Robert Kirby: Back-to-school blues

Robert Kirby

My grandkids started back to school last week. I took a poll, asking five of them if they were happy about seeing their friends again and learning new stuff.

All agreed that they were tired of staying home and that renewing friendships was worth the risk of contracting a dangerous virus.

Happy to go back to school? I have no idea how any of these kids could have my blood.

I came up during a time when parents made you go to school even if you had a temperature that caused asphalt to buckle or had a rabid wolf attached to your leg.

You were expected to tough it out. There was none of this loafing about just because I didn’t feel well.

Piteous claims that I was on the verge of expiring didn’t work, especially on the Old Man, who was in the military and therefore dead set against malingering.

Him • “I have to work; you have to go to school.”

Me • “Yeah, but you get paid. So, you should pay me to …”

Him • “What?”

Me • “Nothing.”

Granted, most of the time I was faking an ailment. I just didn’t want to go to school. Far too much was expected of me there — like sitting still, showing up on time and paying attention.

Some kids thrive in school seemingly without effort. My oldest grandson is 16 but already taking college-level physics classes.

I took physics as well. Granted, it was more akin to remedial physics. But it covered useful physics such as lessons on the appropriate direction for twisting open lids on jars.

“Remember, class. It’s the Law of Righty-Tighty, Lefty-Loosey. Now, open your books to the chapter on crossing a street.”

I aced (relatively) the course with a C-minus.

Almost as bad as going to school was the preparation process known as back-to-school shopping. Every year, I got two new pairs of Levi’s, two new shirts (with collars and buttons), new underwear, and assorted classroom supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks and caffeine pills to keep me awake.

The only time back-to-school shopping was cool was in the fifth grade, when I talked Mom into buying me a “Gunsmoke” lunchbox.

The “Gunsmoke” lunchbox attracted attention, especially after Leon and I properly “seasoned” It.

Girl • “Your lunchbox is yucky. What are those?”

Me • “Bullet holes. It’s a real ‘Gunsmoke’ lunchbox.”

Note: This was a time when merely thinking about bullet holes at school didn’t result in immediate expulsion, counseling and even medication.

School must have changed a lot during the past half-century. My grandkids actually look forward to it now.

From first grade until I graduated high school (barely), I wished/prayed for all manner of reasons not to attend school — war, famine, disease — anything would have been better than having to park my butt in a classroom and be forced to learn about fractions and the Monroe Doctrine.

On the positive side, my grandkids will doubtlessly amount to more than I have. Shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Most of them already have.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.