Friday, August 29, 2014

This Apple Barely Fell Off The Tree, And Hovers In Mid-Air

The Veteran is definitely his father's son. He even bears the same name: Farmer Hillbilly Jr. So it should have come as no surprise when more evidence reared its awkward head this afternoon.

Since it was bill-paying Friday, I treated my mom to a toddler cone from the custard stand. Of course I treated myself to a concrete. The Pony declined, stuffing his face with supper from Rally's. We go hog wild on bill-paying Friday, with delicacies not found in downtown Hillmomba.

As I was rounding the hairpin turn to the custard drive-thru, my cell phone started ringing. "Get it, Pony! You know I can't take a call now!" I could see the name 'Farmer' on the caller area. "He ALWAYS calls at the worst times!"

The Pony reached up to grab the phone. "Do you want to talk to him after I answer?"

"No. I can't. I'm kind of busy. We just talked to him a half-hour ago. See what he wants, and hang up."

The menu was asking for my order. I heard The Pony over my shoulder. "Fine. Uh huh. She can't talk. She's ordering frozen custard. Uh huh. Yeah. Okay."

I proceeded to the window. "What did he want?"

"That was The Veteran. He saw us pull in here as he was driving by."

"Oh."

Seriously. Who sees someone pull into a drive-thru custard shop, and immediately calls them? As if I wasn't getting ready to order. Or eat some frozen custard on a 90-degree day. What's up with that. It's like seeing a diver climbing up the 10-meter platform, then calling. Or a bullfighter stepping into the ring. Then calling.

Yes. The Veteran is definitely Farmer H's son.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

These Are Times That Try Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's Soul

Oh, dear.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's work life generally runs smoothly. She's no novice at this education business. She gives no quarter, and takes no prisoners. Her charges generally prefer Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's way to the highway leading to the office.

Two days ago, just as Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was starting class, an interruption arrived at her door. A fly in her ointment. A bee in her bonnet. A jerk on her chain. Mrs. HM's nose was about to be yanked out of joint.

This is an important class. The older kids, the ones who must take the EOC test at the end of the year, whose scores reflect mightily upon Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's teaching prowess. Let the record show that Mrs. HM works hard for those scores. She does not have the upper crust elite geniuses in the advanced course, but the working stiffs who are enrolled in technical school all morning. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom gets along swimmingly with her clientele.

She had just passed back yesterday's assignment, and was rounding the far turn by the windows to go over those answers. Reinforcement, you see, to help those future test scorers understand any errors. There came a knock on Mrs. HM's classroom door. Mrs. HM does not like interruptions. All of her students know not to come a-knockin' if Mrs. HM is a-talkin'.

Outside the door was an urchin from two years previous. Not currently enrolled in Mrs. HM's classes. Mrs. HM frowned. Shook her head. The knock knock knocking continued. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom heaved a heavy sigh, and walked all the way across the front of the room to the door. She peered through the tiny safety glass rectangle. "This better be important."

The urchin assured Mrs. HM that it was. "I have to give something to Junior." On occasion, the office sends student workers with an item to deliver to a student. But more often, the office calls that student to come get it.

Mrs. HM pushed the door latch to unlock it and let in the Interrupter. Who promptly rushed to Junior and a cohort, and laid a single stick of silver-wrapped gum on the desk of each.

"You need to leave. Don't come back. I'm going to find out where you belong. Don't ever interrupt my class again."

"But I promised them a piece of gum."

"Out. Now."

Interrupter left, amongst several calls of "No regrets." I guess that's the IN thing now. As you can imagine, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom set about motions to make sure that Interrupter would certainly suffer regrets. We are better than that. Newmentia is not a School of Distinction for nothing, you know.

Mrs. HM went over the previous lesson. Started the current lesson. And in the ensuing lull, called the office. "Newmentia, student worker."

"Oh. You can't help me. I'll call back."

Within five minutes, the secretary called. Because we're united like that. It takes a full staff to bring consequences to a child. I explained the situation.

"Busted! Yes, I know what class Interrupter belonged in. I will pass this information along."

Uh huh. Interrupter's presence was requested for an audience with the Enforcer later in the day. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not one to sweat the consequences. She completed her link in the chain. Dispensation of final retributions is not her department.

Interrupter will never again cross Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's threshold. It will take a village, an army, and a certified letter with an official seal before Mrs. Hillbilly Mom falls for such a trick again.

Because, like Newmentia, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is better than that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ol' Book 175, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Last year, a student lost one of my textbooks the first full week of school. That's gotta be some kind of record.

