Random Acts of Mandation

When is kindness not kindness?

Might not as far up the philosophical ladder as, say, can God create a rock that is so heavy that God can’t lift it. But it’s a question I’ve been forced to come to terms with at work recently.  

How does one define kindness? How does one encourage it in others?

When Kommandant Newsom tells us we must be kind or ELSE!

And yeah, you’re gonna need to get that notarized.

We recently went through something called the California Kindness Challenge, where the State Superintendent required all school districts to come up with a kindness plan. Districts, in turn, did what districts do best, which is to pass the buck on to private companies that exist for the sole purpose of milking money out of districts. Nice synergy in that “passing the buck” here refers to both shirking responsibility and also sending loads of cash down the pipeline like a human centipede. Although in this case, you definitely want to be the end of the centipede. The shit is much tastier and you don’t have to do much for it.

These companies are great at mixing and matching their message to the educational issue du jour. We had a group of bike riders come in for two assemblies. They did cool tricks, spinning on handlebars and riding up and down ramps. The students all loved it. In between their radical rotations, they’d grab a microphone and preach whatever they were hired to preach. One year it was about trying hard on the standardized tests. Four years later, the bike tricks were exactly the same, but the messages were about cyber bullying. Maybe they’ll come back next year very concerned about Social and Emotional Learning or Lockdown Learning Loss.

Shit, if you pay me $10,000 a day (plus expenses) to ride a bike, I’ll say whatever message you want me to say. Booze is bad, abstinence is cool, punch your friends? You name it. Raise my daily rate to 20K and your kids can punch me.

This year, it’s all about kindness.

Here’s where I’m torn. I truly believe we need more kindness, especially in high schools. Most of the problems we’re facing as a nation, maybe as a world, come from a general lack of empathy. We assume everyone else is out to fuck us over so we need to fuck them over first. If the members of Congress would do something as simple as holding the door open for members of the other party then, who knows, maybe we could pass a budget.

Unless they’re being forced to open the door. Then it’s some sanctimonious bullshit.

I’ve explained this internal Civil War to my students. Don’t let the fact that California is mandating it, and that our own district will half-ass it to death, detract from the importance of the message. In fact, whatever they tell us to do, ignore it, and just focus on treating other human beings like they’re, I don’t know, human beings? Each of whom is trying to get through this fuck-up of a world without driving off the closest cliff.

What’s that? Some guy was arrested for intentionally driving his entire family off a cliff? Yeah, our society is on a razor’s fucking edge right now.

So how did my district end up half-assing this mandate? 

First, we challenged our students to do one million acts of kindness. Not individually, as that might be a little hard to reach. Unless you count not flipping off the assholes who cut me off in traffic as an act of kindness, in which case I could reach a million by the midpoint of my average commute. But a million acts of kindness, collectively, which they divided out to about forty per student in the district. Although probably need to up that to fifty, because those dumb fucks in kindergarten can’t count to forty.

Sorry, was that unkind? Debit it from the guy I didn’t flip off.

But again, not too bad of a message. If you’re a little bit kinder, and everybody else is a little bit kinder, then we might all be a little less red-ass all the time. I think I can get behind this…

What’s that? We’re supposed to download an app and log into it every time we do something kind? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

These aren’t really “random acts,” are they? This isn’t a general “be kinder” missive. This is something we’re supposed to keep track of. We’re supposed to stand up and acknowledge that we’re fucking awesome. Pat me on the back, mother fucker, because I was just nice to you.

If your empathy doesn’t come with an ounce of humility, then it’s probably just condescension. Not that Gavin Newsom would know anything about that.

I’ve got some questions about this app thing. Does it count if I don’t have my phone with me? Like when I leave my FitBit at home, I sure as hell ain’t gonna move my ass. So sorry, old lady crossing the street, but I ain’t gonna give you the right of way unless I get a cool little virtual badge for it.

Now let’s assume I have my phone on me, so I open the door for five people walking behind me. Is that five acts of kindness or one? If it’s only one, then isn’t the courteous thing to slam the door on person number two? Then he has a chance to open the door for the next person in line. Quantity over quality, amirite?

