Quite a lively discussion ensued on Thursday at the Semi-Weekly Meeting of the Newmentia Lunch Time Think Tank.
Let the record show that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was having sinus issues that day. Sinus issues in the form of a clogged upper nasal area that extended to the forehead portion above her eyes. A headache was not yet present at the tender hour of 8:00 a.m., but it was knocking on the door like a vacuum cleaner salesman at the end of the month earning only commission.
Mrs. Hillbilly Mom had duty that day, duty normally performed in the parking lot, but brought inside by the high winds. She purloined a soft rolly chair from the library to serve out her time in comfort. The replacement for my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel strolled down the hall. I refuse to say the one who took Mabel's place, because we all know that Mabel is irreplaceable. Not-Mabel smiled and sniffed her armpits. "Is it just me, or does this hall smell like BO? I really noticed it when I came out of the office, and now it seems to have followed me down the hall. I know I put on my deodorant this morning."
"I don't really smell anything. My head is stuffed up. But if you smelled it up by the office, that explains it. All the kids are crammed in the cafeteria. They're marinating in their own juices. Maybe it's leaking out into the hall." I went to return my library chair, but the door was locked. So I started to the cafeteria to tell its owner, who was on duty there. Tomato-Squirter had just arrived, and accompanied me up the hall. I castigated her for not claiming her regular lunch chair from Jewels, and she declared that at this point, she thinks Jewels takes that chair on purpose, and furthermore, is there any subject under the sun that Jewels does not know enough refrain from commenting on. Oh, and she also declared that she was about to be physically ill from the smell in the hall.
The abandoned chair vouched for, I returned to my hall post. A couple of students walked by. "It stinks down here!" In fact, after my duty was over, and the regular day began, and one class period passed, Mrs. Not-A-Cook went by and said, "Whew! That end of the hall smells terrible! It's like cat pee."
While grading papers, I heard teaching going on in the cafeteria. It was Tomato-Squirter and her band of merry freshmen. Something was definitely up. Maybe we had toxic waste build-up. Maybe some cleaning chemicals, the kind that smell like cat pee, were leaking from a 55-gallon drum in the lower janitor closet. By the end of my plan period, I saw the secretary sniffing lockers. That's not her regular job. She has to maintain the command post, and buzz people in and out of the building. But as of 9:50 a.m., nobody was getting in. The counselor joined her, in absentia for the boss, who was across town at the main office momentarily.
I think that perhaps, in the preceding six paragraphs, I've managed to convey the notion that the hall stunk, and I couldn't smell it. Flash forward to 10:53 at the faculty lunch table.
"Oh, we figured out who it was, by the rooms the smell traveled to, and the people in each class. I knew it was in my room. I even told the kids, 'Yes, I know it smells. It is one of you. I think somebody has a cat, and overnight that cat marked your shoes or you jacket, and now you smell like cat pee.' Can you believe nobody would own up to it? I had them in groups of three, and I knew exactly which group it was. Then we had to figure out which kid. While moving to the cafeteria where we had better ventilation, Mr. Principal got the stinker and sent her home for the day. Now we just have to air out the hall and classrooms." So sayeth Tomato-Squirter, two seats to my left.
"Cat pee? Really? And she didn't even know? It's an ammonia smell. I told Mrs. Not-A-Cook maybe it was meth. There's a lot of it around here, you know." All the kids know, too. I was not telling any secrets out of school right there at the school lunch table.
"Well, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, I don't really think Sweetums cooked up a batch of meth this morning." Tomato-Squirter thinks she is a regular Sherlock Holmes.
"SHE didn't have to cook it. If somebody in her house was cooking it, she'd have that smell on her, too." Thank goodness Chipper took time out from rolling food around in his mouth to back me up.
Czar gab nodded wisely, like the meth expert that he is. Then he changed the subject to actual meat content of Taco Bell beef. I don't know why. He's kind of random like that. "Yeeessss...it was found to be only 88 percent beef..."
"Eighty-eight percent! That sounds a little high to me. I thought it was less." I can't let Czar Gab go unchallenged. He's not stealing candy from THIS baby.
"What was the rest of it, then? Soy?" Chipper is a curious sort.
Tomato-Squirter ducked her head over her cafeteria tray of brown chicken pieces in a dark sauce that was proclaimed to be of the Chinese variety, though no rice was served this time, and there was no breading on the chicken. "I don't think I'm going to be able to eat this chicken. My stomach is still upset from that smell."
"Actually, some of it was soy, and a lot of it was pink slime. That, or once they stopped using pink slime because it was in the news, it might have been worm protein." Nope. There IS absolutely no subject on which Jewels is without comment.
Tomato-Squirter turned a little green around the gills. For once, I'm almost ready to believe her lunch seat conspiracy theory.