One of my greatest fears in life is being in a place where I don’t know anyone, don’t know where to find things, and don’t know the daily routines that everyone takes for granted. As such, the absolute worst scenario for me is the first day on a new job, or, in this case, the first day volunteering at a new school.
You see, there are not a lot of ways to get on to the supply list (short of nepotism and several of the more important planets lining up in your favour), so in this particular board, you make your contacts by offering to go in and help out at your local school. I actually don’t mind this too much, since I have spent the last six months in a state of almost complete social isolation, but it then leads me to a position of having to walk into a group of established people, not knowing anyone’s names, not knowing where any of the rooms are, and not knowing what time things start and end.
The panic I felt on Monday morning as I prepared for this was nothing short of mind-boggling.
And my idiot body-brain pairing loves to respond to stress by keeping me awake all the live-long night. So when Monday morning rolled along, I was sleep-deprived to the point that I would likely have failed a sobriety test. I stumbled, bleary-eyed, from the bed to the shower, then to the dresser. At that point, something broke.
It sounded like glass.
I hollered down to my wife, “Are you okay?”
She hollered back up at me, “Yeah. I just broke a glass though.”
“Did you sweep it up?”
“No. I don’t have time. I’ll just pick up the big pieces. Just don’t step near the dishwasher.”
“Just don’t step near the dishwasher. That’s where it broke.”
I thought about this statement. Our kitchen isn’t terribly big. All of it is near the centrally located dishwasher.
“Are you joking?” I asked.
(Sound of front door shutting.)
I grumbled something to myself about Die Hard and bare feet, then went about figuring out what to wear.
The panic welled up in me again. I didn’t know the school’s dress code. When I went in for a tour, the principal was wearing a suit, but the teacher I would be working with was wearing jeans. Other teachers had been wearing yoga pants, but then one of the guys had had a bow tie on.
My head spun with the ramifications of making the wrong decision. If I over-dressed, I would come off as a pompous twit; if I under-dressed, a slob. I dug through the closet, hoping to find something to balance that fine line between cast-off formal and dapper casual, which I think ended up being a pair of brown pants, sneakers, a tuxedo jacket, a pair of white gloves, a golf shirt, and a cravat.
Now that I was outfitted in just the right balance of… something, I could worry about packing a lunch. I tromped downstairs, trying to stick my cravat to my golf shirt with a novelty tiepin, when I stopped dead, foot in the air like Ralph Macchio circa 1984.
A chunk of broken glass stared back at me, the morning sun winking off of its razor edges.
(It was nowhere near the dishwasher, by the way.)
I did my best India Jones impersonation by stepping lightly from one (hopefully) clear tile to the next, reached the cupboard with the dust pan and broom, and carefully swept up every square inch of the kitchen floor. I discovered three more shards, but these were the nasty little bastards that could hide in the grout.
The floor now free of crippling hazards, I looked around for something to take for lunch. As I said before, it’s been six months since I’ve had a proper 9-5, so the kitchen was more suited to shut-in meals (instant noodles and pogos) than to brown baggers. I grabbed the bread from the pantry.
Half of it was green. And it was not the kind of “scrapable” green that is just sitting on top. This stuff had dug in for a long, WWI style war of attrition. I decided to let it win and threw it out.
So lunch became a collection of random food items piled together in the hopes that I could behind them while no one talked to me at lunch. Granola bar, hunk of cheese, cookies, half an eggplant, brown sugar, and a can that had lost its label but that may have held lima beans. Or possibly gravy.
I found out later that day that it was neither.