1000 bulls charging through 1000 china shops for 1000 years could not wreak more havoc than a certain group of students entrusted to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's care at the end of the day. They are not bad kids. They are good kids, actually. But they make that Mayhem insurance guy look like Mary Poppins. They are like sharp-elbowed, big-headed, Wizard of Oz scarecrows stumbling and bumbling down the Yellow Brick Road. A walk across the front of the classroom is dangerous to themselves and others. There are fourteen desk legs to trip them, a white board marker tray to bruise a hip, that projector screen to wrap them up like a burrito, the pencil sharpener handle that could put an eye out, and Germ-X that could spray into their mouths and poison them.
I find it necessary to batten down my classroom hatches when I foresee their arrival on the horizon. Storm shutters go up. Exposed glass is taped with Xs. Plywood is nailed over the door. Fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be a bumpy class period. Yes. All unnecessary items should be stowed in the overhead compartments. The projector screen should be coiled safely above the fray. Books removed from the dilapidated wooden bookcase and stored in the cabinet. The case of bottled water put out of sight. A box of file folders on top of the mini-fridge filed away.
Still, they manage to destroy items in their path like a plague of locusts. Like Sherman marching through Georgia. Like a football team of teenage boys at a CiCi's Pizza buffet.
HOWEVER...Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's wrecking crew is not the focus today. We're here to discuss the ultimate Stevening of Cus. Yes, Even Steven intervened last week in a smackdown of epic proportions. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is still feasting on her dish of cold revenge, laughing her last laugh, maniacally. Don't get me wrong. Cus does a fantastic job. It's not Cus. It's me. I don't like my stuff touched. And Cus is paid for touching. So you could see how we might disagree on the placement and replacement of classroom furniture. I think I should be the one to determine the Feng Shui, and Cus sees a need to tweak my layout.
Each day at the end of class, I direct my students to align their shoeless desk feet with designated tile seams, and to push in their chairs. They are supposed to stand at their desks until the dismissal bell. To them, the "stand" command is heard as: mill around like the sum total population of Mumbai trying to make individual cross-town appointments within the next five minutes.
I'm sure that you, in the same manner as Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, would be shocked to discover a mystery substance puddled on the floor just before final bell. It seems the students were also taken aback at this lapse in fluid etiquette.
"Mrs. HM! Mrs. HM! There's something on the floor!"
"What IS that?"
"Get out of my way! I don't want to step in it!"
"Oh oh! Somebody had a beverage!"
"Somebody spilled water!"
"It might be something else! Let me out of here!"
"What if it's drool from Rip van Winkle over there?"
"You really need to clean that up, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom."
"It might be pee!"
I had a suspect. One who scoffs my law on a regular basis. He denied knowledge. But as he passed through the portal and out of the destruction zone, I noticed a huge wet spot on the side of his backpack. Then I smelled it. The overpowering stench of high school boy cologne. The perpetrator or a cohort must have inadvertently knocked the backpack off the desk, pulverizing the fragile container of Smelly Good. My eyes watered. My throat sputtered. I sent The Pony to inform Cus. So Cus would know to put the proper disinfectant on the toolbelt before coming in to clean my room.
The next morning, the tainted atmosphere was nearly back to normal. By lunchtime, which is not noon, but 10:53 a.m., the ambiance had returned. Fried smoky fart with a bouquet of reptile house. That lasted until the pillaging hordes returned. The Perp was wearing his backpack. One cannot simply direct a student to leave an unattended backpack in the hall these days. The classroom was again infused with the overpowering fragrance. That we all did not succumb to the fumes speaks highly of the resilience of backwoods Hillmomba stock.
I meant to get a message to Cus. Really. I did. To say that the smell was not something that could be scrubbed. Cus was nowhere to be found. Quite uncharacteristic of Cus at the end of the day. Perhaps an emergency bus driver substitution had been announced, and Cus was out of the building. I went about my after-school business, locked up the room, and left. The next morning, there was a note on my desk.
Mrs. Hillbilly Mom,
My GOD your room stunk like aftershave! I mopped it yesterday and thought it was good. Apparently not! Took the floorscrubber to it today, hope it's better!
When Cus came in that afternoon, I explained that the deja vu air quality was not anything that could be scrubbed. Cus asked why I hadn't told The Perp to wash his backpack. For the same reason I do not tell the personally hygienically challenged to wash their pits. Some lines should not be crossed. Meanwhile, an uneasy truce is in effect.
Cleanliness is next to Cusliness.