Lest you think that names are the only funny things about students, or shit is the only funny thing about being sick, you’d be mistaken. Well, obviously. Students say and do funny stuff all the time, and being sick presents itself with all kinds of situations in which you cannot help but laugh, like I said before, unless you are an asshole.
I had a student once who suggested that there should be a place, sort of like Netflix, where people could go, to borrow books. And, that not only that, it should be free. When I suggested that this place exists, and that it’s called a library, he became indignant, and said, “no, it could be a place where you could even go to it, not just an online place,” feeling even more confident, he expanded his idea, “and they could even have magazines and newspapers, and all kinds of stuff like that. And, if you were a member you could use all of it. Then, you could borrow the books for like a few days, or weeks, return them, and it would be so awesome.” Thankfully, another student saved me from having to give a sarcastic remark, because sometimes my wit is a little too sharp.
“Dude, you are taking about a library? Have you ever been to a library?” says super-saver student.
“No.” (Insert my imagination: Oh how sad)
“Try one. I’m pretty sure you will be pleased.” (Insert my imagination: But also disappointed that your brilliant idea was stolen from you centuries ago).
And, as a sick person, I could be an asshole, and be angry that, apparently I have the world’s smallest veins, which causes me no small amount of pain. In fact, I would like to start a competition for this: world's smallest insides in comparison to their outsides. I also have a very tiny mouth. Dentists have to use all the children’s tools on me. I’m small everywhere “inside” for such a normal-sized person on the outside. I’m a freak of nature.
I could be pissed off that every time I need an IV, it takes several jabs, and then, several people, and then eventually, a supervisor. I could be annoyed, or even humiliated, that my arms always look like a junkie's, because between the amount of hospital visits I usually have, and therefore the subsequent pokes for a good IV, I am covered in bruises. Instead, they are badges of honor. I'm not dead yet. Yet.
The anesthesiologist poked me ten times, for my brain surgery. TEN! At eight, he went and got an ultrasound machine and his boss to help. One of the bruises was so large, because they had to put a blood pressure cuff, which squeezed and re-injured the area, right above one of his misses, that it was about three inches long and about two inches across. Every nurse who came in thereafter gave me lots of pity for it. Nurses are always better than doctors at IVs, but even they have trouble.
If I didn’t find this an interesting quirk about myself, I would have to be pretty pissed off about how long it takes to get pain relief sometimes. Instead, I feel badly for the poor nurses and techs who spend so much time apologizing to me, and it gives me hope for humanity that they genuinely feel badly for hurting me.
It makes me feel happy that I have bad veins because it allows me to see that people care about other people. They are sorry that they have to poke me so many times. They are sorry for the bruises. My pain genuinely pains them. So, I’m happy that I have small veins. When people ask me what I believe in, because I don’t believe in God, I say that I believe in people. Sure, sometimes that means that they let me down, but a nurse's genuine pain at my pain is an example of people proving to me that they are worth believing in.
I can get misty for a moment and tell you that about 99.8% of my students give me the same feeling. They give me hope and faith in the world. They are full of ideas and reason, and full of hope for the future. I have taught recovering drug addicts, just released felons, moms going back to school, you name it. They all teach me, every day that there is reason to believe that anyone, anytime can start over, can do something new, and that all it takes is for one person to believe in another. That's why I love my job, because I can be that one person.
Now enough of the sap, and onto the .02% that provide me endless amusement, and who despite their infinite potential for success, are still damn funny. I believe in them, and know they'll make it too, but I also know they'll blunder along the way, and say and do silly things. I'm just glad I get to see it!
Community colleges get a lot of drop-outs from state schools; but many of them tell me that they are “taking a semester off.” Sure. Not that they won't be back; I truly believe in all of their potential to return. I'll see them again, when they return as moms coming back after their kids are grown, or as dads who want to finally finish their degree to show their kids it can be done. For some, the semester off is a real thing, but for some, you can see in their eyes, that you won't see them again for ten years. But, they all come back, which is the beauty of it. I just wish I could talk to the future-them, and have their 18-year old brain understand it.