On the other hand, if I get credit for every person that benefits from my kindness, then I can just delay a quiz by a day and get credit for one hundred. Then I can go rob a bank or something and still be ahead on my karma quota.

Although the kid who was ready to take the quiz today might consider this delay to NOT be an act of kindness. Must the recipient acknowledge a kindness for it to count? Perhaps they should need to sign off in my app with, I don’t know, a sample of their blood to prove my kindness. Kindly insert this anal probe for verifi… oops, looks like your DNA’s already received a notarized act of kindness. Please return to the crosswalk so I can run over you.

My district didn’t stop at the million acts of kindness, though. They wanted to add one cohesive thing we can do all together as a district. Not because the district cares, but because the company they hired to check the state-required wants to put it up on their website so they can get five figures from more half-assing districts. 

After all, we fell for their examples from other districts. One district had students donate their used shoes to a homeless shelter. Another collected canned food for their local food bank, even though most food banks don’t take food anymore and prefer cash. Details, details. The point of this exercise is to look good on local media, not to actually help people.

So my district, in its infinite wisdom, after weeks of workshopping minutes of afterthought, decided that instead of shoes or food, we would collect… 5,000 pounds of coffee!

Not used coffee, thankfully, because coffee grounds might actually be useful for composting. Rather, a full pound of sealed, store-bought coffee grounds. Making it a deliberate act of kindness, not a random one, forcing our students, many of whom have little in the way of transportation, into an explicit trip to the store in order to buy something to bring to school and donate to someone else. Someone who makes more money than the families that are buying the coffee. Or if I was forced to go to Macy’s to buy a dress shirt for a billionaire.

Because you’ll note I haven’t yet said WHO gets the 5,000 pounds of coffee. Not a homeless shelter, where I assume hot coffee would get them through some cold nights. Not a women’s shelter, of which there are a few in the town where I teach. Heck, it isn’t even some mom-and-pop breakfast restaurants, who are struggling to compete against the Dennys and the IHOPs of the world. Not having to pay for the coffee would go far helping that restaurant be in the black for a few months. Provided they could store 5,000 pounds of coffee, because my district wants to deliver the coffee all at once. Better for publicity, and one should not pursue kindness if one is not getting good press out of it. 

You know who, I guaran-fucking-tee, already have enough goddamn coffee? The federal government.

That’s right. We’re giving our coffee to the military. Because… Because… It’s for the Troops! Nobody can get upset about doing something nice for the Troops, right? 

I’m all for supporting the military. Give ’em guns, give ’em armor. It was especially a thing while we were embroiled in multiple foreign wars. One might quibble over whether said wars were just, but the soldiers can’t control that. Even if most of them joined so they could shoot other foreigners. Oh, plus having everyone kiss your ass and tell you how wonderful you are. Trust me, I’m a teacher. Most of the people in my profession regularly spout off about being a special population that ought to be revered as such.

As an added bonus, teachers are allowed to drink coffee. Which, evidently, the soldiers… can’t?

By the way, the district doesn’t provide coffee for us. We only get to drink it if we bring our own. Maybe that’s why my district thinks soldiers are in the same boat.

Maybe we should have our students give coffee to their teachers? That’s a kindness that might benefit them, too.

My daughter is a Girl Scout, and when she’s shilling her cookie madness every year, they have a “Support the Troops” option. She’s supposed to sell at least ten of them to get, I don’t know, a badge or a shirt or something. I usually cringe when she rattles off her spiel. “If you don’t want the cookies for yourself, you can send some to the troops.” I mean, it’s better than “The Governor tells you you have to redistribute your cookies to those less fortunate,” but it’s still a bit jarring. If I ain’t buying cookies for myself, the last thing I want to do is buy some for somebody else. Especially somebody who is gainfully employed in addition to having all of their room and board provided.