She didn't try to hide the fact that she had no textbook. Some kids would have borrowed a friend's book from another class period. Or taken one out of a nearby locker every day, then put it back. Not this one. Bookstress came right to me the very next day.

"I lost my book."

"Okay. You need to find it. I will not check out another book to you. One book per customer."

"But I need a book. How am I going to study?"

"You'll have to borrow one, I guess. I can't give out another book every time somebody loses theirs. That would cost a fortune. If you pay the cost of the book, which is $79, I can check out another book to you."

"Can't I just get one on Amazon?"

"If you can."

"Well, if I get one, I'm keeping it."

"If you get one, it would be your book. But if you pay the school to get another one checked out, it's not your book. The one that's lost is your book."

"That's not fair."

"Every student has a book checked out. One book. Nobody else has lost theirs."

"Well, I had it with me when I left for a club meeting."

"Then check where you had the club meeting."

"I did. It wasn't there. I looked everywhere. I think you should call Mr. Principal and have him make an announcement for everyone to look for my book."

"That's not his job. I will do a book check to see if your number turns up. But it's your responsibility to find your book."

I did a book check a couple times a quarter. All year. Never found book # 175. Guess what. There was a surprisingly large number of students, like 100%, who had the correct book. Everybody except Bookstress. Here's the thing. I turn in a list of lost books every year that I have a lost book. It goes to the office with my checkout papers. BIG LETTERS on top, LOST BOOKS, with the name of the loser, and the number of the book. As far as I know, no student has ever been made to pay for the book. Not that I'm in the loop. Every now and then, books turn up on the last day of school when the custodians go through the lockers. Not book #175.

As you might recall, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was absent the last week of school. A substitute collected the books. When I checked through them before putting them away, book #175 was not there. On open house night, Bookstress and her mom dropped by to see me, even though I don't have her in class this year.

"Did you find my book?"

"No. Not even after a whole year of looking."

"How much was it again? I can't get my grades."

"Yes. And the bank will give her two dollars for every 'A' if we bring in an official printout."

"Have you tried looking them up online?"

"Yes. But it's blocked. Because we owe the school money. We'll have to find a way to pay for that book."

"Did the office tell you that you owe for the book?"

"No. But we also owe $12 in lunch charges."

"I'm pretty sure it's the lunch charges holding you up. If you pay that, you'll probably get your grades."

"But we owe for the book."

"I wouldn't mention that. In the past, it has not stopped people from getting grades."

Off they went. Perhaps to pay the lunch charges, perhaps not. I forgot all about it. Wrote off book #175 as a lost cause. Handed out my books to this year's students. Students, I might add, who are not very careful of their books, leaving them on their desks unless reminded, leaving them IN their desks so that I must call them out of another class to traipse down and take them off my hands, and blatantly asking to leave their book in my room because they don't want to carry it to lunch and tech class, and they just don't have enough time to go to their locker. Huh. Yes, they do. Go to your locker before you go to lunch.

When Jewels told me at the teacher lunch table that she had one of my purple textbooks in her room, I figured I might as well take it and run a number check to see who was careless this time. Jewels carried it to me on her way to the teacher workroom after school. "I don't know whose it is, but here it is."

"Okay. I'll check the number."

SWEET GUMMI MARY! IT WAS BOOK #175!!!

I guess Jewels doesn't pay much attention to the stuff laying around in her classroom. That dang thing had been in there for a year and a week.

I can't wait to tell Bookstress that I found her book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Schoolhouse...

From the Two Can Play THAT Game Department:

Cus stopped me in the hall last Friday after school. I was waiting on The Pony, who has joined a game club that meets on Fridays until 5:00. WHAT was he thinking? I know what he was thinking. I don't have to drive. Mom won't mind hanging around, putting her weekend off for two hours so I can play board games with other nerds like myself. My people.

So Cus stopped me just outside my room, down by the double doors, and asked how I was doing. I figured Cus was fishing to see what time I would exit the building and stop delaying the start of The Weekend of Cus. So I responded briefly and politely that things were great, the school year was starting to roll along, etc. But Cus said, "No. How are YOU doing?" So nice of Cus to inquire about my health update. So we chatted about that, and about Cus's previous health crisis. I was ready to bury the hatchet. Outside, of course. Nothing to mar Cus's shiny waxy floors. We could start this year off right.

Yesterday and today, I arrived to find my back row of desks moved two inches off their mark. Towards the back aisle. I'm sure you remember how Cus left me a note last year, and asked an administrator if my desks could be rearranged to make Cus's five-minute job easier every day, even though it would make my 7-hour job harder. The administrator informed Cus that furniture placement was MY preference, but that it wouldn't hurt to ask me. And I explained to Cus the issues it causes in traffic flow, and declined to change my seating arrangement of four years.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not try to be difficult. But after a lifetime of trying to go along to get along, she has decided to put her foot down. Her best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel has empowered her like Ninny Threadgoode empowered Evelyn Couch. That's Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes. Not that I'm saying Mabel is ready for the nursing home, of course.

