On Monday, teachers in Oklahoma walked off the job, protesting poor pay. Kids in the Sooner State rejoiced — not because of the low salaries, but rather the fact that there was no school.
I used to dream that school would shut down. Throughout my formal education, I didn’t know (nor care about) what teachers were paid. The idea of them going on strike was inconceivable.
There were but two ways to close school when I was a kid. And before you say it, neither of them involved gunfire or a bomb. Our only options back then were snow and fire.
I dreamed constantly of fire. Snow was weather-related, confined to a particular part of the year. But fire could happen anytime. Hell, I even plotted it in my mind.
In the fourth grade, I started taking matches to school. My problem was that I put too much thought into it. What could I set on fire that would cause the closing of the entire school, even if just for a day?
It wasn’t the cafeteria trash cans. I found that out when nobody even bothered to pull the fire alarm. The fire department showed up, squirted the smoldering garbage and left. It was over by lunchtime and then it was back to class.
Later, someone did pull the alarm when smoke filled a hall, but the vice principal, Mr. Freeze — whose guts I still hate — went into the boys’ restroom and poured water on a burning roll of toilet paper.
Right about then, I stopped carrying matches. I knew that eventually school officials would start searching likely suspects. I was right, being practically strip-searched by Mr. Freeze the next morning.
No one ever discovered who set the fires. And since I couldn’t get my hands on any napalm, I decided to let nature just take its course. It never did.
Had I known that low pay was an option for getting teachers to walk out, I would have been a bigger problem than I was at the time.
When I finished my formal education, I left school and vowed to never return. Alas, I became a cop and ended up going back to school more than I wanted. There were always problems there.
One day, I was dispatched to a junior high school to investigate a report of a physical altercation between a large student and a male teacher.
I interviewed the teacher first. He said he had ordered a disruptive student to go to the office. The kid refused and started throwing things at other students.
When the teacher tried to pull the kid into the hallway, the boy ended up with a torn shirt. The little creep was, in fact, in the next room yelling about suing the teacher and the school.
Listening to it, the teacher was fed up. He told me that he hadn’t signed on to work for near-poverty wages to teach kids like that, only to end up in trouble himself.
He didn’t know that he was talking to a guy who used to be a kid like that. I told him that he wasn’t in trouble and that I’d take the kid to the station and call his parents.
Teacher • “He won’t go with you.”
Me • “Yeah, he will. One of the things I learned in junior high is that wherever your a-- goes, you have to go, too.”
Belated thanks to all the schoolteachers I ever gave cause to question their jobs. If any of your kids are like I was, we don’t pay you enough.