But at least with the Girl Scout cookies, I can convince myself that there are troops stationed far from home who might not have access to their local grocery store or cannabis dealer and their ubiquitous cookie stands this time of year. Maybe you’re stationed in, I don’t know, West Berlin, where girl scouts don’t exist. What’s that? We don’t have a lot of troops stationed at the Berlin Wall anymore? Hmm.. Now that I mention it, I bet those guys stationed in Germany or Italy have access to the internet, where they can have cookies shipped to them. Although shipping’s probably a bitch, so yeah, my daughter collecting six bucks from someone who wants to feel like they’re supporting both the Girl Scouts and the military at the same time, I guess it’s not a terrible idea. We’re not saying the military or poor, miserly beggars, only that their job currently requires them to be somewhere far away from the usual comforts of home. 

One might call that an act of kindness.

I assume my district glommed onto “Ferda Troops!” because our school board faced a lot of flack from a certain segment of the population over school closure. Which then morphed into masks. Which then morphed in Critical Race Theory, which we don’t teach, and the Pledge of Allegiance, which we do every day but which this certain segment thinks has been taken out of schools. I’ll let you guess which segment that is, but let’s just say they really like the military.

As an added bonus, Herr Kommandant Newsom probably doesn’t really like the military. Maybe they wanted to throw his stupid mandate back in his face, by showing their mandated acts of kindness toward an entity that Herr Kommandant hates.

Or the school board did as it usually does when it gets an ill-thought-out mandate from the state, which is half-ass its implementation even more. 

Does the military even WANT 5000 pounds of coffee? That’s a lot of fucking coffee. Where will they store it? Will it go stale by the time they use it? It’ll take a school bus to deliver, which is something my district allegedly never has enough of to spare for any reason, whatsoever. The football team can drive themselves to the goddamn away game.

I also assume it’s a logistical nightmare to incorporate 5,000 extra pounds 

Unlike Girl Scout cookies, I’m pretty sure every military base, even those stationed overseas, are able to track down coffee. I’ve heard plenty of former military types complain about what it’s like to be stationed overseas. It’s not all alcohol and prostitutes. A lot of the places they are stationed don’t have quite the infrastructure they’re used to at home. Lots of sand. And long days. Especially when we’re at war. 

You know what I’ve never heard anybody complain about? The food. Maybe back in Vietnam or World War II, when we had millions deployed, the quality of a breakfast might suffer, but these days, they eat pretty well. Even at the height of World War II, when the GI’s were gruelling through winter in northern France, eating dehydrated rations, you know what they had plenty of? Coffee. 

And that was back in the day when the federal government pretended it cared about wasteful spending. Nowadays I jcan’t imagine a Congressmember shutting down the government over a Yuban Conference. They might cut Kevin McCarthy’s Starbucks allowance, but every military base, every outpost, every pontoon and submarine, is chock full of Joe.

The only entity our donation is being kind to is the federal budget. It’s already got 31 trillion acts of kindness. Unless my district is claiming this act of kindness is aimed at maintaining a good bond rating now that we’re past the debt ceiling. That’s a kindness for everyone, provided some bureaucrat notices the coffee rations they proved last month went undrank, and adjusts this month’s requisition. But not next month’s, because then those soldiers will have no coffee and grumpy soldiers with caffeine headaches all month long ain’t a kindness for nobody. 

Ha ha, jk. Nobody at my district office thought this out beyond “everybody likes coffee” and “everybody likes troops.”

So good news, modern GIs, if my working-class students, many of whose entire family makes less than one army brat, can get off their lazy asses, you’ll..  find a random shipment of more coffee than you’ll ever need. 

And if that ain’t an act of kindness, then I don’t know what the definition of kindness is. 

I’d look it up in a dictionary, but my district didn’t consider that a good use of resources.

Best Student Answers Ever

Since it’s finally the time of year when the joys of teaching are realized (ie when we don’t have to deal with people who haven’t turned in a damn thing all year wondering what they need to do to pass), it’s a good time to look at some of the other minor perks.

The pay, for instance. And the respect.

