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" Cave Drawing | 2008 | The Crash "

02.29.08 11:20 a.m.

As soon as you get some sense of contact, you want to be teachers of others. This is a big mistake.  



Over the Moon

Cattle call interviews make us animals, make us something to be butchered and ground into a uniform, gory mass by a cold machine that extrudes an identical shape for public consumption. If you resist becoming a patty, they take the bolt gun to your forehead so your tainted, rebellious genes cannot be passed onto another generation.
"But I don't want to be a Big Mac."

The etiquette to these "interviews" is to simply drop your resumes off after waiting in line for an hour and walk away with a bare minimum of eye contact. The same process could occur painlessly and instantly through the internet, but this isn't offered or does not count as much to them because they cannot smell the desperation. This has long been a waste of everyone's time. Technology has progressed to such a point that I can send files containing my pertinent information and achievements in less time than it took me to write these words. If someone couldn't manage that feat, I can well understand invalidating them as a teacher, but not for a disinterest in queuing up behind one hundred others for access to a plastic milk crate.

Because of this cattle call, I have a hair cut that looks like John Ritter (according to my mother, the barber). I just spent sixty dollars on a black suit jacket that will be seen for a sum total of ten minutes because it is the premade shape of the hamburger the educational machine wishes me to be. Would it be fatal to respect us as the sacred cows they should want us to be? If they just want someone to administer standardized tests, they ought to give up any pretense that this is a noble profession and not force us to get Master's degrees that they choose to ignore because they would legally require a slightly higher pay bracket. People always talk about their favorite teachers - that witty, passionate one, that one who made English or math or social studies actually come alive. They do not remember their first test proctor for the very good reason that this is someone acting as a faceless drone, repeating the same information as other drones in classrooms all over the nation.

Years ago, when I was getting my Master's, one of the professors - who also happened to be a principal in a local district - told a story of this man-child who came into an interview with the tags on his suit still intact. The principal took this as a sign of the man's devotion to teaching and ordered him immediately hired. I was stunned. Didn't he see that this man only bought the suit for the interview and would be returning it afterward because he was in no way committed to being a teacher? But no, this man, like so many others in the field, saw the right container and assumed a Big Mac was in an empty box. If he held out for something more than the pretense of fast food, thousands of children might actually have gotten a chance at nourishment.

When I ask my mother how my hair looked, she teased, "Like a teacher." I acknowledge that, in my family, we mock. But there is still a grain of truth under the mockery. I do not wish to look like "a teacher". She further insisted that I tell Melanie that my hair looked like that of her favorite eleventh grade teacher. I do want to be someone's favorite eleventh grade teacher, but I don't need that to define me as a person.

I would like to have an adult life, which is why I bought the coat, which is why I decided that I could make this haircut work. I have to make these small sacrifices. I have so many people in my life who do not wish to make the commitment to lead the life they claim to want, who are perennially leaving the tags on their suits in case they later want to return their present life for store credit. It is hard to idolize the disingenuous, to feel justified in loving them. And my commitment this week is a sixty dollar jacket I am not going to return and a hairstyle that will grow out, that my mother gave me because she felt that this haircut - this teacher's haircut - would be the thing that got me a job. Once I have a job, I can have an apartment not under the control of my employer, I can have a more adult life.

For far too long, I have been ambivalent. I have not fully committed to this adult life because I was trying to support Emily. I thought come June, come hell or high water, my wife and I would be embarking on our adult life together wherever she got a job - wherever she did, not wherever I did. I pinned so much of my future on her. This is not an adult thing to do, albeit a reasonable thing at the time.

I cannot live in Anemia. If my present school tells me in June, despite initial assurances to the contrary, that I cannot live in my apartment until the new school year starts, I may have to take the psychosocial moratorium for a while and think about moving into my parents' house until August. I am not proud of that fact, but it is a consideration because I will not know by June where I will have a job. I can cope with this because I know, come August, that I will have my adult life. A better life, a life more closely resembling what I have wished to establish, which I have put off establishing for the sake of Emily. It isn't necessarily that she asked me to. I'm not wholly faulting her for this even though she planned to live without me and led me to believe we had a future together. But now my life is totally reliant on me. Yes, I am considering other people in this decision. I want to be closer to my beloved friends, my family, my lover if I can. I want to have a life that involves me. I would like to be able to go out at 6PM and buy a loaf of bread if I please, go and see a movie with Jacki because it is Tuesday. It is something that has been denied to me for so long. If this jacket is to be my ticket out of this waiting room, then I will wear it proudly (even if this means I am conforming to some pitiable ideal). I know how rich my inner life is. I know that I will write and I will love. I will have amazing experience with superb people. And I will do it from my new apartment paid for with my new job.

Soon in Xenology: Crash.

last watched: Tampopo
reading: Dune
listening: Still Alive

" Cave Drawing | 2008 | The Crash "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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