Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More About School

I have mentioned a bit about my time at school. I was always kind of a geek but had the good fortune of being considered funny so most people put up with me. I was happy with this arrangement because it was so easy to be funny at my school. There was just so much comedy gold everywhere to be seen.

Probably the best source for cheap entertainment in the entire school was the librarian we had for the first few years of my time there. His name was Mr Cox, which led to a lot of very obvious jokes from the student population. But in my humble opinion, his name was the least funny thing about him.

We referred to him as the Book Nazi. His demeanor was very similar to the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld except instead of soup, it was books. There had to be total silence in his library at all times. God help you if you were chewing gum. I remember a friend of mine once accidentally dropped a book from the library's upper level and I will never forget how terrified I was for her safety.

But it gets better. Cox the Book Nazi was, in his spare time, a reasonably successful square dance caller. Seriously. A few friends of mine looked him up on the internet and found that he released his own recordings of him calling square dances, giving it a bit of the old 'Dosey Doe and around you go!'. And people actually bought them. When we discovered this, it was an incredible revelation. Word spread around the schoolyard pretty quickly.

At some stage the school found out about this hidden hobby and dealt with it the way that high schools are legally required to deal with this things. That is, the way they are required to deal with these things if you live in a Saved By The Bell-esque sitcom. They put him in charge of our PE class for a week. I don't know if you've ever been given square dance lessons by a psychotic librarian with anger management issues, but it's a strange experience. He would be up on stage in a cowboy hat, dropping phrases like 'square your sets!' and throwing in a few rhymes while intermittently screaming at any student who dared displease him. There were a lot of detentions given that week.

Another of my favourite staff members was a history teacher whose name I won't mention, because it was a bit less common. Like many of the teachers at my school she was widely regarded as being totally and completely insane. Personally, I quite liked her. I remember our first history class in year 7, she asked everyone in the room to tell the class two things about themselves. A simple 'getting to know you' exercise. The girl sitting next to me (the same girl who had the misfortune of dropping that book, now that I think about it) mentioned that her favourite food was tiny teddies. We moved on. But our teacher, not so much. The next class she came in with a huge box of tiny teddies and gave them out to everyone in the class. Except for the girl sitting next to me. I should point out that there was literally no reason for doing this that isn't simply messing with a new generation of awkward teenagers.

She also sent me on the single greatest errand I ever carried out when I was at school. I loved running errands for teachers and it wasn't a brown-nosing thing - it was more to do with the fact that it got me a free ticket out of class for as long as I could stretch the errand out.

"Sarah, can you take this note to the front office?" she asked me in class one day, "Tell them it's from me, they should give you something to bring back."

I nodded and wandered out into the corridor. Obviously, I read the note. I was a bit confused when it only had three words on it: 'Bag Of Money'. I wasn't sure what this meant. Had my history teacher finally snapped and was sending the school office a poorly worded ransom note, using me as a messenger? Or did she just fancy her chances of them assuming someone else had ok-ed giving her a free bag of money?

Either way, I handed the note in to the front desk, telling them who it was from. To my surprise the office woman simply nodded and handed me an actual bag full of cash. I considered trying this for myself many times, just going up to the office with a note that said 'Every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD' or 'Free Maxibons for life' and seeing whether they reached into that cupboard and pulled out what I wanted. I was never game.

I got along well with that teacher, probably because history was one of my favourite subjects. I was always extremely interested in the way that ancient people lived. As I have mentioned, my aunt in England dabbled in archaeology (or, as I like to describe it 'Jetting around Europe digging up ancient remains with Baldrick from Blackadder'. In other words, my dream life) so I had a bit of an inside scoop on this whole ancient history business. It seems impressive in Australia to find something that's more than 50 years old, but over in Europe they're falling over historical artifacts. They can't build a carpark without having to do a full excavation. I remember hearing the story from my mother about how one of my aunt's neighbours had been digging up his backyard and had discovered a human skeleton. It was quickly cleared as not murder due to it being thousands of years old, probably Roman. It was a small country town and the neighbour wasn't quite sure what to do with the discovery, but knew that my aunt was involved in archaeology. He just gave the skeleton to her to deal with. My aunt, being a very busy person, put the ancient human remains in a box under her bed until she could find a spare moment to deal with them. She was that chill, she didn't mind sleeping with literal skeletons in her closet. Although it was even worse because they weren't in the closet, they were under the friggin bed.

Because she lived on the other side of the world, I didn't get to see her that often but I did speak to her on the phone sometimes. I recall a few months later remembering the skeleton incident and asking her how she had ever resolved it. I will never forget her reaction.

"Oh yeah," she muttered, "I should probably get around to doing something about that."

Best relative ever, seriously. Hopefully she did end up remembering to deal with it, because I never did hear what happened with that.

But back to school. As I say, I was very interested in history, but was also a slightly sarcastic teen who didn't quite understand the best applications for her sarcasm. I was in class one day, passing some judgement on an ancient civilisation. My teacher decided to stop me to teach me a lesson, as they tend to do.

"You know, we live in a very different society today. You can't judge those people by today's standards," she mused.

It was a very good point, but I would put what I said next as the single greatest academic comeback I have ever used.

"Yeah? Well, watch me because I think I just did!"

At least that girl who sat next to me got a laugh out of it.

-Smackie Onassis

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