No wait, sorry. I must’ve been thinking about something else. In reality, random politicians who wouldn’t be able to pass my class get to tell me I’m not teaching correctly. Yes, Congressperson, you’re supposed to provide a check and balance on the president, even if he’s in your own party. Grandstanding while bequeathing power to the Executive Branch is not, actually, one of the enumerated powers.

But hey, at least we’re gonna get free guns soon, right?

I won’t spend much time on this one, since I don’t think it’s a good faith argument, but arming teachers would be a phenomenally bad idea. There’s a teacher at my school who’s about 4’10”. Explain to me how she keeps her sidearm when the six-foot linebacker lunges for it. And you know that teacher that you’re convinced hated you? Spoiler alert: They really did. Now imagine that they had a gun every time you mouthed off in class. Should I fire a warning shot into the air to wake up all the kids who think Emmett Till is “boring”? I doubt the second-floor teacher would appreciate that.

No, the real gift of being a teacher, at least for the ten months out of the year not named June and July, are the wonderful answers we get to out insightful questions.

And no, I’m not talking about the good answers.

How did Hitler come to power? He was really popular, you see, because he threw a Nazi party. Ain’t no party like a Nazi party cause a Nazi party don’t stop… until 1945.

After twenty years, bad answers don’t phase me much. Answers I used to find hilarious now seem pat. They lack the flair they once had, and are usually just copied from Wikipedia these days. 

For instance, every year I ask “When and where was the Berlin Conference of 1884?” Wanna guess how many students just write “IDK”? A couple months later, I ask where the Berlin Wall was built. Can you imagine that they STILL haven’t figured out where? Maybe I should give them the hint that it’s in the same place they held the Berlin Conference. 

Paris, naturally.

But I got a response recently that broke through this grizzled vet’s exterior. The type that makes me run to the other teachers in my department and repeat it for guffaws. Ironically, it wasn’t even a wrong answer.

The question, from a random reading (not a test or anything, which is where I usually see the best responses), asked how Leon Trotsky died. The answer read, quite correctly, “A Stalinist agent in Mexico City struck him in the head with an ice pick.”

Ouch. Not a fun way to go. Where’s the joy, you may ask? It stemmed from an unrequested addendum, a cherry on top of that otherwise pat answer.

“I think it was murder.”

Whoa! Slow down, Perry Mason!

After all, I also teach Intro to Law. Doesn’t this eighty-year old “alleged” criminal get any due process? Sure, the fifth amendment doesn’t apply in Mexico City, but considering he was working for the Soviets in Mexico, I think it all cancels out. They call that quid pro decisis.

Sure, the perpetrator (sorry, defendant) had a letter on his body claiming his intention. But it also included lies about who he was. And if we can’t trust a guy to level with us about his name, why should we take at face value his admission of intent? And the fact that he was carrying around an ice pick under a trenchcoat in the middle of August in Mexico is completely circumstantial. I’ve seen plenty of David E. Kelley programs. The DA doesn’t have a case. Maybe he was on his way to the North Pole? Or maybe it was self defense! Yeah, yeah, the sixty-year-old attacked him, totally unprovoked. Good thing my client had that sawed-off ice pick under his summer trenchcoat!

Okay, okay, maybe he did it. Good eye, Student, for delving into the mind of a murderer to get at true intent. Although all you really had to do was describe the act. Save your opinion for things like the decision to drop the atomic bomb. 

But nah, this student was totally mute when I actually asked to debate motive. 

For now, I’m saying this is my third favorite student answer, but that means it wins the bronze medal. The best student answers of my tenure work a lot like the American two-party system. The top two are forever etched in stone, and depending on my mood, they’ll switch who’s in the driver’s seat. Trotsky’s alleged murder and Hitler’s bumpin’ parties are the Ralph Naders and Gary Johnsons. They make me chuckle for a season or two, then are largely forgotten when the newest batch comes in.

Statement number one came on an economics test. The question requested a where to set a price ceiling. A price ceiling, for those of you who haven’t spent much time in an economics class over the past decades, is a maximum price set by the government, which often creates shortages. For a recent example, take a look at that “anti price gouging” bill going through Congress right now. Clearly none of the members of Congress have spent a lot of time in economics classes. Why, it was only a couple years ago they were convinced that macroeconomics was a defunct study, and that inflation wasn’t really a thing anymore. How’d that turn out?