Today when I left school, I walked past that back row of desks and moved their prettily-shod feet forward two inches. That's right. Instead of leaving them on the tile corners and finding them in the morning two inches back, I decided to be proactive. Move them two inches forward to start with.

Because, you know, if someone thinks two inches doesn't matter, then we'll find out how much two inches doesn't matter the OTHER way. I can imagine the inquisition now. All I've got to say is, "I KNOW! Those kids this year don't have a clue how to line up their chairs at the end of the day. Twice this week, I've come in to find those chairs back two inches too far!" That way, Cus will know that I know.

Uh huh. Two can play THAT game. And Mrs. Hillbilly Mom will win.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Here We See A Full-Throated Book-Snatcher Approach The Knowledge Table

Whew! Pardon me while I take off my pith helmet and wipe the sweat from my brow with my inner elbow. What a day, here at the water hole on the Serengeti! Who knew that watching jackals tear wildebeest limb from limb would be so tiring for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom?

Wait! Did I say water hole on the Serengeti? What I meant to say was that I spent all day sitting by my yellow bubba cup full of melting ice water behind my desk in the classroom. Jackals ripping apart wildebeest? Oh! I am so, so sorry. What I meant to say was that I watched students ripping covers from textbooks all willy-nilly in an effort to grab one not checked out to them before the start of class.

That, my friend, is a major item on Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's Don't Even Think About It List. You are supposed to bring your book every day, or forfeit your free participation points. Especially off limits are books on my tables or bookshelves. They are not checked out to you. So they're not yours. Leave your book in your locker, do without your book. Take the assignment for homework. That'll learn ya! Tough love, baby, tough love!

I checked out books last Thursday. Some are in sad shape. The librarian says they should have been sent back, because they are of poor quality. She ain't a-woofin'! She got a special machine last year that glues the guts back into the skeleton of the textbook. She'll earn the cost of that gadget just by fixing that one set of my textbooks. So...we sent five books per class period down to the library Friday, and she got some of them done and brought them to my room.

Those students thought it was a free-for-all! They were like wily brides-to-be elbowing the competition at Filene's Basement Sale. Like piranhas swarming a dainty pedicured toe dangled over the side of a dugout canoe on the Amazon. Like metal filings rushing to the red magnetic wand to give Woolly Willy a Van Dyke.

Okay. So a couple of kids forgot their book in the locker, and thought they could simply pick one up because it was laying there, all inviting, beckoning to them, "Grab me. I'll make you smarter."

I put a stop to that toot sweet!

This is gonna be a humdinger of a year.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Sale Of Two Biddies

I had quite a surprising transaction at The Devil's Playground this morning. I was only in line for FOUR minutes! With two people ahead of me!

This checker was new. That's how I rationalized her speed. She had not yet been beaten down by the futility of her station. Like a New York city mailman who can climb a tree like a ring-tailed lemur (a skill he learned in the Pacific Northwest) in order to get a man-fur, she will soon learn that, like the mail, groceries never stop. They just keep coming and coming, with no let-up.

I had left my heavy items in the cart so she could scan without dragging them off the conveyor. All right. I had really done it so I didn't have to hoist them onto the conveyor. I had a case of water and two twelve-packs of Diet Mountain Dew for Farmer H's BARn refrigerator, a twelve-pack of Sprite for The Pony, two four-packs of Strawberry Water for Farmer H, and a six-pack of Ruby Red Ocean Spray grapefruit juice for me. The four-packs and six-pack were wedged on the side of the cart, with the bar codes turned outward for easy scanning.

Speedy got her gun, and walked around the bag carousel to scan them. I had to stop her. She was only going to charge me for one four-pack of Strawberry Water.

"Oh, there are two four-packs. You need to scan again." See there. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not an opportunist. Speedy treated me right, and I was going to treat Speedy right. Not that anyone would ever have know that Speedy let a four-pack of water trickle out on her watch. But fair is fair. Besides, I had just saved $10 on a bottle of Zyrtec for the #1 son, with a coupon my mom gave me. Now I'm the Ten Dollar Coupon Daughter.

My experience at Save A Lot yesterday was not so pleasant.

The coal-black-haired great-great-granddaughter of Methuselah, whose line I have gone through numerous times in previous years, decided to re-invent the wheel. As I was putting the items from the top child-seat section of my cart onto her conveyor, she suddenly darted out from behind her fortress and grabbed the butt-end of my cart, yanking it around to the end to have her way with it.

