swore. We grabbed our bags and kids and hauled ass out of Gate E9 toward E1. Thankfully our kids are now old enough that they can meaningfully assist in such operations, or at least not severely retard them every time. My son ran with his suitcase, beating the rest of us by two full gates.
We boarded the plane like morons; looking for our seats, yelling at each other, bumping into people, and violently trying to jam our bags into the overhead bins where they clearly would not fit. After exiting the plane to get our bags checked, we got back on the plane. My daughter and I sat down, buckled our seat belts and sat back in our chairs. Between the seats in front of us I saw a green sleeve. He was right in front of me.
Shortly after takeoff Green Sleeves got the book out again. I could see the subtitle now: 149 Fantastic Answers to Tough Interview Questions. I read over his shoulder a bit and watched him underline important passages. The two questions I remember were How would you prepare for a parent-teacher conference? and How would you encourage reluctant readers? I felt sad.
My daughter and I talked. We looked at pictures from our trip on my phone. I finally asked her to please stop talking to me. I read a magazine and she read her book. We had coke and ginger ale. From the seat behind us, my wife gave us chocolate-covered almonds. I dozed off.
After landing I saw the young man in the green shirt waiting at the baggage claim. He was holding the book. “Good luck on your interview”, I said.
I used to be a teacher.
In DCPS. Where are you hoping to get a job?
Ouch. Really? It’s a pretty tough place to be a teacher now. What grade?
Anything in secondary.
Can I tell you one thing? Whatever you do, don’t teach at the Columbia Heights Education Campus. It’s horrible and almost every teacher hates it and there is about 50 percent teacher turnover every year, sometimes more.
That’s actually where I was hoping to go. There or Cardozo. I’ve been through the initial screening. I want to be in a high needs area. That’s where I want to be.
Do yourself a favor. Don’t teach at Columbia Heights. It is the most miserable, micromanaged place I’ve ever been. Teachers hate it. And Cardozo just reconstituted (fired everybody) for the second time in four years. Talk to as many people as you can and try to find out what’s really happening in these schools.
Well, I just talked to you. So I guess that’s a start.
Good luck, young Green Sleeves. I hope you don’t end up at my school, because it will most likely chew you up and make you hate yourself. I’m sure you don’t deserve that. But if not you, it will be some other poor bastard.
I wish I had been more prepared. I didn’t want to depress him, scare him or sound like a lunatic. And the train has sort of already left the station.
Aside from RUN AWAY!!, what would you tell Green Sleeves?