Anyway, for a price ceiling to be effective, it must be set below the market price. This is the concept the question was testing. Many students assume that, since it’s a ceiling, it should be high. Very confusing, I know, but a price FLOOR would have to be high. If that anti-gouging bill said the price of gasoline couldn’t go above $20 a gallon, it wouldn’t be a very effective law. At least for the next month or two, after which that’ll probably be where supply meets demand anyway. 

I know, Congress doesn’t really care about making effective laws. They care about getting YouTube views and Twitter likes. 

Don’t worry if the concept of price ceilings is foreign to you. My student also didn’t understand the concept. Not only did she fail to give me a dollar amount, she didn’t even acknowledge the product the question was about, chocolate chip cookies. Instead, she discussed the price of… ceilings. 

Most ceilings, you see, are similar to each other and should probably be priced the same. It isn’t the price of the ceiling that’s important, she informed me, but the quality. Cheap ceilings are more likely to leak.

Had she delved into the complimentary or supplementary market of roofs vis-a-vis ceilings, I might’ve given her the points. I’m all for bringing in real world examples, and maybe this girl ran a stucco company in her free time. When I asked another student, after reading an article about the supply and demand of illicit drugs, what determines the price of cocaine and marijuana, he happily told me pot is about $50 for a quarter ounce. 

But since ceiling girl couldn’t provide me with an actual price of the top of my house, it’s a big fat zero. 

Zero, it turns out, would’ve been a good answer for an effective price ceiling. I’m surprised Congress hasn’t attempted to make those evil oil companies give us gas for free. Can’t imagine any drawbacks to that plan.

What separates the final answer from those that came before was the fact that it was an unforced error. Price ceilings and Nazi parties and Stalinist Law & Order were in responses to prompts, either after readings or on a test. I applaud ceiling girl for trying to make sense of the question and taking an “educated” guess instead of opting for the ubiquitous “IDK.”

This last answer, however, came on a term paper. He didn’t have to write a damn thing, but opted to go off the board with a phenomenally preposterous statement. Probably shouldn’t be surprising from a guy whose bibliography included, I shit you not, I guess was already taken? 

The term paper could be on any political topic, like abortion or gerrymandering or sin taxes. He opted for the draft, which doesn’t pique too many interests these days, but is always an acceptable foray into timeless queries of individual rights versus societal responsibilities, of implicit versus explicit government powers. So sure, kid, but me up with some knowledge. 

“The U.S. military draft,” he began, “is very similar to the NFL draft.”

Cue the record scratching sound effect 

So wait, which branch of the military has the number one pick this year? Does it rotate between the branches or, like the NFL, does it go to whichever branch had the worst year? How is that determined? I mean, the Afghanistan pullout didn’t go swimmingly, but I don’t know how to assign the blame. I assume the army, but the lasting image was of the airplane leaving Kabul Airport, leaving the top pick to the Wild Blue Yonder.

More questions abound. Let’s say the navy has the number one overall draft pick one year, but the top prospect is a sniper. Do they draft him in the hopes of “developing” him into a submarine captain? Or do they trade that pick to the army or marines? But I can’t imagine they can get a lot in return, since the army knows they won’t draft the guy anyway, and they can just wait to draft him in the two or three spot for less money.

Come to think of it, other than the Marines, I don’t see a lot of overlap in the skills required by the top recruits in the various branches, leaving the draft with little suspense and less action. No wonder they don’t televise that thing.

But wait, Space Force is an expansion franchise, so they should get the first pick. Damn, I really hope the number one pick isn’t infantry. 

I was recently at a minor league baseball team’s military appreciation night. After every inning, they asked all current and former members of a specific armed force to stand up and be applauded. At first I thought they were stretching the definition of military when we had to applaud the Coast Guard and the National Guard. I mean, shit, the latter were all just Vietnam draft dodgers, while the former’s claim to fame is running slow motion in Baywatch scenes.