If you've never been in Save A Lot, you should know that the items are scanned and then slid off the counter directly into the cart. I had only a few items left in my child-seat to add to the conveyor. There was the empty cart of the previous customer that normally would have been put in place to catch my purchases. But the CBHGGGofM shoved it out of the way and kidnapped my cart.

"But...but...what about the stuff I have in the top?"

"I'll get that." The CBHGGGofM started grabbing my remaining items from the cart, scanned them, then dumped them in the bottom.

"Wait. I had TWO of those BBQ sauces."

"Well, I only see one."

"Oh. Here it is. I already put it on the conveyor."

Seriously. I had, like, six or seven items left. A bunch of bananas, three small cans of sliced black olives, two bottles of Lite Ranch Dressing, and that BBQ sauce. I don't know what her hurry was. Especially since she was the GBHGGGofM. Not a person unfamiliar with the passage of time.

To make matters worse, my mom had met me over there to pick up last week's used tabloids, and had done a little shopping herself. She was right behind me with her own cart. Or, I might say, her own cart was in my behind. I could not even reach the card-scanner to pay.

"Excuse me, but I need to reach over there and scan my debit card."

Mom was busy holding her arm between the last of my order on the conveyor, and her three items. "I hope she knows this is mine." Somehow, the lady behind Mom had gotten the divider and plopped it down at the front of her own order. She gave it to Mom. "Oh. Thank you. I'll make sure to put this behind mine as soon as hers are done."

I don't know what's with people these days. Don't rock the boat. The sailing will be smoother.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Little Pay-Docking Might Go A Long Way Toward Making The World Run More Efficiently

Never fear. The proposed handbasket factory is in the works again.

People just cannot do their jobs the right way these days.

My mom went to pick up a pork steak from the deli of her grocery store. The deli where she quizzed the minimum wage dude, probably a stockboy called in to assist, about the relative merits of the BBQ pork steak vs. the unseasoned pork steak.

This time, there was a woman behind the counter. It was fairly early in the morning. Mom could see the delicious and undelicious pork steaks waiting to be bought. She waited politely for the woman to finish putting an item in the deli case. And waited. And waited.

"There were a lot of people working back there. And she was the one up front, right by the counter. She knew I was there. But she kept going back to get other things to put in the case. I'd had enough. I just left. If she couldn't be bothered to wait on me, she didn't need my business." Way to go, Mom. But the sad fact is, that gal got paid just the same, and you went porksteakless.

Yesterday Farmer H went to a lumberyard for some plywood and screws to finish his hay shed. "I usually go to Lowe's, but I decided I didn't want to mess with loading it myself. Besides, even though it's a dollar a sheet cheaper at Lowe's, there's still the gas to get down there and back. So I bought my plywood and came home to unload it. I only had 7 sheets! I had clearly ordered 8 sheets of plywood. And paid for it! I had the receipt. When that kid was loading it, I even said, 'Are you sure that's 8 sheets, Bud? It looks a little thin.' And he said it was 8 sheets. So I came in the house and called the manager. I was sure he would say, 'Sure, you only had 7 when you got home. I can't help you.' But he said to come on back with my receipt, and he'd get my other sheet of plywood." Way to go, Farmer H. Of course you had to use your gas to drive all the way back to town for your one sheet of plywood. And that loader dude got paid just the same. But you showed that lumberyard manager!

Today I cashed in a scratch-off winner to buy more tickets. I told the guy which ones I wanted by number, like you do everywhere, and he took them out of the case. He rang them up and took off my winner, and said, "That will be $71." Of course I looked at him askance. Not that he knew what askance means.

"I don't think that's right." I didn't even have $71 in the store with me. I had two twenties, but I had been counting on trading in a winner for more tickets. I turned through the stack he had laid face down on the counter. "Here it is. I did not want these tickets. They're twenty dollars apiece!"

"You said 'Two number twos.'"

"No. I said 'Two number tens.' Those are five-dollar tickets, not twenty-dollar tickets."

He voided out the whole transaction, got my other two tickets, stuffed the unwanted ones back in the case, and rang it up again. "That still looks like too much."

"No. That's right. That's what I expected." Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not take her lottery lightly. Like an obsessed coupon addict, she knows to the cent how much she's putting in, and how much she's paying out of pocket. Way to go, Mrs. HM. You refused to take unwanted scratchers just because they had mistakenly been ripped off the roll. You backed up the line to five people. But that clerk got paid just the same.

Is there no pride anymore in a job well done?