Thursday, July 29, 2010
The question being . . . "What is wrong with you?"
The short answer is "quite a lot." But it's not my fault, no, no it isn't. There is only one person to blame for all my quirks, screw-ups, annoying habits, and personality flaws.
I'm speaking of course about my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Fisk.
The year was 1970. The Beatles had just called it quits, Apollo 13 narrowly averted disaster, and in Staten Island a child was born who would one day change the course of television history -- Ricky Schroder. While all of that was taking place, a 63-year old dragon lady named Abigail Fisk went about her daily business of tormenting a classroom full of kindergartners.
Mrs. Fisk was tall and spindly with gray hair, and glasses so thick the New York Rangers could've used the lenses as practice pucks. She probably would have been a good teacher, though, were it not for one minor detail.
She hated children.
While most kindergarten teachers are kind, nurturing, motherly types who do everything in their power to get students excited about the whole going-to-school experience, Mrs. Fisk was just the opposite. Simply put, and here I am being kind, she was a bitter, evil, heartless, soul-sucking bitch. She not only got us kids to hate school, she made us despise everything associated with it. We hated the alphabet, we hated crayons, we hated Curious George and the man in the yellow freaking hat. In our classroom, the Keebler chocolate-covered graham crackers tasted like painted cardboard and the milk was always curdled.
Mrs. Fisk assigned these jobs at random, rather than by any particular skill set possessed by individual students. This only presented a problem when Zolton got the job of "cookie monitor." Zolton Blomfeld was a year older than the rest of us, and he looked exactly like a kid named Zolton Blomfeld should look. He was three and a half feet tall by three and a half feet wide, had a gigantic head bursting with curly red hair, and he smelled like cheese. When it was his job to pass out the cookies, Zolton helped himself to as many Chips Ahoys or Nilla Wafers as he wanted while skipping other kids entirely (and I'll point out here that while the overall gloom in Mrs. Fisk's class caused even cookies to lose their flavor, they were still cookies and as such, we wanted them). Anyway, it was always traumatizing for the kids who Zolton skipped on his cookie-distribution rounds, but there was nothing they could do about it because Mrs. Fisk had another steadfast rule which said, "Don't be a tattletale." This pretty much gave Zolton free reign, because unless Mrs. Fisk actually caught Zolton in the act, he'd get away with his cookie swiping. Witness statements amounted to tattling and were therefore inadmissible. While this "don't tell me your problems" approach is just terrible for a teacher to have, it could be much worse. Imagine if Mrs. Fisk worked as a 911 dispatcher:
"911, what's your emergency?"
"HELP! A GUY BROKE INTO OUR HOUSE AND SLAUGHTERED MY FAMILY WITH A MACHETE! I'M HIDING IN MY BEDROOM AND HE'S TRYING TO BREAK DOWN THE DOOR!"
"Don't be such a tattletale."
To sum up, during my year in firehouse kindergarten, I learned that adults won't help you even if your galoshes are stuck, if someone treats you like crap you just have to deal with it, and no matter how hard you work you'll still end up having to clean erasers. These are the building blocks upon which my psyche was formed. So the next time you think to yourself, "Damn, what the hell is WRONG with that guy?" . . . now you know.
It's Mrs. Fisk's fault.