Come to think of it, that Vietnam War draft was televised. Although the only trades going on that day were people trading their residency to Canada. 

Just like John Elway and Eli Manning. 

Holy shit, my student was right! The military draft IS just like the NFL draft.

I’m never doubting again. 

Schrodinger’s Sink

There’s a sink outside my classroom. Or maybe there isn’t. 

Depends on how you define a “sink.”

And that’s just how my district wants it.

My school was built when small learning communities and “academies” were all the rage. My school wasn’t built to house any of those academies, mind you, but the cheapest option was probably to let the construction company use the same plans they’d built elsewhere, so welcome to pod-land. 

Each set of classrooms surrounds a meeting area where teachers can congregate to talk shit about students and other departments. My social science department uses it as a makeshift lunch room in lieu of the mythical “teacher’s lounge.” Those don’t really exist at the high school level because, you know, if they let teachers congregate together, we might realize we have stuff in common with each other. Camaraderie begets humanization. Classic anti-Marxist strategizing there. Let the history and English departments fight over precious copy paper lest we realize we have more in common with each other than not. Before long we’ll, I don’t know, band together and ask for raises. Or copier codes.

The pod has our printer and a couple cabinets where we keep the few supplies we’re granted. Red pens, Expo markers, and whatnot. Number two pencils. Other extravagances, like mechanical pencils or black and blue pens, we’ve gotta purchase ourselves. The good news is we can deduct them from our taxes. But only up to $500 a year, a number that hasn’t changed in the twenty years I’ve been teaching despite inflation roughly doubling the price of most goods and services. Don’t start buying books or a Netflix subscription for use in school and expect to deduct those.

We did get electronic hole punchers, despite not asking for them, from Covid funds. Because we all know that hole punchers are the number one transmitters of disease. I assume the porn industry will start requiring its actors to electronically hole punch any day now.

We also have a mini refrigerator in our pod. It’s against code. We’re only allowed to have Star Authorized appliances, which means they use less of the district’s energy. I mean, technically the mini refrigerator uses less energy than a full-sized refrigerator, but it uses more per cubic inch. The district doesn’t care about wasting money, they care about making things difficult. Because mini fridges cannot be designated efficient. So yes, if you’re following the logic, we can only have an appliance that doesn’t exist. At least the district isn’t being unreasonable.

We also have a microwave, similarly unapproved. Again, if teachers start thinking they’re worthy of heating up their lunches, what’s next? Getting paid for running clubs after school? I mean, if Mr. Scopes Monkey Trial taught without a microwave, we can, too. But no using chalk like in those days, as the chalk dust is hazardous. Oh, and the Expo pens need to be non-toxic. No getting high in front of class! Gotta wait till we’re proctoring those clubs for free before you get lit.

Our pod also contains a kettle for brewing coffee pour-overs. I think an actual Mr. Coffee might be against code. Damn, us teachers are rebels. Good thing the district never follows through with any of its initiatives. We might as well throw a keg in there. At least it wouldn’t catch fire.

There’s also a sink. 

Sort of.

Not sure why there’s a sink in the pod. We are a social science pod. Maybe they’re hoping it’ll form the basis of an epic history vs science conflagration. Unfortunately for our future science department warlords, the sink doesn’t work.

Technically, I suppose, it works. Depends on your definition of what a sink is for. If we turn on the spigot, water comes out. We’re just not allowed to.

The sink leaks. After some contemplation, we alerted custodial. It wasn’t an easy choice. They don’t take kindly to being notified that something needs custodializing. They’re busy emptying our trash cans once a week and sweeping our floors once a month. And really, teachers, you need ANOTHER roll of toilet paper? That’ll come out of your pay raise. 

So something along the lines of “There’s a puddle forming under the sink here” gets met with a hefty round of “Well, what the fuck do you expect us to do about it?”

We should be happy they responded at all. Even if it was just placing a bucket underneath the s-curve that was leaking. Problem solved?

This was back in the Obama administration.