Where I used to teach was very close to VMI, the Virginia Military Institute, you know, one of those military academies that is not actually associated with the military like West Point, the Naval Academy or The Air Force Academy. So essentially, you basically pay a bunch of money to be treated like shit for four years, and then you don’t come out as a military officer, unless, of course, you’ve taken an ROTC scholarship. I’ve never understood the purpose of these schools, except reputation.
We used to get a lot of dropouts, a-hem, "semester off-ers," from here too. One of my favorite stories is a girl who dropped out from VMI. Well, was "taking a semester off," before she went onto a different state school. The saddest part of her story was that she was an amazing athlete, who had been recruited to VMI, (at least from what I understood) for an athletic scholarship. To throw away a future like that because you couldn’t hack their disciplinary environment, to me, seems insane.
Anyway, she was in one of my literature classes, and I always start the semester with a little lecture about how some of the things we will read, well all of the things we will read, will seem a little foreign to them, based on language, diction and syntax. Students tend to freak when they see Old and Middle English, so I try to bring to a thematic level for them.
I like to show them that while times and language have changed, people have basically remained the same, since the dawn of time, with the themes and things they care to write about. In other words, peeps were writing about penises, vaginas, sex, drugs and alcohol back then too. Oh, and farts were always funny. (Side Note: English teachers can be funny!)
So, I give them a selection of Anglo-Saxon Riddles, and I see if we can figure them out together. The Anglo-Saxon Riddles are mostly from a book called the Exeter Book and some of them are what you might consider dirty; the students love them. The Anglo-Saxon period lasted from about the year 400, until the Norman Conquest in 1066, important information when trying to figure out the following riddle:
A strange thing hangs by a man’s thigh,
hidden by a garment. It has a hole
in its head. It is stiff and strong
and its firm bearing reaps a reward.
When the man hitches his clothing high
above his knee, he wants the head
of that hanging thing to poke the old hole
(of fitting length) it has often filled before.
My VMI dropout was very quick to volunteer an answer, her hand shooting up before anyone else, and I was excited to see that, despite her outward, aggressive body-language, with her arms-crossed throughout the entire first lecture, maybe I’d misjudged her, and she’d be a great student this semester.
“Cell phone,” she volunteered, quickly.
“Remember, this is an Anglo-Saxon riddle, I replied, and gestured back to the timeline I’d just drawn on the board, going over the periods of literature we’d be covering, and gesturing to the time period of the Anglo-Saxons. Surely, she didn't just guess "cell phone," for a riddle written around the year 400?
“Oh,” she said, then added snappily “Fine, an iPhone.” Dear, sweet jumping frogs.
By the way, the answer is, a key. A key. Not a cell phone. Not an iPhone. Although, can you imagine how the Norman Conquest, or the Battle of Hastings might have gone differently had we been able to text? Perhaps World War II might have been avoided altogether.
Since I can be a little too dry, a little too sarcastic, with responses like these, that are pure idiocy, I’m always grateful for students when they do it for me; as, no one can comment negatively in a teacher evaluation that I was mean, when a student does the job for me.
“Vikings don’t have cell phones. In fact, Vikings don’t have phones. In fact, consider EVERYTHING in this room, short of the chairs and tables, Vikings didn’t have them.” A hero chimed in, then added, “Scratch that, our chairs have nice wheels on them. So no, it’s not a cell phone.”
You’ve got to have a sense of humor about these things, or all is lost. This girl, her plans for the future are to become a pediatrician. I’d love to give you her name, so you can avoid her practice with your children, but that wouldn’t be very nice, now would it? By the time she finishes dropping out of various programs that prove too difficult for her, my son will be at least thirty, so I won’t have to worry about his care, but you’d better damn well be sure I’ll warn my grandchildren away from her. Her constant FB posts about barely passing her bio exams, or how her chem professor is such a bitch because she didn’t pass her on her labs, suggest that she’ll be a stellar doctor.
Maybe she'll be able to find my tiny veins with an app she creates on her cell phone. We can name it Vein Viking.