Sometime during the Trump administration, that bucket overflowed.

The water was nastier this time. Brackish, miasmatic, the attack of the black mold! So glad I’m eating my unrefrigerated, unmicrowaved leftovers in here. 

Perhaps we shoulder some of the blame for round two. We could’ve stopped using the sink. Anyone who thinks a bucket is a permanent solution to a leak has never sang any kids’ songs. We could claim ignorance about what happens after five years of standing water. It’s not like we let the science department this close to our supply rations. But we are government teachers, so we should’ve known with perfect certainty that the custodial staff would never return to fix the problem after hours or anything. 

This time, fortunately, they came up with a more long-term solution. 

Let’s see how many of you can play “school upkeep” properly.

We could a) empty out and replace the bucket. Or b)…

Actually, a is pretty much out only option. If you thought a $5 run to Home Depot to get a new s-bend was an option, then you aren’t playing the school repair game. A new pipe today and those rascally teachers might ask to control their own thermostats next. So emptied bucket it is! 

Unless… unless…

The pipe only leaks when there is water going down it. If we could prevent water from descending the pipe, then the problem might solve itself. Like fixing the glitch in Office Space. 

Et voila…

For a while, we thought this was temporary. Until the work order got fixed or something. Escalator out of order, please use stairs. 

Then again, the sign doesn’t mention anything about a timeframe. It just says to not use the sink. The only thing that leads us to doubt its veracity or longevity is that it’s written on a flimsy sheet of paper, adhered via Scotch tape. But what other option did they have? A permanent sign might require a trip to Home Depot. On the aisle next to the sink pipes.

Note, however, that the sink is not “out of order.” We are simply instructed not to use it. 

And you know what? It’s worked. For five-plus years, we haven’t used the sink. And the bucket is almost dry. How’s that for government efficiency?

After a few months, we put money on it. Over/under when will the sink be fixed? We’re well past Price is Right rules. Even the guy who humorously picked a date four years out was wrong. There are no students at this high school who has ever attended while the sink “worked.”

Although maybe we’ve been looking at this the wrong way. We keep waiting for the problem to be fixed. But it already has been. The problem wasn’t the sink not working, it was the pipe leaking. And that pipe hasn’t leaked in close to six years! Mission accomplished. We assumed some work ticket was hanging in the district office stamped with “Waiting for part” hanging in the district office. In reality, it’s was stamped “Completed” and stabbed on the little rod back when the senior class was still in elementary school.

All it took was a piece of paper and tape. Even better, those supplies came from our cabinet, so it comes out of the social science budget. That’ll teach us to complain. My globe’s so groovy it’s got TWO Germanies for the price of one. 

Who says schools can’t think outside the box and find edgy, twenty-first century solutions to problems? It’s like the new SAT policy. Too many students are failing the SAT? How about we stop taking the SAT. Problem, solution.

Shit howdy, that custodian deserves a medal. I think you can find some at Home Depot.

If we wanted to rebellious, we could turn that sink on and to hell with the consequences. Except the consequences will be more black mold creeping across our linoleum floors. And we all know what the district’s response will be if we complain about the bucket being full again. “You didn’t follow directions. We aren’t liable for your medical bills. And is that a non-Star-compliant refrigerator I see?” 

So now we’re faced with a dilemma. The problem is fixed. The pipe is not. As long as we never use the sink, the sink is no longer broken.

We are now faced with Schrodinger’s Sink. 

I never really understood the whole Schrodinger’s Cat thing. Something to do with some fourth dimensional, Quantum Leap shit, where Jesus and Hitler are still alive, sipping Mai Tais in a secret plane on the moon. Or maybe that was a Weekly World News headline.

While I know it’s a physics experiment, it is usually explained as a philosophical question. The cat is both alive and dead until the door is opened. Cause it was alive when the door was closed? It’s what happens when you invoke Einstein to answer the old “Does a falling tree make a sound?” 

But now, I think I finally understand Schrodinger. While the water is turned off, our sink is both fixed and broken.

Turns out the poison that killed the cat was slimy water.